Wonderkid Watch takes a close look at the young talent prevalent in Germany. Up first, in the debut Bundesliga edition of this segment, is Mario Gotze:
Name & Age: Mario Gotze, 19
Club & Position: Borussia Dortmund, Attacking Midfielder
There aren’t that many people who don’t know about this player. All who have seen him will clearly understand, then, why he is being profiled here.
He has only appeared 14 times in the league this season thus far due to injury and the odd suspension, but has still managed to aid his club’s title push with 5 goals and 5 assists.
— Crossing — Gotze has featured predominantly on the right side of attacking midfield for Dortmund, completing an average of 1.8 crosses per game.* With 25 out of 82 completed so far this season, that means he has a cross completion rate of 30.5% which is quite good, putting him amongst the best across Europe’s top 5 leagues; though the best crossers in Europe have attempted a lot more crosses than the little German.
— Dribbling — Completing an average of 4 dribbles per game, Gotze again puts himself among Europe’s best — actually, 5th. His low center of gravity and pace combined with his technical quality on the ball makes him unpredictable when facing up to opponents; and as the stats indicate, Gotze thrives on that unpredictability.
— Key Passes — This facet of an attacking midfielder’s play separates him from the average Joe’s. Gotze has 5 assists to his credit thus far this season and with an average key pass rate of 2.4, one can understand why. His wonderful eye for a final ball sees him join the company of the likes of Nani, Robin van Persie, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Wesley Sneijder — all of whom average 2.4 key passes per game. This level of creativity is hugely invaluable, especially when one considers the fact that some of Europe’s best clubs look lost for ideas in the final third these days.
— Versatility — This is always appreciated by managers. Whether lack of funds prevent them from buying players to fill certain positions, or an injury crisis decimates his squad, managers love players who can fill multiple positions on the pitch. Gotze is such a player.
He has featured largely on the right hand side of attacking midfield for Dortmund throughout his career at the club; but he is primarily a central attacking midfielder. He filled that role to an extensive degree last season when Shinji Kagawa — Dortmund’s first-choice central attacking midfielder — was out injured for an extended period. He has featured in that position twice so far this season, scoring and assisting both once. He has also featured in central midfield once, laying on a goal on that occasion. He has also featured on the left wing and even did a job in defensive midfield last season.
— Finishing — Gotze has 5 goals in the league this season thus far, scored with just 24 shots. That’s an average of a goal every 4.8 shots and a chance conversion rate of 20.8%, which is quite good.
— Commits Fouls Often — Gotze is quite an enthusiastic player. His work rate is outstanding — typical of a player his age, when fitness levels tend to be higher than in the latter stages of one’s career. This enthusiasm and incredible work rate manifests itself in a bad way at times, however.
While his defensive contribution is outstanding given his attacking role in the team — averages 2.1 tackles and 1.2 interceptions, both per game — the fact that he concedes 1.5 fouls per game is a cause for concern. He has also been dribbled 1.9 times per game on average by opposing players. Lining this fact up against his foul count, it leads one to conclude that Gotze has problems with marking and positioning and that when dribbled by opponents, he ends up being late in the tackle, thus conceding the foul.
Gotze needs to work on this aspect of his game. His defensive contribution, as was mentioned, is fantastic; but he needs to be more disciplined as far as positioning and marking are concerned. At 19 years of age, these mental qualities will develop as he matures, however.
Although Gotze is naturally a “No.10,” he has demonstrated remarkable versatility by proving to be efficient and consistent on both the left and right sides of attacking midfield and even in deeper, wide positions. His energy and enthusiasm are certainly telling factors here.
Although he is capable of doing a job in central midfield, at this point in time, he would need sufficient defensive cover to compensate for his poor marking and positioning. Without Sven Bender or Sebastian Kehl partnering him, for example, Dortmund’s central midfield would be exploited — either by leaving space in behind, or by Gotze committing fouls in dangerous areas. Once he learns to position himself well, he would make more interceptions per game and his marking would improve. Thus, he would be more effective in central midfield and would be a fantastic deep-lying playmaker.
Natural: CAM, RAM, LAM
Capable: CM, RW, LW
Potential: DM (Deep-lying Playmaker)
Estimated Transfer Value
Mario Gotze, understandably, is highly coveted by Europe’s top clubs. The player’s agent, in February 2012, claimed contact from Manchester United and Juventus among others. He claimed that Dortmund values its prized asset at £33m.
Mario Gotze is an absolute gem of a player. He has a lot in his locker that hugely benefits his current club and would hugely benefit other top clubs around the continent. At just 19, he has already been capped 12 times by Germany, suggesting that he is set to have a very long and fruitful career at both domestic and international level.
Dortmund has proven itself to be a top level club in Germany. It is a consistent challenger for the league title and, by extension, Champions League qualifying places. Thus, there is no real reason why Gotze should leave, unless he wants a completely new experience or challenge. Either way, if he goes or if he stays, one thing is certain: Mario Gotze (remember the name) is destined for the very top.
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored