This will be Paco Alcacer’s second season at Dortmund but he is already looking like the perfect replacement for Robert Lewandowski, whom the team has struggled to replace since he left in 2013.
Following a string of impressive performances where he set a new Bundesliga record for the most goals scored in a single campaign by a substitute (10) on 18 December 2018 during his loan spell, the club’s board activated the option-to-buy clause in the loan contract in February 2019 and signed the striker from Barcelona for €23m, signing him on a five-year contract. Since then, he has made 36 appearances in all competitions for the club and scored 25 goals, including four in three games this season, an average of 1.33 goals per match.
The last time Dortmund had such efficiency upfront was when Robert Lewandowski played for the club.
In his first season, Lewandowski had Lucas Barrios ahead of him in the pecking order for main striker, which made him develop the link up side of his gameplay. Following an injury to Barrios in the 2011/12 season and Barrios’ eventual exit from the club the following season, he established himself in the first team and won honours including two consecutive Bundesliga titles and a season as the league’s top goalscorer. He also scored a record breaking four goals in the 2013 Champions league semi-finals to knock Real Madrid out of the competition, eventually losing to Bayern Munich (who he joined the following season), while finishing the tournament as the second highest goalscorer behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
With Lewandowski, Dortmund had a player who not only scored goals but created them. With Paco, there’s a greater goalscoring threat (as can be seen in his goalscoring statistics) but less general attacking threat.
However, what gives Paco the edge is the availability of several creative outlets playing alongside him in Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard, Axel Witsel and so on.
COMPARING PACO AND LEWANDOWSKI’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Paco’s best attribute is obviously his goal-scoring ability, and key to that is his movement in and around the box. He is able to create the spaces he exploits, as well as creating spaces for his teammates to exploit and get into good scoring positions with his movement.
His biggest weakness is his inability to drop into midfield like Lewandowski, and make a substantial impact from deep. This makes him a liability for Dortmund against teams who are tough to break down defensively. It’s easy to isolate him by cutting off his supply and congesting the space around him so that he cannot create space on his own, although this doesn’t work as much.
Last season, Mario Gotze was used in a more advanced role in such matches because of his passing and dribbling abilities in tight areas, and this season, Julian Brandt will most likely be playing that role when facing such opponents.
Lewandowski, on the other hand, learnt a lot from being number two in his first season with Dortmund as earlier stated. He developed his link up play and learnt how to play outside the box, first earning a spot as the supporting striker and then eventually ending up as the main striker.
He interchanged well with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (who later transitioned to an out-and-out striker) and Marco Reus, sometimes ending up on the wings while Aubameyang drifted into the centre to finish an attacking move.
He didn’t show any significant weakness when at Dortmund, although compared to Paco he lacks in pace. It was in these periods he brought his intelligence to the forefront with his ability to link up with his teammates through excellent hold-up play and set assist goals for them. Whereas Paco not only has pace, he has supporting players who are just as fast to cover for him on the rare occasions he cannot find his way in and around the box.
CAN PACO MATCH LEWANDOWSKI’S FEATS?
He has already surpassed Lewandowski’s goalscoring achievements in the club, a feat many have deemed unsustainable considering how clinical he’s been – scoring 25 goals in 36 matches from as many shots on target is definitely a sign of over performing.
Also, he stands at just 5’10”, which means he cannot play as a target man like Lewandowski who stands at 6’1” yet what he lacks in stature he more than makes up for with his intelligent runs which leads to a lot of goals. Dortmund know how to break down sides positionally, but it’s not a big feature of their attacking game. They play mostly from the wings and down the middle with horizontal passing, looking to break through the half spaces which Paco will be expected to find.
One thing is sure, he will score a lot of goals for the team, but may struggle, unlike Lewandowski, to actually make a difference in the biggest games. It might be too early to tell though. At 26 years old, Paco can still develop a lot more.
PREDICTIONS: We are predicting a 20-goal season for Paco in the league, with just under double figures for assists. Lewandowski still remains the man to beat for the title of top scorer in the league.