LOAN WATCH: Is Adnan Januzaj a Good Fit for Borussia Dortmund?

When Manchester United fans found out Adnan Januzaj was set to go out on loan, their distress only heightened. With the departures of Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Javier Hernandez, the United faithful struggled to see why the young Belgian would be let go, further depleting attacking options.

Since then, Manchester United went on to sign Anthony Martial who has settled in remarkably well at Old Trafford. Although, the worry still remains Adnan Januzaj won’t receive sufficient game-time at Borussia Dortmund, as they field the likes of Marco Reus, Shinji Kagawa, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.  With only 1 start in 4 appearances, the skeptics appear to be correct.

Hopefully, the following reasons better answer the question whether or not, Januzaj’s loan is a good fit for Dortmund.

1. Thomas Tuchel and Louis van Gaal share similar implementations of Positional Play

As covered in Tom Payne’s team analysis of Borussia Dortmund and Rene Maric’s explanation of Juego de Posicion (which translates to positional play), Tuchel and van Gaal implement their own versions of this philosophy.

Instead of being loaned to a team with different football principles than van Gaal, there are enough similarities between himself and Tuchel where Januzaj can build on his education.  This should also benefit the youngster when he returns to Manchester United.  Provided the loan is successful, he’ll have obtained opportunities to execute aspects of positional play in game situations.  Through this experience, he will likely be more useful for van Gaal going forward.

Through the purchases of Memphis Depay and Martial and recent use of Andreas Pereira, the Dutch manager shows he’s willing to put his trust in youth.  Adnan can hope provided he shows improvement, van Gaal will keep to his word of more playing time in the future when the young Belgian returns to Manchester.

2. Januzaj can make key improvements to his game

Louis van Gaal is a demanding coach and with competition for places, Januzaj will need to have shown improvement if he wants more playing time under van Gaal.

Some of these improvements are:
>Strategical decision making –making decisions which best benefit the interactions between teammates and act accordingly to changes within the flow of the game

>Speed of thought and play- when playing against compact defenses, this skill helps to disorganize the opponent’s defensive structure. Januzaj can learn how to play quicker but maintain high ball retention.

>Spatial awareness-both Tuchel and van Gaal are big on passing triangles or even diamonds to support the ball carrier’s options.  Good spatial awareness leads to less wasted motion and likely results in receiving the ball more from your teammates.

>Being multi-functional- Already has been used as a false nine and inverted winger under Tuchel. van Gaal sees qualities more than positions. If Januzaj can gain further appreciation for his qualities in different positions then he will be an even more useful weapon for van Gaal to use in different match situations.

3. Good learning environment

As mentioned in the first point, Tuchel and van Gaal share similarities in the way they want football to be played. Being around top players in good form under a stable tactical environment provides Januzaj a good platform to develop his game.

The pitfalls were clear last season how Januzaj’s game suffered as van Gaal attempted to discover the best balance in the side. Tuchel has taken less time (provided he has more quality players) to figure out the basic structure he wants to use and the type of players to use within that structure.

Therefore, there’s less pressure on Adnan and he can focus more on contributing in his role rather than trying to address deficiencies on his own.  He can also build more familiarity with his teammates as he will have a good idea the core group of players he will regularly be playing with.

In a discussion with Henning Tatum, Henning talked about other aspects Januzaj will learn by being under Tuchel’s careful watch:

  • Can improve his tactical intelligence in Dortmund’s high and intense pressing
  • Improve his positional sense as Dortmund are highly combination-oriented
  • Learn to create local overloads (a key aspect he can use when he returns to Manchester United)
  • Where to position himself on opposition counters (Bundesliga high in attacking speed and counterattacks)

4. Provides Tuchel with more options

Currently, Dortmund mainly focus their build-up on the left side with Mkhitaryan and Kagawa. Since most of the attacking players are right-footed, they tend to drive towards the center from the left. Since Januzaj is left-footed he can provide this option from the right, giving Tuchel a different option he didn’t have before. Instead of Dortmund’s attacks being heavily focused on one side they can opt for a more balanced option with Januzaj.

Tuchel has already given Januzaj more responsibility as he is seen regularly on freekicks and corners when he’s in the game.

5. Improve his stats

Adnan Januzaj:

Manchester United (14/15)
Apps: 18
Starts: 4
Minutes: 867
Chances created: 15

Manchester United (15/16)
Apps: 2
Starts: 2
Minutes: 125
Chances created: 1

Borussia Dortmund (15/16)
Apps: 4
Starts: 1
Minutes: 180
Chances created:7

Louis van Gaal is known for his attention to detail. One can guess he will definitely be monitoring Januzaj’s progress from a statistical standpoint.  While there are many metrics to judge a player by, focusing on a key metric can pinpoint a player’s contribution in a key area.  Chance creation is a key area of improvement for Manchester United as well as chance conversion.

From the above stats, one can see while Januzaj only has 1 start in 4 appearances, in 180 minutes he’s created 7 chances which shows good production.  If he can continue as he gets more games, he will surpass his 14/15 total of 15 chances created in 867 minutes.  While Manchester United fans would like Januzaj to get more starts, the good news is, he’s been productive with the time he’s got already.

We hope to see more contributions like this from Januzaj.

Thanks for reading!

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