Which new faces have made the biggest impact at Borussia Dortmund this season? Jadon Sancho? Paco Alcacer? Lucien Favre? All worthy candidates, to be sure, but how about the men in the middle: Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney? The case for these two is a compelling one…
“Axel is a player with huge international experience, and he has everything a player needs – tactical awareness, strength in the tackle, creativity and mental strength – to leave his mark on Dortmund’s midfield.” So said sporting director Michael Zorc when Witsel signed for the club in August, and, judging from the Belgian’s performances so far, one wonders if Zorc is clairvoyant.
Witsel has started all but four of BVB’s competitive matches this term, completing 90 minutes in each of their six UEFA Champions League group matches; he has also won 59 per cent of his challenges in the Bundesliga and has a pass completion rate of an astonishing 94 per cent.
Since scoring on his debut in the DFB Cup and then again in the Bundesliga on Matchday 1, the Liege-born No.6 has exuded calmness and authority, underpinned by the experience of playing over 100 times for Belgium and close to 500 times in his club career. At 29, he has plenty more to give, especially for BVB, to whom he is contracted until 2022.