FEATURE | One To Watch: Nico Schlotterbeck

For Borussia Dortmund centre-back Nico Schlotterbeck, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is set to be a unique opportunity to showcase his talents on the football’s biggest stage. This will be the Germany international’s first major competition with Die Mannschaft, having only made a total of five appearances across the UEFA Nations League and international friendlies to date.

Despite this low number of international starts, Schlotterbeck is likely be one of the German national team’s most important players going into the World Cup this year. The former Freiburg defender has been impressive over the course of the last year and his performances have seen his stock rise as a professional footballer. The player was very much sought after prior to his move to Borussia Dortmund, with Bayern Munich being one of the player’s biggest admirers prior to his move to the Westfalenstadion.

Alongside Niklas Süle, Schlotterbeck has begun to form what might be a permanent fixture in the German national team starting XI and with the omission of Mats Hummels, it’s certainly possible that he will retain his position in the squad moving forward. It almost seems strange to say considering Dortmund’s recent history of defensive struggles but Die Schwarzgelben have certainly amassed a collection of some of the best German centre-backs available to Hansi Flick, Schlotterbeck included.

In joining Borussia Dortmund during the summer transfer window, Schlotterbeck was brought into the squad to remedy the flimsy defence that has hampered the team’s progression for multiple seasons now. The Germany international has started off quite strongly. Aside from a few ups and downs over the course of the last few weeks, his overall stats suggest that these blips are just that, momentary mistakes. In terms of his defensive duties, Schlotterbeck has proven to be one of the best young players in his position, showing exemplary form in his defensive duties. In terms of tackles, the player finds himself in the 96th percentile with 2.49 tackles per game when compared to players in a similar position across Europe’s top 5 leagues. Schlotterbeck also exceeds in aerials won, with his numbers sitting at 3.24 aerials won per game.

Fans will have noticed that Schlotterbeck is a player that isn’t afraid to get forward, which is exemplified in the amount of forward thinking play the player produces. This fact is very much backed by the numbers, with the player ranking very high in terms of progressive passes (4.69), dribbles (0.45), and progressive passes received (0.34). One doesn’t have to look far back to find anecdotal evidence of his attacking prowess either. In Dortmund’s 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich, Schlotterbeck’s hustle to keep the ball in play during the games dying moments, followed by his pinpoint cross to Anthony Modeste were critical in insuring Dortmund were able to seal at least a point in this fixture. Moments throughout games such as this go a long way towards exemplifying Schlotterbeck’s ability to create chances. His shot creating actions per 90 sits at 1.59, which makes him a far more well-rounded player with a skillset that allows him to contribute from more than one area on the pitch.

Schlotterbeck has done quite a bit to show that he can be an important player for both Dortmund and the Germany national team. His partnership with Niklas Süle in Dortmund also lends itself to the credibility behind his place in the squad. The synergy these two players have been developing while at BVB should provide a good basis for Hansi Flick to form a strong central defensive partnership for the tournament. This could very much mean that, depending on the other players available, he may indeed have a significant role to play in how far his team gets in the competition.

As for Schlotterbeck’s approach to the World Cup, the player himself is very much split in terms of how to feel about the competition. On one hand, Schlotterbeck noted in a recent interview that he is absolutely thrilled to get the opportunity to represent Germany on the international stage, but also recognises the problematic nature of the World Cup being hosted by Qatar in the first place. Speaking to Sportschau, he said: “The World Cup does not belong in Qatar, we all know. That the World Cup doesn’t belong in the winter, but in the summer, we know that too.”

Despite the problematic nature of where the tournament is being held, Schlotterbeck was very much candid about the fact that the decision as to where the World Cup would be held was made when he was much younger, and that he will do his best to put in a good showing for his national team no matter the venue.

“When the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, I was very young, I had no influence on anything, of course it’s a dilemma…[If I get selected in the Germany squad] I will give so much for my country, that the people in Germany will just be very happy,” added Schlotterbeck.

The player himself has been very forthright about his intentions to give his all in the coming tournament and considering his over-arching growth as a player since his Freiburg days, one can expect him to go from strength to strength as he gets more games under his belt.

GWFN | Brian Szlenk

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