By Sam McGuire, Football Whispers
Marco Reus doesn’t look like your stereotypical No.10. He doesn’t play like your stereotypical No.10 either but he’s one of Borussia Dortmund’s biggest success stories this season playing in that role.
His performances and output may have gone under the radar slightly due to Paco Alcácer’s quite frankly ridiculous start to life at the Westfalstadion and Jadon Sancho’s dazzling displays for Lucien Favre’s men, but Reus is the man who makes the Bundesliga leaders tick.
Favre knew all about the German international before he replaced Peter Stöger as BVB boss. It was under the Swiss tactician at Borussia Mönchengladbach that Reus found his goalscoring groove. The 2011-12 season saw the wide forward operate as more of a second striker and he responded in fine form, netting 18times in the Bundesliga and adding a further three in cup competitions to take his total for the campaign to 21 goals in 37 games.
His form for Die Fohlen alerted a number of Europe’s elite. Borussia Dortmund won the race to land Reus. The chance to play for his hometown club was one he couldn’t pass up. He’d been on the books of BVB for close to a decade before he was released in 2006.
The return of the prodigal son bolstered an already fearsome front line. His first season with the club, under the charismatic Jürgen Klopp, saw them go all the way to the Champions League final only to lose out to rivals FC Bayern.
Klopp placed him on the left of the three behind Robert Lewandowski. He did have a spell as a No.10 for BVB towards the end of the 2013/14 campaign but for the majority of his time in Dortmund, he’s been used in wide areas. But that didn’t impact his output.
The 29-year-old has scored 110 goals in 228 appearances for BVB, hitting 20 or more in two of his six full seasons with the club. However, injuries have meant his time there has been stop-start. The first two years with the club saw him make 40-plus appearances in all competitions. He’s managed to appear in 30 matches or more just once in the other four seasons.
His time as an explosive winger may be behind him but Favre knew he had a star at his disposal and he wasted no time building his team around Reus.
Using Football Whispers’ exclusive Player Persona model, you can see there's a slight difference in Reus' play this season compared to his two previous campaigns with the club. There's a spike in goalscoring and chance creation this year while dribbling and crossing have slightly dipped off.
His assists are up this year (0.3 per 90 minutes to 0.16 between 2016-2018) and both his shooting accuracy and his passing accuracy have improved, all while averaging more passes on a per 90-minute basis.
Basically, he's improving his use of the ball in general and taking fewer risks but without losing the creative aspect of his game.
And Reus' heat map makes for even more interesting reading. Previously, he's been influencing things much more from the left but under Favre this term he's been popping up all over the final third.
He's being used as the man to make the overload on either flank. When the full-back has the ball and the wide forward hugs the touchline to create space, it's Reus filling it. Meaning BVB often have 3 vs 2 overloads on either flank. And given his knowledge of the wide role, he knows what positions to take up to get the best out of those playing there now.
His relationship with Sancho reiterates that. The teenage sensation has assisted three of Reus' 11 goals in the German top flight. More often than not the BVB captain is involved in the build-up play, often peeling away into a pocket of space in a deeper area to allow the former Manchester City youngster the opportunity run into the acres of space ahead. The cutback into the area is then finished off by Reus.
His combination play is superb and he's usually the man linking wide players with Mario Götze in the final third. His pace in the middle third allows him to breeze past players and gives BVB a weapon very few teams have in world soccer. He can go through the gears in the blink of an eye and turn defense into attack.
He's a floating No.10 capable of playing on either flank as well as leading the line when Götze drops deep or takes up a wide position like a true false 9. Reus, with the help of Favre, has subtly changed his game and now, at 29, he looks better than ever before.