As far as comebacks go, the tale of VfL Wolfsburg’s Bas Dost is almost dismissible as completely unrealistic, a story which might be relatively fun to read in a footballing novel, or raise a smile when hearing of a friend’s Football Manager career, but not something which actually happens in the real world. At least, that’s the way his resurrection in recent weeks has been represented, both by the footballing media and fans of the Bundesliga. That the former Heracles Almelo and Heerenveen man is a talented finisher has never – or at least should never have been – in doubt, but doubts over whether he could cut it in one of Europe’s biggest leagues have remained ever since he made the switch to Germany back in the Summer of 2012.
However, regardless whether you rated him as a good striker or not before his recent purple patch, Bas Dost’s at the very least managed something quite rare; he’s somehow traversed his way from the doldrums of perceived failure to a starting role in one of the Bundesliga’s most impressive sides of the season so far, and with his fourteen goals in just nine games so far in 2015, he’s become him one of the most obvious faces of the Bundesliga to not just fans of the league, but also within a worldwide context. It’s perhaps unsurprising that Dost has managed to return from what many may call the scrapheap – but it’s remarkable that he’s done it in the matter of a few months.
That’s right. Bas Dost didn’t even start a league game for die Wölfe until December, his only appearances from the start before then coming against FK Krasnodar and Heidenheim. The Dutch striker hadn’t had the worst few years when actually appearing in a Wolfsburg shirt, but his form for the club had been patchy until recently.
There were brief sparks showing why Wolfsburg shelled out €7m to snag Dost from Heerenveen in his native Netherlands, but those moments were interspersed with the natural struggles of a striker plying his trade in a tougher league, and also by terrible luck with injuries. Dost’s first term in Germany – in which he still scored twelve goals in all competitions, more than his countryman Luuk de Jong who’d made a similar move at the same time – may have not been the most exciting first year of a striker in the Bundesliga ever, but there were signs that Dost could, and probably would, improve. Unfortunately for Dost and Wolfsburg, the chance to improve was snatched by injury. Dost only managed fifteen appearances last season due to his injuries, even then managing one goal in every three games, but Wolfsburg’s style of play had adapted in the absence of Dost and also due to the addition of Kevin de Bruyne. Ironically enough, de Bruyne is probably the one single player who has had the biggest hand in helping Dost to his incredible run recently, but initially was part of an attack which kept Dost mostly to the sidelines.
At the start of the season, Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking preferred to play Ivica Olic or Nicklas Bendtner at the tip of his attack, with a combination of two players from Daniel Caligiuri, Vierinha, Maximilian Arnold, Aaron Hunt and Ivan Perisic joining Kevin de Bruyne in dictating the play in attacking midfield. This obviously worked very well – Wolfsburg were relatively clear in second place in the Bundesliga by Christmas – but thanks to the departure of Olic to his former club Hamburg, and Bendtner’s relatively goal-shy start to life in Northern Germany, with the Dane scoring just one Bundesliga goal to date, Hecking’s hand has been forced somewhat, meaning Dost – initially a squad player at the start of the season – eventually received his chance.
A good performance against Heidenheim in the DFB Pokal at the end of October was an early sign of what was to come, with Dost getting on the scoresheet and setting up two of the other goals for his teammates, but was hardly proof in itself of a great Bundesliga standard forward – Heidenheim, after all, aren’t a particularly big club, and sit in the lower-mid table region of the 2. Bundesliga, closer to relegation than promotion (even if both aren’t very realistic prospects). The real catalyst of change was a 25 minute cameo against Hannover, in which Dost grabbed the winner. It wasn’t just his first Bundesliga goal of the season, but his first crucial goal since opening the scoring in a win over Leverkusen last February. Where Dost might have felt a peripheral part of Hecking’s plans for most of the first half of the season, he at least now had the evidence he could prove the difference when push came to shove in the Bundesliga.
The statistics ever since speak for themselves. A brace in Wolfsburg’s dramatic win against Bayern put Dost’s name firmly into the headlines, with a Viererpack (four goals) against Leverkusen probably one of the most incredible single feats by a player in the Bundesliga so far this season. Goals in pretty much every game since have followed, with Dost proving the difference against Bremen, Sporting Lisbon, Hoffenheim and Hertha, and there’s no sign of this incredible run of form ending any time soon. He’s even been touted with a call up to Guus Hiddink’s next Netherlands squad. Dost is, as yet, uncapped, and at 25 is probably a little older than the majority of international debutants would usually be, but with his scintillating form at club level currently, is hard to ignore, especially as Hiddink looks to turn around a poor start to Euro 2016 qualifying. Previously, Dost had only been included in the Dutch squad once, not seeing action against Belgium back in 2012.
Dost’s cause has been backed by Bayern’s Arjen Robben – praise indeed, coming from arguably the Netherlands’ best attacking player at the moment. Robben was quoted as saying “I’m delighted that he’s on a roll. He deserves it. Maybe soon we can score goals together for the national team” in interview with Sky Deutschland, and given his relative importance within the Dutch camp, it’s probably a good bet that Dost will be making his debut in the weeks to come.
So, whether this form is finally a fulfilment of the promise his move to Wolfsburg back in 2012 seemed to hold, or a resurrection of a career harmed by a move to a big move too early, Bas Dost’s stock is – quite rightly – on the rise. Wolfsburg face a big run-in – they’re unlikely to win the title, or even drop from their current position of second, but will want to establish themselves as German football’s current second force, and remain in contention for the DFB-Pokal and the Europa League titles – and Dost could be central to that. After all, die Wölfe are yet to lose a game that Dost’s played this season.
Three talking points as Tottenham secured top spot with a Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund
Tottenham ensured that they progressed to the Champions League knock-out stages as Group H winners after coming from behind to see off Borussia Dortmund in Germany on Tuesday night.
Dortmund – who were reliant on Real Madrid dropping points at Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia in the evening’s other fixture to stand any chance of progressing to the last 16 – took the early advantage when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished smartly from Andriy Yarmolenko’s clever flick.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side nearly crafted an equaliser before the break, only for both Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier to be denied in the space of a few minutes after superb work by ‘keeper Roman Burki.
But it didn’t take long for the visitors to draw level in the second-half, with Harry Kane afforded too much space on the edge of the box as he arrowed an effort into the corner with his first real chance.
Son Heung-min’s effort 15 minutes from time, a fine curling finish after tenacious work from Dele Alli, then sealed the turnaround and condemned the hosts to a shock early Champions League exit.
Tottenham bounce back after derby disappointment
After Saturday’s harrowing and disappointing defeat to old foes Arsenal, manager Mauricio Pochettino summed up Tuesday’s performance perfectly by labelling it as the ‘perfect reaction’.
It is hard to disagree with the Argentinian either, with his side displaying far more grit, determination and character at the Westfalenstadion to forget about their Premier League defeat and come from behind to beat a strong Borussia Dortmund outfit, securing their surprise status as Group H winners.
It seemed like they were suffering a North London derby hangover of sorts when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired the hosts in front on the half-hour mark, but Spurs dug deep and showed that they are aiming to do more than just make up the numbers in the Champions League this campaign.
All of a sudden they burst into life after the break, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli – who were both anonymous at the Gunners – getting involved more and causing problems for a tiring home defence.
It was the former who levelled things up when Kane’s neat low drive found the back of the net, signalling his sixth Champions League goal in five appearances this season, whilst Alli was influential in assisting both goals, seeing off two Dortmund defenders before laying off to Son Heung-min for his winner.
It wasn’t a match that needed to be won, considering Tottenham had already secured their safe passage into the knock-out stages, but the manner of victory will no doubt send out a message across Europe.
Dortmund’s decline ends in Champions League exit
Yet, whilst Tottenham will be buoyant and nervously await the draw for the last 16 next month, Borussia Dortmund will be reflecting on where things went wrong after a dismal European outing this season.
Despite having a number of world-class individuals in their ranks – Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa, the young Christian Pulisic, Mario Gotze and the injured Marco Reus are all part of the squad at the disposal of manager Peter Bosz – it’s been a stuttering season both in Europe and domestically too.
Their inability to beat Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia across two matches all-but put an end to any aspirations of knock-out football, and it seems that the Europa League will now be their next destination.
Add this to their woeful Bundesliga form of late, losing four of their last five matches and drawing the other one to leave them nine points adrift of the top of the table, and warning signs are now flashing.
It’s all a stark contrast to 2013, the year that the German side fell narrowly short in the Champions League final, and it’s clear for all to see that something is fundamentally not right just four years on.
The fact that Aubameyang – who was left out of the Dortmund squad for their Bundesliga defeat at Stuttgart last week after being sanctioned by Bosz – barely celebrated a sublime goal tells its own story of the club’s affairs, and it seems that the head coach could be walking on a very fine tightrope.
Pochettino’s conundrum after Aurier impresses
One thing that was clear from Pochettino’s team selection on Tuesday, other than the clear fact that he was looking for a quick response to the Arsenal defeat by selecting a strong side, was that summer signing Serge Aurier seems to be the preferred right-back option for the Champions League this season.
The £24 million man may have garnered a reputation for being a bit erratic but, contrary to some of his rash moments this season, he played with an element of maturity and care on Tuesday evening.
He certainly warranted his selection at Dortmund, always offering an outlet on the right-wing and constantly finding himself with a wealth of space to run into behind their captain Marcel Schmelzer.
Aurier’s delivery was generally accurate too, forcing the Dortmund defence into last-ditch blocks inside their own area with Kane lurking, whilst he kept things compact alongside Davinson Sanchez at the back.
It would no doubt have hurt the Ivorian to have been omitted from the side for the mightily impressive win over Real Madrid after playing in Tottenham’s opening three European matches, but on Tuesday’s showing he’s laid down a marker for rival Kieran Trippier ahead of the knock-out stages.
Considering the question marks hanging over the head of boss Pochettino about whether Kyle Walker could be replaced it’s certainly not a bad dilemma to have, and a bit of healthy competition between two viable wide options could prove key for Tottenham as the season goes on.
Analysing Tottenham striker Harry Kane’s two-goal heroics against Borussia Dortmund
Much had been written about Harry Kane’s barren August, in which he failed to score. However, the drought is well and truly over now September has arrived. Since finding the net for England during the international break, the 24-year-old has rediscovered his scoring boots in spectacular fashion.
His brace against Borussia Dortmund in Tottenham Hotspur’s opening Champions League Group H clash was as impressive as it was timely, providing his side with the perfect start to their European adventure and banishing the Wembley Stadium hoodoo.
It’s no secret that Tottenham are heavily reliant on Kane (perhaps overly so) to be their chief attacking threat, but he rarely lets them down. Manager Mauricio Pochettino will be relieved that his star man is back to his best.
The England striker had a hand in all three of their goals against Dortmund, setting up Son Heung-min for the first before netting either side of half-time to ensure Spurs sent home their supporters happy.
Both goals underlined Kane’s natural ability as a finisher, which has earned him the Premier League’s Golden Boot trophy in the previous two seasons. His first was a carbon copy of Son’s, cutting in from the left and unleashing a rasping drive that beat Roman Burki at his near post.
Perhaps the Dortmund keeper’s positioning was questionable, but such was the power and pinpoint accuracy of Kane’s strike that it would have taken some stopping wherever he had been stationed.
Although Dortmund looked vulnerable at the back, their attacking prowess had caused Spurs problems all night and a 2-1 lead seemed precarious. So Kane’s second of the night was mightily important because it effectively killed off the game.
After being put through by Cristian Eriksen, Kane still had work to do to create enough space to get his shot away. Once again, the accuracy was such that it left Burki with little chance of preventing it from nestling in the back of the net.
Kane could have completed his hat-trick before he was substituted to a rapturous reception from the Wembley faithful, but the damage had been done. Everyone knows Kane likes to shoot from all areas of the pitch, but opponents seem powerless to stop him.
His two goals from four efforts – as well as an assist – represented an excellent night’s work for a man who has grown in stature to become one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. Kane will remain fundamental to Spurs’ hopes of honours this season, both domestically and in Europe.
“The Wembley curse is over” – Three things learnt from Tottenham 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
Tottenham may face a tough Champions League group including Real Madrid and APOEL alongside Borussia Dortmund, but they could not have gotten off to a better start than with a 3-1 home victory over the Germans.
Son Heung-Min raced clear in the opening minutes to give Mauricio Pochettino’s side the lead, but that lead was quickly pegged back after Andriy Yarmolenko looped an effort over Hugo Lloris and into the corner of the net.
That sparked Harry Kane to life, shrugging off two challenges before firing the ball into the back of the net for a third goal inside 15 minutes. After that the game calmed down as Kane’s second goal midway through the second half put the tie to bed.
A late sending off for Jan Vertonghen, who saw a second yellow for a flailing arm, marred things slightly but Spurs still got off to a dream start at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Here are three things that The Boot Room learnt from the game…
The Wembley curse is over
The tag of a Wembley curse has dogged Tottenham at the start of this season, not helped by defeat to Chelsea and a draw with Burnley, but there is no more emphatic way to put an end to such concerns than by wiping the floor with a difficult Champions League opponent.
Tottenham got off to a dream start through Son Heung-Min and even after conceding an equaliser they reacted well to rapidly re-take the lead. Such a win will give a huge confidence boost and Spurs fans will hope that it will remove any Wembley hoodoo too.
Dortmund continue to disappoint
Gone are the days when Borussia Dortmund were a force to be reckoned with in Europe under Jurgen Klopp, but their performances at Europe’s most elite level have been underwhelming for some time. At Wembley, they once again failed to deceive.
For all their possession and time on the ball in the Tottenham half, they failed to create many clear cut chances, with even their goal coming courtesy of an inspired strike from distance. Defensively they were poor too, with Tottenham scything the back four apart on the counter attack. Mauricio Pochettino will be confident of qualifying from a tough group on the back of that display.
Fernando Llorente offers an entirely different option
He may only have got a few minutes, but right from the off it was clear that the Spaniard’s introduction for Harry Kane would give Tottenham a different dimension in attack. Spurs immediately went for a more direct style with Llorente giving a real focal point in attack.
It’s likely that Llorente will have to wait until the Carabao Cup clash with Barnsley next week for his first start in Tottenham colours, but such aerial presence and power could come in handy against sides like his former team Swansea, who his new club face this weekend.
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