Back in the year 2014, a certain Shinji Kagawa made the long, disheartening trip from Manchester, back to Germany. The Japanese playmaker joined Manchester United with a huge reputation. He left with a tarnished one. Kagawa failed to integrate into the Red Devil’s set up, especially after the departure of the man who brought him to the club, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Initially, Kagawa’s return to Dortmund did not work out as planned. The bright yellow outfit were a far cry from the team that stormed their way to the Champions League final. In fact, the Dortmund team Kagawa returned to and played his first season back in, toiled well outside the Champions League places for the vast entirety of the season.
Fast forward to 2015, though, and the world is finally seeing the real Shinji Kagawa. Gone is the tentativeness on the ball. Gone are the intermittent disappearances from matches. Now Kagawa is one of the driving forces for a side sitting second in the German top flight.
So far this season, Kagawa has been operating a deeper role than what he is used to. Under new boss Thomas Tuchel, Kagawa has taken up a number eight role as opposed to an attacking midfield berth. Many people would be skeptical of placing such a diminutive player in such a combative position. But ironically, it has worked quite well.
In the Dortmund side, Kagawa often checks to the ball in very deep areas, often in BVB’s own half. His ability to receive and distribute the ball both cleanly and efficiently, keeps Borussia Dortmund’s passing swift but at the same time, accurate. Once the ball is worked further up the pitch, Kagawa does not simply sit back and relax. While it is obvious that Kagawa is operating in a deeper role, it is equally apparent that Tuchel has granted him a license to roam.
As such, Kagawa always moves into attacking areas as soon as the ball is there. When Dortmund are in and around the opposition’s penalty box, the 26 year old places himself in a variety of attacking positions. Kagawa has drifted wide, creating space for others in the middle. Drifting wide has also seen him receive the ball in dangerous areas, allowing the playmaker to create chances for teammates. More often than not, Kagawa can be found in little pockets of space, just behind the forward, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. In this position, Kagawa can turn a defender with guile and slide perfectly timed balls in behind for Aubameyang to run onto. This tactic has evidently paid dividends with the midfielder being one of the top goal creators in the Bundesliga.
Kagawa’s second rise to prominence has been something to behold. As the old cliche goes,”form is temporary, but class is permanent,”.