May 7, 2017

Mahmoud Dahoud: the resistance


On the 30th of March 2017, it was announced that Mahmoud Dahoud, with a year left on his contract, would not be extending with Gladbach and would be joining Borussia Dortmund for the 2017/18 season.

A long time target for the black-and-yellows, Mahmoud Dahoud has gathered admirers in abundance since being handed his debut by Lucien Favre in the 14/15 season in which he came on for Christoph Kramer in a 7-0 Europa League playoff win against FK Sarajevo. Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel was one of those many admirers, stating “We love Dahoud, I love Dahoud and we were after him for a long, long time” and describing him as “an excellent player in transition”.

Upon being handed his debut by Lucien Favre, “Mo” Dahoud, as he is warmly known has immediately caught the eye, donning slicked back hair and an appreciation of the Adidas boot scheme of old. Although it wasn’t his appearance that gained him his plaudits, it was a skillset so clean, which consisted of an amalgamation of the classic box-to-box midfielder and the slick technique of a new age. Since the departure of İlkay Gündoğan to Manchester City in the last summer transfer window, Borussia Dortmund failed to replace arguably their most influential player, directly. With veteran Gonzalo Castro being the subject of inconsistency problems and arrival Sebastian Rode being derailed by injuries and putting in rather underwhelming performances when given the chance, Dortmund lacked the entity in midfield capable of turning defence into attack with a single contact of the ball, something that Gündoğan was one of the best among Europe at and a style that was constantly associated with die Schwarzgelben whenever its mention was made.

During his breakout season in the Bundesliga, many were quick to point out the similarities between the Syrian-born German Dahoud and Gündoğan, and with the latter remaining coy on a potential new deal, a transfer of Mo Dahoud to Dortmund seemed like a matter of inevitability; it was a case of when, not if. Now although a year late, BVB may just have found the key to unlock their midfield woes and the cement to fill the gaping Gündoğan-sized hole in the centre of the park.

What makes Dahoud so impressive is his ability to adapt: this an excellent trait to have and suggests an exorbitant footballing IQ. He is adept in the #6, #8 and #10 positions and shows glimpses of this while seamlessly transitioning between all three positions at different points of the game in a fluid midfield, dictated by him.

Mo Dahoud possesses stunning close control; this allows him to break pressure boundaries with a simple dribble, and weave his way out of tight spaces with calculated, yet instinctive touches. One technique he is extremely proficient in is the two-touch dribble, a move constantly exhibited by the tremendous Michael Laudrup; he quickly shifts the ball from his strong foot to the weaker, angling the ball forward and around his marker. This allows him to skip past and drive forward, bringing the whole team further up into the final third, with no more than five touches of the ball.

He also has a knack of always being on the half turn, where a simple pirouette upon receiving the ball quashes the incoming challenge and allows him to navigate forward or build up play with a simple weighted pass. This prowess also allows him to make slaloming runs through the midfield with little worry of being dispossessed as the young alchemist almost always seems to have a trick up his sleeve.

The 21-year old combines tireless athleticism with an ability to get stuck in and swiftly dispossess opponents, something that comes as a refreshing surprise for one with a frame so slight. The youngster sprouts up in all areas of the field, either to add comfort in defence or to offer himself as an option in attack. Dahoud is almost always running. He covers an average of almost 13 kilometres per game and says “I need to move. If I stop, I feel like I’m out of the game”.

Covering that much ground would seem futile, but Mo makes it look genius as most of his runs are calculated to perfection and, more often than not, prove to be extremely purposeful for his side as he is able to drop back and initiate play by stringing a few passes together, before advancing forward and playing an active part in it. He can also act as a decoy, making runs to open up passing lanes for his teammates.

Now, the attribute that sets Mo Dahoud apart from the average, brawny box to box midfielder is his ability to pick a pass. Dahoud carries a stunning range of passing which make him such an asset for his side. His unerring weight of pass allows him to play pinpoint through balls to his strikers, or distribute play out to the flanks with faultless long balls. He is also very capable of passing with both feet, something that eliminates the need to find passing angles, reduces waste and allows him to be efficient in his distribution.

Young Mahmoud Dahoud may not be the final product, but an arsenal so polished and a footballing mind far beyond his years make him the perfect fit in the centre of the park for Dortmund and the prospect of him lining up next to the metronome that is Julian Weigl is a tantalising one for all aficionados of the beautiful game.

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