It must be truly fantastic to be a fan of German football at the moment. The league is awash with exciting sides that play incredible attacking football from a variety of starting structures. The stadiums are full of noise and colour as every team comes with a passionate fan base. Perhaps most importantly however there exists a plethora of exciting young attacking talent that have been developed at their own clubs.
The midfield in particular seems to be an area of genuine strength for years to come with Julian Weigl at Borussia Dortmund, Joshua Kimmich at Bayern Munich, Kai Havertz at Bayer Leverkusen and Nadien Amiri at Hoffenheim to name just a few. Perhaps the most interesting of all the midfield talent however hails from Borussia Monchengladbach in the form of Mahmoud Dahoud.
The young central midfielder became famous as the first Syrian born player to make an impact at youth international level for Germany. He had impressed after being thrown in to the Gladbach side in early 2014 but it was not until the following season and the appointment of Andre Schubert as coach to replace Lucien Favre as head coach for the midfielder to cement a first team place.
From the beginning of his professional career Dahoud has impressed with the maturity of his play. He is a slight figure physically but that he controls the tempo of the game with the range and variety of his passing as well as his ability to break up the opposition attacks with his defensive positioning and ability to press the man in possession when the opportunity arises.
There has been some talk that he will leave the club in the near future with his contract coming to an end and apparently no desire on the side of the player to sign an extended deal. He has been heavily linked to sides like Liverpool so far although there is a chance that he will remain in Germany with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich following his progress closely.
Passing range and ability
One of the key skills required for a player to excel in the centre of the park is their ability to pass the ball over various angles and various distances. Dahoud excels with the ball at his feet and his passing range is already fully developed.
When he plays he dictates the tempo of the side and brings the entire tactical structure together with his clever positioning and awareness of the whole pitch and where his teammates are positioned.
In this example Dahoud has possession of the ball deep inside his own half having taken possession from his centre backs. There are a variety options open including the chance to drive forward with limited immediate pressure.
Instead Dahoud is quickly able to identify where the most effective space is and he delivers an accurate diagonal pass over to Oscar Wendt the left back who is moving in to an advanced positioning.
There are a lot of players who would make this pass and then stop considering their jobs to be done. Instead Dahoud will sprint over to support Wendt in possession and offer a passing option should the Swede wish to restart the play by moving backwards.
As well as being comfortable in the deep areas of the midfield Dahoud is also just as capable in playing in tighter areas in and around the opposition penalty area.
Here he plays a key role in creating a clear goalscoring opportunity for a teammate as he is positioned to take possession of the ball on the edge of the penalty area as the ball is cut back to him. Instead of trying to go for glory and take a shot however Dahoud keeps the ball moving in one fluid movement shifting it quickly in to the feet of the central attacker as he moves deeper in to the box.
This example shows the awareness that Dahoud has and his ability to understand and interpret the movements of his teammates to allow him to pass instantly when the ball comes to his feet.
On this occasion we see the speed of thought as well as the execution from Dahoud as he takes possession of the ball in the central area.
The play is broken and disjointed when he takes possession but he has the vision and composure to identify the opportunity to play the ball through the opposition line and in to the path of the striker who can run on to the ball.
As the striker has to bend his run in order to stay onside it is important that the weight and the timing of the pass is right for the striker to be able to penetrate the defensive line. Yet again Dahoud displays his ability to play different kinds of passes.
Playing for Germany in this match Dahoud again shows his capacity to find the right pass in order to maximise his sides chances to advance on goal.
In possession at the edge of the penalty area Dahoud is confronted by a deep defensive block with three opposition players converging on him quickly. A lot of players would be tempted to either shoot for goal or drive aimlessly in to the group of defenders.
Instead Dahoud is able to process the information in front of him quickly and he switches the ball out to the free player in the wide area playing it immediately through an open channel. This pass immediately puts the opposition on the back foot and turns a difficult situation in to a good chance.
Composure and comfort on the ball
As much as it is important for a modern midfield player to be comfortable in passing the ball it is also massively advantageous for them to be comfortable in possession and able to dribble away from pressure.
In the central area in particular the ability to beat a man in a one on one situation can completely unbalance the opposition sides defensive structure. Mahmoud Dahoud is exceptional in the use of his body to manipulate his direct opponent in tight situations and to beat the man and move away with the ball.
Here we see Dahoud take possession in his own half and facing his own goal with an opponent at his back.
Instead of taking the easy option and either turning the ball back towards goal or passing it sideways Dahoud instead fakes one way before spinning the other and leaving his man unbalanced and unable to properly challenge for the ball.
The ability to move with the ball in this manner makes Dahoud extremely difficult to mark.
Once again we see Dahoud in possession of the ball in the central area. This time he is slightly more advanced in to the opposition half. Once again he is being closed down by the opposition midfielder from behind.
Instead of hesitating and being dispossessed in this position Dahoud senses the pressure and spins behind the man pressing him before driving with the ball through a channel in the oppositions defensive structure.
Solid defensive contribution
We have already seen how strong Dahoud is with the ball at his feet either starting attacks or contributing in the final third of the pitch. The young midfielder is equally as comfortable in the defensive phase whether acting as part of the defensive structure of when pressing the opposition.
He is comfortable playing as either part of a double pivot or as part of a midfield three and his tactical discipline is such that he is capable of playing a number of different roles for his team.
Dahoud is playing as the central player in the middle three and he is the player that leads the press when the opposition moves in to an area that triggers the sides pressing movement.
From the central area he is the player that presses the man in possession in the first instance. The two other central midfielders then follow his lead and press either the next pass or the man in possession should be prove incapable of escaping the pressing action from Dahoud.
In this example we see Dahoud in a more isolated defensive position as the opposition are looking to transition quickly in to the attacking phase.
The image is captured at the crucial moment in the attack as the ball is played in to the central player for the opposition who will then play the ball in to an advanced position. As the man taking possession of the ball miscontrols the pass Dahoud reads his chance immediately and presses the loose ball.
He takes possession of the ball and turns a potentially dangerous attack in to a chance for his side to counter themselves and catch the opposition out of position.
Mahmoud Dahoud is potentially the perfect modern midfielder. He has the capacity to play passes to all zones of the pitch as well as the ability to run with the ball beyond the opposition midfield.
The question remains as to where he will spend the next chapter of his footballing journey. If he chooses well and joins a club with a coach who is progressive and who plays a style of football that suits the midfielder’s game, then the sky is the limit.
The key is to keep challenging and pushing himself going forwards.