The time has come to speak about one of the most exciting talents in football. A player who has left spectators breathless in his first two seasons as a footballer. Nothing more than the ambidextrous winger Ousmane Dembele. The 20 year old Frenchman has enjoyed two stellar seasons, one at Rennes and one with Borussia Dortmund. A phenomenal 12 goals in 26 matches in his debut year had elite clubs knocking on Rennes’ door. The young pacey winger seemed to have all the tools that scouts were interested in, and Borussia Dortmund were the club to beat everyone to his signature, costing them around 15 million Euros. BVB was a perfect place to grow as a player and as a person, since the club guaranteed Dembele playing time. He did not fail to impress, and cemented himself well into Tuchel’s starting lineup. With over 3,000 minutes in all competitions for Dortmund, at the end of the first season, it is safe to say that Dembele chose his destination wisely. Before getting into detail about the Frenchman’s attributes on a football pitch, here is a post-match interview involving the 20 year old when he played at Rennes:
Reporter: “Are you left or right footed?”
Dembele: “Left footed.”
R:“Are you sure? Because you also score a lot with your right foot.”
D: “Yeah but I’m more of a lefty.”
R:“Don’t you shoot penalties with your right foot?”
D:“Yeah, because I shoot better with my right.”
He is categorized as an ambidextrous winger who can play on both sides of the field, as well as an attacking midfielder. His good use of both feet means that he has no problem switching the ball from one to the other. Aside from this golden attribute, his main weapon is his dribbling. His acceleration on the ball is second to none at 20 years of age, as he combines it with skills and body feints to ridicule the opposition all over the football pitch. His ability to create scoring opportunities week after week proved Tuchel could rely on the youngster to carry the team’s attacks in the absence of Marco Reus. He was a constant threat to BVB’s rivals, as his chance creation largely resulted in goals for his team. Aside from being brilliant at dribbling and chance creation, he also has an eye for goal. Although not his strongest attribute, his shots have improved massively since his debut back in 2015.
Enough general talk, let’s get into specifics:
As stated above, Ousmane’s acceleration is similar to that of a sprinter. Whenever he catches top speed, not even the paciest players can keep up with him. He feels most comfortable when given space to run at defenders, although he is quite good at dribbling in short spaces too. He uses a vast amount of cuts and body feints to trick defenders before getting past them. Here is a wide variety of clips showing Dembele’s range when dribbling:
The first clip basically illustrates the situation Dembele is the most comfortable with. He easily creates a scoring opportunity by taking the ball up the field against Hoffenheim’s defense. Some of the other clips show his insane agility, fantastic skills and confusing body feints. An attribute Dembele can most certainly improve on is his decision making on the ball. He sometimes holds onto the ball for too long, shoots from unfavorable positions, and puts too much power on his passes.
Here are 3 clips where he loses the ball after beating defenders. As shown, he holds on to the ball for too long sometimes, affecting the team’s attacking style of play. Again, the boy is insanely young, therefore his decision making will improve with time and experience.
Dembele has a good variety of ways to create chances for his teammates, most which include penetrative passes or crosses. He has no problem setting himself up for these situations via dribbles, and has shown constant improvement in his final pass execution. He combines his fantastic dribbling skills to get past defenders down the wing (mostly, also centrally) and his good vision to set teammates up for scoring opportunities. He beats opposition fullbacks with ease, even some of the best in the world like Alaba and Mendy, and whips in dangerous crosses for his team to score. He is way more consistent at doing so down the right, since most of his appearances are as a right winger. Here is Dembele beating rivals down the right flank before crossing the ball to create scoring opportunities:
Beating defenders down the line is something many wingers can do, but to use such precise vision at such a high speed is worthy of recognition. As stated above, crossing isn’t the only fashion in which Ousmane shows off his vision. He can be very creative in the final third, and depending on the situation, he can act as an attacking midfielder. Here’s a glimpse at Dembele’s through balls, and how they usually end up in the back of the net.
As stated, Dembele’s through balls happen all over the field. Although they are most effective when playing centrally, he also has no problem dribbling from his own half before timing great passes for his teammates, as he does for Mbappe and Pulisic in the video above. His chip assist towards Aubameyang is representative of Ousmane’s creativity in the final third.
His ability to play on both wings, and as a ‘number 10’ means that Dembele enjoys scoring opportunities from basically anywhere. His fantastic use of both feet really comes into play when shooting. Since signing for BVB, Ousmane has tallied 13 goals, with an extremely balanced distribution. He has managed to score 5 with his left, 7 with his right and one header. Out of his short career, I’ve managed to notice two repeated sequences that Dembele works his way into. He likes to attack through the wings and half spaces, before cutting and shooting. His shot selection normally depends on what foot he is using. When playing down the right, he usually uses his left to seek for the opposite corner. Here are a few examples:
As shown, most times Dembele worked himself into this specific situation the ball ended in the back of the net. He has perfected his second post shot with his left foot, meaning that little can be done after he takes on the defender when cutting towards the goal. Sadly, the same is not true for this specific situation on the opposite side. Whenever Dembele is playing down the left and chooses to cut, he normally looks for a low first post shot, as his far-post shot with his right has massive room for improvement.
As shown, he replicates the same play, however it has a different ending. He has not yet mastered the weight behind that shot, causing him to miss many golden opportunities for Borussia. He prefers to look for the first post whenever he beats defenders from the left. It has proven to work since his academy days, and every game the youngster plays, this certain shot improves. To give an illustration, here are a few clips of Dembele cutting towards the middle and looking for the near-post with his right foot:
Unlike his left footed shot, this shot usually beats the goalkeeper on the ground. He drives the ball low, and keepers have a hard time reaching down to get a hand on it. Here we can see Dembele performing this play in Ligue 1, Bundesliga, and the UEFA Champions League.
Alongside Mbappe Lottin, young Ousmane Dembele is set to dominate the world of football in the future. His ability to dribble past any elite defender, create scoring opportunities and also score are a true sign of eliteness. Out of all his attributes, he could probably improve his decision making the most. As soon as he learns when to shoot and when to get rid of the ball, rival teams will have a lot to worry about when facing the Frenchman. Clearly, Ousmane has everything it takes to be world class.