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Alex Lynch provides a detailed scout report on French striker Moussa Dembele.
The last two seasons haven’t been very memorable for Fulham FC. They first got relegated from the Premier League after a 19th place finish, and their 13 year stay in the top flight was suddenly over. For a London based club like Fulham that has a fair amount of resources, relegation was an embarrassment. But then came last season, where they went from favorites to return to the Premier League, to being in the bottom half of the Championship all while losing wonder kid Patrick Roberts to Manchester City. Clearly Fulham haven’t had many positives in the last two years but there is positive that does surface from the pool of negativity: his name is Moussa Dembele and he is lighting up the Championship this season.
Moussa Dembele is a 19 year old footballer who hails from France, specifically Pontoise, a suburb of Paris. Dembele clearly has small town roots, which might help explain some of his decisions later in his career. He joined local club Paris Saint Germain in 2004, and while PSG were good back then, they weren’t the dominant force in French Football like they are today. After becoming one of PSG’s top prospects, he was capped for the French U-16 team in 2011 and 2012. He managed to impressed with the youth national team and got noticed by clubs around Europe. Without much of a chance of getting into the PSG team as a young player, he decided to leave the club. After having a host of European clubs interested in him, Dembele stuck to his small town roots and decided to join Fulham.
After Dembele joined Fulham in 2012, he made his France U-17 debut and went on to make his Premier League debut in the following year. Making his Premier League debut at 17 helped him get noticed by Fulham supporters and French Football fans as a player for the future. Dembele managed to feature in the FA Cup as well. Fulham ended up getting relegated (as mentioned previously), and the loss of quality players that resulted from relegation made Dembele a regular at 18. Fulham supporters got a proper chance to see Dembele play in the following season. After making 11 appearances in the Championship last season, 15 in all competitions, Dembele started to show flashes of what he could do. He scored an impressive brace against Derby County in the League Cup, he showed in his two Championship starts that he could hold the ball up well and help out his team mates. During the summer, Dembele represented the France U-19 team in the European Championships, where Dembele impressed with a couple of goals in the group stages. His impressive Euro performance and the flashes that he showed last season led to him getting a chance in the first team this season. Dembele took full advantage of this opportunity, showing Fulham supporters that their hype was justifiable. He has 9 goals in 18 starts, which is 10th in the Championship and to add to this, Dembele has 2 assists to go along with the goals. He has shown that he is able to go for an aerial duel and come out on top, with over 3.5 aerial wins per game this season so far. His goals have mattered for Fulham, who are once again in the bottom half of the Championship at the time of this writing.
Talent Radar Accolades:
Named in 100 to Watch in 2017
Moussa Dembele has all of the characteristics that you would want in a great young striker. But his best trait is his terrific finishing ability. All of his goals this season have come from inside of the box and a lot of his goals are close range finishes that are either products of his teammates build up or his own. His finishing was on display in his brace against Bristol City. Both of Dembele’s goals in that match were first time finishes from inside of the six yard box, after getting a low delivery from a teammate. Dembele scored a similar goal against Blackburn Rovers, as he scored from around 8 yards out after the goalkeeper mishandled the ball. And Dembele managed to finish the goal off despite multiple Blackburn players standing on the goal line. His impressive finishes against Blackburn Rovers and against Bristol showed his ability to be a true poacher from inside of the box. Most young strikers don’t have the calmness that Dembele displayed in these instances. And Dembele only averages two shots per game this season despite his high amount of goals, which proves that he has been finishing off his chances.
Besides his great finishing ability, Dembele also has terrific leaping ability and physical traits. He stands at exactly 6 feet tall, which is fairly average for a striker. But what separates him from most strikers physically is his vertical leap and his pace. Dembele’s leaping ability was shown off in a goal he scored against Queens Park Rangers. A teammate crossed the ball up to Dembele, and before the ball even started going downward, Dembele jumped to reach the cross and found the back of the net.
His aforementioned pace has been on display throughout the season for Fulham so far. Fulham’s website described Dembele as having “pace to burn”, and they couldn’t be more spot on. One example of his great pace was a goal he scored against Reading, where his teammate delivered a low ball into the box, and Dembele ran at full speed to get the ball and put it into the back of the net. He scored a similar goal in a game against MK Dons, when the ball popped up into the air, his teammate brought it down and passed it right in front of the net toward Dembele, who had been running at full speed to get there, and he ended up with an easy tap in goal as a result. He used his pace to get away from the defender and that gave him the easy finish inside of the box. One of the reasons why he’s been such a great finisher this season, is because his excellent pace and leaping ability give him clear sights of the goal. When he gets the ball, he often can get a good look at the goal because of the space he creates for himself. His athletic ability gives him a lot of potential and even more room to grow.
While most of Dembele’s goals are because of his teammates’ build up, he’s also good on the ball himself. He has two assists this season, which is a fair total given the lack of attacking talent in Fulham outside of Ross McCormack. Dembele also passes at a 70% clip according to Whoscored.com, which is quite decent for a young striker who doesn’t have many passing options at his disposal. He also showed his ability on the ball against Reading, where he used his pace to draw the defenders towards himself, and then he delivered a perfect through ball to the aforementioned McCormack who finished off the goal. That assist against Reading showcased Dembele’s passing ability, as most strikers, and almost all teenage strikers, don’t make that kind of ball towards a teammate. They would likely hold onto the ball and try to start something from there.
While Dembele has a lot of good traits as a player, he has weaknesses in his game as well. The lack of quality teammates might have something to do with this, but Dembele, like most young players, has been very inconsistent. He had a period in the season where he scored six goals in three games, with two braces during that time. However, Dembele has only scored once in his last 8 games at the time of writing, after scoring two goals in three games prior to his goal drought. His team’s form has dropped as well during this period, but Dembele needs to find consistency if he wants to become a truly great striker.
Another weakness in Dembele’s game is his weight. Dembele only weighs 162.9 pounds according to Fulham’s official website, which is very light for any player, much less a striker, making it hard for him to hold the ball up. He’s going to have a hard time avoiding injury if he doesn’t add weight, because physical leagues such as the Premier League will be tough for someone who’s so light.
With the way that Dembele had performed so far this season, he has an incredibly bright future ahead. Since strikers, and particularly young ones, are such a hot commodity in Football these days, Dembele is surely going to be wanted by big clubs. His contract runs out in the summer of 2016, which means that he won’t be at Fulham for much longer. And when he does leave Fulham, he’s going to have the chance to show the French National Team what he’s made of. With his great physical traits and his finishing ability, he’s bound to succeed at the higher levels of world Football. Even though there are a lot of great French forwards at the moment, Dembele has the potential to become undroppable for the French National Team.
Written by Alex Lynch