Kaustubh Pandey writes a detailed scout report about Ousman Manneh, the Werder Bremen and Gambia striker.
Inspirational success stories aren’t a rarity in the world of football. In fact, they’re so abundant that every player has his own, unique story to tell that often act as examples for those from humble backgrounds to follow and look upto. Take the instance of any single football player in the world, a majority of them have come through the ranks, defying a lot of odds to reach where they have. They go through struggles, pain and dilemmas throughout their path to success, which is something critics never take into account before launching a scathing attack on them.
In England and Germany, the diversity in terms of nationalities and backgrounds in substantial. Players from countries such as Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire, which aren’t the most priveleged ones on earth, unlike France or Spain, enthrall the world with their panache every week. We do witness them lifting us off our seats, scoring goals and winning games for their teams, but we hardly seem to know the stories that they have to narrate. And their stories are not ones full of glee or rejoice, but ones rather devoid of them.
And one of these players, who has made a mark in the Bundesliga, is Werder Bremen youngster Ousman Manneh.
Who is Ousman Manneh?
Born in Ginak Kajata, a town in the North Bank of Gambia, Manneh began his professional football training at the Rush Soccer Academy, a soccer franchise funded by the United States for youngsters in the Western city of Gambia, in the year 2004.
During the time when Manneh was plying his trade with RSA, the autocratic rule of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh was reaching its peak in a majority of areas in the country, which has recorded the lowest GDP in West Africa. After taking over reins at the capital city of Banjul in 1994 following a violent coup in the country, the tag of being ‘eccentric’ has always remained attached to Jammeh’s name. One who claims to have the ability to heal everything ranging from cancer to AIDS with herbal medicines, Jammeh’s imposition in the form of tortures, forced executions and exorcisms is still a strange way of ruling the country.
After enduring the sufferings of the Jammeh’s rule for 17 years, Manneh and his family fled the poverty-stricken nation in 2014, before reaching Bremen. Manneh’s family resided in a refugee camp in Lesum as he joined local club Blumenthaler’s Under-18s side following a trial at the club.
His impressive performances for the Under-18s earned him a call-up from the Under-19s outfit, for whom he scored 15 times in only 11 eleven appearances in the second tier of the youth league. His goalscoring tally for Blumenthaler earned him trials for clubs like Wolfsburg, Hamburg and Schalke.
And in 2015, Manneh sealed a move to Werder Bremen for an undisclosed fee and emerged as one of bright lights in a season that saw Werder Bremen II finish 17th in 3.Liga. The striker scored three times and racked up just as many assists that season. After scoring on his debut against Hansa Rostock, Manneh earned a first-team appearance against Wilhelmshaven in a friendly, as he came on to wreak havoc and score four times in 15 minutes.
After having impressed in his first five games in the ongoing season for Bremen II, new manager Alexander Nouri handed the youngster a debut in the first team, as Manneh played 24 minutes in a 2-1 loss at home to Mainz. Manneh started the next two games and grabbed an assist during the 2-2 draw against Darmstadt. Manneh’s ‘dream’ came true after he handed Bayer Leverkusen a defeat by scoring the winner, assisting once in the same game.
What is his style of play?
Despite being just 19 years old, Manneh stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 79 kilograms. A striker by trade, Manneh’s physical traits and abilities on the ball make him a complete forward, who knows how to dribble at defenses or hold-up play. Apart from scoring, he can create goals for team-mates around him too, which is an added bonus.
Alexander Nouri’s appointment at the club, after the sacking of Viktor Skrypnyk, has come in as a much-needed propellant for Manneh’s career. And since then, Werder Bremen’s results have proved how things have changed. Manneh’s regular inclusion in the side has induced a certain amount of energy into a side, whose lacklustre performances had left the club reeling in the dreaded red zone.
Apart from the energy, it’s the pace and zeal that Manneh brings to the side. Players around him tend to benefit from the fresh breath of life he brings to the plate, bringing the same into them. His performance against Wilhelmshaven, which eventually yielded a 7-0 win, is indicative of that kind of willingness to the side.
Unlike many strikers, who often stick to roaming up front to latch onto passes and score, Manneh’s position is completely different. He is seen drifting off to wide areas, whenever the need arises. Apart from flexibilty and versatility in terms of where to position himself, Manneh also has the ability to strike the ball equally well from either foot. Although, the youngster is right-footed but is just as effective with the left.
What are his strengths?
This goal against Osnabruck in the 3.Liga shows his ‘weak foot’. Manneh picks up the ball on the right flank and runs directly at the defense, spearheading the break. With impressive pace and quick feet, he uses his left foot to slot the ball past the goalkeeper. The goal also goes to show how destructive Manneh can be, when given the space and time to do his bit for the side.
And his first goal against Roger Schmidt’s Bayer Leverkusen too, is indicative of his movement and shows how he is always willing to make himself available for team-mates. Before Zltako Junuzovic scored Bremen’s opener, Izet Hajrovic’s brilliant run down the right demanded for someone to be in the middle to receive a cross. Manneh found space between Omer Toprak and Jonathan Tah, but before he could place a shot, Bernd Leno was already upto the task of acting as a sweeper.
And in the same game, Manneh’s clever movement left Leverkusen gasping. The same trio was involved in this goal too, as Hajrovic played a free-kick short to Junuzovic, who spotted Manneh staying behind the Leverkusen defenders, rather than trying to come close to them and thereby, come close to the goal. The finish from Manneh was a neat one, making him utter the words: “I just can’t believe it!”
The game against Wilhelmshaven, which can well be dubbed as his breakout game, saw him unleash his directness on the ball. In his first goal, after misplacing a pass in the final third, he presses the opposition defender to win it back and goes past the keeper to score. It was his willingness to win the ball back and the hunger to score that made him do that.
His second goal of the game was one to pick out from the bunch. After receiving the ball near the half-way line, he launched a terrific dribble at the Wilhelmshaven back four, to go past five players, including the goalkeeper to score. His pace, size and pair of quick feet allowed him to score what was the best goal he would’ve ever scored.
Another massive positive that Manneh has, majorly due to his upbringing is his ability to fight. He has done that throughout his life and he’s a character who is accustomed to dealing with bad times and coming through strongly.
What are his Weaknesses?
But, despite all positives, there are thorns in the roses as well, much like any other player. He may be a complete forward, who is a jack of all trades but a master of none, but there are areas of the game he needs to improve upon.
Firstly, he needs to improve his discipline on the pitch. In 11 appearances in all competitions this season, Manneh he has racked up four yellow cards, which is more than one would expect from a striker. Well, as long as he’s not Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Mario Balotelli.
This roots from Manneh’s tendency drift in and out of games, as he sometimes tries a bit too hard to be in the thick of things. His inconsistency in a game also goes on to define his inconsistency to find the back of the net regularly. And it is something which will gradually improve as he’s someone who started playing the game at a later age than someone like Johannes Eggestein, who has a truly exceptional goalscoring tally for Bremen II.
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