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Kaustubh Pandey writes a detailed scout report about Kasper Dolberg, Ajax’s latest sensation.
Words such as deficiency, paucity and dearth are those that have ceased to exist in the Ajax dictionary of player development a long time ago. While the signs of stopping are very minute, Ajax continues to unleash and unload bundles of youngsters from its famed conveyer belt, before offloading them to bigger clubs in Europe.
From the likes of Johan Cryuff, Frank Rijkaard and Frank de Boer to the modern-day stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suarez and Christian Eriksen, Ajax have produced them all. Among the latest ones are current Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik, who joined the Partenopei this past summer and Middlesbrough winger Viktor Fischer, who too sealed a move to the Riverside only some months ago. And while the Amsterdam based club carries on doing its job discreetly, a day certainly comes when the powerhouse clubs reach out and hand over de Godenzonen hefty cash to rope in a player.
And the latest Ajax sensation to have made his mark already, despite being of a tender age, is their Danish forward Kasper Dolberg.
Born in the Silkeborg town of central Denmark, around the parts where the club Midtjylland is currently based, Dolberg began playing football at the age of three. After plying his trade with local club GFG Voel and helping bigger clubs win games during his time there, Dolberg joined Silkeborg IF when he was 12 years old.
After coming through the ranks at Silkeborg, Dolberg made his debut for the side in 2015, when he made a substitute appearance against Brondy. He made three appearances that season, months after having penned a deal with Ajax that January. Dolberg would join Ajax in the summer of 2015, in a deal that is supposed to last till 2018. The forward was first spotted by the same scout who brought the likes of Christian Eriksen, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Viktor Fischer to the Amsterdam Arena- John Steen Olsen.
Dolberg shone for the Ajax Under 19s throughout the 2015-16 season, scoring eight times in 22 appearances and assisting once. The young Dane’s contribution helped the Ajax Under 19s side to finish top of their Eredivisie and his performances earned him an appearance during Ajax’s first game of the 2016-17 campaign against Sparta Rotterdam.
In the next game against Roda, Dolberg’s performances were rewarded with his first senior start of his career, as he notched up a brace during his 63 minute stay on the pitch. So far this season, Dolberg has made 19 appearances in all competitions, scoring eight times and racking up two assists.
On the international stage, Dolberg has featured for the Under-16’s,17’s,19’s and 21’s side and recently made his debut for the senior side during their recent 4-1 win over Kazakhstan, that saw former Ajax and current Tottenham star Christian Eriksen score twice.
Dolberg weighs 75 kilograms and stands around 186 centimetres tall, which is more than enough for a centre-forward who likes to score goals. A near-complete striker, Dolberg can act as a presence up front and also possesses the ability to go past defenders, by unleashing his pace at the back four.
His skill-set goes against the stereotype which states that the lanky forwards can only act as target men up front, or use their hold-up abilities to allow the team-mates to join the attack. And apart from pace, a main part of Dolberg’s armory is his lethal finishing.
His presence up front has made de Godenzonen fans forget about the absence of former hitman Arek Milik, who is now plying his trade with Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli in Italy. Dolberg seemingly has already become a fan favorite at the Amsterdam Arena. Several questions were raised about Peter Bosz’s selection policy after the young Dane was left out of the squad as Ajax were knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers at the hands of Rostov.
One of Dolberg’s biggest strengths is the strong, powerful right footed shot he has up his sleeve. This allows the youngster to have cracks at goal from long distances out and make perfect use of his ability. He has taken a total of 2.9 shots per game in the Eredivisie this season, out of which 0.5 of them have come from outside the box. Dolberg’s shot accuracy stands at 54 percent this season, which is decently productive.
Dolberg’s pace always succeeds in creating problems for the opposition. Defenders never like to come up against strikers who are tall and strong, but their troubles only increase when these burly forwards have a burst of pace too. And Dolberg certainly has that.
The graphic above effectively portrays Dolberg’s finishing, movement and ability to go past defenders with nous. Against rivals Feyenoord in the 1-1 draw in October during the De Klassiker, Dolberg came up with this goal to stun the De Kuip to silence. As soon as Dolberg sees his side winning the ball back in the midfield, he dashes forward, allowing Joel Veltman some space and time to release him. After being played in by Veltman, Dolberg goes past a Feyenoord defender as if he weren’t there. And to round off an impressive move, he chips De Stadionclub stopper Brad Jones to perfection.
Dolberg isn’t someone who could get bullied easily by defenders. His agility off the ball and the movement discussed above always tends to keep defenders on their toes, giving them a tough time throughout the game; something seen in the graphic below.
During Ajax’s 2-2 draw against Roda, a Daley Sinkgraven cross from the left flank looked like a well-weighted one due to Dolberg’s impressive movement in the final third. The late surge in front of the two defenders allowed Dolberg to run into a yard of space, and allowed him to get a touch in and score. The finish was a lovely one as well.
One of the most important weapons that Dolberg has, whenever he is found with his back to goal is a brilliant first touch and a turn after it, which takes a defender out of the equation of catching him or holding him back. This ability allows him to have a firm hold-up, which is very important for a side that has quick, fleet footed players like Amin Younes, Hakim Ziyech and Anwar El Ghazi around him. Dolberg has succesfully completed 62 percent of his take-ons.
His physique makes sure that he is a good header of the ball, as he has won 58 percent of his headed duels this season.
One trait of Dolberg, which allows players around him to function well is his tendency to drop as a number ten or switch positions with wide players, to allow them freedom to move. The youngster was used as a left winger during his time with the Ajax Under 19s due to his same tendency. He can drop into the number ten position, making room for the wingers to bomb forward from wide areas. This function of his makes him look similar to Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, who performs quite a similar role at Los Blancos, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the man he has drawn comparisons to on numerous occasions in the past.
While Dolberg may seem like a near-complete outlet for goals, he does need to get certain things right around the box. He has racked up three assists this season, but his passing accuracy is something that needs to improve. Currently, Dolberg’s passing accuracy stands at 76 percent which is low for someone who will be a well rounded forward with a better accuracy.
Since this is Dolberg’s first full season in the senior team, it looks a bit early to hail him as a sure thing. Although, he looks like a talent worth writing about, the game is riddled with cruelties.
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