Raghunandhanan Narasimhan writes a detailed scout report on Alexander Isak, the Dortmund and Sweden striker.
When Borussia Dortmund completed the signing of teenage sensation Alexander Isak last month for a reported fee of 10 million pounds, the news was bound to cause a sensation among the football faithful. The teenager was supposedly courted by Spanish giants Real Madrid and there was ever growing interest in the youngster. So for Borussia Dortmund to beat Real Madrid in signing the youngster was a success in itself. Both the parties would come tom an agreement that this transfer had enormous potential with BVB already boasting the likes of Raphael Guerreiro, Emre Mor, Christian Pulisic, Ousmane Dembele and Julian Weigl amongst their ranks. The plight of another Scandinavian sensation Martin Odegaard might have influenced Isak in choosing Dortmund over Real as BVB seem to be the better choice in terms of grooming young talent to fulfil their potential.
Who is Alexander Isak?
Born in Solna, Sweden to Eritrean parents, Isak was raised in the Stockholm suburb in his childhood. Naturally he grew up idolising Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic and there are similarities in the way the youngster plays to his idol. A tall, lanky chap standing at 6ft 3in Isak started playing with the youth team at local club AIK from the age of six. His progress was there for everyone to see with Isak earning rave reviews from the coaching staff at the club who monitored the youngster’s development closely. He was regarded as a rough diamond that, if polished and brought up properly, could be a great prospect for the future.
Isak made his first team debut on February 26, 2016 when he came on as a substitute in the 75th minute of the Swedish Cup tie against lowly Tenhults IF. Isak was the youngest goal scorer in the club’s history when he scored in the club’s 6-0 win that day. Continuing his breakthrough, Isak was named in the starting line up on April 7, 2016 against Ostersunds FK in the Allsvenskan. He scored the second goal in his side’s 2-0 victory thus becoming the youngest goal scorer in the Allsvenskan history. Isak continued his impressive displays in front of goal and established himself as a first team regular. On May 3, 2016 he signed his first senior professional contract that would see him remain at the club till 2018. Despite the sacking of head coach Andreas Alm, the new coach Rikard Norling did not take long to identify Isak’s talent and continued using him as a first team player.
Talent Radar Accolades:
17 year olds around the world end up spending their birthdays with family or friends. On 21st September 2016, Isak’s 17th birthday, the youngster celebrated in style by scoring a brace against derby rivals Djurgarden in a 3-0 win for AIK. The fans were delirious seeing the prodigious talent on show with Isak grabbing two very well taken goals. All this added up to the hype surrounding Isak and soon enough scouts started appearing during the matches with heavy interest from Real Madrid being the subject of speculation. It looked like the Spanish club would sign the youngster but Isak seemed to have a change of heart at the last moment with Dortmund doing well to convince the youngster that their club would be the right choice. After signing for Dortmund the hype surrounding the youngster grew even more with everyone keen on seeing what ‘the heir of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ had in store for everyone to see.
What is his style of play?
Isak is a tall forward standing at 6ft 3in. A forward who likes to see a lot of the ball, Isak is a complete forward who can dribble well and finish brilliantly. Isak’s biggest feature would be that he can act as a target man and be on the receiving end of long balls and crosses while also dropping deep to involve himself in build-up play. Isak can move quicker than what it seems at first glance and is a nimble customer with the ball at his feet. He boasts an excellent change of pace to beat defenders. His other standout feature would be his technique on the ball as Isak is fantastic in placing the ball in the back of the net while also housing a few tricks up his sleeve while dribbling.
A player who is constantly on the look out for the ball with dropping off movements, Isak is a typical modern day forward. His young age does not reveal how well he can perform in a withdrawn role or on the flanks. He can function brilliantly as a lone striker up front while also possessing the skill set to play in a dual striker system.
What are his strengths?
Isak reminds one of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his younger days with similarities ranging from excellent off the ball movement and physical strength. Isak boasts excellent strength that can help him shrug off defenders and hold the ball well. What really stands out in the youngster is his ability to link up very effectively with his teammates while building up play that far exceeds his age. He has excellent footballing intelligence and displays a willingness to be a part of his side’s build up that would do Zlatan Ibrahimovic proud. He does not shrink under pressure and is more than capable and willing to receive the ball with his back to the goal and a defender hassling him at the time. His strength and first touch enable him to bring other teammates into play. These are the qualities that usually need age and time on the pitch to mature but Isak has demonstrated these qualities to the fore even at this young age. He has an excellent right foot and very good finishing skills. His brace against Djurgarden best showcase his abilities with Isak using his excellent first touch and sniper like finishing abilities.
The ability to finish off a move with a goal is what sets a striker apart and Isak excels in this aspect. His composure in front of goal is brilliant and he has the technique to execute what he wants to do in front of goal. He can take on defenders and beat them with both his skill and change of pace. For a tall lad, Isak has excellent agility and balance so that he can change tracks and shift his body dynamics well that can put defenders off when facing him.
His ability to play off the shoulder of the last defender as well as drop down deep is a much laudable ability as it involves both skill and temperament to do so. Isak is an excellent dribbler and averaged at least a dribble per match over 90 minutes (according to whoscored.com). His technique on the ball is top quality which complements both his finishing and dribbling. A true striker with an eye for goal, Isak has the knack of trying shots from tough angles and also getting them on target which increase his success rate in terms of converting them into goals. His tall frame inevitably makes him a good header of the ball and the youngster does not shirk away from putting his head onto the ball in 50-50 situations. This offers his team a great advantage of feeding him onto the head and also to the feet as he is equally comfortable with both.
His goals against arch rivals Djurgarden while playing for AIK best exemplifies Isak’s qualities, which can be seen here.
What are his weaknesses?
Having said that Isak has a tendency to drop down and be involved in the play, the youngster would do good to improve on his decision making. It’s an attribute that matures with age and Isak has loads of that on his side. He is under a great coach and amongst a group of talented individuals and will surely benefit from the atmosphere and the personnel around him at Borussia Dortmund. A forward who drops deep must be tactically adept to know when and where to play a pass and also have the sufficient skill set to pick out a pass on the other side. His role model is one of the best in this and Isak can look and learn a thing or two from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s book in this aspect.
Isak’s defensive work rate is very much on the down side and should look to expend his energy by pressing up front for his team. With the growing trends in footballing tactics these days, it is important for a player to contribute to his team both on and off the ball, regardless of his position. While it may not be imperative for a forward to press relentlessly, an improvement in defensive contributions surely will fdo no harm to a player who is just in the starting of a blossoming career.
His passing is a bit woeful at times and averages only 70.2% pass completion (according to whoscored.com). He definitely needs to improve on this aspect. Match time and exposure to more quality teammates and opponents alike will see this youngster fulfil his potential. The things look bright for the youngster as he is in one of Europe’s elite clubs that can afford him game time. Having already become the youngest goal scorer for the Swedish National team during Sweden’s 6-0 win over Slovakia, Isak can look to emulate his country’s leading goal scorer and idol Ibrahimovic by trying to enjoy a similarly illustrious and successful career.
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Manchester United fan and a tactics afficianado. Loves quality holding midifielders