Charles Onwuakpa lists out the 10 young players to watch in the 2017-18 Bundesliga season, who could have a breakthrough campaign.
Jann-Fiete Arp // Hamburger SV // 17 // Striker
Born on the 6th of January 2000 in the town of Wahlstedt, to the north of Hamburg, Arp began playing for his local team before joining the club and has steadily progressed through the ranks for his team and country.
Last season he scored 37 goals in 45 games for the Under-17 squad as well as netting in 3 in 5 matches for the Under-19s. His impressive outings for HSV’s youth teams were followed by 4 UEFA U-17 Championship games for Germany this summer, including two hat-tricks, one of which happened to be the fastest ever scored in the tournament’s history, coming in 13 minutes.
He is a true No.9: strong, clever, good under pressure, with a decent turn of pace, sharp and composed on the ball as well as a clinical finisher: one might be tempted to compare him to Miroslav Klose; the truth is that Arp’s style of play is modelled around Harry Kane.
“He’s a classic striker, he plays the way I would like to play,” the Hamburg youth said of Kane. “Of course I try to imitate him because he is very successful with his style.
He’s pacy and very comfortable with and without the ball. It’s difficult to stop him. You need to pay attention for 90 minutes because he can score at any time.”
Standing 1.86m tall, broad-shouldered Arp is already well developed physically. He knows, however, that work on certain technical aspects of his game is required. “I have everything a really good striker needs, but I know my left foot is not as good as it should be and I should improve my heading,” he once said. “There is still a lot for me to learn.”
Having recently renewed his contract till 2019, the millennial is highly regarded by coach Mark Gisdol and may debut in the Bundesliga after being called up with the first team.
László Bénes // Borussia Mönchengladbach // 19 // Midfielder
Bénes is Slovakia’s most highly rated youngster and has been dubbed as the “new Marek Hamsik” by the media. Bénes is an energetic midfielder, who has great technique and dribbling ability. His passing ability and long-range shots (especially from set-pieces) also make him quite similar to Hakan Calhanoglu.
He isn’t very tall (only 173 cm), but can protect the ball well with his low centre of gravity. A creative and skillful player, he can act as a regista, central midfielder or trequartista. Despite not being a top tackler, he has the desire and willingness to win the ball back. Having joined Gladbach last season, appearing 8 times and scoring 1 goal, the 19-year-old will be looking forward to settle himself in Hecking’s midfield, especially after the departure of Mahmoud Dahoud.
Johannes Eggestein // Werder Bremen // 19 // Striker
The younger brother of Maximilian Eggestein (who also plays for Bremen), Johannes made a name for himself during the 2015 U-17 World Cup, scoring 4 goals in 4 games for Germany. A pacy, out-and-out poacher, he is deadly in the penalty box, can compete with success in aerial duels and has a decent technique. He might not be spectacular to watch, but he is certainly efficient as proven by his youth level tallies. Being in the first team now he will definitely have to improve in his link-up play and take more responsibilities.
Youssef Emghames // Hannover 96 // 19 // Attacking Midfielder
“He’s a technically gifted attacking player with good vision and is good in front of goal,” said Michael Tarnat, a former Bayern Munich player and current youth team coach at the record Bundesliga champions. Able to play anywhere across the midfield, Emghames was originally signed from Bayern’s U-19 team to form part of Hannover’s reserves, yet he impressed head coach Andre Breitenreiter to such an extent this summer that he was invited to the training camps with the senior players and might be added to the first team. Left-footed, he prefers playing as a right winger so that he can cut inside and shoot or play a through ball towards his teammates, as proven by his 9 assists and 6 goals last season.
Alexander Isak // Borussia Dortmund // 17 // Striker
Despite being signed by Borussia Dortmund last January, the young, tall striker made no appearances in the Bundesliga. This is partially comprehensible as he had to pave way for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang upfront.
The summer feud over transfer issues between the Gabonese and the club’s directors, as well as the arrival of Peter Bosz, means that the lanky, skillful Swedish forward could certainly get more game time.
Felix Passlack // Borussia Dortmund // 19 // Midfielder
Another youngster looking forward to impress at Dortmund is the German midfielder, Felix Passlack. Highly regarded in his country but still not a regular pick for the starting XI, Passlack is a comfortable passer, a quick and dynamic player who can also play as No.10 or right-back. He is only 1.70m tall but is a fine tackler/presser and can protect the ball well.
João Ricardo Pereira Queirós // FC Köln // 19 // Defender
Still yet to make a senior debut, Queirós isn’t just a backup option for Köln: the 19-year-old has represented his country at youth level in different occasions and showed signs of talent while at Braga. Despite being 1.90m tall, he is calm and comfortable on the ball and can be a real aerial threat.
Dan-Axel Zagadou // Borussia Dortmund // 18 // Defender
Despite playing as a left-back in the Supercup final vs Bayern, the Frenchman is a natural defender. He is very tall for his age and physically strong too: he isn’t extremely quick but has excellent timing when it comes to tackles, thanks to his long legs and dominant physique.
He isn’t careless when in possession and likes to keep his passes simple, distributing the ball with ease. Considering the fact that he came from PSG to Dortmund on a free transfer, he could be a real bargain for years to come.
Salih Özcan // FC Köln // 19 // Midfielder
One of the finest German midfielders in his age group, Salih was born and raised in Köln before joining the local club. A technically-gifted midfielder, he has a strong personality and great vision of play which make him a focal point for the team. He can spread passes, pull the strings between midfield and attack, carry the ball as well as dribble in tight spaces, making him a perfect modern regista. An improved physique would take his game to a whole new level.
Landry Dimata // Wolfsburg // 19 // Striker
Having escaped relegation last season through the playoffs, Wolfsburg were keen to improve their attack, and did just that with the signing of the promising Belgian striker, Landry Dimata.
Strong, powerful in the air and with fine tactical awareness, Dimata made waves in his breakthrough season for Oostende last term, his 11 goals and three assists in 24 Jupiler League appearances the precursor to a cross-border summer transfer to the Bundesliga.
At the moment he is behind Mario Gomez in the ranks, but sooner or later the big Belgian might find a regular spot in the starting XI.
Aymen Barkok // Eintracht Frankfurt // 19 // Midfielder
The German midfield gem already played last season for coach Nico Kovac and often came on from the bench, scoring and assisting 2 goals each. A fine dribbler standing 1.88m tall, he has to improve in his aerial duels and passing, but has already showed flair and glimpses of his talent for Eintracht.