Lim Wei Lun breaks down the playing style of right back Felix Passlack, Borussia Dortmund’s latest young star.
In a sporting world where clubs often prioritise their current needs over building a youthful team that can stay around for a couple of years, Borussia Dortmund have bucked the trend. Continuing where they left off last season, picking up raw talents and polishing them into shining diamonds, Borussia Dortmund have set themselves to doing the same this time around, picking up players from a host of smaller clubs and pulling them over to Germany. This has given the club a burgeoning reputation for blooding young players at senior level, and making them one of the world’s best clubs at developing talent.
In bringing through youngsters like Christian Pulisic, Nuri Sahin, and Mario Gotze, Borussia Dortmund have played a big part in setting into motion many careers in football. While the world is now fixated on Bayern Munich’s dominance in the Bundesliga, there is no reason to believe that Dortmund cannot wrest the title away from Munich this season. In spite of their recent defeat to Bayern in the German Super Cup, Dortmund had played the champions close, only for Bayern to win on penalties. Traditional curtain-raisers such as the German Super Cup and England’s Community Shield have often been seen as nothing more than just glamorous friendlies, yet they can, especially given the rivalry between clubs such as these, offer some hint as to what lies ahead.
They have also, on occasion, been a proving ground for youth team players, wherein youngsters are given the chance to make their claim for a first-team spot. One such player is Felix Passlack, Dortmund’s precocious fullback.
Who is Felix Passlack?
Born in Bottrop in the industrial outskirts of Gelsenkirchen, Borussia Dortmund’s virtuoso talent Felix Passlack grew up supporting his current club’s local rivals FC Schalke 04. At the tender age of 14, Dortmund decided to snap him up from Rot-Weiß Oberhausen in 2012. The diminutive full-back stands only 1.70m tall, but one should not be deceived by his height. For every inch that he givens up when faced with taller opposition, he is equally willing to put in crunch tackles and win back possession. On his signing, Dortmund’s U-19 coach Hannes Wolf said, “He has all the athletic requirements to succeed at the very top of the professional game.”
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It is a sentiment echoed by Lars Ricken, who had similarly made his BVB debut before his 18th birthday in 1993,”With Felix you can see what can be achieved when you combine natural talent with a tremendous willingness to improve. In recent years he has made great progress in technical and tactical areas.” He first began to receive wider notice in 2014/15, when he led Dortmund’s U-17s to the national title. Passlack came close to adding international glory in 2015, helping Germany to the final of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Bulgaria, where they eventually fell to France in the final.
What is his Style of Play?
Passlack is not one who is too elaborate on the ball and prefers to keep things simple going forward. He is given to building up play from the back, supplying short passes to teammates before himself pushing forward. Given his short stature, Passlack possesses incredible balance and a low centre of gravity, enabling him to dribble past opposition defenders with ease.
Making darting runs beyond the opposition, however, has become his trademark move and it is this, together with the incredible physicality that he has for his small frame that has generated comparisons with Sead Kolasinac, the man nicknamed the ‘Bosnian Hulk’. In addition to this, Passlack also has decent ball retention abilities and easily barges defenders off the ball, making it difficult to take the ball off of him.
What are his Strengths?
Being a fullback, it is quintessential that he has to adapt his game to fulfill the role that the modern fullback plays in a team. This implies not only defending stoutly at the back but also making progressive runs in support of the wingers, which can span the length of the pitch. Here, Passlack has shown great stamina and has a sudden burst of pace which more often than not catches opposition defenders by surprise. His attacking statistics are perhaps more surprising though, as netted 42 goals and made 41 assists in just under 70 games for the Dortmund U-17 and U-19 teams despite playing from right wing.
For a winger, these numbers are particularly impressive, even in youth football, which can often be more open. Passlack is also good with two feet and has an strong work rate. As he progressed through the ranks into the Dortmund first team, he has moved further back to become a full-back and has been deemed as the heir to the throne of Lukasz Piszczek as the undisputed first choice full-back for Borussia Dortmund. With fire in his belly and never one to shy away from a crunching challenge, Passlack might well even prove to be a future captain at Dortmund having already captained the U-17s in the 2014/15 Bundesliga season.
What are his Weaknesses?
Understandably, his lack of height has caused him to fail to challenge adequately in aerial duels. This is an area that he has particularly tried to work on and coupled with his burly figure, he might well be able to turn aerial duels into one of his strengths in the future. He also has a lack of a proper first touch, which might well enable opposition defenders to close him down quickly. As Lewis Ambrose noted in an interview for Squawka.com, Passlack does not cut in-field as much as normal wingers do to combine with the midfield. Instead, he tends to stray to the outside and whip crosses to the back post, thereby limiting his skillset and being easy to predict. However, if given the space, expect him to wreak havoc with his passes to his team mates.
Nevertheless, he is highly rated by many of the coaches at Dortmund, and being only 19, he has the world at his feet. With an experienced full-back in the form of Lukasz Piszczek in front of him in the pecking order at the moment, expect him to learn his trade and develop his ball skills in the coming 1-2 years as Dortmund prepares to phase the Pole out of the first team. Soon enough, we might well see Passlack cement a spot in the Dortmund first team, maybe even this upcoming season, given the emphasis on youth at Borussia Dortmund. In addition to this, Passlack’s prospects might be buoyed by the ability of Peter Bosz, the new manager, to get the best out of younger players, as he had in leading his young Ajax side to the Europa League Final in 2016/2017. Given the right guidance and mentality, Passlack’s stock would only continue to rise along with Dortmund’s.
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