Kasper Dolberg: The Danish 9½
The kids’ kitchen is cooking another one. Ajax center-forward Kasper Dolberg is carrying the torch for the next generation of youth prospects in the Dutch capital. He’s taken the mantle from Christian Eriksen as being the new Danish wonderkid and with clubs such as Napoli and Barcelona tracking his progress, he’s sure to be the next off the production line from the Amsterdam based club.
Kasper Dolberg has made a huge impression since joining Ajax from Silkeborg IF as a 17-year-old. He scored on his UEFA Champions League debut and hasn’t looked back ever since. With great potential and the environment of a club that can nurture talent, there is no doubt that Kasper Dolberg will be amongst Europe’s elite in the near future.
The Danish forward has made 26 appearances in all competitions for Ajax and for his national team. Eight goals scored so far this season, averaging out at 0.49 goals per 90 minutes, is an average output. He will want to be improving on to ensure that he fulfills his potential and reach the heights of many Ajax products before him
Style of play
Being a centre-forward with height and a big build may draw assumptions and insinuations about the type of player. Dolberg’s frame can make him look like a player with the ability to hold up the ball and force his teammates to play direct.
However, his skill-set is that of a number 10. He is a player who likes the ball to feet between the lines. He looks to link up play, lay it off to the wide men and use his pace to move into a position where he can finish.
Dolberg has the physical and technical attributes to follow in the footsteps of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez. With no goals so far in the 2018/2019 UEFA Champions League, it may seem that Dolberg needs time to be able to compete with Europe’s elite. However, at the tender age of 21 and the undoubted coaching he’s going to get at the Johann Cruijff ArenA, it’s only a matter of time until we call on him as being one of Europe’s top players.
Movement & link-up play
Dolberg’s biggest strength is his ability to move between the lines, which makes him very difficult to mark. His capacity to locate and move into space allows him time to turn and face goal.
Dropping into midfield allows space for wingers to advance and make runs from out to in. From these positions they can make attempts on goal. Also, Dolberg has the ability to switch positions with the wide players, allowing them the freedom to move inside.
The youngster was used as a left winger during his development in his youth career, so is comfortable in deeper areas as well as on the sides. By moving to the wings, he creates 2v1 overloads on the sides, often allowing opportunities for cutbacks and crosses. This function of his play draws comparison to Swedish phenomenon Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Dolberg’s speed on and off the ball is an attribute that causes the opposition lots of problems. His movement deep into midfield gives him the opportunity to receive the ball without being marked and drive with the ball towards the goal.
On the other hand, if centre-backs drop with him and mark him all the way into deeper areas, he can spin in behind and run into the spaces he’s vacated for himself.
Dolberg has reached a top speed of 29kmph so far in 2018/19, making him one of the top 10 quickest players in the Eredivisie.
Dolberg possesses a strong, powerful shot, which he uses to his advantage. Whenever an opportunity is presented, his first thought is to have a strike on goal.
Of his overall total of 3.87 shot per game – one of the highest in the league – 0.5 have come from outside of the box. An impressive ratio of 48% on target suggests that he does take shots with power rather than placement, often shooting with the laces rather than a controlled side foot.
While the Danish youngster may seem like the complete forward, he is a player lacking in his defensive duties. Ajax is a team that presses high up the pitch. They look to regain the ball as quickly as possible and ask their players to be aggressive in defensive transition. With only 0.74 interceptions per game, Dolberg becomes absent when the team needs him in the ‘ugly’ side of the game. It is a quality needed for forwards in the modern game and is surely something Erik ten Hag will be pressing him to do.
In something that is synonymous with a lot of young players, Dolberg needs to improve his decision making. Especially after putting himself in many positive attacking situations with his impeccable movement, he needs to improve on his decision to either shoot or pass to a teammate in a better position. This is confirmed by having just one assist in 26 appearances for club and country so far this season.
Likened to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there is no doubt that Kasper Dolberg is already under immense pressure to have a top career. With the nurturing and development that Ajax provides, he will have the backing and support to fulfill his potential. Playing in the UEFA Champions League knockout phase will be a big learning curve for him and one that will aid his development. The big clubs are after him and many will be eyeing his path to the top.
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