Mikkel Damsgaard: The man to replace Eriksen’s creative spark for the Bees – scout report
Mikkel Damsgaard made a name for himself after arriving in Serie A with Sampdoria in the 2020/21 season. The dynamic Dane displayed fine form in his debut season, which earned him a place in the Denmark squad for Euro 2020. With the whole world watching, Damsgaard proved his ability by performing to high standards in highly competitive knockout matches, sparking interest from clubs all over Europe last summer.
However, since then, Damsgaard has been through a turbulent season, where supposed thigh problems kept him out of action. After being checked out in further detail, it was discovered Mikkel was suffering from arthritis, a condition which kept him out of action for 6 months. Since coming back from injury, Damsgaard has only had cameos off the bench, with patience required for him to reach the physical levels necessary to complete a full match.
The departure of Christian Eriksen to Manchester United has left Brentford with a lack of creativity in the final third, and Mikkel Damsgaard will have big boots to fill, but he definitely has the potential. Damsgaard looked up to Eriksen during his childhood, was inspired by him and studied his game whilst developing his skills. Damsgaard has already proven that he can fill Eriksen’s shoes, replacing his creativity for Denmark during the Euros, and will be hoping he can reach those levels again for Brentford in the Premier League. The deal has not been completed yet, with Damsgaard needing to complete a medical assessment, although Brentford have already shown their compassion and willingness to sign a player after a long absence with the signing of Christian Eriksen in January.
This scout report will contain an analysis of Damsgaard’s time at Sampdoria and for Denmark, showing what he is capable of when playing to the peak of his powers. It will also be a tactical analysis of how Damsgaard can fit in the tactics used by Thomas Frank at Brentford and how he can be the difference maker for them in the final third.
Where does he fit?
At Sampdoria, Damsgaard played most games as a left midfielder in a 4-4-2 with Tommaso Augello overlapping from left-back, although he was moved around from wing to wing and in central areas sometimes. Damsgaard is a versatile player who can rotate in most positions across the midfield and forward lines. Mikkel prefers to drift into central areas where he could get on the ball more often in more dangerous areas and dictate attacks.
During the last and more successful period of Brentford’s season, Frank set the Bees up in a 4-3-3. There are two positions which Damsgaard could most probably fill, either directly replacing Eriksen on the left hand side of the midfield three or on the wing where his work load is lessened, especially as he comes back from such a long break from football. The heat map below shows how Damsgaard would start in wide areas before drifting centrally where he can get more touches on the ball.
Another position where Damsgaard can slot in, is as a right-sided central midfielder due to the arrival of Aaron Hickey, an inverted wing-back comfortable playing on either side. Hickey, at Bologna, would invert into central areas during attacking situations due to his comfort playing with either foot in central zones. If Damsgaard starts as a right central midfielder with Hickey playing at right-back, Hickey will be able to move into midfield during settled attacks, covering for Damsgaard’s slightly weaker defensive abilities when counter-pressing and allowing him to move to areas closer to the opposition box where he can create dangerous opportunities.
Mikkel Damsgaard’s arguably biggest asset is his ability to dribble out of pressure in tight spaces. Damsgaard is extremely nimble and agile, which makes it hard for defenders to keep up with constant changes of direction. He is excellent at manipulating the ball and deceiving the opposition by luring them into making a challenge before skipping past them. Damsgaard consistently drifts into central areas where he attracts numerous opponents and evades the pressure, which then allows his team to attack an underloaded defence.
One area where Damsgaard struggles is his lack of pace to beat a player by knocking it past them. This flaw means that defenders don’t have to be as close to Damsgaard as with other elite dribblers, and can continue to jockey him as there is a smaller chance of him knocking it past them. Although this can be a flaw, in central areas, especially in and around the box, if defenders give Damsgaard any time on the ball, they will be punished due to his excellent shooting and dribbling abilities. This means that his lack of running power is seen less frequently and he is still deadly to play against.
The image below shows Damsgaard’s incredible ball manipulation and close dribbling skills, which earn him a free kick.
Furthermore, Damsgaard has very good ball control skills which enables him to receive the ball in tight situations while still being trusted to retain the ball. Damsgaard has the know-how to either keep the ball at his feet or to knock it into space with his first touch, depending on the whereabouts of opposition defenders.
His great awareness allows him to regularly make the right decisions in regards to what he should do under pressure. Pictured below, is Damsgaard taking a perfect touch which leads to him taking a shot on goal, although the shot is saved.
Mikkel Damsgaard prefers to play in slightly deeper areas, so he doesn’t find himself in great goalscoring opportunities often, but when does he can usually be trusted to finish those chances. The image below shows his ability to finish his chances, although this isn’t his strongest part of his game, and he could do with being more decisive so he can consistently finish like he can.
While he doesn’t get into good goalscoring chances too often, Damsgaard has great ball-striking abilities and can hit the ball with venom even without a long run-up or pace on the ball. From range, Damsgaard has deadly shots and also has the ability to place the ball in the top corners very consistently.
The ability to hit the ball with both power and precision keeps the goalkeeper guessing, and they’re less likely to predict where the shot will go. The image below displays Damsgaard’s superb ball-striking skill.
Damsgaard has shown tendencies to prefer to shift the ball onto his right foot before shooting, which is something that he will need to change in order to become less predictable. Right now, it’s easy to tell Mikkel will move the ball to his right foot before shooting, and he needs to be more confident in shooting with his left foot so that defenders don’t always back off when the ball is on his left foot.
Another key part of Damsgaard’s skill set is his incisive and creative passing. Damsgaard has the vision, combined with excellent decision making and weight of pass to create good goalscoring chances frequently for his teammates. Mikkel Damsgaard is a very creative playmaker, especially in the left half space, as seen in the image below and the winger imaginatively cuts through a low block each week.
Damsgaard is also comfortable with combining play in tight spaces due to his excellent weight of pass. He makes the correct decisions to make life as easy as possible for his teammates by playing the ball at the perfect weight and direction. This image below shows how he finds space and plays the ball at the right angle for the striker to take the ball in his path and be 1v1 against the keeper.
Another asset that makes Damsgaard a creative threat is his ability to cross ball from wide areas to teammates. Damsgaard holds onto the ball when he can until he finds an open teammate, making the cross easier for himself and the finish easier for the teammate.
Off the Ball
Off the ball, Damsgaard is intelligent and often finds himself in pockets of space where he can receive behind the opposition’s backs and have space and time to turn with the ball. Damsgaard is very much a ‘to-feet’ player, and will always look to receive the ball rather than attacking space in behind. Damsgaard isn’t the quickest although he is very agile, and whilst he doesn’t attack space, it is not something he has to do when he is the creative spark in his team.
Damsgaard also needs to learn how to attack the box with late runs better, in order to increase his output in terms of goal, after he has made a defence-splitting pass around the edge of the box.
Mikkel Damsgaard is a very creative playmaker, with a dangerous shot from distance and is extremely difficult to dispossess. These skills will make the £16 million pound price tag a bargain for the Dane as long as he can recover from his own setbacks he has suffered.
If he can overcome the challenge, there is no reason he can’t replace Eriksen in a team for the second time at the age of 22. Brentford will hope to build on their mid-table finish from last season and avoid getting into a relegation battle.