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Hinrunde Player Review: Ousmane Dembele

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The French winger is quickly becoming a man among boys

Borussia Dortmund v FC Augsburg - Bundesliga Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Bongarts/Getty Images

Ousmane Dembele joined Borussia Dortmund last summer from Stade Rennais in the French Ligue 1. Known for his speed and goal-scoring ability, Dembele’s impact was immediately felt at the start of preseason. The thought and subsequent reality of two speedsters up front for Dortmund gave fans a huge sense of optimism at the start of the year.

The tumultuous Hinrunde campaign for Dortmund saw Dembele continue to improve and develop as a rising star in world football. Though it wasn’t all pretty, Dembele, at age 19, has already shown he can hang with the big boys.

In 15 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund, Dembele has scored four times and added seven assists. He has started 11 of those 15 games and attempted 21 shots on goal - certainly not a gun-shy striker.

Wile he has been known as a promising scorer through his early career, Dembele has quickly evolved into his new role as a playmaker with Borussia Dortmund.

POSITIVES

Speed. Hot, nasty, bad*ss speed! Oh boy is Dembele fast. His ability to accelerate past a defender from a complete stand-still is mind blowing. And now that the brief science lesson is over, back to Dembele’s natural quickness.

The kid is fast, simply put. He has used his speed to his advantage by creating counter-attacks, blowing past defenders to swing a lofted pass or a through ball ahead to a striker. It’s no wonder Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has 16 goals already this season.

Aside from agility, Dembele is becoming a skilled passer with an ever-growing eye for forecasting a play. His passing has greatly improved since preseason with his accuracy nearing a more satisfactory level.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images

But when there is no lane or open man to pass the ball, Dembele is extremely skilled at wriggling out of traps and tight spaces with the ball. In instances of being double-teamed, Dembele has been able to find his way into open space with excellent ball-skill and composure for a player his age.

NEGATIVES

It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows for Dembele this season with Dortmund. While his passing is certainly stellar - 12 assists in 21 games - there is still work to be done.

Sometimes, Dembele makes a pass that puts his recipient into a difficult situation. Whether the pass comes in behind or ahead of the recipient, there can be a struggle not only to settle the ball but to continue building the play as well. It’s a result of Dembele fast-paced game as he works maybe one step ahead of his fellow attacking players, causing inaccurate distribution and counter-attacks for his opponents.

There are other instances when Dembele doesn’t pass at all, instead opting to do it all himself. While his speed allows him to do this, Dembele must remember there are nine other players joining him in attack and that he has options to pass the ball. The best example of this came in Dortmund’s first Champions League match against Real Madrid. While Dembele looked dangerous and provided a spark, many of his efforts on goal were sent wayward. A pass or two could’ve been valuable in those situations.

OUTLOOK

Bottom line, Ousmane Dembele is only 19-years-old. Just because he misses a pass or makes a mental mistake causing a turnover doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. Young players tend to make these mistakes quite often.

More positively, the potential Dembele has shown in his first four months in the Bundesliga is enough to be optimistic about the future for Dortmund. With the young cast of Dortmund’s attacking options built around Dembele, it’s quite possible we could be seeing Dortmund win the title over the next five years.