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Doku does the dribbles: DIGEST, October 19
This week? An exciting Egg, Eastern European scouting, and plenty more.
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Jérémy Doku, the dribble monster
Jérémy Doku has some newfound fame. Those attentive to youth football have known about him for a long time now - breaking through at Anderlecht, kicking on at Stade Rennais - but his move to Manchester City has unveiled him to a brand-new audience.
The first thing to know about Doku is he loves the dribbles. Dribbling is his whole thing. He’s attempted one every 10 minutes for City so far, completing 4.6 on average per 90 minutes, and he carried that early season form over to Belgium’s crucial EURO 2024 qualifier against Austria last week.
11 completed dribbles isn’t unusual for Doku. He’s done it before and will do it again. The remarkable thing is how secure he is when dribbling - his completion rate is comfortably above 60% across his career, which is very good for such a prolific dribbleman.
Note: ‘Dribbleman’ isn’t a word, but it should be, like NTT20’s ‘Goalsman’
This one was particularly fun just for its deception and destruction. Austria have him pinned in his own half, surrounded by four players, surely the only conceivable outlet is a backward pass? Not for Jez. He rips himself away and turns it into a fast-break three-v-three attack. That’s Doku for you.
The Exciting Egg
Up in Iceland, a precocious young talent is breaking out of his shell. With their domestic season coming to a close, Eggert Aron Guðmundsson has hit a rich vein of form that will get a lot of (the right people) excited.
His idol is the recently-retired Eden Hazard, and there are definitely some stylistic similarities in how the stocky little Icelander operates. His low(er) centre of gravity is a big factor in the way he spins defenders in deeper areas then runs directly at defences, carrying the ball at speed, driving into areas from which he has the talent to score from.
Guðmundsson is primed for an upward move this winter, most likely (and sensibly) to another Nordic league. Sweden and Norway make sense, and even a mid-table Danish team could be of value. Invest in the Egg.
Jordan James’ breakout performance
Few Cymru fans were confident about their crucial EURO 2024 qualifier against Croatia. Yet a depleted team with everything on the line put in one of the most comprehensive performances they ever have, winning 2-1 to keep their hopes of reaching Germany alive.
Missing an injured Aaron Ramsey and retired Joe Allen, Jordan James - with just six Cymru caps to his name - earned a start in midfield. Up against him? The formidable Modrić-Brozović-Kovačić triumvirate that have over 350 caps between them.
And the 19-year-old more than held his own. Simplicity was key to tackling such a daunting task: he played the percentages when he needed to, spinning the ball into channels or finding the easy pass to the closest team-mate. He was disciplined in his positioning and reactions, bouncing out and reeling back in. He competed in challenges, on the ground and in the air. He doesn’t even start for Birmingham in the Championship!
In James, Cymru have a midfielder that they’ve needed for a long time - he’s athletic for one, adaptable too, and both traits are crucial to the modern game. An Ampadu-Jame double-pivot is one to believe in and build on.
João Neves’s Portugal debut
Remember João Neves from the first SCOUTED Digest? Well, he hit another milestone this week.
The Little Big Talent made his senior debut for Portugal, coming on as an 85th-minute substitute in a 5-0 thrashing of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We hadn’t even realised that he was in the senior squad before the Sofascore notification flashed up showing him coming on.
Follow João Neves on Sofascore so you don’t miss out either!
Neves’ was playing for Portugal’s U-19 side this time a year ago, flitting between underage squads at club level too. His rise since the turn of the year has been remarkable, not dissimilar to the one Arthur Vermeeren has made. Like his Belgian counterpart, get used to hearing a lot more about João Neves.
Ones to watch (and buy) in Eastern Europe
We’ve been watching some obscure players in the past week, too. Both happen to ply their trade in eastern Europe, a vast region which boasts plenty of valuable young talents for clubs to target.
🇳🇬 Rafiu Durosinmi (2003, ST, Viktoria Plzeň)
Rafiu Durosinmi is yet another Nigerian centre-forward, adding to their already jam-packed stable of top-quality strikers. The 20-year-old has been bubbling away in the Czech Republic since 2021 but has come to the boil this season, scoring nine goals in just under 1,200 minutes for Viktoria Plzeň.
Like many of his popular peers, Durosinmi is dynamic and dangerous. He’s massive, has powerful speed, and bounces off defenders. Many of his goals have come from his really good timing in the box, finishing crosses with feet and head, plus there’s a sneaky technical element to his line-leading play. He reminds us a lot of Nottingham Forest’s Taiwo Awoniyi.
🇷🇴 Constantin Grameni (2002, CM, Farul Constanța)
The other is Constantin Grameni, a graduate of the Viitorul/Farul Constanța academy which was founded and is overseen by the legendary Gheorghe Hagi.
Grameni is one of the most talented young passers around anywhere in the world right now. It really is that simple. He has every type of pass in his bag - the punched line-breaker, the little clip, the low driller, the big switch, the curled ball in behind, and even deft outside-of-the-booter. He’s the type of passer that you’ll enjoy watching pass, one that makes the difficult look easy.
His numbers have jumped off the charts in Romania’s Superliga since he broke into the first team at Farul. A move to a bigger league beckons and would be well deserved.
Alternatives to Digest…
The irrepresible Jon Mackenzie is back. This time it’s with one of his excellent videos. We really enjoyed these insights into Girona, the surprise package of LaLiga so far this season.
This from Jack McCormack for Analytics FC, pinpointing which tactical approaches work best against Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton, was a fantastic read.
Everyone loves a bit of Football Manager, right? Well, FM24 is about to drop and it comes with some exciting new tactical capabilities, which the great RDF Tactics walked us through recently.