‘DAHOUD 6’. Little did anyone know that the midfielder would go on to make his Bundesliga debut months later as he enjoyed himself in a 7-0 drubbing against Sarajevo. Wearing the number 6, an iconic number, signified the importance of this player in the years to come. Furthermore, his acceptance of the number 8 shirt this season proved that he could handle the incoming pressure.
Touted to be the replacement of revered World Cup winner Christoph Kramer – who had returned to Bayer Leverkusen after a loan stint at The Foals – he is currently being embedded into the Gladbach team with increasing minutes as he accumulates substitute appearances during the late phases of Bundesliga games.
11 minutes of playing time in a 4-0 loss against Dortmund, and double those as he tried to help BMG turn the score around against Werder Bremen; whom they lost 2-1 to.
We are talking about Mahmoud Dahoud, the relatively unknown Syrian-German player who looks set to take his chance on arguably the biggest stage in world football. The Bundesliga, and luckily enough for him: the UEFA Champions League.
Yaser Kasim, Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Youssef Mohammad. What do all of these players have in common? They are all from the Middle East, playing outside of the Middle East followed passionately by their respective countries’ faithful, no matter where they ply their trade in footballing terms.
Even in a regional sense, as Syrians watch the Iraqi, Saudi and Jordanian leagues to follow their heroes (an excess of 30 Syrian players located in those leagues) and countrymen. So how is it that Mahmoud Dahoud is relatively unknown to the Syrian and Arabic fan base, until around a couple of weeks ago?
Born in Amuda – on New Years in 1996 – based in the city of Qamishli in Syria, Dahoud and a few family members migrated to Germany pre-2010. He played at clubs such as Germania Reusrath and Fortuna Dusseldorf before impressing on a trial at Borussia Monchengladbach.
After making his debut at the age of 17 in front of the vociferous chanting at the Borussia-Park, Dahoud expressed his happiness to the club’s official website: “The situation to me was like a dream, if not better. I’ve always looked forward to playing at the Borussia-Park”, before claiming that “I expected to do this a lot later, but achieving it at the age of 17 is something else.”
Mahmoud Dahoud – The Ins and Outs of the Footballer
There is a gulf in quality between the age-specific leagues and top tier leagues in Germany, as spaces, undeveloped mindsets and less emphasis on the strategically oriented phases will be found in the leagues.
Therefore, Dahoud will have faced opposition on a lower level with the main emphasis in that area being development as opposed to the top leagues where Dahoud will not be left to enjoy himself.
This was evident in the way he operated at a couple of the youth games I watched him play in and the Europa League drubbing of Sarajevo as opposed to his minutes in the Bundesliga at the current time.
Sure, we have to take into account that coming into games 2-1 and 4-0 down will see a different way of operation from the player and the manager due to them being placed in game-specific situations. That is why we will look to combine his traits from the age-specific and top tier leagues to give a fair analysis on the player.
Mahmoud Dahoud, at 176cm, possesses a slight figure compared to his central midfield partners Havard Nordtveit (188cm), Granit Xhaka (185cm) and Christoph Kramer (190cm). However that doesn’t stop him from doing his job on the pitch, and his intelligence on the pitch is nothing short of superb. Let’s look at how Dahoud positions himself in Lucien Favre’s 4-4-2:
Moving on from his basic positioning, Dahoud is adept at receiving the ball in space. Before looking at how he receives and uses the ball, we will look at how he positions himself to get to the ball in a good zone with access to players and support.
Stindl (13) receives the ball however he takes a touch that directs him to a zone filled with space surrounded by Dortmund players, and the winger on the right is seen dragging the full back away. Stindl’s poor touch doesn’t allow himself to drive into space but we see Dahoud positioning himself in between 3 players to receive, turn and release (more on this later).
Stindl returns, passes it back to the defence and we see Dahoud reading the game in a couple of seconds to position himself in between the Dortmund players thus once again providing an outlet for his teammates.
Not often do you see teenagers supporting senior teammates under pressure with such composure, but Dahoud exemplifies it. One thing to note here is how Dahoud looks left to check for any incoming players – bottom picture – (a study on this specific move done by players and how it is a big plus to their ability to complete tasks in a tactical sense with ease: http://www.sloansportsconference.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/The-hidden-foundation-of-field-vision-in-English-Premier-LeagueEPL-soccer-players.pdf)
Dahoud once again finds the space to penetrate Werder Bremen’s 4-4-1-1, which is in the deeper half space. Look at what he does next:
Xhaka drops deep to receive the ball however he is being man marked by the Werder Bremen attacking midfielder, which, like a domino effect, sees Dahoud slip into the space that is now free.
The way that Dahoud directs the play to one side and can predict the phase of play is magnificent at such a young age.
Confidence, Leadership and Awareness
Mahmoud Dahoud’s first challenge of the season was the Signal Iduna Park in the opening week. On the end of a 4-0 drubbing by BVB, Dahoud had to face 81,000 fans on a disastrous night for his team. Yet Dahoud didn’t look fazed in any sense, looking to assert himself on the Bundesliga fields.
He never looked off his game, always ready for the challenge ahead. What is also impressive about Dahoud is his tendency to guide his teammates by pointing towards areas of space / areas to pass to, or even to watch an incoming player executing a third man run that Dahoud’s teammates cannot see at that time.
Look at how many times he looks away to check and examine the space around him.
Dahoud is also capable of completing attacks and moving alongside his teammates seamlessly, as he showed that impressively against Werder Bremen.
Dahoud is calm, composed and fine on the ball. He rarely, if ever, looks to play a direct or long ball into attack (not indicating that he isn’t capable of doing so, because he is). A fine, ground pass is always his aim once releasing the ball into his teammates. A reliable horizontal pass or nifty work by exploiting diagonal and vertical zones in attack is also another aspect that Dahoud excels at. Constantin Eckner of Spielverlagerung waxes lyrical about his passing ability: “Dahoud has great passing skills; he can deliver any sort of passes (short, long, diagonal, fast & vertical etc.)”
The commentator on Fox Plus Soccer also claimed a very interesting opinion that agrees with the report on Dahoud: “Dahoud; who seems to be finding more space than his teammates today such as Havard Nordveidt”. (Following videos for clarification: Mahmoud Dahoud is #8)
These images show how Dahoud is not limited to horizontal passes to his teammates on same lines of play as he can look for the penetrative pass; and complete it easily.
The way the Syrian-born midfielder receives, turns and moves with the ball is a trait invaluable to the modern day football game and at under pressure, he showed that he could escape it with his slick movement. This can be coupled up with the next chapter; movement.
Alongside his ability to pass the ball, Dahoud also excels at receiving it. There have been cases where a player’s body position is poor, and while being able to receive the ball he is not able to move in tandem with his positioning to easily turn and/or release.
It’s his nifty, smart and elegant movement that helps him work in these situations alongside his technical ability on the ball. Constantin Eckner agrees: “his movement is smooth and elegant, so that he can outplay opposing players in tight/dangerous zones easily”.
A feature not found in his Bundesliga career yet, but Dahoud did score good goals from range with his runs from deep during his age-specific team days. How he will be able to adapt to the surroundings of the Bundesliga game through his usual style of play will be interesting to see as Favre uses him in central midfield; a more conservative role if we look at it on a deeper level.
His ability to combine with players and shoot was a great feature of his early days, however his current role sees him use less of his dribbling and shooting skills, as opposed to movement, awareness and passing.
Physical stature – Constantin Eckner puts it perfectly: “there is only one weak spot – his physicality; he is a relatively small and thin guy, so maybe he should build up some muscles to “survive” hard duels in midfield – but not much muscle mass, so that he is able to maintain his smooth movement”.
With news on Dahoud choosing Germany as his preferred nation, it is yet to be seen how he can aid the Syrian football game. Anyone in his place, getting games for a top Bundesliga side, would strive for Germany’s senior national team. Yet the current Syrian dream is to see Dahoud pair up behind Omar Al-Soma, a distant dream from now by the looks of it.
Until he does represent Germany at senior level, he will continue to be classified as a #MiddleEasternerAbroad by the Ahdaaf team. We wish good luck to a very promising player and hope to cover him in as much detail as part of our Middle Easterners Abroad series.