If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot you can tell about a player from a single game of football (crucially, if you know what you’re looking for, you also know what you *haven’t* learned about a player from a single game as well). In the hopefully regular ‘One man, One game’ feature, I do just that.
Lewis Dunk belongs to that class of players, so large that it must make the outsiders feel left out, who have been touted as a future star for about the length of time that most people retain interest in their fantasy football teams. From there, they – like your ‘Wanyamas in Pajamas’ et al – fade from memory until they’re mentioned by someone else, at which point the thought ‘ah yes, that name meant something to me once’ drifts through one’s mind.
Dunk, after having been deemed one of the best centre-back in the Championship for the past couple of seasons, now has his chance to prove himself at Premier League level. At 25, he’s probably past the stage of his career where he would make the leap upwards, if he was ever going to do it. At around 23, the age that Michael Keane (who Dunk has received comparisons to) had his break-out season, the chances of potential being reached are still pretty good. Above it, it becomes a matter of what they’re producing now.
This match, Brighton travelling to Leicester on the second weekend of the season, was not a classic in any way. They were nipped, rather than mauled, by the Foxes, and those nips were the spiciest that the affair ever got. Brighton had 55% of possession, but only produced 5 shots and 2 shots on target from it. Leicester took 14, but only four of those were on target – a boringly slightly-below-average rate for shots producing a save or a goal, reflecting the kind of chances that Leicester produced.
As such, Dunk didn’t have a lot of taxing work to do. The part of his game which was most called upon was, by far, his ability on the ball, and while teams at the lower end of the table may appreciate a calm presence in possession it’s not the principal reason behind their interest in a centre-back.
However, Dunk appeared genuinely calm on the ball, and this was against a Leicester side which put him under moderate pressure several times during the game. There were a couple of bad touches – one a genuine bad touch, one a chest down in a moment when that option was always likely to go wrong – but there were also a couple of genuinely nice passes.
Given his bad touches – and a more general vibe which may turn out to be wrong on further viewing – I imagine that his technical passing ability is ‘quite good, for a bottom-to-midtable traditional English centre-half’.
In terms of his actual defending, it’s much harder to draw any meaningful conclusions based on this match. He fell over twice in the opening minutes which is important for more than just the fact it looks silly – defending can often boil down to make-or-break moments of changes of direction and balance is key to this. If a player’s balance and feet aren’t right, they could be that split-second late in being able to react to a situation. This wasn’t something that stuck out throughout the match, though, so its influence on Dunk’s game seems likely to be limited.
Something else which happened a couple of times was a slow reaction to some of Leicester’s forwards’ runs. It happened twice, and it went like this:
A striker would be on his shoulder, just a little behind him. Dunk would be checking over his shoulder to make sure that he knew where the striker was, and then the striker would dart forwards. Oh right, and then Dunk would react.
Whether this was because Dunk struggled to anticipate what kind of movements the forward was likely to make, or because he was unable to split his focus adequately between the striker and the situation on the ball, I don’t know. In the first instance, it would mean that he’s not able to react quickly to events because he hasn’t seen it coming on the striker’s end; in the latter it’s a case of not seeing that the player on the ball is going to play a pass, and that therefore the striker is likely to make a move in response to that.
But that’s all I have on him. Oh, he’s also tall and looks reasonably well built, which is always a decent thing to have in the back of the mind for a Premier League CB. It wouldn’t be fair to blame either of Leicester’s two goals on him, so those aren’t particularly worth going into. My main advice: don’t bother watching the game back.
- Calm on the ball (for a midtable side, at least)
- Fairly competent on the ball (for a bottom/lower midtable side, probably)
Suspicions; would like to see more to confirm whether they’re there or not:
- Maybe some awareness issues (what you’d probably expect from a promoted-team CB)
- Decent physically (didn’t see enough of it to say whether it’s applied well)
- Some balance-type issue? Could be slow-footwork related *shrugs*
- Decent enough general footwork (bottom/lower midtable side, probably)
Need to see more on these defensive aspects:
- Body positioning
- General awareness
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