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Comparing Dortmund Youngsters Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor and Christian Pulisic

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 29 Sep 2016


Borussia Dortmund are widely regarded as one of the most exciting teams in European football and it's easy to see why.The Black and Yellows play a refreshing style of football under second-year head coach Thomas Tuchel, scoring goals for fun in front of one of, if not the most impressive crowds in the world in Westfalenstadion.A summer of upheaval that saw the Ruhr side lose three world-class players in centre-back and team captain Mats Hummels, midfield genius Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, arguably the club's best player last season, didn't diminish that excitement.If anything, Dortmund's new recruits have added to the allure of the club.Mario Gotze's return from a three-year spell at Bayern Munich was among the bigger stories of the transfer period, while Raphael Guerreiro's development from left-back to all-action midfielder has stolen headlines in recent weeks.More than anything, however, people are interested in the club's youngest stars, 18-year-old Christian Pulisic and 19-year-olds Ousmane Dembele and Emre Mor.Fans of many clubs would give everything to have one talent of that calibre in their team, let alone all three. It's no stretch to say that Dortmund are the envy of the football world.It remains a mystery how they were able to sign Dembele and Mor for a combined fee of only 22 million in this summer's bloated market. Crucially, they also managed to fend off interest from Liverpool in Pulisic, the crowning jewel of the club's academy.All three youngsters are playing important roles in the early stages of the campaign, thanks in large part to injuries of Marco Reus, who's yet to participate in team training after missing out on Euro 2016 with a torn abductor muscle, and club-record signing Andre Schurrle, who missed four matches with a knee injury before scoring an important late equaliser against Real Madrid on Tuesday.Dembele is one of only four players to appear in all nine matches across competitions to this point and Pulisic has started three and made big contributions off the bench in two more games. Tuchel currently uses Mor in lower doses, but no player has been brought on from the bench as often as the Turkey international.Once Schurrle and Reus return, however, playing time will likely be harder to come by for Dortmund's impressive youngsters.Here, Bleacher Report takes a look at what the three teenagers offer right now and what they need to improve upon at the club.Attacking Skill SetsTuchel has so far mostly used his three youngsters on the wings. It makes sense: It's a position where young players can be creative without jeopardising the entire team, because they have enough defensive cover and the touchline is their friend.Dembele and Mor use the position on the wing differently to Pulisic, however.The American provides width and depth, often running toward the endline in an attempt to create a lane for cutback passes, as shown below:He has a directness that works especially well off the bench against tired opponents, as was evident against los Blancos on Tuesday, when he made Schurrle's goal happen with a spirited run.Dembele and Mor are more playful and often seem to look to create for themselves more than for team-mates. Their ball-handling is superior to Pulisic's, even though the 18-year-old's technique is solid.The Frenchman and the Denmark-born Turkey international, however, are among the best dribblers in the game right now. Dembele uses his two-footedness and impressive burst to either burn by defenders or get past them with a simple shake of his hips, while Mor makes effective use of his low centre of gravity and short-area quickness.However, their decision-making once they're past defenders leaves much to be desired.Dembele can be especially frustrating to watch, as he will perform a wonderful dribble only to make the wrong decision in a key moment when the hard part is already done. In the image below, he seems to have blinkers on:The 19-year-old looks more effective playing on the left, as he seems to slightly favour his left foot for crosses and passes into the box.He and Mor have the more impressive natural tools than Pulisicwho, to be fair, is likely to move into a more central role before longbut the American is more effective at the moment. He's scored one goal and assisted a further four in 268 minutes of action, per Transfermarkt, compared to the same output for Dembele in 627 minutes.Defensive ContributionsNaturally, all three youngsters suffer from a distinct lack of tactical understanding at this early stage of their careers. That's the likely reason for Tuchel's decision to only use Mor in certain spots so far.Compared to Pulisic, who spent the entire second half of last season with Dortmund's first team and Dembele, who came to Dortmund from Stade Rennesin Ligue 1, the Turkey international has little high-level football experience. Playing in only 13 matches for Denmark's FC Nordsjaelland ahead of his move to the Ruhr area in the summer, he has a lot of catching up to do.It's no stretch to call Mor one of the bigger coaching challenges for Tuchel, so it's great to see him make visible strides. His off-the-ball movement and behaviour when the opponent is in possession was a big problem in pre-season and, while it remains a work in progress, improvements were obvious in his first start of the campaign in the Bundesliga against SC Freiburg:He's showing a higher level of aggression than Dembele, whose defensive contributions are lacking.The Frenchman makes the runs but often fails to engage the opponent with enough intensity. Dembele's best form of defending is keeping opposing full-backs occupied in their own half thanks to his counter-attacking threat.Pulisic, on the other hand, seems fairly solid defensively. It shows that he has a leg up on the other two teenagers after spending half a season with Tuchel. Even though he can be dominated physically, the American uses his intelligence to intercept passes or fill passing lanes.The 18-year-old looks like the safest option for Tuchel at this stage.The FutureThere's a huge amount of pressure on all three of Dortmund's youngsters.Pulisic has been touted as the savior of American soccer months before turning 18, per Patrick Redford of Deadspin.Dembele has been called a young Cristiano Ronaldo and potential Ballon d'Or winner by former Premier League defender Mikael Silvestre, per Mark Rodden of ESPN FC.Mor has been dubbed the Turkish Messi in comparison with arguably the greatest player of this generation, perChristopher Mayer-Lodge of Bundesliga.com.History tells us it's highly unlikely all three will live up to their billing.Based on their natural abilities, Dembele and Mor seem slightly more talented than Pulisic. In turn, the youngest of the three teenagers is also the most pro-ready with the fewest obvious holes in his game.Dembele may well seem the most impressive at first blush, but he's going to have to show improvements in his vision and decision-making if he wants to be more than an exciting but at times frustrating dribbler.Mor, finally, could turn out to be the best of the bunch if he continues to take coaching well. A few things about his game can simply not be taught: His low centre of gravity, an incredible close control and that certain panache that borders on arrogance.However the three impressive kids develop, Dortmund fans ought to consider themselves fortunate to see it happen in front of their eyes.LarsPollmannalso writes forTheYellow Wall. You can follow him onTwitter.
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