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Borussia Dortmund’s Danish forward Jacob Bruun Larsen has made a silent but substantial impact this season. At only 20 years old, he’s managed to establish himself in Dortmund’s starting line-up without the same hype and fan-fare as Chelsea-bound Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho.
With 13 appearances and 836 Bundesliga minutes under his belt, the Dane’s performances have contributed heavily to Dortmund’s efficiency in attack. Dortmund are now set for the business end of the Bundesliga title race. He’ll continue to play a key role that could make or break their season, as our tactical analysis will show using statistics.
Bruun Larsen was born on 19 September 1998 in Denmark. He began his youth career at Lyngby Boldklub before transferring to Borussia Dortmund in 2015. The following year, the talented youngster was chosen to represent his country at the Rio Olympics. They reached the quarter-finals but were eventually defeated 2-0 by Nigeria.
His progress was rewarded with a contract extension in early 2017 while he continued his development in Dortmund’s youth academy. In January 2018, he was loaned to Stuttgart, getting his first taste of Bundesliga experience before returning during the summer. Upon his return, he was selected for Dortmund’s pre-season squad and was also made a permanent member of the senior side for the upcoming 2018/19 season.
Bruun Larsen’s role and strengths within Lucien Favre’s tactical set-up
Bruun Larsen can be described as a quick, sharp and effective forward. Lucien Favre’s patient possession-based play requires exactly that type of forward because of the direct attacking transitions that follow the slow build-up. The simplicity of his game is what makes him such a valuable asset, especially as he continues to develop at the club. This is perhaps another reason why he’s started ahead of new signing Marius Wolf and Christian Pulisic for most parts of the season.
Firstly, he’s really exceptional at escaping pressure from his markers. This allows him to make himself available for passes from deep. He acts as an attacking outlet in two different situations. Firstly, when Dortmund face high pressure, and secondly, when they face a low-pressure defensive block.
When teams press high during Dortmund’s build-up, this leaves space in advanced areas for them to exploit. This is where the best opportunities for direct attacking transitions are. Here, Larsen will usually be positioned high up the field, towards the wing, before anticipating a pass and dropping deep to offer himself as a pass option.
From here he can combine with the nearest players around him. Mostly it’s when Dortmund use an up-back-through pattern to progress. He’ll usually lay the ball off to one of the holding midfielders, or combine with one of the forwards around him. This is usually Marco Reus, who plays nearest to him as a central attacking midfielder. More often than not, this will be after using a clever double-movement to free himself.
Against low-pressure defensive blocks, Larsen’s off-the-ball movement becomes even more crucial. The team task in this situation is to disorganise the opponent and create space in behind the midfield line or to create space on the wings. Larsen excels in the area as he is a very strong runner, with good acceleration and high agility.
He has an excellent work-rate which sees him making vertical and diagonal runs to stretch the opposition defence, knowing that he won’t receive a pass most of the time. In these types of situations he is more of a space creator. Against high-pressing teams his role revolves around exploiting the gaps that open naturally when the opponents’ connections aren’t as tight as they should be.
Speed, dribbling and finishing
Bruun Larsen is a fantastic counter-attacking weapon thanks to his aforementioned fantastic off-the-ball movement, acceleration and sprint speed. In fact, his style of play is not too dissimilar from that of Marco Reus. He actually spoke about his admiration for Reus, saying:
“From my first days here in Dortmund, I have looked a bit more at him, watched him, to see how he handles himself on the pitch.”
The simplicity of his game is something Reus has basically mastered. Bruun Larsen has the opportunity to become as good as his captain in the coming years because his skill set extends to dribbling as well. He’s a decent dribbler if not quite at the level of Sancho or Pulisic yet, but can always get better. He’s made 0.9 dribbles per game this season so far, an area in which he can improve upon and take his game to a dramatically different level.
As a creator, he’s made over 0.9 key passes per game in the Bundesliga. Maybe this is his weakest area, as he falls far behind the contributions of Reus and Sancho. Finishing is an area where he can also do better, although it might be better to conclude how effective he is at finishing once he notches up at least 1,600 minutes of Bundesliga football.
With 1.1 shots per game and two goals scored, he hasn’t done too badly considering the quality of his chances so far. Again though, this is an extremely small data set to draw conclusions about his finishing from.
Bruun Larsen is a talented young forward, who has not only found his way into the senior side but has also made an important contribution this season. The Dane is an intelligent player who reads the game well and knows how to escape pressure to make himself available in possession. His biggest strengths include his off-the-ball movement and his dribbling.
He can definitely improve the frequency of one-on-one situations he gets into, but his game is also based around simplicity and he can only get better in this regard. It’s too early to judge how efficient he is in front of goal, so hopefully the amount of chances he gets increases in the second half of this season. The future remains bright for Bruun Larsen as long as he consistently improves on his main strengths, because he’s already pretty good at what he does.
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