One of Dortmund’s more low-key signings for the 2018/19 season was the signing of Thomas Delaney. The Danish midfielder was on international duty over the summer, where he played a role in Denmark’s plausible performance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Brought in for €20 Million from Werder Bremen, Delaney will add his defensive intelligence and high energy to Dortmund’s midfield.
Thomas Delaney’s Background
The 26-year-old, also known as the Danish Viking, began his youth career at Denmark’s premier football club, F.C. Copenhagen. In 2008 he was promoted to the 1st team before going on to make 244 appearances, scoring 27 goals. He also rose to the role of captain, in a side that he played for 50 times in European competitions. In 2013, Delaney was called up to make his debut for Denmark, despite his American heritage, and has been one of their more crucial players in years since his debut.
In January 2017, F.C. Copenhagen agreed to sell their captain to Werder Bremen, who looked to make him their midfield stalwart for the following season. Needless to say, Thomas Delaney has certainly impressed under Florian Kohfeldt by adapting to the Bundesliga’s high-tempo and technical/tactical superiority (over Denmark’s Superliga).
Thomas Delaney’s Playing Strengths
Delaney is a really good defensive asset and plays in a similar role to that of Nemanja Matic. He has a good sense of positioning and has strengthened his ability to anticipate situations in which he can regain possession or negate opposition attacks. Just like Abdou Diallo, Delaney has arrived at Dortmund at a really good time considering the arrival of Lucien Favre. Favre will no doubt provide clear defensive guidelines to play within and this will only enhance Delaney’s performance.
His tackling is also fantastic, and this will be key especially with Julian Weigl currently on the sidelines. Delaney made more tackles per game over the 2018/18 than any other Dortmund player, bar Weigl. His screening ability will allow players such as Mahmoud Dahoud and Shinji Kagawa to thrive in any system whether it be a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. Whether Favre opts for a counter-attacking or possession-based style, Delaney’s qualities will suit both styles. By covering space and closing down opposition attacks, Dortmund’s midfield players will have more time on the ball in a possession-based style. While in a counter-attacking system, Dortmund can be assured of conceding as few goals as possible with him in the side.
Despite appearing taller on television, Delaney only stands at 5 ft.11. However, he constantly outjumps taller player to win defensive headers which will be crucial considering there aren’t any other similar players who can do so in midfield. There are 3 reasons why is heading ability will be so important this season:
- Dortmund’s defence won’t be at risk against teams that play direct long passes into deep defensive zones. Because of Delaney aerial ability, the Dortmund backline will be able to drop deeper and let him have responsibility in that area. Without him, central defenders would be vulnerable to getting sucked inside midfield zones, leaving zones in-behind free for attackers to run into.
- In 2017/18 Dortmund conceded a few needless goals from set-pieces. Delaney’s excellent defensive heading ability will help Dortmund concede less in this position.
- Most of his goals throughout his career have come from headers, so he might just contribute a few set-piece goals.
Last season, Delaney’s average pass accuracy was 71.9% with 39 passes made per game. This season, regardless of playing style, Delaney’s passing performance will have to improve greatly. In a possession-based style, his role will see him provide support for players like Dahoud, Kagawa and Gotze as well as players in wide areas. Without the consistent ability to retain possession under pressure, Delaney might become a liability in that area. He does have a strong frame though, which he uses well in 50/50 duels and to hold off pressing players.
In a counter-attacking style, Delaney will be required to make key passes in a split second and this will truly be a test of his abilities. Vertical pass accuracy is a big asset in teams looking to directly exploit spaces in and out of transition. The ability to play out of pressure just after retaining possession and distributing it to key players or starting the attack is what will be needed from Delaney this season. He hasn’t been as efficient in these areas as is required from a world-class team like Dortmund. Last season saw Gonzalo Castro play in a similar to his, but without any real attacking output. It remains to be seen whether Delaney can improve.
Thomas Delaney is an interesting signing for the club who will add his defensive qualities to Dortmund’s midfield, thereby strengthening the whole squad. His great sense of positioning, anticipation and tackling will help the side overcome strong opponents and completely shut down weaker ones. What remains to be seen though is his proficiency in the area of passing. His passing statistics will need to improve drastically if Dortmund are to dominate the midfield in-possession and create more chances in transition.