Manuel Veth –
Fortuna favours the bold or in this case Dodi Lukebakio. It was the 90′ minute of the Bundesliga match between Bayern and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Despite two goals by Lukebakio Bayern were up 3-2. The 21-year-old Belgian winger has been a terror for Bayern’s backline all game long but the minutes were ticking away for Fortuna.
In fairness, it would have been a good result for the newly promoted team. But on the other hand, there are no points for defeats. Hence, Dodi Lukebakio remained ever vigilant for that one slip in Bayern’s defence – that one moment that would allow him to complete his hattrick and become the hero of the game.
That moment arrived in the 90′ minute. Once again Bayern’s defence had been pressing up to high, and once again Dodi Lukebakio had been waiting at the halfway line to spring his trap.
For the third time he barrelled down on goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, and for the third time, he scored to make it 3-3. It was pretty much the final shot of the game, and Fortuna made history to capture a much-needed point in the relegation battle at the Allianz Arena.
Dodi Lukebakio – A lesson not learned by Dortmund
Bayern, on the other hand, gave the rest of a league a lesson on how not to defend against one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga. A lesson that Borussia Dortmund did not seem to have paid much attention to – because on matchday 16 Dodi Lukebakio was once again the hero against a Bundesliga top side.
Dortmund were dominant in that game but also pushed high up the pitch. With the defensive line trying to push Fortuna Dodi Lukebakio once again found his perfect hunting ground. In the 22′ minute he was there when Düsseldorf finally got a break. A long ball sprung the Belgian forward lose, and the 21-year-old was off to the races going one-v-one with Dortmund keeper Roman Bürki and beating the Swiss national keeper with a perfect drive.
It was not the winning goal, that honour fell to Düsseldorf’s Jean Zimmer, who scored with a fantastic strike in the 56′ minute to make it 2-0. Dortmund would eventually get one back when Paco Alcacer made it 2-1 in the 81′ minute. But it was too little, too late Dortmund were beaten for the first time in the Bundesliga this season.
The winning goal may have come courtesy of Zimmer’s wonderful shot from a distance. But once again Dodi Lukebakio was the true difference maker for Düsseldorf.
It seems a simple system that Fortuna Düsseldorf employ at times. Knowing that they have a fast striker up front head coach Friedhelm Funkel has his side sit deep in their half. Playing a long ball to unleash their forwards against high pressing teams.
It is a strategy that has worked well against some of the bigger sides like Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig and the mentioned-above Bayern and Dortmund. Against other teams, the approach has not been that effective.
Frankfurt. for example, keep their play tight between the lines, which means there is no room for the likes of Dodi Lukebakio – although he did score Fortuna’s only goal in the 7-1 defeat. The Futbolgrad Network was also present when Düsseldorf faced fellow promoted side 1.FC Nürnberg on matchday 6.
In that game, Nürnberg were able to isolate Düsseldorf’s attacking line by not giving the likes of Dodi Lukebakio the space to unleash his pace. As a result, the 21-year-old striker was isolated at times on the left where he could not break forward and overwhelm the defensive line with his speed.
Who is Dodi Lukebakio?
In some ways the match scenarios above describe many of Lukebakio’s strengths and weaknesses. The 21-year-old was singed by Fortuna Düsseldorf on loan from FC Watford this summer.
Fast as lightning the forward was identified by Fortuna Düsseldorf to be a key player in the attack. But Düsseldorf head coach Funkel has not always been a fan of the way Dodi Lukebakio has played this season either.
The 65-year-old detests the fact that Lukebakio, although immensely talented going forward, lacks the work rate when tracking back. Throughout the Bundesliga Hinrunde, the 21-year-old forward has on average produced 9.84 losses of the ball of which 24.1% were in his half.
It is the sort of discrepancies Funkel dispises. But going by Lukebakio’s attacking numbers those are the sort of discrepancies Funkel can overlook. Dodi Lukebakio managed to complete 74.2% of his on average 7.53 dribbles this season. What is also fascinating is that Lukebakio has scored on average 0.79 goals this season despite having expected goals per game of just 0.49.
How do you value defensive weakness against attacking efficiency then? For Funkel this has been clear. Despite not being the biggest fan of the 21-year-old’s style of play at times this season the 65-year-old has regularly started Dodi Lukebakio this season. Only against Augsburg on matchday 1 and Freiburg on matchday 15 did Lukebakio start off the bench for Fortuna Düsseldorf.
What does the future hold then for Dodi Lukebakio? The forward has doubled his transfer value from €3 million to €6 million during his time at Düsseldorf. As a result, Düsseldorf would like to keep the striker in the Rhineland, as they expect that Dodi Lukebakio could fetch a good price on the transfer market next summer.
The problem for Düsseldorf, however, is that Watford are very much aware of the 21-year-old’s development in Germany. Hence, Watford are asking in the region of €15 million for forward. Too much for a club that could only spend €6.25 million on the transfer market last summer.
Not that that means that Dodi Lukebakio will be wearing a Watford shirt come next season either. The way he has been playing it is only a matter of time until a big European club picks up the forward.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.