Finally, we are seeing the Edin Dzeko that we were used to seeing at Wolfsburg. Two goals in two successive games (three in three including the community shield), and Dzeko is now Mancini’s first-choice striker, leading the line for City alongside club record signing Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero. Last season he never really got going and only managed a return of 2 goals in 15 Premier League games – poor considering the impact he was predicted to make upon his arrival.
Early in his career, Dzeko was never really expected to be good enough to succeed in a career in football. Journalist Jonathan Wilson tells the story.
“Back then , Bosnian football didn’t really understand Dzeko. He was lanky and clumsy and, frankly, looked “a bit English” . Even in Bosnia, where technical ability is prized more than anywhere else in Europe, players have a reputation for being skilful dribblers, and the local template of a player was Hasan Salihamidzic – short and deft who played with a Roadrunner whirl of legs.
By the standards of an English target-man, Dzeko has a fine first touch; in Bosnia, though, he was a figure of fun, and picked up the nickname “Kloc” – the local slang term for a lamp-post or the pole that holds up a street sign.”
So then, when a bid – €25,000 – was made to lure Dzeko to the Czech Republic to play for division one side Teplice, it was immediately accepted. “We though we’d won the lottery” was how that same Zeljeznicar director put it. A significant improvement in front of goal and a transformation from midfielder to striker saw Dzeko grab 16 goals in 43 appearances and move to Wolfsburg just two years later for the smallish fee of just £4m.
It was at the Volkswagen Arena where he began to make a name for himself. He scored a modest 9 goals in his inaugural season with the Bundesliga side but then stormed the charts the following season, improving on his previous tally by 27. This prolific run was a significant factor in Die Wölfe’s Bundesliga success, and, in the process, forged the most successful partnership in Bundesliga history with Brazilian striker Grafite, with 54 goals shared between them in just 34 games. In his third season he couldn’t quite replicate the immaculate scoring feat from the season before but still managed a nonetheless impressive 29, finishing atop the pile with 22 league goals. His hugely successful form attracted the attention of an array of Europe’s top sides – none more so than the immensely rich Manchester City, who placed him high on their wanted list.
During the summer speculation was at an all-time high but City were reluctant to move for him. It wasn’t until early the following year that the rumours finally materialised into something concrete. City made a £27m bid for the Bosnian on January 3 – which was accepted – and his move was completed four days later. He failed to sign in time for City’s FA Cup against Leicester, but did manage to make his debut in the clubs close-fought 4-3 win over relegation candidates Wolves, setting up Yaya Toure for City’s third goal. In that same game Dzeko also completed 87% of his passes – unusually accurate for a forward – as well as creating three chances and succeeding in 3 out of his 5 attempted dribbles. However, this was as good as it good for Dzeko as he continued to struggle in the games that followed. The subsequent fixture – away to Aston Villa – saw him fail to register even a single shot on target out of his six. His passing success fell to 78% and he also failed to create any chances throughout the 90 minutes. He went on to net just twice in 15 appearances for the Blues and fell out of favour with boss Roberto Mancini, who ended up using Edin as a substitute for four of City’s last six Premier League games.
They often say a good pre-season can transform a player’s fortunes. Take a look at Samuel Eto’o, for example. Following a sub-par season for Barcelona, where injuries got the best of him, the pre-season of 2008 was make-or-break for the Cameroon international. Offers had been received from Inter Milan but Barcelona put them on hold while they were preparing for the season ahead. With the bid still on the table, Barca decided to keep Etoo for another season based solely on his performances during the summer. Dzeko obviously endured something similar during the off-season as he began the Community Shield for City against noisy-neighbours Manchester United. An impressive display was rewarded with a long-range goal on the stroke of half-time, largely down to the misfortunes of United’s new Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea.
A week later and he’s in the XI once again, this time vs new boys Swansea. After a first-half which resulted in a stalemate, mainly due to an inspired performance from Swansea’s newly recruited keeper Michel Vorm, City turned up the heat and took the lead through an Edin Dzeko strike on the hour mark. It was the perfect start to his and City’s campaign as City romped to a 4-0 victory and Dzeko was among many who shared the plaudits. Out of the five shots he produced, four were on target – the other resulted in being blocked. He was also hugely successful with his 17/21 passes in the final third, accompanied by completing 75% of his dribbles and creating 4 chances. The following game he scored again and created a further 5 chances, topping the charts for most chances created in the Premier League thus far (pre the Manchester United vs Tottenham game on Monday night).
The above table charts the difference in form for Dzeko between this season and last. Obviously, and taking into account that there have only been two games played, Dzeko has stepped up on nearly every stat form his debut season in the Premier League. His ability to create chances, take shots and passing in the final third have been improved upon, as well as his passes per game and clear-cut opportunities. Also, since the season began, Dzeko has been far more involved in City’s play, touching the ball on average 53 times a game, compared to 33 last season. His two goals, which was the amount he scored in 15 appearances last season, have been timed at occuring every 85 minutes – a significant improvement on last season’s dreadful 423.
As the above screenshot – and the general consensus among Premier League football fans – suggests, Dzeko has left behind the confused and bewildered Bosnian figure who struggled to adapt to English football, and adopted a far more prolific, technically-astute approach to the game, which has seen him earn many plaudits so far this campaign. In City’s first game vs Swansea, Dzeko showed why he could be trusted for being selected in the starting XI, repaying the managers faith by scoring a goal. But it wasn’t only the goal that got the medias attention. His all-round game was viewed as much better than his previous 15 Premier League outings. His 81% success rate with passes in the attacking third, four chances created and 3/4 dribble attempts were just the beginning of something very promising to come from the 25-year-old.
Back in May when he began the game vs Everton, fans still didn’t know what to make of him. He had failed to make an all-important impression during his first couple of games, and if there was a time to set the record straight, now would be the time. He took to the field not knowing what lay ahead of him, – only that a good performance would be needed to revive his chances in the Manchester City squad come next season.
During the course of the game Dzeko managed three shots, with only one on target, and played 28 passes. His passes in the attacking third were matched at a 75% success rate, as well as creating just two chances. Out of the 28 passes he played 14 of them were forward (completing only 8), 7 were square. Over the 90 minutes Dzeko also touched the ball 42 times and embarked on three dribbles – of which only one was a success, and accompanyied that by losing possession of the ball no more than two times. However, in Manchester on City’s opening game this season it was a totally different story.
Immediately, we saw an improvement in the Bosnian’s performance as he landed 4 out of his 5 shots on target. He also played 7 more passes than he did at Goodison Park last May, with 21 of the 35 carried out in the final third of the pitch. His creativity on show again as he produced 4 chances for his teammates throughout the game. But perhaps the most startling comparison between the two games was Dzeko’s success with dribbling with the ball, completing 3/4 vs Swansea, compared to 1/3 vs Everton. Dzeko also beefed up his all-round game in City’s opener as he improved upon his crossing, through balls, interceptions, chipped passes, lay-offs and flick-ons which he hadn’t really used to effect that afternoon in May.
I know it’s early days, but if he can maintain these level of performances throughout the season I very well think he could keep out a certain Mr Carlos Tevez of the starting line-up and reestablish himself as a dominant figure in European football.