PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Yusuf Demir?
Hot off the heels of a killer second season in the Austrian Bundesliga – in which he racked up 7 direct goal contributions in a little over nine nineties – Yusuf Demir, this summer, secured a loan move to Barcelona’s B team, with the hope of bridging the gap to the first-team and joining the club on a permanent basis from SK Rapid Wien.
Yusuf Demir's style of play
Through Demir’s propensity for combination play, it’s easy to see why the Catalan giants were quick to pounce the Austrian forward. Working most often as an attacking midfielder in either a diamond or a 4-2-3-1 system, that works as a 3-5-1-1 in attack, the 18-year-old enjoyed plenty of freedom between the lines.
Being allowed to drift from one halfspace to the other has highlighted how heavily he gravitates to the ball, all with the fluidity and, to a large extent, intelligence to fill vacant lanes and exploit pinned spaces between the lines effectively.
The con to this is that Demir is very ball-facing prior to his actions, and so recognising open channels behind him – or even plainer opportunities to make goal-facing runs through the inside in order to pin the space wide or in front – is something he finds difficult to accomplish. That knack for holding positions that are too deep and flat – particularly when coming to overload the near side – can cause real congestion, block passing lanes, and remove him from attacks almost entirely.
What balances this is how the intent in his forward movement during transitions and as a part of combinations. In transitions, Demir is very willing to attack the space in behind from within any channel but often lacks the pace to eat up the necessary ground. During combinations, his runs are much more instinctual, as they maintain his forward momentum since he’s always trying to instigate combinations that are vertical and thus test the resolve of opposition blocks.
Although he can be caught quite flat-footed against passes slightly wayward of him, he’s showcased an impeccable ability to operate in tight areas, from standing starts, to deceive opponents through the adaptability of his first touch, and in the way he’s able to take very difficult balls in his stride and combine from them at pace.
Dribbling is another facet of the teenager’s game that shines brightest in tight spaces, as his low centre of gravity and fast footwork with both foot enable him to quickly get his body over the ball, square up to opponents, change direction sharply, and, best of all, accelerate around his opposite number in either direction.
With that being said, despite Demir’s initial bursts with the ball helping to round opponents, he struggles immediately beyond this point.
His lack of speed over distances greater than a few yards often allows opponents to recover and make challenges; his lack of stature – standing at a very slight 5ft8 – may allow him to throw his body over the ball well but has yet to be used to effectively and confidently hurdle challenges mid-run; and the overuse of the inside of his boot can negatively impact the path of the ball, which can result in him cutting off optimal ball-playing angles.
What’s worse is that his dribbles on the cut-in see his eyes fixed to the ground, so even when he’s created a yard of space for himself, he has lost his bearings in regards to options, and so will take on aimless pot shots.
The teenager’s passing has shown big upside through Demir’s operation speed, nigh-on impeccable accuracy, and ability to operate in tight areas, particularly from standing starts, once again. What’s more, the efficiency and intelligence in his short passing makes him such an ideal link player in every phase, whether it’s recycling the ball or playing out of deep and congested areas.
What he crucially lacks, though, is a final ball. This comes down to a variety of factors, such as an inability to set himself and release the ball fast enough mid-dribble; poor decision-making during counter-attacks; a lack of range to his technique, as he struggles to generate much power or vary the types of through balls he play; and the inconsistency to the weighting of his passes, since his sliced balls over the top often fall short whereas in-swingers often go long and shorter through balls are easily given up.
Demir’s goal threat is another lacking aspect of his game, and is one which contrasts his output. His aforementioned reluctance to get forwards undoubtedly plays a big part in the sustainability factor, as he only regularly offers in cutback positions at the edge of the box and follow-ups to counterattacks.
Whilst you can credit him for his composure in the high pressure scenarios when they fall for him, it’s hard to overlook how unsustainable this goalscoring rate feels. His 2.9 shots per 90 (according to ) make for good reading, but these shots not only lack in decision-making but much more so in terms of execution, thanks to an over-reliance on the inside of his boot, again, which results in very soft efforts.
On the defensive side of play, Demir is an incredibly enthusiastic counter-presser. He will hunt down play to no end in the initial phases following turnovers, and he’s shown glimpses of quality in the way he’s gotten across to the ball, particularly through his vigilance for opponents who are looking to receive the ball.
Similar aggression is showcased in short stints of pressing and backwards pressing from the Austrian, but it’s also in these phases where a harsher light can be shone upon him.
This is further harshened by his approach play and awareness, with the latter being more easily exposed during team presses, where Demir is sometimes guilty of mindlessly neglecting his man or not sticking tight enough to them.
And, when it comes to colliding head-on with opponents, Demir, much like many other attackers, is quick to plant his feet in a square-on stance and will often over-commit towards one narrow angle that makes it hard for even for someone as agile as he is to recover against touches and passes against the grain.
Yusuf Demir's Future at Barcelona
Irrespective of his downsides, though, there are a lot of exciting things to work with right now – most of which can be applied to a handful of positions, but most favourably behind the striker and/or in from the right.
Demir’s playing persona is clearly one that fits the ‘Barça DNA’, as we’ve come to understand it, but the sustainability of his end product is something to be very wary of as all of his 7 direct goal contributions in the league this season came from substitute appearances.
Even though I find it hard to see his game translate to the highest level in the immediate future, he still has a lot of time in which to develop and perfect the imperfections of his game. And earning consistent minutes in Barcelona’s youth setup is certainly a positive way of taking the next step forwards.
Demir is a fantastic operator in tight spaces, who is able to combine and move fluidly, effectively, and positively in possession-based setups, with good potential output and good enthusiasm defensively.
Demir currently lacks sustainable creative and goal-threatening traits alongside his ball-carrying and decision-making troubles in larger areas, as well as boasting a handful of generic and sloppy defensive flaws.