Edin Dzeko looks to prove the doubters wrong, again
In the aftermath of the Community Shield, there was much talk, alongside the respect for yet another Manchester United fightback, about the part played by David de Gea, their new goalkeeper, in Manchester City going 2-0 up. He had somehow managed to make himself small for the first, and then had failed to get down to stop a long-range effort from Edin Dzeko for the second. The latter, particularly, looked bad, especially when his statistics for long shots conceded last season – 11 from outside the box; more than any other goalkeeper in La Liga – are considered. Dzeko’s role was rather overlooked.
Last season, the Man City forward was probably fortunate that Fernando Torres, having moved for almost double his £26million fee, had such an awkward start at Chelsea, deflecting attention from his struggles. Foreign players, of course, often take time to settle, and it may be that that goal at Wembley is the start of a brighter period for the Bosnian.
Part of the problem is that the Man City man doesn’t look much like a footballer. At his first club, Zeljeznicar of Sarajevo, he was nicknamed ‘Lamppost’ for his height and apparent lack of mobility. When Teplice offered €25,000 for him, a Zeljeznicar director admitted he and the rest of the board broke out the champagne. “We thought we’d won the lottery,” he said. Everywhere he’s been, though, Dzeko has overcome early doubts to be a success. After two seasons at Teplice, he was sold to Wolfsburg for €4million. There, he formed a devastating partnership with the Brazilian Grafite, helping win the Bundesliga for the first time in the club’s history.
Dzeko is a hard player to categorise. He is tall – 6ft 4″ – but he is not a target man in the traditional British sense: how could he be, coming from Bosnia, where the archetype of the footballer is a Hasan Salihamidzic-style dribbler? He doesn’t relish having the ball pinged at him from 40 yards away and being expected to win it in the air. But, while technically capable, neither is he a brilliant dribbler capable of beating three or four defenders in one slalom. After looking at him while at Wolfsburg, Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly dismissed him as being too slow; and he isn’t quick, but neither is he as slow or as cumbersome as he sometimes appears. He is, in short, deceptive: an all-rounder with a powerful shot.
Sunday’s strike showed him at his best, turning, looking up, seeing the space and advancing and then – let’s give him credit – realising that the goalkeeper was backpedalling and could be beaten by an instant shot. He is also a generous player – both on and off the field. A Bosnian journalist tells of turning up in Wolfsburg on a whim as he drove back from Hoffenheim, and finding Dzeko not merely willing to give an interview but letting him stay in his flat that night. On the pitch, part of the secret of his partnership with Grafite was his ability to draw defenders away, creating space for the Brazilian.
Perhaps his difficulties last season were part of the settling process, but tactically he seemed uncomfortable. City often used Carlos Tevez centrally, dropping deep to link with midfield; Dzeko is not a natural replacement in that regard, but nor did they ever gel together. That may come – if Tevez stays – but Sergio Aguero, anyway, seems a more natural partner, somebody less prone to drifting into the middle if he starts wide (the comparison was clear at the Copa América).
Either way, on Sunday at last, Dzeko looked a confident player in a Manchester City shirt and for one of football’s genuine nice guys, that has to be a good thing.
Follow Life’s a Pitch on Twitter @BTLifesapitch