Niklas Dorsch: Augsburg’s Future German International by Adam Khan
On July 8th, FC Augsburg announced the signing of 23-year old midfielder Niklas Dorsch. With a comical video of the German youth international being the ‘big catch’ in a 90s video game, Augsburg have all but confirmed their position as one of the transfer window’s big winners.
With a solid season for K.A.A Gent Dorsch put himself into the shop windows of top flight clubs around the country. But, his domineering displays in Germany’s under 21 EURO victory are what cemented his name atop countless clubs transfer lists.
Headlining Stefan Kuntz’s midfield with tenacious tackling and near perfect ball retention, Dorsch stole the show, even voted MOTM in the final victory over Portugal.
In Augsburg, Dorsch will finally have the chance to showcase his talents in the German topflight, returning to Bavaria 3 years after making a solitary appearance as an academy graduate for FC Bayern. Though he was never afforded an opportunity in the star-studded roster of Germany’s record champions, a detour in the second division, and some international experience in Belgium, means Dorsch is now rife for a second chance.
Turning Obstacles into Opportunities
At the essence of any great central midfielder is an ability to operate under opposition duress. Niklas Dorsch isn’t just proficient, but thrives in this area of the game, remaining composed in possession when other midfielder’s would falter under the pressure.
One of the reasons for his effectiveness in tight areas could be attributed to his height (1,78m), undersized compared to most defensive midfielders in the professional game, but a perceived disadvantage which he has spun in his favor.
Like Chelsea’s N’golo Kanté (1,68m), Dorsch uses his low center of gravity and agile frame to wriggle free from bigger, more cumbersome, opponents. Whereas another defensive midfielder would feel uneasy turning in possession, Dorsch is constantly able to rotate 180° to play forward, doing so with the ease and comfort of a diminutive winger, rather than a hard-nosed central midfielder.
These same traits are reflected in Dorsch’s effectiveness out of possession, winning tackles and interception play through astute positioning and an intelligent use of his frame.
Rather than rely on sprawling last ditch tackles, Dorsch instead gets himself between the ball and opponent, forcing his opposition number to either foul him to win back possession, or give up the chase and revert to a defensive stance.
His compact stature means he isn’t dominant in the air, but Dorsch is far from a physical pushover. With a low center of gravity and an expert use of his frame, Dorsch is often able to unsettle larger opponents, all the while retaining his balance when his opposite number looks to return the favor.
The Master of the Forward Pass
Like most modern football sides, Germany has become obsessed with vertical passing, even inventing a word for the act of playing past opposition lines, or ‘überspielen’. The likes of Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gündogan have become symbols for this in the national team, but it could be Dorsch who is ready to take their place as they both edge towards the end of their careers.
Though Dorsch was unable to make the gigantic leap to the first team after coming through the world-renowned FC Bayern academy, his education at the Säbener Straße has clearly payed off. The now Augsburg midfielder is adept with either foot, and more than capable of recognizing when to speed up and slow down the game when necessary.
Whilst he is sometimes over zealous in his efforts to expose disorganized defenses with a line breaking pass, it is also this insistence to play forward which adds a creative element to his game which so many other defensive midfielders lack.
Without the domineering height of a traditional CDM, many managers would be nervous deploying Dorsch as the solitary shield in front of a back four. Therefore, adding such attacking elements to his game will allow him to become a suitable, if not better, option as a box to box midfielder.
Just as N’golo Kanté has excelled in a slightly advanced position for Chelsea since the arrival of deep lying playmaker Jorginho, a similar evolution could be expected of Niklas Dorsch if he were to make the step to a truly elite club, or move to a more physical league like the English topflight.
Niklas Dorsch & FC Augsburg: The Perfect Pairing
After the under 21 Championships where Dorsch dazzled scouts across the continent, reports quickly emerged of various clubs vying for his signature. Why is it then that FC Augsburg won the race for the in-demand midfielder?
Well, for a start, Dorsch has been adamant that he wanted to return to the Bundesliga, a goal of the young midfielders which was left cruelly unfulfilled when FC Heidenheim lost a two-legged playoff versus Werder Bremen in the summer of 2020.
His move to K.A.A Gent was the logical next step, with top-flight football and Europa League experience a crucial building block to broaden Dorsch’s CV, but a difficult season where the Belgian club finished in a European conference league spot meant there were better options available ahead of this upcoming campaign.
That’s where Augsburg came in, a well run club who have stayed within their means to establish themselves as a fixture of the topflight. Since earning their first ever top flight promotion in 2011, Augsburg have never looked back, going on to their 11 straight campaign when the Bundesliga kicks off this August.
Whilst there have been a couple of nervy run-ins where FCA narrowly finished above the relegation zone, the club is in a good place heading into the upcoming season, with the return of manager Markus Weinzierl a rejuvenating factor which will only benefit a young player like Dorsch.
A look at the squad also shows significant signs that Dorsch will play a key role from the start. At the time of writing (July 17th, 2020), Augsburg have just 5 central midfielders in their 2021/22 roster. Only one of those is a nailed on starter heading into the season, with the former MLS star Carlos Gruezo cementing himself in one of the central spots in Weinzierl’s preferred 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2.
Alongside the Ecuadorian international there is a big question mark for Dorsch to slot into. Rani Khedira (brother of recently retired World Champion Sami Khedira) was the most used midfielder last season with 27 appearances in the Bundesliga, but he has moved in the off-season to Union Berlin.
Whilst Weinzierl may be opposed to deploying a double pivot as undersized as Gruezo & Dorsch (1,71m & 1,78m), their energy out of possession and ability to navigate tight pockets could give FCA the edge.
Regardless of how Augsburg line up in their Bundesliga opener against TSG Hoffenheim, we can all expect big things from their brand-new starlet Niklas Dorsch. At 23 years old, the upcoming season will be a defining mark in the midfielder’s career.
Is Dorsch capable of replicating his performances from Germany’s Euro triumph in the weekly grind of the Bundesliga campaign, or will he fall by the wayside against some of Europe’s most technical, and intelligent midfielders?
Only time will tell, but as far as we are concerned all the signs point towards a positive return to Germany, one which could even end with a full international cap as Die Nationalmanschaft gears up for a new era at the 2022 World Cup.
Will Dorsch be on a plane to Qatar in 16 months? We sure hope so!