Finding the next Jeremy Doku
At this point, there is little doubt that the Belgian international winger Jeremy Doku has been something of a revelation since he moved to the Premier League to join Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the summer. Doku has impressed Guardiola, who normally has new signings start on the sidelines as they adapt to his specific tactical system, with his mentality and his willingness to constantly and consistently attack defenders 1v1. Doku has proven to be a handful for fullbacks whenever he is on the pitch and whenever he receives the ball his first instinct is to dribble and drive at goal.
As much as Doku has been a revelation, however, he was not unknown when he moved to the Premier League. Doku has been extremely highly rated since breaking through at Anderlecht and he had also already had one significant move when he transferred out to Rennes in Ligue 1. He was also already an established international for one of the best teams in international football in Belgium.
With that said though, Doku has often flattered to deceive. His 1v1 skills have always been evident but since moving to England has looked more well-rounded and complete than we may have expected.
The use of Doku as an individualist and a 1v1 specialist in a system that is normally disciplined and pass-heavy is extremely interesting and it is likely to lead to more and more clubs searching for this profile of player.
In this article, we will use the Smarterscout tools to identify three players who could potentially come into a top team and have the same kind of impact as Doku has.
Jeremy Doku’s profile
Let’s start by looking in depth at Doku’s profile so far this season in the Premier League with Manchester City. There are two main elements of this profile to consider when thinking about a player's 1v1 and dribbling ability. First of all, in the style ratings, we have Dribble which is defined as the following “style rating for dribbling or carrying ball forward” and then we have under duel ratings Ground duels in possession which is more specifically related to the volume of dribbles.
As you can see Doku is extremely active in ground duels both in and out of possession but he also has good outputs for dribble, disrupting the opposition build-up, and recovering loose balls.
Here, we use a scatter plot to further visualize the data from within the smarterscout tools. Along the x-axis, we have the & that the player has been involved in moves leading to goals. On the y-axis we have the player's % involvement in xG. As you can see Jeremy Doku is a clear standout in both metrics.
This gives us a basic insight into how Doku is rated using Smarterscout but we can combine this with the Total Football Analysis pizza chart to show the player's profile through another lens.
As expected really. Doku is in the 99th percentile amongst LW’s in the Premier League for dribbles per 90 although he also has a lot of touches in the opposition area. Interestingly, he is also in the 97th percentile for defensive duels won %.
Now, we have to move on to setting our initial parameters.
We have set our model ratings to value attacking output more highly, as we are looking for primarily attacking players. For skill ratings, we give more weight to ground duels in possession as we know how important this is in terms of Doku’s overall profile.
Lastly, for style ratings, we have only highlighted and increased the importance of dribbling.
For context within Smarterscout these parameters return over 200 players in the database that we can then consider and work through.
Michel-Ange Balikwisha, 22-years-old, Antwerp and Belgium
First up we have another Belgian player in the 22-year-old U21 international Michel-Ange Balikwisha. Balikwisha has had something of a disruptive career to date having initially developed and came through at the youth academy of Standard Liege he then made a £5M move to Antwerp in 2021.
This season, however, we have started to see Balikwisha put things together in terms of finally making the most out of his skill set and his ability on the ball. As you can see from his smarterscout profile here he impresses in a very similar way to what we have seen from Doku this season.
His style ratings are higher for dribbles and disrupting the opposition build-up but he also impresses in terms of creative passing towards goal. Like Doku, he has also impressed in terms of his ground duels in possession where he has developed into an interesting 1v1 player.
As you can see from Balikwisha’s pizza chart he is profiling as a more complete player across the possession and defending phases of the game than Doku and he impresses in terms of ball progression and defensive duels. He is also, however, a very strong 1v1 player who gets forward and breaks into the opposition penalty area.
We have now seen Balikwisha playing in the Champions League this season for Antwerp and there is a sense that he has outgrown the Belgian Pro League. We would not be surprised to see a team from the English Premier League making a move to bring Balikwisha to England at the end of this season.
Bradley Barcola, 21-years-old, PSG and France
Next up we have a young French forward player who has already made a big move this past summer when he moved from Lyon, where he had developed as a youth team player, to join PSG for a fee around the £45M mark. We still feel, however, that given the competition at PSG for minutes and for the club to sign ‘big names’ Barcola still feels like a player who could move again this coming summer.
The above Smarterscout profile is from the 22/23 season when Barcola was still at Lyon and you can see that there are points that are similar to Doku but Barcola is a different type of player. Barcola is a wide player who thrives when given passes into space with his ability to drive in possession before finding angled cutbacks as he breaks into the penalty area.
Barcola has a higher style rating for link-up play but he also has good outputs, as expected, for dribbles, disrupting the opposition attack and recovering loose balls. Interestingly, Barcola also has a strong duel rating for ground duels in possession.
Here, we again are using a scatter graph to further visualize the data for Barcola in Ligue 1 last season. Bearing in mind that this is in a Lyon team who struggled for form. Barcola impressed in terms of the % of moves that he was involved in that led to a goal.
Barcola perhaps carries a more direct goal threat than we thought that we would see from Doku and he was in the 89th percentile for goal contributions last season. He also occupies the opposition area well with a percentile score of 96. Barcola is a different ball carrier to Doku in that he attacks open space more aggressively but he also has the kind of 1v1 skills that teams are going to be looking for going forward.
Barcola, if he continues to struggle for significant game time, is a wide player with the profile to play at a big team in the Premier League.
Jacob Ondrejka, 21-years-old, Antwerp and Sweden
The final player on our shortlist is the 21-year-old Swedish international Jacob Ondejka, our second player who is currently playing for Antwerp. The above smarterscout profile is from Ondrejka’s final season in Sweden with Elfsborg as he has had injury issues since moving to Belgium. As you can see his profile is extremely interesting and similar to that of Doku.
In terms of his style ratings, he impresses in terms of shooting, receiving in the area, and, of course, dribbling. He is less impressive against the ball than the likes of Doku but this is an area of his game that we are likely to see develop. With his duel ratings, he impresses, again, in terms of ground duels in possession as he is a ball carrier who can also break into the final third and penalty area out of possession.
Before moving to Belgium we saw Ondrejka as one of the most efficient and effective attacking players in the Swedish top-flight. He was in the 99th percentile amongst right wingers for goal contributions and expected goal contributions and he was in the 98th percentile for shots per 90. He was also in the 78th percentile for dribbles per 90.
Ondrejka is a player who perhaps needs to play more regularly across the remainder of the season if he is to earn a move to the Premier League. With that said, however, he is a player who profiles in a similar way to Jeremy Doku and therefore he will already be on the minds of recruitment departments in leagues around the top leagues of Europe.
Jeremy Doku has changed Manchester City’s attack already. His dynamism and ability 1v1 have helped City to open up matches against more defensive-minded teams. This will lead to this type and profile of player becoming coveted by other Premier League sides going forward.
Using the tools available at Smarterscout we can quickly and efficiently find players that match this profile and others.