The Championship is too easy for Daryl Dike
When it rains, it pours. After struggling to find a credible striker since Clint Dempsey – who wasn't even a pure striker – retired from international play in 2017, several potential successors have come along all at once. Timothy Weah is starting to come good at Lille, Josh Sargent is making strides (slowly) at Werder Bremen, and Ayo Akinola had a breakout season in Toronto. More dramatically, Matthew Hoppe at Schalke and Nicholas Gioacchini at Caen have burst onto the scene from relative obscurity, while Jordan Siebatcheu finally has his first cap. And then there is Daryl Dike.
Orlando City knew Dike was ready to test himself in Europe when they loaned him to Barnsley in the EFL Championship. The idea was that he would develop as a player, help Barnsley in their drive for the playoffs, and increase his value for a potential transfer. It's safe to say he's done all of those things. Before scoring both of the Tykes' goals in their away win over Luton Town, Dike's attacking output was already above average for a Premier League striker:
Dike is also a supremely aggressive defender for a striker, but his ball retention is really low. It's not because of any lack of skill on the dribble; Dike is oustanding in ground duels when he has possession. Rather, the low rating stems from Barnsley's direct, high-tempo style, which encourages players to take a lot of risks. Here's a comparison of Dike's style at Orlando in 2020 and this season with Barnsley:
Dike is actually dribbling less than he did in MLS! And he's clearly defending more, in line with the avid pressing demanded by Valerian Ismael. But the big change is his passing – Dike never linked up much, and now his passing is more adventurous than ever. You can see it on his smartermap, too:
Whether coming through the right channel or getting touches along the diagonal coming in from the left, Dike has been trying a lot of incisive pases toward goal. You can also see that his shot locations have been excellent on the whole:
Dike has popped up in prime positions in front of goal, but he's also been dangerous at oblique angles from the GK's left. He hasn't needed many shots to score, either. In fact, he's been scoring at about double the rate we'd expect for a generic player, given the locations and situations of his chances. But it turns out that's nothing new for Dike. He was a deadeye in MLS, too:
So what can we expect from Daryl Dike in the future? Well, here's a comparison to a couple of players who had similar styles of play at roughly the same age:
Alexander Sorloth didn't work out at Crystal Palace, but he's become a rather productive reclamation project at RB Leipzig, of all places. Ollie McBurnie, like Dike, is the sort of player who likes to come inside from the wing, but Dike is probably a better finisher. For more comparisons, you could throw in Marcus Thuram's early days at Guingamp.
So there are strikers in Europe who've achieved success from a similar starting point. Yet Dike's current profile may not be a natural for the Premier League, where strikers are expected to be more active in the box. Of course, all that could change if Ismael's Barnsley gain promotion to the Premier League and decide to make Dike's loan permanent.
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