Abby Dahlkemper debut and what she brings to Man City

Credit: Tim Williams

Abby Dahlkemper made her first appearance and first start for Manchester City on Sunday against West Ham. City won emphatically with Caroline Weir, Georgia Stanway, Ellen White and Rose Lavelle all scoring once.

It was a pretty straightforward debut for Dahlkemper. She completed her only duel in the 31st minute, when she won the ball from Adriana Leon. But there were signs of what is to come for Dahlkemper at City and how she could take them to the next level.

The US ace started next to captain Steph Houghton. The American played as the left-sided centre-back. Normally, Dahlkemper plays as the right-sided central defender alongside Becky Sauerbrunn for the USWNT or Abby Erceg for the North Carolina Courage.

But Dahlkemper is more than reliable on either side. She has played as the left centre-back for the USWNT when Sauerbrunn is not in the starting eleven.

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The American arrived in Manchester earlier this week and had just four training sessions under her belt before her debut. She quickly settled in, despite a few off-target passes. Dahlkemper completed the second most passes in the match. She attempted 122 and completed 111 (91%). Her centre-back partner completed 124/131 passes. 

There are a few things that make Dahlkemper one of the best ball progressing centre-backs in the world. Some of these attributes were hinted at in today’s match.

First, her short passing with both feet is very good and this allows her to succeed whether she is the left or right sided centre-back. Dahlkemper is also very confident on the ball. She is able to survey the pitch and find the right pass even when she is under immense pressure. 

West Ham lined up in a 5-4-1 formation and dropped into a low block in an attempt to stifle City’s attack. Obviously, the Hammers were no match for City. But West Ham’s structure allowed the Cityzens to get their first look at Dahlkemper’s ball progression. 

Dahlkemper likes to drive the ball into the opposition’s half. She takes her space and forces a defender to vacate their area and step to her. The American reads this well and plays a penetrative ball into the midfield or the forward line.

Dahlkemper repeatedly found Weir in advanced positions which allowed the midfielder to turn and run at the Hammers’ defense. Another one of her favorite targets was Ellen White. The Lioness would drop into midfield with her back to goal, receive from Dahlkemper and look to play a quick one-two with the on-rushing midfielders.

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West Ham’s defensive shape and City’s dominance didn’t allow the Cityzens to even see Dahlkemper at her best. The centre-back’s best attribute is her ability to ping long balls to her teammates with either foot. 

Dahlkemper attempted one long ball in the 12th minute which was off the mark. She also played a pinpoint clipped ball to the head of White in the second half. This is just a small taste of what she can do. Her service is so reliable that she has been tasked with taking corners and long free kicks with other teams.

Anyone who has watched the NC Courage or the USWNT can speak to Dahlkemper’s range of passing. It can open up defences quickly and easily, especially when these passes are being played to the likes of Chloe Kelly, Lauren Hemp, Stanway, etc. 

Man City were already dominant in possession in almost every match and they have only gotten better. With the addition of Dahlkemper, City not only strengthened their defence but they just might have the best ball-playing backline in football.

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