Karim Adeyemi: How the Dortmund forward was improving before injury struck

2NE7CYJ Dortmund, Germany. 15th Feb, 2023. Karim Adeyemi (BVB) Borussia Dortmund - FC Chelsea London 15.02.2023 Copyright (nur fur journalistische Zwecke)

Karim Adeyemi was enjoying perhaps his best performance in his recent run of form for Borussia Dortmund having scored and assisted within the first half-hour to give BVB a 2-0 lead over Hertha Berlin.

But a hamstring injury for the German international which saw him withdrawn in the 35th minute of the eventual 4-1 victory for Dortmund will leave him sidelined for Friday's Bundesliga clash with RB Leipzig and most likely next week's Champions League second leg with Chelsea.

Adeyemi made the switch from the Austrian to the German Bundesliga in the summer of 2022 for a fee of $38.8m (£32.5m) to become the fourth-most expensive signing in the club's history. In his last season for RB Salzburg he has tallied 23 goals across all competitions, and was announced as a Dortmund player on the same day the club confirmed Erling Haaland would be departing for Manchester City and the Premier League.

Dortmund and their supporters have had to be patient with Adeyemi, though, as tangible offensive production did not come straight away. Now playing in a right wing position, as opposed to his center forward position in Salzburg, Adeyemi consistently struggled to both fully adjust to his new position and put the ball in the net.

Heading into the winter break, Adeyemi managed to register just a single assist to his name in the Bundesliga, which came after being subbed on in Dortmund’s season opener against Bayer Leverkusen.

And it showed in his shooting productivity, as in games before the FIFA World Cup against Leverkusen, Hertha and Bochum he generated poor PFF shooting grades of 48.5, 48.6 and 43.4.

However, few players have garnered as much international attention since the conclusion of the World Cup as Karim Adeyemi. Even after missing Matchday 20 against Werder Bremen due to suspension (yellow card accumulation), Adeyemi has found the net three times, while adding a pair of assists since Dortmund’s second half of the season began in January. He also scored that world class goal against Chelsea in the first leg of Dortmund’s Champions League match-up with the top spenders of the January window.

What has changed? Simply put, it seems lots of things have changed. For starters, he has shown to be much more comfortable using his speed in wide positions, even recording the fastest speed ever collected from a Bundesliga player – 36.65 km/h (22.77 mph) — in an all out sprint to track down a through ball sent his way by Raphael Guerreiro.

Gameweek Opponent No. of shots PFF shooting grade Position rank
16 Augsburg 1 62.4 9 / 29
17 Mainz 3 47.7 29 / 32
18 Bayer Leverkusen 1 75.2 5 / 26
19 Freiburg 2 70.5 7 / 26
21 Hertha Berlin 1 76.7 5 / 30

The Chelsea duo of Enzo Fernandez and Kepa also had got a close up view of the difference Adeyemi can make with the ball at his feet, as he drove two thirds of the entire length of the field to leave them both behind to tap the ball into an empty net.

The offensive elements of Adeyemi’s run of form in 2023 have clearly spoken for themselves. But something that has not been as talked about is his recent improvement in the defensive area of his game. Through the first 15 weeks of the Bundesliga season – 11 games for Adeyemi due to injury – he ranked among the bottom 10 attacking midfielders on a weekly basis when it came to challenge grading, and ranked among the top 10 in that category just twice.

Gameweek Opponent No. of challenges PFF challenge grade Position rank
16 Augsburg 5 68.9 15 / 54
17 Mainz 4 60.1 29 / 58
18 Bayer Leverkusen 10 68.2 21 / 54
19 Freiburg 8 49.6 53 / 55
21 Hertha Berlin 3 54.3 41 / 49

Since the start of the new year, his defensive work has turned a corner. He has been more confident in his positioning, much more willing to engage opposing players physically, and he has been much more efficient in challenges. Up until the recent injury in the Hertha Berlin match, he had graded above the 60.0 benchmark challenge grade in three of his four previous games – something he accomplished just three total times in his ten appearances in 2022.

Now equal on points at the top of the Bundesliga table with the German giants Bayern Munich, Dortmund will certainly be hoping for Adeyemi’s return sooner rather than later. For the time being, fellow young standouts Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Gio Reyna will be turned to on the wings in order to help replace the production lost during Adeyemi’s absence.

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