Game of Numbers #11 – How to dribble like Jude Bellingham

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Without Jude Bellingham, where would Borussia Dortmund be right now? They’ve been missing Marco Reus, Mats Hummels hasn’t been up to pace (literally), and all the newboys haven’t quite hit the ground running as expected (perhaps Salih Özcan aside). This has meant that Jude Bellingham has needed to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders, getting on the ball at every turn to work his magic.

Bellingham’s had many memorable performances this season, but his magic against Augsburg certainly comes toward the top of the list. Not only did the teenage phenom score a wonder goal from outside the eighteen, but he also won a countless number of dribbles on the day. We say that, because he won significantly more than the three he’s been presented with on FotMob. Thankfully Wyscout has a different measurement system for dribbles, and we see what feels like a genuinely more accurate number in 11 successful dribbles out of 18 attempted.

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When it comes to dribbling, Bellingham won’t win every single time. In fact, he’ll sometimes take on three players, beat them all, and then run into traffic or out of bounds. He simply wants to be the hero for Dortmund, but never with an overly selfish edge. He knows the magic he can create, and he knows that he has to be the man to get the spark in Dortmund’s flame going when the rest of the team aren’t quite up to speed.

This means that he’ll often drop in deep to pick up possession, making Dortmund’s 2+1 circulation in the creation stage into more of a 2+2. He’ll then shift and shimmy the shoulders to spin away from the nearest defender, before breaking several lines at once.

When he sees the space to advance into, Bellingham never shies away from taking the moment. Then when defenders halt his progress, he’ll quickly disguise a pass and then shift the ball onto someone else. Since several defenders are often tasked with closing him down, there’s always a free man somewhere on the pitch if the Englishman can find them.

Despite the disguise now being a hallmark of his approach, defenders can’t quite work out which way he’s going to turn. Bellingham is simply the master of the fake. He seems to pull off a disguise or two at each and every turn, often shifting the ball on the inside of his right foot across his body, before quickly pulling it or dragging it back with the outside of his boot. We spoke at length in an entire article all about genius decision making about how Bellingham wonderfully assesses the moments to fake a pass or a shot before taking space all on his own.

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There’s arguably no one right now better at the art of disguise, who can also match the class with moments of undeniable speed to break away from opponents. He then often recognizes the right moments to advance the play into one of his mates, who can then bounce the ball back to him on a swift return. This allows Bellingham to break a line without having to expend all the energy himself, where he can use his powerful running off-the-ball instead. This is perhaps one of the defining characteristics of every standout dribbler in the world.

They are not only capable of beating opponents all on their own through speed and skill, but also keenly astute as to when to bounce the ball onto someone else. Imperatively, they also have this unrivalled confidence to take any defender on and keep their momentum going. This kind of confidence has the power to strike fear into the opposition all on its own, where they are forced into making fouls as their only way of stopping the player.

The best part is that Bellingham never reacts negatively at the referee or the opposition for taking him down. Instead, he pumps up the crowd, high fives his teammates and gets back into the zone. His energy seems to exist on an endless spectrum, and it’s often late on in games, when defenders find themselves physically and mentally fatigued, that he’ll pull off a pirouette or dazzling maneuver to break free.

Since he loves floating up into those right-half-spaces, it’s then no surprise to see the British teenager working those moments of magic closer to goal. This is where opponents are often at their most fearful, and a player like Bellingham is able to take full advantage of twinkling his way past players that will never amount to the star he’s already become.

His goal and assist on Sunday was a perfect reminder of just how desperate Borussia Dortmund’s situation might be if it wasn’t for the 19-year-old. Jude Bellingham is simply one of the best midfielders in the world, and his dribbling is coming into a life of its own as he accentuates his game and works to become the main man for the Black & Yellows.

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