What will Mikkel Damsgaard bring to Brentford?

Brentford: Can Mikkel Damsgaard fill the void left by Christian Eriksen's departure?

Knowing it would be a nigh on impossible task to replace the exceptional Christian Eriksen, who recently departed for Manchester United, Brentford have done a solid job of trying by signing Mikkel Damsgaard from Sampdoria.

Although quite a different player to his Danish international teammate, Damsgaard's capture will inject some vital creativity, imagination and quality on the ball that was lost when Eriksen left.

Joining for a very reasonable fee reportedly around £12m, the man who English fans will remember due to him scoring a cracking goal for Denmark against the Three Lions at Euro 2020 is a shrewd capture by the Bees.

Proving his class at Sampdoria over the last two years, even though his 2021/2022 campaign was scuppered by injury that meant he only featured 12 times for the Blucerchiati, there's no doubting what an exciting talent the versatile 22-year-old is.

"Mikkel is, in my opinion, another classic Brentford signing. He is a young player with big potential to develop further. We know we can help Mikkel reach his highest level, we have the staff here that have experience in doing that and we are looking forward to working with him," explained a delighted Thomas Frank.

The Brentford boss then added: "Mikkel is a player that has shown his promise at FC Nordsjælland and Sampdoria as well as in the European Championships last summer, when he had a fantastic tournament for Denmark.

"He has been unlucky with injuries in the past year, but we have already seen that he is an extremely skillful player, who can run with the ball and move it well. He is aware of the space around him and plays on the half turn. He also wants to play forward and can do so by either passing or dribbling.

"Importantly, he is a player that will fit into our dressing room. He is a great character, he wants to work hard, he wants to work for the team, and he wants to develop.”

Where will Damsgaard play at Brentford?

Despite being used mostly as a winger at Samp, Frank clearly has designs of playing Damsgaard as a number eight or a number 10, positions the youngster's also familiar with, which his new manager feels will get the best out of him.

A wizard with the ball at his feet, his playmaking abilities will be valuable from these central areas to help his team unlock defences, break the lines and to oblige the runs of the forwards.

Reading situations coherently and sharp at spotting runners, his measured through balls are a huge weapon of his. Waiting for just the right moment to release the ball in line with the run of a teammate, Damsgaard's ability to carve out chances is a joy to watch.

Striking the ball with his distinctive technique, full of precision and weighting his passes nicely, his new teammates at Brentford will relish his silver service.

Masterful through ball to take out many defenders to pinpoint his teammate
Masterful through ball to take out many defenders to pinpoint his teammate

Wonderful through ball to oblige the runner
Wonderful through ball to oblige the runner

Classy through ball in behind
Classy through ball in behind

Classy defence splitting through ball into the area
Classy defence splitting through ball into the area

Much of the aforementioned ensures the Danish dynamo is handy at pinpointing colleagues in the box with accurate crosses and cutbacks too.

Weighing up his options smartly, once he's decided the best area to target, he strikes his deliveries with either power, dip, swerve or along the carpet to give runners every chance of applying a finish.

Wicked crossed assist to find the runner
Wicked crossed assist to find the runner

Fleet of foot and fast of mind, the way he engages in intricate combination play in close quarters adds to his menace.

Be it hitting tidy one and two touch layoffs or subtle back heels and flicks, his aptitude here allows him to unlock and unbalance backlines, plus get the ball into forward facing teammates who can then pose a threat immediately.

Bringing some extra impetus via his searing switches of play, dinks to set up chances, how he recycles the ball smoothly if the progressive option isn't available and how uses his eyes and body shape to deceptively disguise his passes adds to his value.

Supplementing his polished distribution with his outstanding dribbling, this compounds issues for opponents when trying to nullify his impact.

Relishing 1v1s and driving into open spaces, Damsgaard, who possesses razor sharp ball control and a neat first touch, is a handful for any defender in such situations.

Capable of outfoxing foes with feints, shimmies, rapid cuts infield, searing twists and turns out of trouble and using his solid turn of speed, the quick thinking attacker is such a weapon on the ball.

A key byproduct associated with his press resistance and ball carrying is that it draws multiple markers to generate space for teammates to exploit and opens passing lanes while causing defences to become destabilised.

The fact he's aware of his surroundings due to his scanning duly helps him find gaps and allows him to adjust his body posture prior to receiving depending on nearby opponents.

Damsgaard's finishing then gives his game another dimension, with his penchant for scoring spectacular goals and placing efforts from the edge of the box with minimal backlift particularly notable.

Opening up his body to set himself and swift to prepare himself to wrap his foot around the ball with power or placement, his assertive strikes amplify his quality.

Expertly placed finish to find the corner
Expertly placed finish to find the corner

Slick finish from the edge of the box
Slick finish from the edge of the box

How he instinctively gets ahead of his markers and targets gaps in rearguards is worth mentioning as well, with the example below highlighting this aptly.

Penetrative run into the box before scoring
Penetrative run into the box before scoring

Shifting the focus to his movement, and the 23-year-old excels at finding space between the lines and in the half spaces to link play.

Handy at evading opposition cover shadows to provide an option, this is a key string to his bow, which provides the platform for him to turn and face to breathe life into attacks.

Smartly finding space between the lines
Smartly finding space between the lines

Expertly receiving space between the lines
Expertly receiving space between the lines

Knowing when and where to move to connect play, his ability to interchange with colleagues and form overloads in central and wider areas sees him support his team's build up to enable them to move through the thirds shrewdly.

Indeed, his strength here should see him suit his new role with Brentford, which will see him operate predominantly in central areas and in the half spaces.

Also demonstrating how effective he can be when bursting into the box with penetrative, late arriving runs, Damsgaard is good at getting the jump on trackers who are ball watching, preoccupied or fail to recognise if he's exploiting their blindside with diagonal out-to-in runs.

There's a lot to like about his defensive exertions too, something that would've further endeared him to Frank, for he's extremely active in this phase.

Whether hunting down opponents with his pressing, showing tenacity in the challenge to regain possession, tracking back to fulfil marking assignments, adjusting his position to remain compact and adhering to triggers, this amplifies his effectiveness..

By the numbers, upon comparing him to Eriksen using Wyscout data in their most recent 1000 minutes or so, Damsgaard impressively holds the ascendancy in many offensive metrics such as successful attacking actions per 90, dribbles per 90, offensive duels per 90, touches inside the box p90, key passes p90, smart passes p90, deep completions p90 and through balls p90.

Damsgaard vs. Eriksen Attacking comparison 1

Damsgaard vs. Eriksen Attacking comparison 2

Damsgaard vs. Eriksen Key Passing comparison

Then, in terms of defensive output, the diminutive Damsgaard ranks ahead of Eriksen in some key stats, topping him in areas like defensive duels p90, interceptions p90 and possession adjusted interceptions p90.

Damsgaard vs. Eriksen Defensive comparison

Even though he arrives with some injury concerns, it's been made clear by the Bees that his medical went perfectly, which bodes well that he'll be ready to impact once he integrates into life at Brentford and the rigours of the Premier League.

This adaptation process should, however, be made far smoother than usual due to Brentford's strong Danish contingent that will give him every chance to settle in as quickly as possible.

While he's not yet at the elite level of Eriksen and brings some different things to the table than the departed Dane, all the signs are promising that he can help fill the void left by the now Man Utd star, for not only can he score, create, progress the ball but also defend at a high standard.

Still just 22 and with immense scope for improvement, the multifaceted Damsgaard, who's got that desired capacity to change a game in an instant with a moment of magic, is certainly a smart piece of business.

And one that will definitely enhance the overall quality of Brentford's squad, as they look to push on and flex their muscles in their second season in the Premier League.

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