One month since Achraf Hakimi put pen to paper at Le Parc des Princes in Paris, Inter has found its man to replace the Moroccan. The Nerazzurri confirmed Saturday evening that it signed PSV Eindhoven captain and right wingback Denzel Dumfries for a fee of around €15 million. The 25-year-old, who’s been with the Dutch club since 2018, has some very large shoes to fill. Hakimi played an instrumental role in Inter’s run to the Scudetto and was a key cog in Antonio Conte’s counterattacking system. The 22-year-old led Inter in most attacking stats and put his name on the scoresheet frequently, tallying 7 goals and 9 assists. To expect similar of Dumfries right off the bat would be setting him up for failure but although he might not be a carbon copy of his predecessor, Inter’s newest Dutchman still has plenty to offer the Nerazzurri.
While I can’t profess to be any sort of an expert on the Eredivisie (you can watch only so much football after all), an eleven-minute highlights compilation is almost the same, right? Right??
If this video can be trusted, Dumfries has both a well-rounded skill set and the physicality to cause Serie A defenders problems. He loves beating players on the dribble and can blow past defenders with a quick burst of pace. When Dumfries is at full speed it’s almost impossible to slow him down and even when a defender does manage to catch up to him, he has the strength to body them off. Perhaps unusually for a player of his size, Dumfries’ touch is fine-tuned and he has an impressive array of dribbling skills. The Dutchman frequently crashed the right side of the box and either took the shot himself or sent a cross fizzing across the goalmouth from narrow angles. Predominantly right-footed, Dumfries can pick out the perfect ground delivery but isn’t near as comfortable with airborne crosses or cutting back onto his left. Even though his end product is rather one-dimensional, Dumfries’ one-v-one skills should mark it hard for defenders to shut him down even if it's easy to read his intentions. His height of 1.89 meters (6′ 2″ feet) makes him a threat in the air and he’s a nuisance to defend on set pieces. The 25-year-old is also an elite tackler and has the speed to make up a lot of ground defensively. Dumfries might not be as flashy as Hakimi but he has an imposing all-around skill set that can cause Serie A just as many problems.
The above video gives you a good idea of Dumfries’ quality but compilations are notorious for only showing one side of a player’s game. Let’s take a look at the numbers to get a better picture of the Dutchman, specifically how he stacks up against Hakimi.
Here’s Sosa Score’s rating of Dumfries and a comparison with his predecessor.
As we expected, Hakimi is by far the superior player in the final third while Dumfries has the edge in defending and tackles. But even though Hakimi is significantly ahead of his successor in offensive stats, Dumfries still has the edge on the average right wing-back in the attack which just goes to show how unique a talent Hakimi is.
With a little help from Fbref (all numbers from the 2020/21 domestic season), let’s go a little further into just what separates Hakimi and Dumfries. The Moroccan’s stellar attacking numbers are all but impossible for anyone to stack up to but Dumfries does a respectable job. Hakimi averaged 1.1 shots per 90 (0.4 on target) and found the back of the net seven times, while Dumfries took 0.8 shots (0.3 on target) per 90 and scored twice. Their assist numbers were even closer. Dumfries tallied six assists, created 10 big chances, and averaged 1.4 key passes per game. Hakimi’s eight assists, nine big chances, and 1.0 key passes were practically identical. Admittedly, the defensive quality in the Eredivisie is much lower than Serie A but at Inter Dumfries will have the luxury of being just a part of one of the best attacks in Italy. He was one of the main threats at PSV, therefore receiving attention from opposing defenses that will now go to the likes of Lautaro Martinez and Edin Dzeko.
While opportunities will be there for Dumfries to cause havoc in the final third, he’ll have a much harder time replacing Hakimi’s skill on the ball. The ex-Borussia Dortmund man averaged a passing accuracy of 84%, including 59% on long balls and 24% on crosses. Dumfries had a total passing accuracy of 78% but only 38% on long balls and 10% on crosses. Though he won’t be as much of an asset as Hakimi in possession, Dumfries makes up for it with the defensive side of his game. He averaged 1.6 interceptions, 1.5 tackles, 1.8 clearances, and 6.3 duels won (including 2.5 aerial duels) per game last season. Hakimi registered 0.6 interceptions, 1.4 tackles, 0.4 clearances, and 3.7 duels (0.4 aerial). Dumfries’ season heatmap shows his greater defensive presence compared to Hakimi, who saw most of his action come in the opposition half.
The ‘Dumfries Train’ was on non-stop service up and down the right flank and having that same freedom will be vital if he’s to succeed at Inter. The onus is on Simone Inzaghi to incorporate Dumfries’ strengths into both the attacking and defensive phases of Inter’s play and minimize any weaknesses. He has the quality to be just as important to Inter as Manuel Lazzari was to Lazio under Inzaghi. Similar to Hakimi, Lazzari has a greater final third product than Dumfries, though the Dutchman is markedly better defensively. Inzaghi has surely already brainstormed ways to maximize Dumfries’ talents by isolating the opposition left-back and letting the 25-year-old loose on the dribble.
Like with any player new to Serie A, the biggest question is how Dumfries will adapt to life on the peninsula and how his game will translate from the Eredivisie into one of Europe’s big five leagues. There’s plenty of evidence that to believe that Dumfries won’t turn out to be another Dalbert or Lazaro but even if a worst-case scenario comes to pass, a €15 million gamble is worth it for Dumfries.