My piece on Spurs’ skilful and tenacious 17 year old right back Dermi Lusala

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

In my final in-depth piece on one of our academy players before the start of the 2020/21 academy season, I thought that I would write a piece on a player who I thought had a really good season for our under 18’s during 2019/20, Dermi Lusala. The Edmonton born right back who is also more than capable of operating as a right sided centre half or as a left back, was along with Max Robson and Marqes Muir one of our under 18’s best players last season, in my opinion. Lusala used to play for fellow London club Brentford prior to them shutting down their academy, and he would  then join up with Spurs as a schoolboy in 2016. A student at St Ignatius College, Lusala was a very talented athlete as a schoolboy, a skilful, quick, agile and tenacious player, the 17 year old is currently in his second year of scholarship at Spurs after signing scholarship terms in the summer of 2019. The following piece like I do with all of our young academy players, is about giving Spurs fans who may not have seen much of our up and coming academy players a feel for what type of players they are, i.e. attributes and style of play. Having joined Spurs as an under 14 player, Lusala has risen up the various youth ranks at the club since joining them in 2016. The versatile defender was a part of the Spurs under 17 side that won the Euro Youth Cup out in Germany while still a schoolboy, and Lusala would even step up to play for our under 18’s in a competitive league game during the same season. Giving a good account of himself in that game against London rivals Chelsea despite the fact that he was rather harshly sent off later on in the match, I was very impressed with how Dermi got up and down the right flank so effectively and efficiently. The defender who has represented England at under 16 level on five occasions, was included in The Guardian newspapers Next Generation series 2019: 20 of the best talents at Premier League clubs, started pre-season of the 2019/20 campaign by travelling to Germany with a Spurs under 19 side to compete in the annual Oberndorf tournament.

After getting a good amount of game time at the Oberndorf tournament Lusala started the season with our under 18 side. He made his first competitive start for them of the season in our league opener against Fulham in August 2019, he would then go on to make a further 18 competitive appearances for our under 18’s before the season was curtailed in March 2020. The then first year scholar would also step up to play for our under 19’s in the UEFA Youth League on four occasions, giving a good account of himself in each of those games. Lusala was in my opinion a very consistent performer for Matt Taylor’s under 18 side throughout the season, and he really helped the defence in big games, like those against Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup and then league leaders Fulham. Had the season have gone on any longer then I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to have seen the young right back feature for our under 23’s in the PL2, such was the way in which he was playing for our under 18’s prior to the curtailment of their season. Since the academy players returned to training for the pre-season of the 2020/21 campaign, Lusala has featured in two friendlies for our under 18’s and one for our under 23’s, in a 3-1 win over National League South side Dulwich Hamlet. I would imagine that Lusala will make his competitive debut for our under 23’s at some point this season, he would be competing with Jubril Okedina (19) for a place in Wayne Burnett’s side. So what type of player is Dermi Lusala? Well he is a very attack minded right back who is able to combine both his attacking duties with his defensive duties very well. He is a good athlete who is quick and he gets up and down the flanks very well and effectively, he is also a very skilful player. And he reminds me in some ways of how Kyle Walker-Peters used to play as a right back at the same age, as Lusala is just so skilful and capable of beating players with both skill and pace.

Lusala likes to go on long surging forward runs down the right flank and he also likes to overlap the Spurs winger on occasions. He loves to skip past players to evade them when he is going forward and with his strength (even though he is not the biggest of players), balance and agility he is difficult to just shrug off the ball, and that is a real strength of his game. A fullback who loves to dribble forward with the ball at his feet, Lusala is also quite creative with the ball out wide and his crosses are good ones. Although he loves to go forward down the flanks Lusala is also defensively disciplined, and he is a very good defender too. Superb at making sliding challenges, the Londoner is a reliable player who reads the game well and who maintains good positioning during games. He is a solid player who has great stamina and I really felt that he grew into the 2019/20 season as it went on, and he got stronger and stronger during the campaign. Part of a very talented 2003 England age group of which includes Jude Bellingham and Karamoko Dembele, Lusala’s inclusion in the England under 16 side as a schoolboy must speak volumes for how highly he is rated within the England youth setup. The right back who was competing with Kallum Cesay for a place in Matt Taylor’s under 18 side last season, really showed his versatility throughout the campaign, filling in with great effect at RCB, LCB and left back, this was extremely impressive that he is able to play anywhere across the back line. There are three games in which Lusala has been involved in for our under 18’s over the last couple of seasons that I would just like to focus in on as I bring this piece to a close. The first game was in fact Lusala’s debut for the under 18’s in their penultimate league game of the 2018/19 season against Chelsea. Operating at right back the then schoolboy got up and down the right flank so well during that game. Not afraid to take players on and beat them, Lusala held his own at the back and showed his strength and fine reading of the game.

Also making some good challenges throughout the match the defenders game was harshly brought to a sudden halt, when he was adjudged by the referee to have been the last man when bringing down a Chelsea forward on 79 minutes. Lusala had been covering for somebody else at left back when he was shown a rather harsh straight red card. The second game that I’m focusing in on came in an under 18 league game against Fulham last season, when he operated at left back. Again showing good anticipation, Lusala was brilliant going forward going on many a skilful and purposeful run however, the quality of his challenges against the high flying Fulham players was very good. He also made one outstanding late defensive intervention to prevent Fulham from scoring an almost certain goal. The final game came against Leicester City’s under 18’s shortly before Christmas in 2019, when Lusala played at RCB alongside Luis Binks. Reading the game really well for a player who isn’t a centre half, Dermi was really commanding and aggressive in his defending at the back, making some good blocks and he also brought the ball out well from the back as Spurs won the game 4-3. After enjoying a tremendous 2019/20 season I would like to wish the very promising Dermi who should be very proud of himself, all the very best of luck for the new 2020/21 campaign.

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