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Scouting report - Dennis Praet: What could he bring to Arsenal should they sign him?

Recently in the last week or so, it’s been reported out of both Belgium and Italy that Arsenal were closing in on the signing of Central Midfielder, Dennis Praet, after discussing with his representatives and sourcing out whether or not he’d indeed join the club should they activate his £22m Release-Clause. But who exactly is Dennis Praet and what could he bring to Arsenal, if he does end up joining in this summer transfer window?

Who is he? Dennis Praet was born in May 1994 in Leuven, Belgium (the same as Dries Mertens). He began his footballing journey at the age of six years old when he joined the youth squad of now-defunct Koninklijke Stade Leuven and then Oud-Heverlee Leuven which came about via a merger between Koninklijke Stade Leuven and two other Football teams. Three years later Praet was scouted by K.R.C Genk’s academy, a high-status system which boasts names such as Courtois, de Bruyne, Pocognoli and others. During his tenure with Genk as he moved through the age-groups the attention was caught of the Belgian National set-up and it took him just three years to move from Belgium’s u15’s to their u21’s.

During that time (in 2010-11) he moved to the youth ranks of RC Anderlecht despite having offers from many European clubs including ironically one for a trial with Arsenal. When he made the move to Anderlecht’s senior side in 2011 he stated that he would have gone elsewhere if the move was about the money; showing there his maturity and knowledge of the game and the system.

In that same year, Praet led Anderlecht to the AEGON Future Cup which piqued more interest from clubs overseas as Anderlecht won the trophy and he was named MVP of the competition. Anderlecht had to get past some big names in the tournament including Bayern Munich, Celtic, Fluminese and ironically Ajax who only one year prior had shown heavy interest in Praet and in a rather emblematic showing, it was then Ajax player Christian Eriksen’s job to hand over the MVP award.

Dennis Praet’s first team debut came later in the year in a match against Lommel United in the Belgian Cup. He provided two assists in the game and in the next round of the Cup, against Rupel-Boom he scored his first senior goal all whilst still only seventeen years old; this then prompted many more appearances in the league, as well as Champion’s League starts. He has been deemed as one of the biggest talents to come out of the Anderlecht youth ranks after players like Lukaku and Kompany and definitely has a lot ahead of him.

Playing style: Although not the fastest on the pitch, Praet is neat both with the ball at his feet and when off of it and very intelligent whether attacking or coordinating in the centre of the park. He’s extremely strong on the ball and his technical prowess and ability to run the lines makes him very difficult to not only retrieve the ball from, but to get away when he’s chasing you. A tireless all-rounder in the middle of the pitch, his capability as a playmaker also causes him to stand out amongst the rest of players around his age range and he’s also proficient in fine link-up play with his teammates and providing the most acute through-balls with a vision to opening up the opposition in the final third. He’s been likened in terms of his skill-set to both Iniesta and Eriksen throughout his time playing.

Strengths: Dennis Praet’s major strengths include his work ethic, dribbling and the fact he is technically accomplished. He has excellent vision and suave and incisive movement both on and off the ball. He has worked harder on his tackling skills as it was something he was once pretty poor at, but he has become determined in the work and can now be seen putting a shift in to win back possession; mainly standing tackles but he does occasionally slide in. his first touch is also a very heavily used tool and is quite frankly, sublime.

Weaknesses: Heading the ball and aerial duels aren’t things that Praet excels at, in fact they’d probably be some of his worst traits but things he has been working on. Praet is also a little sleight off the ball and whilst he was for a while quite conservative in his play, this is something he has been working hard to transform. Praet’s finishing is also a weak point, not one to impress from longe-range, most of his goals have come from defined and placed shots in the 5-10 yard areas.

Other areas of note:

Tackling - As previously mentioned, Praet has seemingly taken a very cordial view of the effort he needs to put in, in this respect. He can be now be seen working harder than ever to track back and retrieve lost balls or just to get the ball, from the opposition. Not too rash and only rarely does he slide in.

Passing - His passing range is preferably short, but he’s able to commit to long thorough through-ball passes as well as over the top crosses to teammates. He links up very nicely with the other members of the team and likes to play the one-two simple pass if there’s nothing sharp in sight.

Positioning - Runs the lines whilst seeking out the space he needs to get into, to intelligently place himself into the channels, whether left or right.

Final thoughts: Dennis Praet although young, has a very mature head on his shoulders and knows exactly how his career should be moving forward. He has a few things to work on, but is definitely still young enough to break free from the norms and push himself to the limit and with so many strengths already honed, his future is looking very bright and should he sign for Arsenal I can only imagine him becoming a household name in England, in no time.

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