22 Striker Grasshopper Zurich Israel
2014 has been...
Onwards and upwards. It’s been over ten years since Grasshopper Zurich, one of Europe’s most recognisable names, last lifted a Swiss League title. Considering the stature of the club that seems a remarkable statistic. However, the glory days of the 1970’s and 80’s, as well as a dominant run in the late 90’s remain a distant memory. For a younger generation of Grasshopper supporters, the 2013 Swiss Cup victory over dominant Basel is the only reference point of note.
Could the cup victory become a turning point? With the experienced German coach Michael Skibbe taking charge last year, GCZ made an excellent start. An exceptional series of results saw the Zurich club lose only one of its opening fixtures, a run that catapulted Skibbe’s side to first place. But the strong run did not prevail and by the end of 2013, Grasshoppers had slipped to fourth and looked to be in decline.
One of the main reasons for the slide was Grasshoppers’ inability to kill off an opponent once they were on the ropes; a ruthlessness that Basel did not lack. Despite a memorable season for midfielders Shkelzen Gashi and Caio, who collectively delivered 34 goals from midfield, Grasshoppers main strikers failed to deliver much more than holding up play and linking possession. The introduction of a further twenty plus goals would have made all the difference. Resident strikers Anatole Ngamukol and former Swiss wunderkind Nassim Ben Khalifa were particularly prolific so stopping the free scoring midfield pair meant stopping Grasshoppers. And so, in early February, having identified the need for further firepower, Skibbe took a chance on the exciting Israeli Munas Dabbur.
21-year-old Dabbur hadn’t been an explosive teenager and had only gradually grown into his role as an impact striker at Maccabi Tel Aviv but his demolition of the Norwegian Under 21 team whilst playing for the junior Israeli side in November last year alerted a number of clubs across Europe. With Maccabi not desperate to retain his services and with the player keen to move on to the next level, a €400k transfer was negotiated.
On February 16, the Israeli was included in the match day squad for Grasshoppers’ tricky away match at St Gallen. With the scores tied 1-1 at half time, Skibbe withdrew the more conservative Amir Abrashi and introduced Dabbur as an extra striker. The impact was immediate and with Caio pulling the strings in midfield, the Grasshoppers forward line, and Dabbur in particular, ran riot.
Two goals and an assist in a 5-1 victory was a terrific start, but Dabbur was only just getting going. An assist against Basel in Grasshoppers next match, in which Dabbur started, kept his team in touch with the league leaders. An impressive run of six goals in the next seven matches led to six straight wins and looked to be a real turning point.
Dabbur’s form would eventually dip and a routing at home to FC Thun in mid April did for Grasshoppers title push, nevertheless the striker’s return of nine goals from fourteen starts was an impressive start.
So far this season Grasshoppers have faltered and currently sit outside the top five in the Raiffeisen Super League. An impressive win over Basel has proved the exception rather than the norm and there has been little consistency to the team’s results or performances,which has left Skibbe under pressure.
Despite not ascending to the heights of last season, Dabbur continued to score, but with less frequency. His team lost the talismanic Gashi to Basel in the summer and this particular departure has been significant. Grasshoppers look less fluid; less attack minded and have been, understandably, less free scoring.
With chances at a bit more of a premium, Dabbur may well look to move on again this January, and there will certainly be interest in the forward. Recent strikes against Lucerne, Sion and Saint Gallen illustrated the technique of this talented marksman and if furnished with a higher standard of service, further goals will flow.
At international level, displacing the well established Omer Damari or Itay Shechter will prove difficult, but Dabbur is certainly one of Israel’s most exciting players of the last twenty years and can expect to win a significant number of caps.
Goals will arrive, we’re certain of that, what we can’t be certain of is at what level they will occur; the next step will be significant. Dabbur has genuine ability and we can’t wait to see what he does next.
"Genuinely looks like a player and, almost from nowhere, we might just have one of the big game goalscorers of the next decade." - Jeff Livingstone
C+ Could become a very significant player in European football.
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