The traditional No 10 position is dead in modern football. A player like Juan Roman Riquelme, Mesut Ozil, or James Rodriguez, who would sit between the lines and orchestrate the attacks is no longer playable in today’s intense game. In their place, a new breed of attacking midfielder is born- who is as great physically as he is technically. Tyler Dibling of Southampton is en route to becoming the crown jewel of that crop.
Who is Tyler Dibling?
The story of Tyler Dibling is interesting, to say the least. Dibling was a name who was spoken about in excited tones ever since he started getting attention in Southampton’s youth sides. As a 16-year-old, he was scoring hattricks for their U23 side.
Naturally, his emergence caught the notice of the big sharks and Chelsea snapped him up in July 2022. That is where the story gets interesting.
Dibling failed to get settled at Chelsea, and within three months, he was back at Southampton, a place he called his “second home”. He became the boy who followed his heart. The glitz and lights of the big club enticed him once, but he was humble enough to realise his heart was elsewhere and made the move.
Now at 17, he is ideally placed to get a chance with the senior team after Saints’ relegation.
As an attacking midfielder, Dibling is expected to carry a part of the goalscoring burden at the club but not lead the line. That is reflected in the stats.
He scored four goals and notched an assist in 13 games in the U18s Premier League. There was a goal or assist every 245 minutes, a great record for someone who is not a striker.
His displays were rewarded with appearances for the U23s, where he made seven appearances and scored once. Two goals in five appearances in the FA Youth Cup rounded up a successful 2022/23 season for the prodigy.
In addition, he has been capped by England U16s and U17s.
Syle of play
This is where things get good. Firstly, despite attacking midfield being his preferred position, he is capable of playing on either wing due to his two-footedness and stamina.
He loves coming in half spaces between the centre-back and the full-back to wreak havoc in the opposition area.
He has an eye for the goal and anticipation skills in the box which belie his young age. His assist numbers are low in the context of the position he plays and that is something he needs to work on.
Currently, his biggest strength is his dribbling skills. He loves to take the ball in tight spaces on the half-turn. The use of nifty body feints is a regular feature in his game. Defenders always have a hard time judging where he is going because of his two-footedness.
Although he has the propensity to sometimes dribble with his head down, the fact that he has the hard part down prepared means that his ceiling is very high. Some coaching on when and how to release the ball for maximum effect will go a long way to completing his profile as a player.
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If a senior comparison was to be done, Tyler Dibling is akin to Emile Smith Rowe, who made his name as a No 10 but then adapted his game to the physical demands of the modern game to become a key player for the Gunners until recently.
Tyler Dibling Potential
You know a player is special when he is scoring hattricks in U23s football as a 16-year-old. Since then, Dibling has had a humbling experience at Chelsea which will have undoubtedly helped him grow as a person and professional.
With Southampton playing in the Championship next season, and Dibling getting re-established in their youth football program, the next season could be the right time to give him his first taste of senior football.
A lot would depend on who the Saints appoint as their new head coach. The team is full of promising youngsters who could benefit from a season playing in the second tier and bounce back up immediately.
Dibling falls under the same category. His pathway could become clearer if the likes of Romeo Lavia and James Ward-Prowse, players who are too good for the Championship, move on.
Last time Southampton got promoted, youngsters like Luke Shaw took the Premier League by storm. This time, the situation is ripe for Tyler Dibling to hone his craft in the second tier before exploding in the Premier League. That is the kind of potential he possesses.