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PROSPECT | Tahith Chong

Given that they almost got relegated to the 2. Bundesliga last season, Werder Bremen were in need of new additions to bolster the talent within their squad. Even with the likes of Milot Rashica and Maximilian Eggestein on their books, they still found themselves in the relegation play-off in July, just about preserving their top-flight status on away goals.

It was therefore quite a coup for Die Werderaner when they landed young Dutch winger Tahith Chong on a season-long loan deal from Manchester United. Predominantly fielded on the right flank, he’s also able to play on the opposite wing, as well as at the left-back position.

Last season, the 20-year-old was handed several first-team opportunities by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and showed his quality in his six Europa League appearances, racking up two assists throughout the tournament. His move to the Weserstadion marks the first loan spell in his young career, and upon the move’s announcement, he said: “This move is a great opportunity for me to develop. I’m looking forward to next season.”

It already appears as though he’ll be predominantly used on the right wing, having accompanied both Josh Sargent and Johannes Eggestein in Die Grün-Weißen’s recent friendly against FC Groningen. During the 34th minute of the game, he showed exactly why many find him to be an exciting talent, picking up the ball in midfield and using his superb dribbling ability to beat two defenders, before driving in a superb finish on his left-foot into the bottom corner of the net. Further to his impressive debut for Werder Bremen in pre-season, Chong added another two goals to his name on Saturday.

The Dutchman is very much a modern type of winger, in the sense that he will look to roam inside and hunt for dangerous pockets of space close to goal. As his goal showed, he likes to receive the ball from deeper positions and use his explosive pace and close dribbling to make runs that can unsettle opposing defences, before using his terrific on-ball skills to either create for others in the final third, or score himself.

He’s also willing to work hard on the defensive end, helping to track back and aid his defensive colleagues whenever they’re put in a vulnerable situation. With Florian Kohfeldt noting that the player ‘defensively still has potential for development’, he will certainly benefit his new team, who will be looking to improve on a season where they conceded the second-highest number of goals of all Bundesliga sides.

Born on the Caribbean island of Curaçao in 1999, Chong first became interested in the sport after watching the 2006 World Cup at the tender age of six years old. A couple of years later, a successful trial at Feyenoord resulted in him and his family relocating nearly 8000km to Rotterdam.

In 2014, the winger impressed many scouts at the Manchester Premier Cup, including those from the Red Devils. Interest in his services continued to grow from there, and after coming close to joining Chelsea, the player ended up opting to sign for the red half of Manchester in 2016.

Before the move was finalised, the player first helped his native Netherlands make the semi-finals in the 2016 UEFA European Under-17 Championship, scoring the decisive winner in their quarterfinal tie with Sweden. For his strong performances, he was named in the team of the tournament, as chosen by UEFA’s technical team.

Unfortunately for Chong, he suffered a severe knee injury not long after joining his new club. Returning ten months later, he would go on to score eight goals and two assists during the remainder of the 2017/18 campaign, winning the club’s young player of the year award as a result.

The following December saw the arrival of Solskjær as manager, which opened the door for the young Dutchman to gain more opportunities in the first team. He would make his competitive debut in the Red Devils’ 2-0 win over Reading in the FA Cup, before making his first Premier League appearance in their 3-2 victory over Southampton a few months later.

He also came off the bench in United’s memorable 3-1 victory at Paris Saint-Germain, which was his first experience of Champions League football. At the end of the season, he was awarded the club’s reserve player of the year award, becoming the first player since Giuseppe Rossi to win both club awards.

Fast forward a year later, and after signing a new deal until 2022, the move to Bremen was promptly arranged and finalised. While announcing the transfer, Werder were quick to caution against high expectations, with sporting director Frank Baumann stating: “He will have to get used to the Bundesliga and take the next step in his development with us.”

There’s no doubt that Chong will need time to adapt to the German top-flight. But given his great technical skills going forward, as well as his willingness to defend, he looks to be a great addition to Kohlfeldt’s side for the upcoming season.

Josh Sim.

 

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