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Thursday 20th August 2015

Scouting Report - Lucas ÄŒuljak

David Brockett gives us the lowdown on Aberdeen U20 defender Lucas ÄŒuljak.

Regular SPFL Development League blogger David Brockett is back for another season with the first instalment of his 'Scouting Report' series.
This week we're focusing on Aberdeen youngster Lucas ÄŒuljak who played the full 90 minutes in the Aberdeen U20's 2-1 victory away to Motherwell U20s on Tuesday afternoon.
A mainstay in Aberdeen’s U20 defence, German-born Lucas ÄŒuljak was part of the side that clinched the SPFL Development League title last season. 
Making 14 consecutive Development League appearances and keeping six clean sheets in the process, ÄŒuljak has proven himself to be a shrewd acquisition for Paul Sheerin’s side. 
The 19-year-old boasts Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Stuttgart on his CV, before joining the Dons in February this year in search of first-team football. Born to a German mother and Croatian father, ÄŒuljak holds dual nationality and featured on seven occasions for Croatia’s U17 side.
Standing at 6’3, it is unsurprising that one of ÄŒuljak’s main strengths is his aerial ability. Winning all bar two of the 12 headers attempted in and around his penalty box, ÄŒuljak appears confident in heading the ball to safety. Similarly, the towering defender is a constant threat at set-pieces, with his sheer presence proving hard to defend. 
Perhaps more surprising is his skill and passing range. Having already built a strong centre-back partnership with Michael Rose, ÄŒuljak appears confident in both short and long -ange passes. With attacking outlets such as Cammy Smith and Lawrence Shankland operating either channel, ÄŒuljak’s passing accuracy will be of huge benefit to the Dons, who sit joint top of the division having won their opening two games of the season. 
At times the epitome of composure, ÄŒuljak is a ball-playing central defender who tends to play the ball out from the back. The centre-back is capable of retaining the ball and launching counter attacks instead of aimless long balls forward, suggesting he is capable of augmenting the Dons’ footballing philosophy. 
Having played with two of the most prestigious German clubs, it is evident that ÄŒuljak’s vision and reading of the game is of a high quality. Experience playing in the UEFA Youth League against sides such as Arsenal and Napoli appears to have enhanced his knowledge and understanding of the game. A strong leader, ÄŒuljak ensured the back four were in complete harmony.
ÄŒuljak’s tackling is another huge positive. Intercepting two crucial crosses with perfectly executed slide challenges, his exceptional timing kept lively Motherwell winger Dom Thomas quiet for large spells of the match. 
Playing the full 90 minutes and playing against someone with the experience and stature of Motherwell’s David Clarkson, ÄŒuljak’s positional sense and tight marking was pivotal in Tuesday’s 2-1 win. Operating as a right-sided centre-back in a flat back four, ÄŒuljak’s physicality and aggression at corner kicks will ensure Aberdeen, particularly at U20 level, continue to have one of the best defensive records in the division. 
Key strengths - aerial ability, heading, composure, positioning, marking.
Follow David Brockett on Twitter here - @DavidBrockett