This is the second part of my recruitment analysis looking for a striker to fill the void at Swansea, due to Rhian Brewster returning back to Liverpool. The previous article found Jonathan Leko and Adam Armstrong as two feasible/realistic options to sign on a permanent basis who can help get them back into the Premier League. This time around I will be looking outside of the Championship and delving into League One to find additional options for Steve Cooper’s side.
This data analysis piece will use the combination of data from this season League mixed with footage to analyse the player’s in-game situations, as statistics can only tell us so much. Before we get into the analysis, we will undertake the profiling which the player needs to meet.
Club profiling requirements
In the last article we established that it was critical to meet the manager’s needs and the playstyle at Swansea to get the best player who matched the criteria. This season Cooper brought in ten players with an average age of 21.1, this is why one of the key necessities is that the player has to be under 24 years old, as they need to be at a young age due to this being part of the club’s philosophy when signing players. This fits Cooper’s model of bringing in youth and it allows the staff to develop the player before their peak age, a very sustainable approach.
The loan system worked for his first season in charge, as Cooper highlighted that he would use it to put in foundations in place and build on the squad. However, it is not a long term model so now he has implemented his tactics and approach to the club he can start adding additions on a permanent basis. I have given a limit of £15 million which allows the club to have a re-sell value. Recently they have sold Daniel James for £15.20m and Oliver McBurnie £17.43m, however, a lot of the options will be a lower value, this is just so there is the maximum price that Swansea can afford.
Player profiling requirements
For the striker’s qualities, they will need to be quick and agile allowing them to get in behind the opponent’s defence. They will also have to be technically good, Cooper’s side play progressive football and the striker will interlink the play, so they need to be able to link up play by dropping deeper and be adequate at passing to their teammates. However, it is important to also have someone who has a high number of touches in the box due to them ranking fifth highest in the Championship for this category (16.88).
Swansea under Cooper aren’t a high-intensity pressing side. They only rank 16th for pressing intensity with 10.04 per 90 for PPDA, they recover the ball in their defensive third more than any other third (49%). They will need to be used to getting back into shape and not leaving gaps for the opponents to exploit. The player doesn’t need to be the completed version of themselves, they can have room for improvement where the staff can develop them.
Initial data check
Data will help solidify the players before I use footage to make judgements on their playstyles.
The first data set was to look at the player’s technical ability on the ball. As mentioned earlier their ability on the ball needs to be at a high standard, this is why I have selected their offensive duels per 90 combined with their offensive duels win percentage per 90. This takes into consideration how well the players using their body to keep possession, rather than dribbles as this solely looks at 1v1 situations. In the image below, we can see the outcomes from the top performers in this part.
The next part was looking into their ability to link up in the final third. As well as being good on the ball, Cooper likes his striker to drop deeper at times and link the play together. This is why it is important to have a high passing completion in the final third.
Finally, I wanted to see the data for their attacking statistics. Even though they don’t need to be a readymade player it is still important that there is a contribution from them due to Swansea playing the lone striker 29 times in their go-to 4-2-3-1 formation. I combined goals with touches in the box due to Swansea ranking fifth for this category with 16.88 in the league this season, so it is another quality that the striker needs. In the image below, we can see the results from the data.
Across the data, it has helped reduce the players to a manageable size who fit the characteristics we are looking for. There are two players which stood out and I will use footage to look into them in finer detail. These players were Carlton Morris and Siriki Dembélé.
However, notable mentions go to Ivan Toney who has had a phenomenal season for Peterborough, he is likely to stay but if he does move then he has numerous clubs looking to sign him and Swansea may not be the top of his list. It would be a good step up for him as Cooper trusts younger players due to his background and this move would continue his development, his playstyle fits the module under Cooper and this is the most suited Championship side for him. The other mention is Tyler Walker, he has also excelled this season as the data showed his stats in the attacking and passing graphs that he would be an ideal fit but he was on loan and he has returned to Nottingham Forest so it is unlikely for him to move to Swansea as he has the opportunity elsewhere.
The first player we will look at is an alternative to Toney, who is his fellow teammate, Sirki Dembélé. The 23-year-old is only five-foot-five and only weighs a light 67kg but this gives him his quick pace to get in behind to unlock defences. Dembélé is under the radar as Toney has been the talking point for Peterborough this season, there is no current valuation on him so Swansea can find a reasonable deal. At Peterborough, he has been deployed in a two-man striker partnership in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation.
The first thing that is noticeable from the footage is Dembélé’s recurrence to receive the ball in the half-space. This allows him to usually be unmarked due to centre-back holding his position and the full-back also covering the wide areas if one of them step across then it opens up space for his teammates to exploit. In the image below, Dembélé is picking up the ball in the half-space and this splits the two opponents which results in him having space on the ball.
As Dembélé is in a two striker pivot he also uses the half-space effectively to get in behind the defence. By staying in the half-space he often keeps his run on the blind side of the centre-back and this creates space for him. In the image below, Dembélé has stayed behind the opponent as Toney has dropped deep, he gets into the half-space and wins a penalty with his explosive pace.
Again, in the image below, Dembélé is on the blindside of the defender which allows him to have the advantage due to him knowing the opponents positioning but them not knowing his. Dembélé easily exploits high lines which often occurs to Swansea as they are a progressive side as they are averaging 76.51 progressive passes per 90 which ranks them third in the league this season.
However, he has the ability to use his low centre of gravity to explode past players if they come to press him if he does drop deeper. In the image below this is shown when three players close him down but he knocks the ball past them and executes a well-taken finish into the roof of the net.
Dembélé and Toney’s partnership is transferable if Dembélé signed for Swansea. Even though he plays in a different formation the double pivot works well and this could be useful if he would sign. He has the ability to play off the player dropping deep as we can see in the image below, where Toney often finds himself in a deeper role.
Yet, if he drops deep his pace allows him to get in an advance position. As we highlighted it is key to have high touches in the box as Swansea rank fifth with 16.88 per 90 and Dembélé has a high 3.22 per 90. In the image below, we can see the determination for him to break into the box after playing the ball into Toney.
Swansea don’t rely on a high press, however, Peterborough and Dembélé have a high defensive contribution from their attackers. Once they lose possession they will look to recover it as quick as possible. This is down to their style and tactics, which is different to Swansea’s so there would be a slight difference and Dembélé would have to adjust. In the image below, we can see him coming very deep to help support.
Final thoughts for Dembélé are that he could be a brilliant player for Swansea as he has all the attributes that they are looking for. However, as he would be a lone striker and he is only five foot five, his physical attributes could hinder him and isolate him, we haven’t seen that at Peterborough due to their formation but at times Brewster was disposed because of his smaller frame. Nevertheless, it could be a great addition and it’s a player who isn’t the star man in his team.
The other option was a different physique as Carlton Morris stands at six foot and weighs in at 85kg. The 24-year-old was at Rotherham on loan this season but he is now back at Milton Keynes Dons, during his spell he tallied three goals and three assists in the league. His market value is at £150,000 but it would be expected for them to ask for a little profit if they do re-sell.
Due to his larger stature, Morris is more of physical presences in the box. He is taking slightly more touches in the box with 3.83 compared to Dembélé’s 3.22. Two of his three league goals this were headers and this could be beneficial due to him being a lone striker at Swansea. In the image below, we can see him winning his aerial duel after being challenged by two opponents, he also scored from the play.
However, for a big man, you wouldn’t expect him to play between the thirds but Morris shines in this role. In Rotherham’s attacks, he will often be lagging behind to help link the play between the thirds. In the image below, we can see Morris’s averaging positioning where he finds space in-between the two banks of four.
By getting on the ball he is able to utilise his passing, he is averaging the highest final third passes in the data set (>50% pass accuracy) with 2.49 per 90. In the image below, this time Morris has possession in the hole and he excellently picks out his teammate who gets played through on goal.
Even in advance positions, he is still able to link up with his teammates. In the image below, Morris steps out to draw out the defender and allow his teammate to play a quick one-two to get in behind and score.
His main qualities are defiantly getting into the hole but he does possess quick pace if need to get in behind as well. In the image below, we can see Morris noticing someone else filling up the space in between the midfield and defence so he makes a run beyond the opponents. Noticeable it is between the centre-back and full-back so it also shows his awareness to split the opponents and create space for himself.
Nevertheless, this is one area that isn’t his strongest part of his game and Dembélé is far more accustomed to as Morris is averaging 1.47 progressive runs per 90 and Dembélé is on 3.22. Yet, the defensive contribution swings back into Morris’s favour as he will press if there is a misplaced pass or bad first touch but he will routinely get into shape and cover any passing lanes. This is ideally what Swansea want as we highlighted in the profiling that they don’t press high in their current system.
To conclude, Morris may be the better overall player, he still has the key attributes in the final third but his physical presences is something that Dembélé is missing and Brewster lacked during his loan spell. If Swansea want another player similar to Brewster then Dembélé fits the module, however, after looking at the data and extensively looking into Morris I feel he would be a slightly better option due to him fitting the clubs philosophy and having added bonuses.