It is extremely challenging for young players to make an impression coming off the substitutes bench in the Premier League. Dominic Solanke, formerly of Chelsea’s famed academy, was a victim of one such fate in his brief spell at Liverpool.
This was not the case, however, with Tariq Lamptey. His half-hour cameo against Arsenal in December 2019 was enough to convince Brighton & Hove Albion to purchase the then 19-year-old, and they have not looked back since. He joined the south coast outfit for a fee in the region of £4 million, which looks to be an absolute snip.
Dynamic, diminutive, and disciplined, the Cobham academy graduate has laid down the fundamentals of an elite-level right-sided operator in each phase of play. During the post-lockdown period, he burst onto the scene, and in this scout report, we will decipher what exactly makes the young Englishman such a delight to watch.
Lamptey began his development at youth level in a more traditional right midfielder role in several four-at-the-back systems. As time progressed, Lamptey’s future as a forward looked less and less likely. This combined with tactical shifts in the club introduced by Antonio Conte, Lamptey was then utilised further back on the pitch as a right wing-back. From here, we started to see what he could bring to a top-level side in the future.
A wing-back listed at just shy over 5’4”, he has a fairly skeletal but balanced frame, meaning he can stay on his feet under opposition pressure. It is this physical profile which blends well with the Englishman’s mettle against top-level opposition. His plucky nature enables him to be incredibly direct with his play, competent enough to take it past multiple players in one mazy run down the byline. This is certainly his strongest asset currently. He has a ball-carrying ability which is generally unmatched by any other player within his position in the league.
While his chance creation may not be remarkable at the moment, he has displayed this ability to find the final pass on more than a few occasions. This is merely a matter of creating chances on a more consistent basis, rather than creative impotence on his behalf. He relishes the opportunity to bait opposition players before knocking the ball past them and utilising his searing pace to enter the final third or penalty area. From here, he will either look to draw a foul inside the box or hit a low-driven cross aimed at one of Brighton’s centre-forwards.
Now, due to his typically high positioning, the 20-year-old is found racing back making recovery runs on occasion. Almost every time, he can catch up with even the fastest opponent’s, that is just how fast he is. Nevertheless, due to his size, these forwards are usually able to pin him back and hold him off, a drawback of his lacking height. Owing to this, Lamptey does look to engage in physical duels too often, rather use his quick feet to out-manoeuvre and nick the ball away from his opponent.
Lamptey’s player profile, created by the wonderful Sathish Prasad (@SidelineAnalyst on Twitter).
Lamptey’s role in Potter’s system
Lamptey’s arrival on the south coast felt like the missing piece of the jigsaw for Potter. The English coached had tested around with the likes of Martín Montoya and Ezequiel Schelotto in that position, but neither of them fulfilled the role well enough. He is a box-to-box wing-back to the absolute max, running up and down the flank for the full 90 minutes.
Lamptey spends a lot his time in the opponent’s half, which is due to the tactical instructions set by Potter. Brighton attacks are typically progressed through wide areas, and more often than not, this is through Solly March on the other side of the pitch. His ball carrying ability will drag his side into the final third, before often operating a sort-of bait-and-switch mechanic, where he looks to find Lamptey in dangerous zones on the other side of the field.
This is backed up by the statistics, with March attempting 6.1 long balls per game, compared to Lamptey’s 1.5. Drawing the opposition to one side of the pitch, before swiftly moving it across, creates space for Brighton players, and allows Lamptey time in and around the penalty area to send in a dangerous delivery, or drive into the box where he can draw a foul.
In the initial build-up phase, Lamptey can also provide a platform for ball progression. In one of Brighton’s three-at-the-back systems, the right-sided centre-back (often Ben White this term), will utilise Lamptey’s high and wide positioning to bring the ball past the first line of opposition pressure. When the play breaks down, Lamptey does really well to race back and tuck in when required.
Lamptey’s fun factor: ball-carrying
With the ball glued to his feet, this is where Lamptey is in his element. Reeling in his man before speeding past them is a regular occurrence; it is a sight to behold. When he is not bursting past the opposition at an electrifying pace, he is being cynically brought down by them. Brighton have been awarded four penalties this season, with Lamptey winning two of them.
It helps that Lamptey operates in such a wide zone since he usually has acres of green land to run into, instead of working his way out of tight spaces. He is no slouch in contested areas though, and his nimble nature means that he is hard to stop in full-flow. Approaching the final third, his body shifts from left to right in a matter of seconds, leaving his opposition man stranded behind him. Never was this more evident than against Chelsea in the first game of the season, regularly leaving Marcos Alonso spinning on the spot.
Top 10 ranking for progressive runs per 90 in the 2020/21 Premier League season.
His ball carrying ability in his strongest and most consistent asset under his developing tool belt currently. With time his other attributes could become just as strong, but his ability to take the onus in terms of ball progression for his side is value enough for a decent Premier League side. It is good to note, however, that Lamptey offers much more than just this, which will be analysed later on.
Here, Spurs lose the ball in the final third, only for Lamptey to anticipate the path of the ball and swiftly carry it up the flank.
In a very wide position, this is a common scenario for Lamptey, with acres of space ahead of him due to the opposition’s wide men operating typically narrower.
It is worth noting that Lamptey has largely had little exposure to first-team football. Despite this, his ball control and technical level are at a high level for the Premier League already, which is only beneficial for his long-term future in the game. We see a lot of young players get minutes in a top league who dribble in large volumes, but the effectiveness of these dribbles lets them down, but this simply is not the case with Lamptey.
Without being too blasé with this comparison, the 20-year-old has shown striking similarities to Adama Traoré’s variety of tricks and skills in the final third. Though Lamptey does not have the build of a Traoré, his unpredictable but effective nature is certainly reminiscent. The proficiency in which he creates separation between himself and his opponent is mesmerising, and it allows him to swing deliveries into dangerous areas with time to compose himself.
Approaching the penalty area, Lamptey uses nimble feet to drive inwards and outwards to aim for Maupay at the near post.
Entering the box, Lamptey is always a dangerous entity to approach. In this case, Fernandes brings him down to concede a penalty.
The Englishman is currently completing 2.13 dribbles per 90 (1st in Brighton squad) and progresses the ball 211.1 yards on average per 90 as well (3rd in the squad, only slightly behind March), indicative of his importance to Potter’s tactics. This is the attribute within his game which lifts the fans of their seat, while also being a useful and effective tool to have in several phases of play, and he is very good at it.
Lamptey’s zipping deliveries
As we all know, getting into dangerous positions means very little if a player is unable to deliver quality balls into the box. Fortunately, this is not the case with Lamptey, who has displayed quality and quantity in his chance creation on several occasions. He ranks similarly to March in terms of shot-creating actions per 90 (SCA90), at 2.75 compared to his compatriot’s 2.64, which is evidence to inform us that due to their high ball progression numbers, their chance creation numbers have suffered as a result.
Against Crystal Palace, Lamptey created three ‘big chances’, proving his potential pedigree as a creative wing-back. When Brighton have played with wide attackers, his partnership with Leandro Trossard has been important to his success down the flanks. The Belgian will drift inside and operate behind the other two attackers, which opens space for Lamptey down the right flank.
Trossard has moved into a narrower position, which grants Lamptey space and freedom down the right flank, with time to whip a delivery in towards Connolly.
Lamptey has had 215 touches in the final third this season, which has far eclipsed his 126 in his defensive third, so from a statistical standpoint, we can continue to understand the role he plays for Brighton. He attempts a high volume of crosses into the penalty area, and he has a range of deliveries that he uses, which we will delve into. He can deliver into space, or he can whip in more ‘traditional’ deliveries into cluttered areas, finding his target at a decent rate.
League ranking for attempted crosses per 90 in the 2020/21 Premier League season.
Lamptey tends to dribble with his right-foot dominant, but he does not let this disadvantage him. He has no particular tendencies to overlap or underlap in dribbling situations in the final third, with the ultimate goal being to create separation between him and his opponent. When he is in space, he has time to deliver a quality cross, and this has allowed him to complete the most crosses into the penalty area for the Brighton squad, with seven.
Many strikers would relish the deliveries he puts into the box. He consistently aims for the most dangerous zone, and a striker with great anticipation (e.g., Edison Cavani at Manchester United) would gulp up these opportunities. Sometimes, though, it is almost as if Lamptey has gotten into space too quickly, leaving him with no one to aim for in the box. This is troublesome in counter-attacking situations, but not particularly the Englishman’s fault.
Lamptey has galloped beyond the defensive line and can zip a ball into space for Maupay to latch onto.
Lamptey has displayed a capability to produce decent crosses into crowded areas with his weaker left foot.
No one I have seen in the Premier League this season can create chaos in quite the same way that Lamptey does. His presence in and around the box unsettles the opposition defence and this helps Brighton from a chance creation perspective. Without him, Potter does not have a capable replacement, and his absence is felt, as we saw in the game against Liverpool.
Lamptey’s defensive duties
Lamptey has also gained plaudits for his defensive qualities since making his Premier League breakthrough, and rightly so. He is a great tackler of the ball, winning 77% of his attempts, typically at crucial moments when his opponent is on the precipice of approaching the box. Though, when he does miss his effort, he is liable to commit a foul, which can be bothersome for Brighton depending on who stands over the set-piece.
Brighton’s strength going forward down the wide areas also arises their biggest vulnerability, the space they leave vacant behind them. This encourages the opposition to exploit that space down the wide areas, which inevitably leads to far more crosses in the box. This is a huge issue for Brighton, considering only one of the centre-backs breaches a 60% aerial win rate (Dan Burn with 64.7%).
Due to Lamptey’s high positioning, Diangana can receive the ball and drive into the penalty area.
Potter’s side are generally granted clemency for this issue thanks to Lamptey’s incredible recovery pace. Players running with the ball down Lamptey’s flank have little chance in winning the foot race unless there is serious ground to cover for the 20-year-old.
Once he tracks back and steps in front of his opponent, his anticipation is usually good. Props to Brighton’s opposition analysts and coaching staff, Lamptey seems to always know what a player’s strong foot is, and how reliant they might be on it. The Englishman capitalises on this weakness regularly.
Thanks to his good anticipation, Lamptey can cut out this pass before it reaches his opponent.
Overall, he is a good defender who can occasionally be caught out of position like many attacking wing-backs are in the modern game. Typically, this is okay for a lot of clubs who have centre-backs who are strong in the air, but this season that has not been the case for Potter’s men. However, Lamptey is sometimes caught out of position when there is no need for it, which is something he will have to work on.
Forecast for the future
Lamptey has proven to be a legitimate talent at wing-back, and given his defensive issues, this suits him much better than a traditional full-back role. This does, however, spread genuine concern on how vendible he can be in the transfer market. A select few elite sides play a back three system regularly, and most of them will already have a cemented first-choice pick for that right wing-back role.
Nevertheless, he has already caught the eye of some of European’s elite, so perhaps this is but a minor concern. As for his international status, he has reportedly turned down an offer to represent Ghana, meaning Gareth Southgate will be watching his performances with keen eyes. Given Southgate’s tendency to play a back three, maybe he should be thinking about giving this special talent a seat on the plane for the Euros.