The golden generation of the English right-back
“No one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville”. It is seven years ago since Jamie Carragher famously said those words live on Sky Sports, and he was right. But the full-back position has evolved into something so much more in recent years. Gone are the days of the traditional, defensive-minded full-back who reluctantly crosses the halfway line to join an attack. Today, there is an expectation that a player in this position has just as much attacking qualities as they do defensive.
At right-back, never has there been such an array of talent available to an England manager to select from. Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Liverpool‘s Trent Alexander-Arnold, arguably the world’s best player in the position at present, are to name a few. We are currently experiencing the ‘Golden Generation’ of the English right-back, and the production line is not ceasing to a halt. Talented players such as Kyle Walker-Peters, Max Aarons, and Reece James have all impressively emerged over the past 12 months to give Southgate plenty more headache. And now, another player has stepped forward to grab everyone’s attention: Tariq Lamptey.
Lamptey joined Brighton in January of this year, knowing that first-team opportunities may be few and far between due to competition from club captain César Azpilicueta, as well as the exciting Reece James. However, the 19-year-old has not looked back since. A string of impressive performances towards the back end of last season showed that Lamptey could hold his own in the Premier League. His form has gone from strength to strength, and in the first two games of the new season, his performances have been heavily praised.
This tactical analysis will look at both Lamptey’s attacking and defensive qualities. As a scout report, we will provide an analysis of the young Brighton star’s areas to improve as he looks to develop into a top-class Premier League player. Having made his debut for the England U21’s this year, there is also a strong expectation that Lamptey will one day become a full international.
Attacking with electrifying speed
Lamptey is an extremely attack-minded full-back, who continuously gets up and down the right flank of the pitch. His exceptional level of pace and tireless energy enables him to get forward in attack. The heatmaps below, the left being from the 2019-20 season, and right from the 2020-21 season to date, show Lamptey’s willingness to get up the pitch down the right flank.
Performances this season against former club Chelsea and Newcastle have shown the quality of Lamptey’s attacking talent. Whilst previous club Chelsea traditionally play a back four, Brighton manager Graham Potter sets his team up in a 3-5-2 formation with the use of wing-backs. This advanced position suits Lamptey, giving him more of a license to roam forward.
The image below shows a typical position that Lamptey likes to take up when Brighton are on the attack. By playing high and wide, he is able to find space in a dangerous offensive position, as seen below.
If the opposing defender does decide to pull wide to get tight to Lamptey, it allows the Brighton midfielders to exploit the gap created in the opposition backline. This was exemplified in Brighton’s recent victory at Newcastle. The ball would be fed into the gap created for Lamptey to then make the best use of his electrifying pace to get the ball in behind the defender.
After the first two opening games of league play, Lamptey impressively has won the second-most offensive duels in the Premier League with 11.81 per game. He is second only to Adama Traoré, a player who is deployed as an out-and-out winger for Wolves.
Lamptey’s end product
Something you regularly see with the best full-backs in the world today is goals and assists, especially the latter. Two of the top three contributors of assists in the Premier League last season were full-backs (only Kevin De Bruyne recorded more than Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold). In Lamptey’s 11x Premier League appearances to date, he has recorded one assist, which came against former employers Chelsea. Another could be considered after winning a penalty against Newcastle, where Lamptey really made a statement intent about his attacking prowess.
He impressively gave Allan Saint-Maximin the run round only for the Frenchman to cut the Brighton youngster to the ground, resulting in a penalty which was converted. Lamptey’s dribbling ability was well showcased to win the penalty, taking up a wide position and coming inside, as shown in the image below.
If he continues to get himself in the advanced positions that he has so far this season, then more assists will follow. As he develops over the next few years, contributing to goals in the way he has so far will be important in getting to the very top.
Another quality Lamptey has shown is his crossing ability. For an attacking full-back, being able to cross a ball with conviction is important. So far this season, crosses have not come in abundance. He averages 2.81 per game, with a 40% accuracy. He has the skill and pace to beta full-backs in a one-on-one situation, so effective crossing is an area of his game where he could potentially pose a lot of danger. However, with the likes of Neale Maupay and Aaron Connelly starting upfront, Brighton offer little in terms of attacking aerial threat.
The Newcastle game did present an example of Lamptey’s ability to deliver a dangerous cross. In the above below, he got his head up and bent a perfect ball towards Leandro Trossard. Although he was unable to convert, it was the type of service that most strikers would relish and turn into an effort on goal.
The reason why Lamptey has been able to gain so many plaudits in such a small space of time is not just down to his attacking qualities. As seen with the likes of talented players such as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker, they have the ability to contribute to attacks as well as perform their defensive duties well.
When Brighton have possession of the ball, he takes up a high, wide position to offer an option to his teammates at centre-back and midfield to find him. In the image below, we can see this typical positioning that Lamptey likes to take up. The centre-back is able to find him in space with a pass that breaks the first opposition line of defence.
However, when play breaks down, or when the other team has possession, Lamptey does a very good job to take in to make a back four or back five. His quick turn of pace allows him to push them extra yards up the pitch in the confidence he will be able track back in time.
With his explosive speed, Lamptey offers himself and his teammates a get out of jail card. He will fancy his chances against anyone in a foot race this season. Despite standing at only 173cm, and weighing just 63kg, he also holds his own when going against players with a greater physical build. So far in the Premier League this season, he lies 16th in recoveries, recording 7.87 per game. A statistic that he will look to improve as the season goes on is defensive duels won; he currently sits 34th with 4.5 per game. Nevertheless, when Lamptey has got into the duels that really matter, he has been on top of it. Shown in the image below, Newcastle’s Callum Wilson broke clear towards the Brighton goal.
Almost out of nowhere, Lamptey sprinted back to make a last ditch tackle to avert the danger and keep Brighons clean sheet intact. Another example of Lamptey utilising his pace and tackling ability was when going up against Marcos Alonso, as seen in the image below. Spanish international Alonso was played a ball to run onto down the flank. Despite having several yards on Lamptey, he was caught up quickly and met with a crunching tackle.
The early signs are good. Lamptey is still very young and inexperienced, but his first handful of games in the Premier League have been full of promise. His decision to leave Chelsea, a club he had been at since the age of eight years old, was a brave one. However, his confidence and ambition to play first team football in the Premier League has so far paid off.
He still has a lot of maturing to do. Lamptey has made the right wing-back position his own. However, he will need to become more versatile with other positions at this level. Right-back in a back four is a natural position for him, but he has not played in this role very much in the Premier League to date. Additionally, with the qualities he has going forward, there is certainly the potential for him to play as an attacking right winger too.
Emerging as a new member of the ‘Golden Generation’ of right-backs in English football might well present limitations at international level. There is a lot of competition in the England squad with players who are also still very young, most notably Alexander-Arnold. Nevertheless, Lamptey has represented his country at various levels at youth level, and having made his Under 21 debut this year, his progression is going well.
If he can continue building on his current form and development as a professional, then the sky’s the limit for Lamptey. In Graham Potter and Brighton, he is at an excellent club which will give him what is most important for a 19-year-old; game time. How long the Seagulls can hold onto him is anyone’s guess, as ambitions to play European football and win silverware will eventually come calling.