Goals have always been the most sought-after and expensive commodities in football. Finding players capable of scoring in different ways, tactics and competitions is rare and when they appear, they attract interest from the best clubs. Umar Sadiq (1997, Nigeria) of Almería is one of these special players who can dominate and score, and with him playing in the Spanish second tier, he could be a great value-for-money option.
In this tactical analysis, we’ll look at Sadiq’s qualities, his data, what he brings to his team tactics and some improving points.
Umar Sadiq was born in Nigeria but has played in Europe for his whole career since joining Spezia from Abuja Football College aged just 16. In the 2014/15 season, he started playing with Spezia U19 in the Campionato Primavera A, the top youth league in Italy. That season, he scored 27 goals in 32 appearances, which made Roma pay €2.75 million for him at 18.
His first season at Roma was again very promising, scoring 19 goals in 19 appearances for the U19 team between the Campionato Primavera and the UEFA Youth League and another two goals in just 187 minutes for the first team (six games). His performances earned him a move on loan to the Serie A with Bologna in the 2016/17 season but injuries prevented him from getting consistent playing time and he was on the pitch 230 minutes across seven games that season.
Sadiq spent the first half of the 2017/18 season on loan at Torino but it didn’t look any better for him, playing just 225 minutes across three games in six months before his loan was cancelled in January. The second half of the season was much better as he went to NAC Breda in the Eredivisie and registered five goals and three assists in just 12 games (621 minutes).
Despite the positives in the Netherlands, Sadiq had another disappointing season next year. He went to Rangers in the first half of it and played just 116 minutes across four games (no goals). For the next six months, he played for Perugia in Serie B and at least he enjoyed playing time (1,325 minutes in 18 games) despite only scoring three and assisting another three.
The 2019/20 season was the one that changed Sadiq’s career. He went on loan to Partizan and registered 17 goals and 17 assists in 39 games (2,881 minutes), so the Serbian club bought him for €2 million. After just 13 games for Partizan in the 20/21 season (six goals and two assists), Almería paid 5 million euros (plus another 5 depending on individual and team performance), making him La Liga 2’s most expensive signing ever.
Since he arrived in Spain, Sadiq has hit the ground running and become one of the most sought-after players in Europe outside of the top-5 leagues. The Nigerian giant has scored 28 goals and provided 10 assists in 56 games for Almería at the moment of writing.
Player profile and data analysis
Sadiq is a right-footed striker who usually plays alone upfront in Almería’s 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 tactics. First of all, he’s physically imposing: very tall (1.92m / 6’3’’), very strong, quick and explosive and excellent in the air.
He can play several roles depending on what his team requires in different phases of the game, acting as a target man and receiving with his back to the goal to help his team progress but also running in behind and posing a threat with spaces in front of him thanks to his great pace and work rate in attack.
His technique is quite good and definitely better than it may look at first or what we would expect from a player of his size. He’s very dangerous in the box and has a great goalscoring record in the last seasons.
The first thing Sadiq stands out for is his activity in the box. He averages 4.34 touches in the box (top 6.9%) and 2.96 shots (top 4.6%) per 90, which lead to 0.39 xG per 90 (top 16%). His finishing is excellent and he outperforms his xG, scoring 0.64 non-penalty goals per 90 (top 2.3%).
But that’s not all and he can also create for his teammates. With 1.27 through passes (top 6.9%) and 0.47 key passes per 90 (top 18.2%), he registered 0.21 assists per 90 (top 11.4%), which is a great figure for a player with his goalscoring record. On top of that, he’s also quite good at progressing the ball and getting it into the final third and in the box.
In defence, he works hard and gets into 3.39 defensive duels per 90 (top 38.7%), winning 65.63% of them with his excellent physicality (top 11.4%). He’s also great in the air winning 46.34% of his aerials (top 20.5) and looks good in possession-adjusted interceptions too.
He’s very disciplined in defence and humble enough to be the first defender and get deep if needed. When he finishes the attack behind a teammate he’s quick to cover his back and take his defensive position until the end of the play and has also been used to defend the wings in the defensive phase while another teammate rests in a more advanced position.
We’ll explore Sadiq’s qualities in depth in the following sections of this scout report.
Off the ball movements: support and depth
Despite his size suggesting he’s just a big target man who will receive long balls and bring them down for his teammates, Sadiq is much more than that. His understanding of the striker role in all situations of the game is very high and he uses his strength to play with his back to the goal but also his pace to run in behind, stretching the rival defence and getting into great scoring positions.
Sadiq knows when his team needs him to drop deep and create passing lanes behind the pressing rivals. Once he receives the ball, he’s quite good at manipulating it in tight spaces and holding it even under pressure with a great combination of power and technique.
He also understands when his team needs to play more direct balls and in those situations, he likes to drift wide so he can contest those direct passes with the full-back, usually smaller than the centre-back. From those wide positions, he also has more space to make diagonal runs in behind in case the player on the ball can send the ball over the defensive line.
Apart from his football IQ regarding when to drop between the lines and when to run in behind, Sadiq also stands out for being very active in attack. He’s always making movements and forcing defenders to make decisions, which creates spaces even when he doesn’t receive the ball. His teammates know he’s always an option to receive the ball, be it to his body to hold it or into space to run at it and that’s an excellent, simple solution when they feel under pressure or don’t know what to do.
In his heatmap, we see he gets into both half-spaces to receive the ball and drifts wide to provide passing options but still has a lot of presence in the box. He prefers to drift left, especially when closer to the box, as he can cut inside and shoot from there but still appears on the right too.
Sadiq is very tall, has excellent strength, is fast in long distances thanks to his long legs and has good acceleration too. Apart from his natural conditions, he uses his body and arms very well to shield the ball and win duels both on the ground and in the air. Being physically so complete makes him very adaptable to different roles.
Let’s see some examples of Sadiq’s movements. In the next sequence, we see how he receives a long ball from the left-back position to his chest, beating the defender with a great jump and bringing the ball down. With no options to turn or progress, he carries the ball backwards and out of pressure and plays a simple pass to a free midfielder which accelerates the attack. After the pass, Sadiq makes an intense run into the box to be a possible target there.
Again in the next example, Almería are very deep in their half and a pass in behind to transition into attack seems impossible. Grasping this, Sadiq comes deep to receive with his back to the goal and dragging a defender with him. With just one touch, he plays a good layoff into his teammate’s run and again accelerates the transition.
Next, we’ll see a couple of examples of how Sadiq provides depth with his movements. In the first one, Sadiq starts the play slightly deep, close to the defensive midfielder instead of the centre-backs. As soon as his teammate has some space, he uses that separation to accelerate and get past the defensive line at full speed. Despite the pass being slightly overhit, Sadiq reaches it and finishes with a great toe-poke between the goalkeeper’s legs. In this movement, he shows his timing to run in behind, his pace to get away from defenders and his finishing in a difficult 1v1.
And another one next. In a counter-attack, Sadiq drifts right to create space and starts running in behind at full speed. Despite the advantage, the defender has when the pass is played, Sadiq gets to it first with his pace and uses his arms and body to resist the challenge and face the goalkeeper. In the 1v1, he scores with a quality chip.
This play shows Sadiq’s pace and strength to win races and duels, his understanding of how to create and exploit spaces, and his excellent finishing in tight 1v1 situations.
Through this section of the analysis, we have seen the different types of movements Sadiq is capable of and how they can benefit his team’s tactics. We’ve also seen some glimpses of his ability on the ball and finishing which we’ll explore in the following sections.
Creating chances: assists and dribbles
Like with his pace, Sadiq’s technique and ability on the ball isn’t what one would expect from looking at his physical conditions. For a player of his height and strength, Sadiq has a very good technique and surprises defenders with quick turns, dribbles and passing quality.
As we saw in his layoffs and game with his back the goal, Sadiq’s first touch is good, he uses both feet to manipulate the ball and is good at opening play. He’s also capable of showing some skill in tight spaces and despite not being a player who will consistently beat his marker in 1v1 situations in tight spaces, he has enough technique to take advantage of his physical superiority and is difficult to stop when there’s some space in front of him.
What’s most interesting about his technique and talent to do unexpected things, is that he uses them when he’s most in need. When he hasn’t space to shoot, Sadiq can get past defenders with simple but well-executed dribbles and create the space he needs to finish.
The next sequence starts with one of Sadiq’s trademark runs in behind to receive a deep pass. As he enters the box, the defender gets between him and the goal. He’s also too wide to shoot, so he feints a shot and with a simple but perfect touch, cuts inside and finishes into the near post with his left foot.
This play is a good summary of some of Sadiq’s best qualities: pace to run in behind, dribbling in the box and finishing.
The next one is another good example of his dribbling ability in key situations. This time, Sadiq is running at the defensive line with the ball at his feet from the left. When he gets close to the centre-back, he feints a shot with his right and goes left, sending the defender the wrong way and getting into the box. He finishes from a good position with his left but this time the shot is saved.
Here, Sadiq showed that he can also dribble in deeper positions to get into the box. His scoring streak creates fear in the defenders so they’ll try to block his shots from any position, making it easier for Sadiq to trick them and use that fear to his advantage.
Another surprising point of Sadiq’s game is his quality to create chances with his passes. When he manages to turn near the box, he has great vision to spot his teammates’ position and movements, while his through passes are accurate and imaginative.
The map below shows Sadiq’s key passes, passes into the box and assists for his last 10 games in Almería. We see he creates a lot from the edge of the box in both half-spaces and also with good cutbacks when he’s wide.
Sadiq has a trademark pass he often uses to create chances, hiding his intention until the last moment and using his body shape to catch rivals by surprise. He often does this after receiving the ball and dribbling or holding it with his back to the goal to create the space and time for the teammates to run and join the attack. Despite a quite unorthodox technique which isn’t always the most visually pleasant, he’s very effective. As we saw in the data analysis, his creative passing stats are very good and lead to an amazing 0.21 assists per 90.
The next examples show this trademark pass. In all of them, Sadiq is near the box in the half-space and his body shape suggests a different pass, making rivals move in the wrong direction and creating the space to play the killing pass.
With players running around him, Sadiq can create both from the passes we have seen and with head flicks when he receives long balls. His surprising ability to play in tight spaces and break down low blocks make him a very adaptable striker who won’t only perform in transition-based tactics.
We have seen many positives throughout this analysis but what really stands out in Sadiq is his goalscoring record. Since the start of the 2019/20 season, the Nigerian has scored 51 goals and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon as he’s a very ambitious player who is always trying to score more in every game.
Looking at the rest of his game, we have seen several examples of how Sadiq runs in behind and gets into scoring positions so we won’t show much more of it in this section of the tactical analysis.
The map below shows Sadiq’s last 108 open-play shots. We see he scores most of his goals from high-xG positions between the penalty spot and the six-yard box. It’s also clear that he prefers to shoot from the left side using his strong right foot but has also scored a lot from the right side so he’s quite flexible and his finishing with both feet is good.
Looking at where he aims in his shots in the graph below, we get a good understanding of his finishing. Most of his goals are scored with low shots to the right side of the goal, which is logical considering he prefers to finish from the left side using his right foot.
Despite his ability to finish with both feet and an excellent heading technique to win aerials and score, there are some aspects Sadiq still needs to improve.
First of all, his finishing looks much better when he doesn’t have a lot of time to think. Under pressure, he’s quick to finish with either foot and places his shots well but when he has more time he’s less effective and may overcomplicate things. This is something that happens to some strikers and considering he’s capable of finishing in difficult situations, it should be improvable.
Another point that can also be seen in the shots map is that Sadiq has a worrying tendency to miss sitters. Next, we have some examples of easy goals he has missed recently. It could be a focus issue and also that he may need to move a fraction of a second earlier to be more comfortable when finishing but it needs improving as it would be an easy source of goals to put his record on an even higher level.
Of course, missing this kind of opportunity is bad but it also makes the fact that he outperforms his xG even more impressive and proves how good his finishing is in more complicated situations.
Still quite young but with excellent qualities and a scoring record, Sadiq is ready for the next step in his career at a higher level. He has the characteristics needed to play at the highest level and would be a very interesting squad player for any middle/top-table team who would challenge for a starting position if his progression continues in the middle term and his adaptation is right. He’s been even linked with Man City and Tottenham as an alternative to Kane or Haaland.
His career had a slow start and that may create some doubts in the teams following him but with the level he’s showing and the quality of the strikers who have recently played in La Liga 2, Sadiq seems to be a very good target for teams at almost any level. Very good strikers like Darwin Núñez (Benfica), Raúl De Tomás (Espanyol) or Luis Suárez (Granada) have left La Liga 2 in recent years to play at the highest level and Sadiq could be the next one in that list.