Fenerbahce are one of the better-known teams in Turkish football, currently in seventh place in the Turkish Super Lig, but have in their ranks a striker who has caught the attention of several clubs. Kosovo international Vedat Muriqi has scored 21 goals and provided seven assists in all competitions this season, and this scout report will take a closer look at his playing style, analysing how he affects Fenerbahce’s tactics in attack. The tactical analysis will see how he leads the line, and how he brings his teammates into attack. The analysis will also examine how he can improve his game, as he is not yet the finished product, but with some improvements, he can become an even better player.
Leading the line
Firstly, we will analyse how he plays as Fenerbahce’s frontman. This first example shows how he plays on his own at the top of the pitch.
Here, against Konyaspor, he is the furthest player forward, but the player on his left has the ball. Muriqi creates the passing option for the ball to be passed to. He also takes defenders away from his teammate through this movement, meaning the defenders must stay with him or he will be through on goal. Therefore, Fenerbahce have more time on the ball, which comes from Muriqi’s movement forwards.
We can build on this with another example, shown below.
In this image, from Fenerbahce’s game against Ankaragucu, Muriqi moves away from the ball, between the opposing defence. This again creates the passing option for his teammate and takes defenders away from the ball. Muriqi knows where to run to, because Ankaragucu have left the space open. Therefore, we can conclude that he knows how to lead the line well and is not afraid of being his team’s target man. He also doesn’t get drawn towards the ball, but knows that if he stretches the play forwards, as has been shown, he becomes hugely important to Fenerbahce’s attacking tactics.
The other reason his movement is important is that it offers his teammate a long passing option, which would see Fenerbahce bypass Ankaragucu’s midfield and defensive ranks. That would mean that they would be through on goal, without the risk of an interception from either of Ankaragucu’s lines before it reached Muriqi. His movement therefore is critically important in creating options for Fenerbahce to attack with.
The second point to make about Muriqi leading the line is that he knows where the space is. The first examples of this are shown below.
What we notice in both of these examples is that, whilst the ball is in the wide channel, Muriqi is positioned to run behind the defence, and get on the end of the ball when it comes into the middle channel. In the second example, we see how the player with the ball is quite far back, and yet Muriqi is still making the run forwards into the space. He anticipates the play and knows that there is more chance the ball will reach him if he makes this run forward.
He is also running in both cases between defenders, which shows us that when he is facing a tightly organised opposing defence, he can still find a way through, and his height gives him extra strength to do so. He is also clever with his runs, timing them well. In these examples, he is either in line with or behind the defenders, therefore he knows when to go so that he is not caught offside.
In the first example, against Denizlispor, we see how he has looked to move around the side of the defenders, not through the middle of them. Therefore, he sees where the space is, and instinctively moves behind the defence to occupy that space.
This is an important trait to have, because for a team like Fenerbahce, who rely on their wing play to move the ball into dangerous areas, they need a player like this. If they didn’t have this, then all of their attacks would be fruitless, because they would not be able to move the ball from the wing to the middle. That shows that Muriqi’s sense of space is important to his team’s play.
The final point is that he looks to play the role of the poacher as often as possible. In the below example, he has lost his marker and has got on the end of the pass from his teammate.
Therefore, he can score goals from close range, and provides a significant threat in the box. What this tells us is that his ability to predict where the ball will go is good, and this is perhaps one reason why other clubs are reportedly watching him. Again, look where he is looking to meet the ball; between two defenders. Antalyaspor have been forced apart by Fenerbahce’s attacking, and this is what has led to this chance at goal.
The Kosovo international has scored 21 goals this season, and had 110 shots on target, and when you consider what we have seen in this section, it is not hard to see why he gets so many opportunities. His movement and ability to see space allows him to carry a threat, and he seems to enjoy playing in the faces of opposing defenders.
We have seen and analysed in depth how he creates space with his movements away from the ball; now we will reverse this and look at his movements towards the ball. If we look at his heatmap, we see just how much ground Vedat Muriqi covers.
Clearly, the area he frequents the most is the goal area, as you would expect from a striker. However, the surprising thing about this map is that he tracks back to the centre line a lot of the time. This is because he wants to help his team keep the ball, acting as a pivot to help them out when they are in danger of losing it.
We will now look at some examples of his link-up play. In the image below, we notice how Fenerbahce have played the ball forwards with a ground pass. The main point to make is that Vedat Muriqi moves towards the ball, as the red arrow shows – not away from it.
This tells us is that Muriqi, whilst keen to create space in attack, is also able to play with the ball when Fenerbahce need him too as well. If we examine the image above, the ground pass must clear a lot of hurdles before it reaches Muriqi in his current position. Therefore, Muriqi moves towards it, as indicated by the red arrow. This decreases the chances of an interception being made. However, it also means Muriqi is now unable to turn and create space in the forward areas. This is perhaps a downside of these tactics.
Another example of Muriqi’s link-up play is shown here.
Here, we see how he has become a pivot, at the tip of this triangular formation. This enables his team to get the ball out of difficult situations. The quick one-touch passes played by Muriqi and his teammates ensure that Konyaspor have no time to stop Fenerbahce playing the ball around them. His back is to goal, which means his intention here is not to turn and run with the ball, but only to play the pivot role. Therefore, this is another clear example of how he is a team player when he is required to be.
Finally, we need to look at how he links up the play when in attack.
In this example, we can see how Muriqi has made the run across from the central channel into the wide left channel. This enables him to receive the ball in space, relatively unchallenged. However, we also see that his teammates in the midfield have also moved forwards to cover the space left by Muriqi. You can see how the Konyaspor defence are narrowly set up, meaning Fenerbahce have more space to attack with. The player on the right-hand side of their attacking trio has a clear route to goal. You can also see another Fenerbahce player on the left wing, circled yellow, and he is helping to pull the defence over to the wing with his positioning, thereby enabling his teammates to attack centrally with more ease. Whilst this is not necessarily all down to Muriqi’s transition from the centre to the left wing, he certainly played a major role in this situation coming about.
Sometimes he drifts so far back that he is on the centre line, as shown below.
Here, you can see how Muriqi has come even further back from the attacking third than in the previous examples, showing perfectly how he tracks back to help his team when they need an extra player to keep possession. Fenerbahce tend to play with a front three most of the time, and this allows Muriqi to track back whilst his two frontline partners stay high up the pitch. As a result, Fenerbahce stretch the play. Here, against Konyaspor, you can see this in action. Muriqi may not be able to turn and play forward, because his route back to the forward line has been closed off, but he can play the ball sideways or backwards, and whilst this may not be very effective, it does allow Fenerbahce to keep the ball, which is an effective tactic in itself.
What we have seen in this article so far are the positives of Vedat Muriqi’s play; now we will look at the negatives, and where he still needs to improve his game. He is 26 years old, so he still has some time, but not a lot, and if he is going to get a move to a bigger club, with Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City all showing an interest in him at times this season, then he will likely need to secure it now. That requires him sharpening up on a few aspects of his game.
Firstly, he needs to improve his end product, particularly when in really promising areas. We have already mentioned that he has scored 21 goals this season and provided seven assists, but if we look at the image below, we can see an example of a chance wasted by him.
Muriqi has positioned himself in the box, and has connected with the ball, but it has ballooned over the bar, as shown by the red arrow. This might seem picky, but it’s the sort of chance that you can’t really miss in the EPL, or any of the big leagues for that matter. The positive here is that he has again positioned himself between the two central defenders, and that will please any clubs looking at him. However, it is chances like these that he needs to at least hit the target with, especially given his record in front of goal this season.
The second improvement he can make is in his 1-v-1 battles, such as here.
Muriqi has claimed the ball in space, with his back to goal. However, he can’t turn and shoot at goal, and ends up losing possession. A team like Leicester City tend to use their current first-choice striker Jamie Vardy as a target man in this way, and so if Muriqi does move there, this will be one area that he will need to improve on. It has been one of his traits to play with his back to goal, whereas Jamie Vardy tends to play with his back to the ball, always facing the goal; this is one way in which both strikers differ. For this reason, he may not suit the way Leicester want to play, however if he takes the ball down here and then plays in another teammate, that could be of benefit to any potential suitors.
Finally, we have already picked out the positives of Muriqi moving into the midfield to pick up the ball. However, in these two examples, we will see the downside of this.
In both these examples, the goal area has been left unoccupied by Fenerbahce. This is because Muriqi has run into the midfield, but he is not necessarily the quickest player at getting back into position when he needs to. That is why, in both images, whilst the ball is on the wings and is ready to be crossed into an attacker in the central channel, there is no-one there.
This is a definite improvement that Muriqi needs to make to his play. Whilst clubs will admire his goalscoring numbers and his ability and willingness to help his team keep possession, in the bigger leagues this type of situation cannot happen if teams want to win matches. They will likely expect Muriqi to stay as far forward as possible, if he proves to them that he is unable to move back into the goal area once he has left it. Therefore, this is another area of his game that he can work on to impress any clubs watching him.
Vedat Muriqi as an overall package brings goals, assists, the ability to play centrally or on the side of a front three (versatility, which will suit Manchester United’s setup) and an enormous amount of ground covered. For those clubs who have reportedly shown interest in him, they will like some or all these aspects of his play. However, they should also be aware of the improvements that he needs to make, and some of them may prevent him from succeeding at those clubs as he would want to. There is no doubting his talent and team awareness, and that is what has come through most in this scout report; he would fit in at any club where they needed a team player.