Erling Braut Haaland, Guido Burgstaller, Sadio Mané, Philipp Zulechner, Naby Keita and Julian Baumgartlinger are just a few of many players who played during the early stages of their career in the Austrian Bundesliga to then join clubs in the bigger European leagues (mostly in the Bundesliga). Also, especially RB Salzburg have become famous for their incredible talents which they have sold to top clubs across Europe.
Since today the winter break ends in Austria and we are heading into the deciding stage of this season, we’ll now look in this tactical analysis/scout report at five of the most promising U20 talents in the Austrian top-flight. All five of these players have shown great potential and can become important for their teams; some already are.
The 19-year-old midfielder is surely one of the most promising talents in the Austrian Bundesliga or maybe even the greatest talent in the league. He will turn 20 in October 2020, but already has a market value of £13.5million which makes him the most valuable player in Austria’s top-flight.
Dominik Szobiszlai is already one of the most important players in the squad of RB Salzburg and maybe will become more important in the second half of this season after the departures of Takumi Minamino to Liverpool and Haaland to Borussia Dortmund. He usually plays as a left-winger, but also can play as an offensive midfielder. So, Salzburg’s most used 4-4-2 fits him very well since Jesse Marsch wants his wingers to tuck in and occupy the half-spaces.
In general, one of Szobszlai’s greatest strengths is his vision combined with his understanding of the game. He always tries to have a good overview of the pitch and the positioning of all the players to know what he wants to do next before he even receives the ball. This can be seen in the example below in the Champions League fixture against Genk. He receives a short pass from Minamino and plays a perfect pass to the right-back, Rasmus Kristensen, with the first touch. Due to this, the opponents don’t even have the chance to put pressure on the midfielder. He scans the pitch before he receives the ball, so he can switch the play with his first touch.
However, with 1.71 (35.7% successful) through passes per game and 3.78 (58.1% successful) passes to the penalty box the Hungarian is one of the players of RB Salzburg who is responsible for creating goalscoring chances with the aid of penetrative passes. Besides, he also likes to dribble and has an outstanding technique, but he often stays too long on the ball. Anyway, his ability to dribble past opponents is visible in his stats as 54.2% of his dribbles are successful.
So, the values above already tell that Szoboszlai is a “typical” offensive midfielder and winger since he is strong on the ball and often tries to create goalscoring chances with the aid of passes or dribbles. In the two situations below, Szoboszlai finds his teammates with perfect-timed through-passes to bring his them into a good position to fire a shot on goal.
Considering the analysis above, the Hungarian has a great technique, especially for such a young player. The 19-year-old is already one of the most important players in Salzburg’s team and it’s reported that several big clubs from the top league of Europe want to sign him. However, one aspect of Szoboszlai’s game on which he needs to work is his sloppiness. We often see that the young midfielder cares more about his style of play and how his actions look like instead of their efficiency.
For example, in the image below, he plays a lobbed short ball to his teammate Zlatko Junuzović who instantly is surrounded by several players of Liverpool who start the counter-pressing since just moments ago Soboszlai won back the ball for his team. Since the pass is lobbed and not that clean, Junuzović has problems to control the ball and the Reds can retain possession.
Don’t get me wrong as it is great to see that the Hungarian stays calm in such situations and doesn’t want to solve the situation with a useless long ball or so, but this kind of pass brought his teammate into a bad situation and wasn’t effective at all.
The young centre-back turned 19 just about two months ago but is already one of the most important defenders for Admira. He played in this season in 12 out of 18 games in the Austrian Bundesliga, while he missed five games due to an injury and one due to suspension. Considering this, he has played every game he has been available for.
Emanuel Aiwu is surely one of the most promising centre-backs Austria has seen in the last few years and is also the only defender in this list of U20 talents. However, the young player stands at 6’0” what is not incredibly tall for a centre-back but about average or even a bit less. Anyways, he compensates that with his pace, anticipation and understanding of the game. These three aspects of the game get more and more important for centre-backs and all three abilities are among Aiwu’s greatest strengths.
In the example below, he utilises all three of them. First, he stays near his opponent in the centre, but as soon as he detects the space in the wide-area and also sees that the player on the ball wants to pass the ball there, he sprints to the outside to intercept the pass. The 19-year-old makes on average 5.26 interceptions per game in this season which is a quite astonishing value and shows that he often exploits his speed to intercept passes which he anticipated ahead of it.
Even though we expect nowadays more and new qualities from our centre-backs due to the development of the game, there is no doubt that their main objective is to prevent the opposition from scoring. For that, one-on-one duels are still one of the most important actions for defenders.
Even though you could call Aiwu a “centre-back of the new generation”, his defensive abilities in duels are really good. The Austrian wins on average 65% of his defensive duels which is a decent value for a 19-year-old player. We can often see him in similar situations to the one below, in which he stays calm and slowly runs backwards to slow down the opponent. As soon as the opponent is slow enough, Aiwu makes a step forward to win back the ball for his team cleanly.
Anyway, Aiwu is also already an important player for Admira during the build-up. He plays on average 31.66 passes per game with a solid success rate of 83.4%. However, the even more astonishing value is that almost half of the 31.66 passes are forward passes (14.52). So, these values tell that the young centre-back doesn’t always just choose the safe option and plays the ball horizontally to the man next to him, but also looks for the vertical passing options.
But the 19-year-old also often shows what great vision he has with long balls like the one in the example below as he finds one of his teammates with a long diagonal ball to switch to the side.
The young Swiss is the record transfer of RB Salzburg (and the Austrian Bundesliga) as they paid Basel in this winter transfer window £10.08million. With that in mind, the fans and his team will expect good performances and also a decent development of this young player.
Also, it will be interesting to see how Noah Okafor will fit into the system of RB Salzburg since they don’t play with real wingers; the flanks are usually just occupied by the two full-backs or wing-backs. So, he will either play as an offensive midfielder or as a striker and maybe it will take some time until he adjusts to the system and the tactics of his new club since he has mainly played as a left-winger until now.
Anyways, there is no doubt what a great talent he is as we will see now in this tactical analysis. First of all, you have to mention what an incredible technique the young winger has and how strong he is on the ball. The special thing about the 19-year-old is that already at this early stage of his career, he knows when he should use his body to shield off the opponent and in which moments, he must utilise his acceleration and pace.
For example, in the situation below, he firstly uses his physical strength to bring his body between his opponent and the ball to not give the defender any chance to win the ball. As then the opponent is slightly behind him, he uses his speed to dribble into the penalty box and deliver a low and powerful cross.
Anyways, Okafor has the same issue as Szoboszlai and many offensive players at their age as they often miss the right moment to pass the ball and keep it too long at their feet. Of course, both have the technical ability to say on the ball, but still, they need to learn that sometimes a pass can be way more effective. Okafor, for example, dribbles on average 11.15 times per 90 minutes which is an incredibly high value.
And we can also see this problem in the situation below as he dribbles towards the opponent instead of simply playing the ball to his teammate who has a lot of free space. Anyway, Okafor uses some stepovers to get past the defender and then delivers a cross, but still, this example shows what I described above. It is still incredible how strong he is with the ball at his feet, but he needs to work on finding the right moment to pass the ball.
However, Okafor also showed in several situations that he has decent vision and often tries to detect the movements of his teammates as well as the ones of the opponents. He made in this season in the Swiss League on average 1.73 shot assists per game as we can see one in the example below, in which he perfectly recognizes the run of Valentin Stocker and provides a perfect low cross, but his Swiss teammate can’t score with his shot.
Furthermore, Okafor already showed that he can be quite some threat for the opposing goalkeeper even though you have to admit that he’s not an incredible goal scorer. In 21 games this season in the Swiss League, the Swiss Cup and the UEFA Europa League the young winger scored just three goals. This value shows that he is able to score goals, but it is clearly not his greatest strength. But, for example, in the situation below he scored with the first touch and proved that he can score beautiful goals.
The young German forward has shown in this season astonishing performances for Salzburg’s second team FC Liefering in the second league of Austria and also in the UEFA Youth League. Karim Adeyemi is the youngest player in this list as he turned 18 this January. Nevertheless, due to his performances for Liefering, Salzburg have now decided to add him to their first team.
The left-footed German can play on either wing as well as a central striker and has scored eight goals and provided seven assists in 13 appearances this season in the second league of Austria for Salzburg’s second team. Besides, he made three assists and three goals in five games in the UEFA Youth League. These stats and his performances, in general, convinced Salzburg’s officials to add him in this winter break to the first team.
In general, Adeyemi isn’t an out and out attacker as he likes to position himself deeper or in the wide areas to get on the ball and start a dribble or find one of his teammates with a penetrating pass. He started in this season for Liefering 9.63 dribbles which is an incredibly high value, but just has a success rate of 45.5% what isn’t bad, but also nothing too incredible.
His success rate could be higher but he also still needs to learn that it is in some situations better to just pass the ball, but that’s logical for a player at this age as I already mentioned earlier in this tactical analysis. However, he often wants to take on several defenders at once and that logically can’t always work off even though he can dribble really well as we can see in the situation below where he has two defenders in front of him and they just can stop him with a foul.
Also, he clearly needs to work on his passing since his pass accuracy is just 57.2%, but you always have to keep in mind that he just turned 18 and has still some time to develop his skills and work on certain aspects of his style of play.
However, on the other side, you have to give him huge credit for his goalscoring abilities what is no big surprise when we look at the stats above. In the second Austrian league, he needed 139 minutes per goal while in the UEFA Youth League he had an even lower value with 114 minutes per goal. One of the reasons for that is that he never seems to be nervous in front of goal and just looks for the gap to place the ball next to the goalkeeper as we can see in the first shot below. In the second image, we can see that Adeyemi is also able to score goals by winning aerial duels.
So, we have already had in this tactical analysis three offensive players and one centre-back, and now we will look at the fifth and last player of this list of talented U20 players who is a defensive midfielder. Ousmane Diakité is currently on loan at Altach, but will return in this summer to RB Salzburg. So, we already see that the current Austrian champions have quite some talented players, whether in their squad or on loan at other clubs.
Diakité is a 19-year-old defensive midfielder and works extremely hard for his team as the heatmap below tells. Unfortunately, he suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in September, but until then he played every single minute for Altach. He’s usually one of the central midfielders in front of the defence who tries to win second balls, win duels and also supports his teammates to organise the build-up.
Anyways, one of the greatest strengths of the young player from Mali is clearly his stamina and physical strength respectively as he stands at 6’2”. He often tries to use that to either shield off the opponent when he is on the ball or to regain possession as we can see in the image below. Diakité is in the central space in front of the defence and his opponent receives a pass. He anticipates quickly in which direction the opponent wants to go and gets the ball by putting his body between the opponent and the ball.
Furthermore, he plays on average 60.08 passes per 90 minutes what already shows how incredibly important he is for his team during the build-up and besides he has a success rate of 85.5% what is even more astonishing. In the example below, we see a typical situation shortly after Altach won back the ball. The young defensive midfielder received the ball and needed one touch to control the ball and played a good pass with his second touch to keep the speed of the counter-attack up. This situation perfectly shows Diakité’s understanding of the game and his passing ability.
However, the defensive midfielder is also important for Altach when it comes to getting into dangerous situations and the space behind the last line of the opposing defence as he plays 1.36 through passes and 9.15 passes to the final third per match. So, even though he’s a defensive midfielder, we can often see the 19-year-old in an advanced position on the pitch and then he tries to pick out a teammate as can be seen below.
All five U20 players who have been analysed in this tactical analysis in the form of a scout report are great talents and have the potential to join bigger clubs outside Austria as many did before them. However, we also once more saw that RB Salzburg is clearly the team with the players with the greatest potential as three out of the five talents currently play for Salzburg and one returns to them in this summer after his loan ends.
Szoboszlai and Aiwu will surely continue to be important players for their respective teams while it will be interesting to watch how Okafor and Adeyemi perform when they get their chances. However, hopefully, Diakité will return as quick as possible from his injury break as he suffered a cruciate ligament rupture.