A disappointing stay on Merseyside has come to an end for Ademola Lookman. Red Bull Leipzig have completed a £22.5 million deal to take him away from Everton, and back to the Bundesliga, where he enjoyed a fruitful spell on-loan in the second half of the 2017/18 season. This tactical analysis and scout report will delve into the reasons Everton fans never saw him fulfil his potential at Goodison Park, and how he could potentially flourish in Germany.
Disappointment at Everton
In his time at Everton, there were four managers at the helm: Marco Silva, Sam Allardyce, David Unsworth, and Ronald Koeman. Yet Lookman failed to win a regular starting berth under any of these coaches.
Throughout his career, he has averaged a goal every four games in his career. That’s an excellent return for someone often utilised in wider positions.
Creatively he has never been prolific though, with an assist every 10 games. He also only averages one accurate cross every 180 minutes. There aren’t too many wingers playing at the top level with stats like that.
In the 2018 January transfer window, then Everton manager, Sam Allardyce, revealed the club did not want to loan him out but Lookman pushed the deal through.
Before his January transfer window move, he had played in 15 games that season for Everton, seven of these coming in the league. He made only one league start, and he was substituted at half time. He averaged 43 minutes per game that he featured in for the Toffees. With eight of his games coming in cup ties, Lookman was probably concerned about playing time in the second half of the season.
A loan move in this circumstance made sense, yet Allardyce begrudgingly stated that he hoped Lookman would prove him wrong. And that he did.
Lookman made 11 appearances in the Bundesliga for Leipzig, seven of which came as starts. He also increased his game time to 54 minutes per game. In this short spell, Lookman scored five goals and provided one assist. However, it was toward the end of the season where he hit his stride. In the last five games, he scored four of his five goals and made that single assist.
It was thought he might bring this momentum into the 2018/19 season with Everton. However, Marco Silva gave him few opportunities.
Despite featuring in 24 games, only five of these were starts, with three coming in the league. He averaged 40.23 minutes per game he featured in for Everton. This was less than the season before.
But what was Marco Silva to do? Lookman wasn’t close to recreating the form he had shown for Leipzig and he finished the season with one goal and two assists in all competitions for Everton.
It made sense for all parties involved to part ways.
Everton vs RB Leipzig
It’s important to analyse the differences in Lookman’s premier league performances with Everton, compared to those with Leipzig in the Bundesliga.
Regardless of today’s inflated transfer market, £22.5 million is still a high price for someone who scored one goal and made two assists this past season. Leipzig is paying this fee, based on Lookman’s previous performances for the club whilst on loan.
If we look at his statistics as a Leipzig player, compared to his statistics at Everton last season, there is a clear difference. Leipzig identified that he is not a strong crosser of the ball. We can see that he was making less than half as many crosses per game for the German side. At Everton, he completed 50% of his two crosses per game, but his overall cross completion rate for his entire time at Everton lies at 33%.
There are several areas where Lookman’s efforts at Leipzig stand out as noticeably better.
Other than the very obvious difference in goals per game, we can see that Lookman’s shooting accuracy is better. Not only was he more accurate, but his shot selection was better too.
We can see that he has a penchant for a long-range shot, that isn’t particularly accurate. He has only scored one goal from outside the box on 31 attempts in his entire career.
When we look at his shot map from Leipzig, he has taken only two shots from outside the area, and the rest are inside. It’s no coincidence his shooting accuracy jumped up by over 20% for Leipzig.
Lookman created twice as many shot assists per game for Leipzig than he did last season at Everton. This is despite his assists per game staying at similar rates. He was also taking more touches inside the box, and completing more dribbles per game, dribbling at a higher success rate too.
In the 2017/18 season, RB Leipzig’s tactics often involved two strikers, and Lookman was often used in a wide attacking midfield position, or even in a central attacking midfield position. If they opted to play a front 3, Lookman was played on the left-side as a wide forward. Lookman played only 27.2% of games on the right side and only two games as a winger.
Regardless of what side he plays on, Lookman often cuts inside to take a shot or play in a teammate, which shows he perhaps understands his limitations with crossing. By playing him on the left-side he will always cut inside onto his stronger foot, and it nullifies his poor crossing.
However, upon returning to Everton, 49% of his game time came as a winger. Lookman also spent 53% of games he played in, operating on the right side.
We can see the differences in positioning from two heatmaps chosen from Lookman’s last full 90 minute games for both Leipzig and Everton.
In this game for Leipzig against Wolfsburg, Lookman played as a LAMF and operated close to the forwards. From the analysis below, Lookman is highlighted in a typical position that he would operate in. By playing close to the forward, in this case, Jean-Kévin Augustin, they rotate positions. Lookman operates between the opposition defence and midfield. The run we see him make isn’t tracked properly, and he scores his first of two goals that day.
From this heat map, we can ascertain that Lookman is receiving the ball in deeper areas. Silva wanted him to operate deeper and wider, taking on players with his pace and dribbling ability. He completed five of his seven dribble attempts in this particular game, yet still only crossed a third of his attempts accurately.
Playing deeper meant he reverted to taking shots from further out again. His shot map from the 2018/19 season shows he didn’t hit the target from anything further than just past the penalty spot.
His improved performances at Leipzig would suggest he performs better with the freedom to play more central, as a LAMF, rather than as an RW.
As an attacking midfielder, he can drift inside more, and take up positions that a forward might. We can see this in the image below, where, despite playing on the right side, he is making a progressive run between the centre-back and wing-back.
This is another example of him taking a position that is high and narrow, close to the centre-forward. The centre-back is always going to pay attention to the man in possession and the centre-forward in his eye line here. This allows Lookman to get inside the left-back, and there are very few full-backs in world football that are going to beat Ademola Lookman in a foot race.
He has pace to burn, and is devastating when running at opponents with the ball, or making late surging runs to get on the end of a cross. His first instinct is often to take on a player and he attempts 7.57 dribbles per game. However, with only a 52.8% success rate, this is an area where he needs to improve.
Lookman can operate as the furthest man in an attack and is intelligent with his forward runs. We can see in the image below how he moves to the left, creating the space to the right behind the centre-back. This gives him space to use his pace to run into, and latch onto the through ball.
It would be easy to pigeon-hole Lookman as a player with sole attacking intentions. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Lookman has great energy and pace and uses this to aid his team when defending.
He presses well and recovered the ball in the opposition half just under 60% of the time on 4.84 attempts per game last season. Lookman’s 3.54 interceptions per game come from his good reading of the game, and the ability to put players under intense pressure. He also won a very impressive 67.7% of his defensive duels. That is uncommon with attacking players.
It’s unlikely he’ll be missed at Goodison Park. Everton have strong squad depth, particularly in wide areas. They will receive £22.5 million for a player they signed only 30 months ago for an initial £7.5 million without add-ons. That’s a good return. Lookman is at a club where he has good memories, and where he arguably played his best football to date.
At RB Leipzig, Head Coach Julian Nagelsmann, and Sporting Director Ralph Rangnick are highly regarded in the game, particularly when it comes to judging young talent. Lookman will join a Leipzig side littered with young prospects; Timo Werner, Matheus Cunha, and Dayot Upamecano, but to name a few. RB Leipzig will be hoping Lookman is the next young English talent to take the Bundesliga by storm.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the July issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.