Adrian Grbic 2019/20 – scout report
Adrian Grbić was one of the standout attackers in Ligue 2 last season. The 23-year-old Austrian attacker’s output was impressive during the campaign. With 17 league goals to his name, Grbić impressively managed to net 48% of Clermont Foot’s 35 goals in Ligue 2 last season, which shows his importance to Pascal Gastien’s team.
Lately, Grbić’s name has been mentioned as a potential transfer target for Ligue 1 side Stade Brestois, Scottish Premiership side Rangers, and EPL competitors Brighton and Hove Albion and considering how impressively he managed to perform for Clermont Foot in Ligue 2 during the 2019/20 campaign, it mightn’t come as a surprise to see the that the attacker is being linked with a variety of different clubs.
This tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report will take a look at some of Grbić’s key traits and we will attempt to determine how he managed to perform so effectively for Gastien’s side last season. We will examine how Grbić fit into Clermont Foot’s tactics last season and explain the role that he played for his team in this tactical analysis of the Austrian forward.
Clermont Foot typically line up in a 4-2-3-1 shape and Grbić tends to occupy the centre forward position within this set-up. However, Gastien’s attack tend to play with a significant amount of fluidity and their front four interchange positions with one another quite a bit during the build-up phase of attacks.
These tactics suit Grbić, who is a player with a broad skill-set and who can operate effectively all across the front of the pitch. At 188cm (6’2”) tall, Grbić can present a difficult physical match for many of the defenders that he comes up against. However, the attacker is also quite pacey and agile. These physical traits, combined with a clear confidence on the ball and a decent level of technical ability help to make Grbić a threat from any of the positions that he occupies across the front line in a typical game.
This image above shows us Grbić’s heatmap from the 2019/20 Ligue 2 campaign. As we can see, while Grbić is a centre forward within Clermont Foot’s 4-2-3-1 system, Gastien’s tactics allow the Austrian a large degree of freedom to roam around the opposition’s half.
We can see quite a lot of colour in the half-spaces, in addition to the slightly deeper central position and during the build-up phase of games, Grbić can often be seen drifting into these positions in order to help his side to progress the ball into the attacking third.
The first specific example of Grbić’s off-the-ball movement that we are going to discuss will focus on the Austrian attacker’s movement from the centre forward position into the half-space. We can see an example of the forward making this movement in the image above as Clermont Foot’s left central midfielder prepares to receive the ball from the left-winger.
Grbić drifts from the centre forward position as this pass is played to move into the left half-space where he can create a triangle with these two players and create a simple progressive passing option for the midfielder preparing to receive the ball here.
In addition to creating this passing angle, Grbić’s movement forces the opposition’s centre-back to make a decision on whether he will push out of the defensive line with Grbić, thus leaving a gap in the defence which Clermont Foot’s other attackers could potentially probe into and exploit, or whether he will stay put in the defensive line to guard against a gap opening up, whilst allowing Grbić to receive the ball with more freedom as a result.
As play moves on, we see that the Auxerre centre-back makes the decision to follow Grbić’s movement on this occasion and he pushes out of the defensive line to try and remain tight to the Austrian as he receives the ball from the left central midfielder.
Grbić can often be seen making this type of movement into the half-space during this stage of his side’s build-up play and it is a part of his game that can cause plenty of problems for the opposition as they struggle to deal with him and his teammates’ movement. The Austrian’s effectiveness at playing in this manner makes him a good fit for a Clermont Foot side that allow a large degree of positional fluidity within the final third.
As well as moving into the half-spaces, Grbić also drops into a deeper central position at times, as illustrated on his heatmap for the 2019/20 campaign. This next image shows us an example of the 23-year-old forward making this movement. Additionally, this passage of play shows us an example of Clermont Foot’s positional fluidity in action.
Gastien’s side tend to dominate possession in their games, playing a large number of short, accurate passes in order to progress the play. Clermont Foot kept an average of 54.4% possession in Ligue 2 last season, whilst they also played an average of 473.83 passes per 90, with a pass success percentage of 85%. No other Ligue 2 side played a higher number of passes per 90 than Clermont Foot did in the 2019/20 campaign, whilst Gastien’s men also maintained a higher pass success percentage than any other team in France’s second-tier.
Here, we can see Clermont Foot in the process of patiently building out from the back and we can see their right-back in possession of the ball at this moment. The opposition’s shape leaves a fairly large gap in the centre of the pitch and Grbić attempts to exploit this by vacating his centre forward position in order to drop deep and try to make himself a positive passing option for his teammate.
Meanwhile, as the Austrian drops deep, Clermont Foot’s central attacking midfielder, who we can see positioned slightly more towards the left side of the pitch in this image, begins to dart forward. This movement is an example of the positional fluidity that exists within Clermont Foot’s front four and it provides us with an example of the understanding that has developed between Grbić and his teammates as they can cause a great deal of difficulty for opposition defences via this type of movement, as the opposition can struggle to keep up with the energetic attackers at times.
The next passage of play will take a look at Grbić’s movement during a slightly more advanced stage of the attack than his side were in in the last two passages of play that we have discussed in this section.
During this stage of the attack, Grbić can often be seen scanning a lot more frequently than he tends to do when getting involved in slightly earlier stages of the attack. We can see him looking around in this image in an attempt to improve his knowledge of his surroundings and use that knowledge to orientate himself in the optimal position.
The Austrian attacker is quite good at positioning himself intelligently inside of the box in order to create a large enough amount of distance between himself and the opposition’s defenders so that he can take advantage of a shooting opportunity if it comes his way. Additionally, intelligent positioning will also help Grbić to make himself a more attractive passing option for his teammates, which will inevitably result in him getting more goalscoring chances.
As play moves on, the ball carrier manages to hold onto the ball as he drives towards the opposition box, attracting the attention and movement of the centre-back between him and Grbić in the process. Meanwhile, the Austrian pulls away to the back post maintaining distance between himself and the opposition’s defenders and placing himself intelligently to try and take advantage of a rebound if one dropped to him with little interference from defenders thanks to his positioning.
This passage of play provides us with an example of Grbić’s intelligent movement inside the box and it illustrates how important his ability to orientate himself into pockets of space between defenders can be for his team’s chance creation.
In addition to having a fairly large frame and intelligent off-the-ball movement, Grbić often displays a large degree of confidence on the ball. The 23-year-old is happy to try and take on multiple players on the ball and while his confidence is encouraging and he does possess some promising technical ability, he struggles to impact the game to a very significant extent when he attempts to take on multiple players.
As per Wyscout, Grbić made an average of 1.41 dribbles per 90 last season, with a success rate of just 34.2%. For context, this is a large amount lower than Clermont Foot’s average dribbling success percentage of 48.9% and this is also below Ligue 2’s average dribbling success percentage of 52.02%.
This indicates that Grbić’s dribbling hasn’t been incredibly notable during his time at Clermont Foot in the 2019/20 campaign.
One of the reasons why Grbić may have struggled in the dribbling department last season may be that he appears to scan less in deeper areas of the pitch than he does in more advanced positions. This image above is taken from the same passage of play as the first passage of play that we discussed in this scout report in which we saw the Austrian drop into the left half-space.
As Grbić dropped into the left half-space he didn’t do much scanning, however, he did still attempt to turn quite quickly upon receiving the ball. As we discussed previously, Grbić’s movement drew the opposition centre-back out of the defence which could have successfully forged an opening for Clermont Foot, however, the defender manages to dispossess Grbić when he turns and subsequently attempts to drive past him, rather quickly, resulting in a turnover of possession and putting an end to this particular attack.
This type of scenario is one which Grbić does find himself in quite frequently. His movement and his team’s tactics often result in him finding himself in deeper positions such as the half-space as we saw in the previous image and as we see him in again in this next image. When he receives the ball in these positions, he often attempts to dribble past the opposition, even if several defenders press him and Grbić is often unsuccessful from these dribble attempts.
Here, we see him in a similar position to the one that we saw him occupying previously and once again, a failure to adequately prepare himself to receive the ball, in addition to an over-ambitious dribbling attempt results in the Austrian being dispossessed.
As we can see here, two opposition defenders quickly press Grbić as he receives the ball in this position and instead of playing what may have been a simple pass into the free midfielder that we see on the right in the foreground of this picture, he attempts to beat the defenders by himself and it doesn’t take too long for the players to win possession back for their side.
These passages of play show us that while Grbić moves intelligently off the ball and is good at finding space for himself on the pitch, he can be wasteful in possession from these deeper positions at times.
Finishing ability and shot power
Grbić has shown himself to be an efficient finisher during the 2019/20 campaign. Whilst he took an average of 2.83 shots per 90 in the league last season, which was the fourth-highest amount of shots per 90 of any Ligue 2 player, Grbić also maintained a 48.68% shot accuracy, which is also the fourth-highest shot accuracy percentage of any Ligue 2 player.
As well as that, Grbić, who was Ligue 2’s second-highest goalscorer last season with 17 goals, had an xG of just 9.96 last season, which is a significantly lower number of goals than the Austrian ultimately ended up scoring in the 2019/20 campaign.
The extent to which Grbić outperformed his xG last season could be attributed to his ability to score goals from long-range. 41 of the 76 shots that Grbić took during the 2019/20 campaign were taken from outside of the box according to WhoScored. Only two Ligue 2 players took on more long-range attempts than the Austrian Clermont Foot man did last season. This high number of long-range attempts, in addition to his impressive goalscoring record in relation to his xG leads one to believe that Grbić’s ability from long-range played a significant role in his success last season.
As we touched on previously in this scout report, one dangerous element to Grbić’s game is his direct free-kick taking ability. The Austrian attacker is capable of putting a significant amount of power and swerve on long-distance free-kicks which can cause problems for the opposition goalkeeper.
There may be no better example of Grbić demonstrating his quality from dead-ball situations than when the Austrian scored two direct free-kicks in one Ligue 2 game versus ES Troyes AC back in January.
This next image provides us with another example of Grbić’s quality from long-range and this example may show us why it is dangerous for opposition defenders not to follow the Austrian into the deeper positions when he pushes into them.
On this occasion, we can see the 23-year-old in possession of the ball in a deep, central position. After turning and facing the opposition goal, no opposition defender closes him down and as a result, he is able to enjoy enough freedom to line up a longshot which he ultimately sends into the far corner of the net with a large amount of power and dip.
Grbić presents a clear threat from outside of the box and he is capable of outperforming his xG by some distance thanks to his ability from long-range. This element of the 23-year-old’s game, combined with his playmaking quality and intelligent movement to find these positions in the first place all combined to help Grbić perform effectively for Clermont Foot during the 2019/20 Ligue 2 season.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, Grbić has shown a large degree of versatility in his game. He is a strong and quick player who is capable of moving around the final third intelligently in order to forge out opportunities both for himself and his teammates.
Whilst the attacker can improve his dribbling and decision-making ability, it’s clear that he has a number of traits that combine to make him an exciting player to watch, as he can provide a threat from a variety of different in-game situations.