Antonio Marin 2019/20 – scout report
Some teams across Europe like Liverpool or Bayern Munich just have a superior recruitment strategy that gets them the advantage over their rivals. Others, like Barcelona or in our case, Dinamo Zagreb, have an incredible youth system that has developed multiple world-class players over time.
One such young talent currently plying his trade in Croatia’s capital is Antonio Marin. The youngster has had a taste of first-team football in 2019/20 and a stellar spell in the youth competitions, including the U19s for both club and country.
Positioning and general traits
We’ll start this analysis with some of Marin’s general traits and establish his movement and positioning on the pitch. The 19-year-old is a right-footed player who prefers to stick to the left side of the pitch. Usually, Dinamo Zagreb will deploy him either as a left-sided midfielder in a wider role or a left-winger that provides width and height to the team.
Below, you can see his preferred and most-used positions throughout the 2019/20 campaign which includes stints with both the senior and youth squads. The majority of the games, 45% of them to be more precise, he does spend as a left-sided midfielder and then 24% as a left-winger as his two most dominant roles so far in the season.
Naturally, since he is a right-footed player playing on the left side of the pitch, this means that he tends to cut inside and often advance through the half-space to ultimately position himself on his preferred foot when approaching the box and trying to send that final ball.
His movement and general positioning, however, will become much clearer once we inspect his heatmap below. Quite clearly, we can see that he sticks to his side of the pitch, usually hugs the touchline when receiving the ball in deeper areas and then advances it forward. But, once he reaches the final third, he will either cut inside with the ball at his feet or combine with his teammates.
With great technique, control, pace and dribbling abilities, Marin is an extremely dangerous asset in transitions and especially in isolated encounters out wide. His positioning is also determined by the full-back and depending on how advanced the defender behind him tends to be, he will either hold the width or drift centrally.
But what are the traits that separate him from other players and what makes him such a special talent in the first place?
Dribbling and 1v1s
Without a doubt, dribbling is one of Marin’s key traits and something that clearly a part of his deadly arsenal. In fact, he ranks fourth in the 1. HNL this season when it comes to dribbling, tallying 8.39 per 90 minutes with a success rate of 56.82. Of course, the added caveat is his low(er) game time since he has only played 564 minutes across senior club competitions in Croatia and 1298 across all competitions in 2019/20.
Still, it is a prominent feature in his player profile and Dinamo often play to his strengths, trying to isolate him on the wings and enable him to wreak havoc in the opposition’s defensive line. The graph below shows us the locations of his dribbles and their outcome.
We can see that he is keen to engage in a dribble once he enters the final third and this is also when his dribbles start yielding shots and goals. Out of a total of 110 dribbles in the final third, he has kept possession in 74 (67.3%), 24 have ended with a shot (eight on target) and five goals were scored from 3.15 xG.
This tells us a couple of things. Firstly, he is comfortable with the ball at his feet and will succeed in beating his man more often than not. This is also visible from his 14.3 offensive duels with a 49.33% success rate, the seventh highest in the league. Secondly, his dribbling can create danger and goals from unlikely situations, as evidenced by the overperformance in the expected goals value.
Let’s observe his technique and movement when dribbling in the final third in the following example. Marin receives the ball out wide on the left, as is usually the case, and since Dinamo have managed to give him space to run into, he starts one of his marauding runs and beats two markers, one by one, to get just on the edge of the box and send a ball towards the penalty area.
In this instance, it doesn’t exactly turn into a goal but his ability to shrug off both defenders and use his pace and skill to beat them is evident and deadly. That is also his trademark move. More often than not, upon receiving a pass, he will engage in a dribble and try to create danger even if at first it doesn’t seem like a promising situation.
But this, combined with his sheer pace, is what makes him deadly in transitions as well. Marin is a willing defender but often, if he’s not the one applying pressure himself, he will be used as an outlet to carry the ball forward.
Down below, we can see a graph that shows us his preferred actions during a counter-attack. Quite clearly, he likes to run with the ball at his feet, gather pace and then engage in a dribble to beat his marker and charge into the box.
But notice that there are a couple of long balls present as well, signalling that this is either a situation when he recovers the ball himself or simply finds himself defending deep. Either way, it’s a good sign for Dinamo Zagreb and his overall development.
Finally, let’s take a look at an in-game example below. The Blues are on a swift counter-attack and they find Marin just around the halfway of the pitch. This is when he can use his incredible pace and combine it with his technique and dribbling to storm past two defenders and send the ball into the box from a wider area.
Link-up play and passing
Another impressive aspect of Marin’s player profile is certainly his link-up ability. He is not an exceptional passer of the ball but he is creative in his approach and has the technical background to control it in tight spaces and combine with his teammates.
Still, as we’ve seen from the initial heatmap, he is not afraid to drop deeper in order to assist the build-up and can usually be found receiving the ball just around the centre of the pitch and then moving it forward. This, however, is mostly done through his progressive runs as he is not exactly the one to progress play with penetrative passes.
At best, he will drop to recycle possession and potentially pull a market from his position so one of the teammates can make use of the newfound space. However, there are certain situations where he can be utilised to great effect. Below, we can see Marin dropping deeper to first provide an outlet for his teammate and then, after receiving the pass, sending a lofted ball over the top and into his forward.
This is something he does fairly often and once he has been given some space in the deeper areas, he will either try to run with the ball or send a diagonal pass to swap sides and send his teammates running into space.
One thing we’re not seeing enough of, however, is an effort to send piercing balls that break the lines and create danger. Yes, he has tallied 1.72 shot assists in 2019/20, 10th best figure in the league, but that is also a byproduct of his corner duties and a lot of dribbles inside the area and the final third in general that put him in a favourable position to lay the ball off to a teammate in space.
The reason why this is something we’ve decided to highlight is the fact that he is very much capable of creating much more. For instance, take a look at the following example where Marin receives the ball out wide, holds it until the time is right and then sends an incredible pass into the open space and towards his teammates.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t happen as often when he’s playing with the seniors but 1.33 deep completions per 90 (15th best) and 1.14 through balls do indicate there is potential there for him to become an even more effective passer than he already is.
The best way to utilise his on-the-ball abilities, however, is to combine them all. His close control, dribbling and link-up play all in one can produce brilliant plays even though this is also something he could be doing a lot more often.
Below, we can see him receiving the ball in a more central area as he proceeds to shake off his marker, drive towards the zone 14 and then deploy a pass to his teammate to accelerate the action. The ball goes wide and soon afterwards, it’s followed by a cross into the box.
It may not end in a goal but Marin was involved from start to finish, utilising his full arsenal of control, dribbling, passing and movement to help construct a great play by Dinamo Zagreb.
It’s difficult to talk about clear-cut weaknesses of a 19-year-old player who’s yet to regularly compete at the top level. However, we will conclude this tactical analysis with a short overview of things that he should be working on in the near future.
For Marin, it’s all about improving his final product. We’ve already seen earlier in the scout report that the chances he creates from dribbles often yield goals from unlikely scenarios. But, even with that being said, his finishing still needs a lot of work.
Below, you can see the graph depicting his shot-locations from 2019/20, including goals, shots on target and saved as well as blocked attempts. There are a couple of key things we can take from that.
Firstly, he seems to shoot outside of the box quite often and while he is not exactly inaccurate, only 27.8% end up hitting the target and his goal conversion rate drops to only 5.6%. And while his one goal matches the 0.99 xG, amassing 0.99 xG from 18 shots means that a single shot carries a value of 0.05. In other words, it’s not overly impressive.
This means that he either has to refrain from shooting from distance that much or simply find better positions to shoot from. The situation is much better inside the area with 36.8% of those shots being on target along with a 10.5% conversion rate, which is to be expected but it’s still an encouraging sign.
Another thing to note about Marin is that he is extremely right-footed and this is something the opposition could be looking to exploit. Out of the 37 shots analysed, 35 have been struck with his right, one with his left and one with the head.
The other weakness we should mention is also concerning the final ball but this time, we’re dealing with passing rather than shooting. We mentioned earlier in this analysis how he does have a keen eye for a pass but could still improve in that regard. Below, we can see his success rate in passing in certain areas of the pitch as well as their length.
Unfortunately, his progressive passing seems to be an area he will have to improve on and the same goes for his deliveries into the box from the flank. He will often get into a good position thanks to his dribbling and pace but then the final ball that’s supposed to land at his teammate’s foot is simply not there yet.
Antonio Marin is certainly one of Dinamo Zagreb’s biggest talents and the youngster could develop into a lethal winger that could attract the attention of some of the European giants out there. At the moment, he is not without weaknesses but that is also not a big surprise given his tender age.
The future looks bright and the Blues need to nurture him more so he can reach his full potential soon.