Breel Embolo 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

Bundesliga sides have been making some fantastic signings in preparation for the upcoming season. With a great deal of managerial movement, German clubs have been extremely active in the market, signing young and exciting players not only from external leagues but from other Bundesliga too.

One such signing was Breel Embolo’s acquisition from Schalke by Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Swiss forward has seen his career stagnate after a serious ankle injury in 2016 that kept him out for nearly a year. The prospect of Embolo working with one of the most exciting coaches in Marco Rose is one to look forward to. This tactical analysis scout report aims to identify and showcase what Embolo will bring to Gladbach.

Who is Embolo?

Embolo made his debut for FC Basel in 2014 aged just 17. The young forward was touted as one of the hottest prospects in football at the time and won three consecutive league titles with Basel. In his time in Switzerland, Embolo scored 31 goals in just 90 matches aside from recording 22 assists. These impressive numbers saw him linked with the likes of Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund before he moved to Schalke in 2016. His time in Gelsenkirchen has been disappointing as Embolo has scored just 12 times in 61 appearances. This can be largely attributed to spending a long spell on the sidelines, the rehab period and various other injuries along the way. Embolo’s move to Mönchengladbach gives him an opportunity to revitalize his career and reach the level he was touted to years ago. Mönchengladbach, under Marco Rose, are a side to watch in the Bundesliga this season and are sure to play exciting and quick football which could see Embolo enjoy a breakthrough season in the Bundesliga.

What are his strengths? 

Positioning

Embolo’s position is an interesting aspect of his game. Initially, his role was restricted to that of a centre-forward but with his integration into the senior sides at Basel and Schalke, the Swiss has taken to the role of a wide forward. His versatility of being able to play across the front-line has been key to the fact that he was able to break into the senior side so early at Basel. This wide-forward role that Embolo adopts highlights his strengths greatly. Embolo is quick off the blocks and has the acceleration to beat the offside trap to perfection. As a result, he can frequently be seen lingering in the half-space between the centre-back and the full-back. This movement allows him to play off the last defender but at the same time avoid being marked by the opposition full-back. Notably, Embolo is capable of playing this role on either the left or right side.

Breel Embolo 2018/19-scout report -tactical analysis tactics
As this pass map indicates, Embolo favours the half-spaces and drops deep to play almost as an attacking midfielder at times. However, he can also be a significant presence in the penalty area

 

Breel Embolo 2018/19-scout report -tactical analysis tactics
Embolo loses his marker and finds space in the final third
Breel Embolo 2018/19-scout report -tactical analysis tactics
In the above sequence, Embolo exploits the space between the defenders, using his pace to get past the centre-back while the full-back is unaware of his presence

Embolo has not always had the chance to play in this favoured wide-forward role. This means that he has had a significant amount of time playing as a winger on both flanks. Embolo’s physical and mental profile enables him to adapt to this role without any issues.

An explosive attacker

The same pace that makes him such an explosive forward allows him to become a dynamic winger when played wide. A potent dribbler with great close control, Embolo is not afraid to take on defenders and more often than not is able to skip past them with ease. His dribble success rate in the last season was 53 per cent while averaging 5.7 dribbles per game, indicating his tendency to dribble his way into space. His spatial awareness and good first-touch ensure that Embolo is able to beat the opposition’s press. Embolo’s finishing is clinical and reliable, with the youngster comfortable with both feet as well as his head.

An underrated aspect of his game is the ability to assist goals. At times, Embolo will drop a bit deeper, playing as a false-nine in order to facilitate the players around him to get forward more. He has the strength, standing at 1.84 metres, to play with his back to the goal. Backheels and flicks into space are features of his game that make him a great focal point of the attack and brings out the best in his teammates.

Breel Embolo 2018/19-scout report -tactical analysis tactics
Embolo drops deep to open up space before threading a pass through
Breel Embolo 2018/19-scout report -tactical analysis tactics
In this sequence, Embolo, through his movement, makes space for himself and flicks a pass beyond the defender for his teammate who anticipates the one-two.

Defensive efforts 

Embolo’s defensive responsibilities cannot be forgotten either. The youngster leads his side’s press from the front, constantly harrying and disrupting the opposition’s efforts to string passes together. If his side is restricted to their own half, Embolo is disciplined in his positioning and makes a conscious effort to look for an opportunity to intercept a pass. The same defensive effort can be seen when he is played out wide as he doesn’t shy away from his responsibility of assisting the full-back.

Breel Embolo 2018/19-scout report -tactical analysis tactics
Embolo’s pace enables him to tackle and win the ball back
Breel Embolo 2018/19-scout report -tactical analysis tactics
Embolo pressing

Weaknesses

As is the case with many young players, Embolo has the tendency to fade out of games, especially if his side is struggling. Given Schalke’s poor season, Embolo’s low output also indicates that he struggles to contribute much in difficult situations. Apart from this, Embolo also overcomplicates his decisions at times, failing to see a teammate in space or playing a poorly weighted pass. These issues can be ironed out with experience. Embolo needs to work on the concentration levels he maintains throughout the game. At times, Embolo’s finishing can be erratic and rushed as well. The Swiss forward is usually a strong finisher but tends to opt for power over placement.

Conclusion

Embolo has all the required traits and characteristics to become a very successful striker for Mönchengladbach. With Lars Stindl prone to injuries, Raffael ageing and Thorgan Hazard’s sale, Embolo is likely to find himself handed an important role at Gladbach. A tactics driven analysis of his time at Salzburg reveals the value Rose placed on positional play and half-spaces and therefore Embolo could be unleashed in the wide-forward role. Even otherwise, his versatile skill-set will enable him to develop into a very important player at Mönchengladbach.


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