Brian Brobbey: Ajax’s young gem who is destroying Dutch defences – scout report
While many clubs around the world look to splashing millions and millions on bringing new talent into the club, Ajax are bringing new exciting talent into the club via their youth academy. In fact, in recent years they have been the club selling players on for large transfer fees to UEFA Champions League clubs – with players who Ajax transformed into superstars as well as academy products. The likes of Donny van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Light, and Hakim Ziyech have all brought in eye-watering transfer fees that produced large profits for Ajax.
One player currently on their books who could follow in those footsteps is 20-year-old striker Brian Brobbey, who initially joined the club at the age of 15. Following a short stint in the Bundesliga, he is back at Ajax – since his return, he has enjoyed a flying start to the campaign, scoring six goals in 10 Eredivisie appearances. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of his style of play, with an analysis of how it plays a role in Ajax’s tactics. Any data included in this report will involve Brobbey’s contributions made in this season’s Eredivisie only.
After joining the famous academy at the age of 15, he impressed many people at the club but ultimately joined Bundesliga club RB Leipzig. His connection to the Amsterdam club did not end there, though, as he rejoined them just seven months later. The deal initially saw him return to the Eredivisie on loan, but the move became permanent in the summer of 2022, costing the club nearly £15m.
Standing at 5”9”, Brobbey isn’t a player who is going to rely on his height to hurt defences. Instead, its his pace and raw power along with clever movement and clinical finishing that allows him to be so deadly in attack. His heatmap below shows us where he operates and how frequently.
His heatmap also indicates a positive work ethic as he has popped up in deeper areas fairly often. We can also see that in attack he operates slightly more on the left side of the final third, which is interesting as he is right-footed, meaning he would have to cut inside more often than not to cause harm to the opposition.
Movement in the box
As mentioned, Brobbey likes to utilise his pace to benefit the team in the final third. Despite his young age, his movement in attacking phases demonstrates a high level of tactical understanding paired with strong mental attributes such as awareness and anticipation. This segment looks at his movement inside the box – with all examples being taken from his goals this season.
This first analysis is a more intricate sequence of play involving two teammates as well as Brobbey himself. The move begins with the midfielder driving towards the box, with Brobbey on the right-hand side of the two options. While he is in a decent position to receive the ball in his initial position, the ball is played into his attacking teammate while Brobbey makes a subtle but clever drifting movement into a more central position.
The move had a real sense of fluidity and team chemistry and that was highlighted as the ball was perfectly cushioned into the path of Brobbey who had somehow found space in the box without being marked. The youngster unleashed a piledriver of a shot leaving the keeper with absolutely no chance of stopping. As we can see from the visual below, Brobbey can be extremely clinical inside the box.
This visual gives us some insight into how accurate the striker is and shows us that most of his efforts on goal occur in typical striker fashion – inside the box. Interestingly, most of his goals have been struck at the right side of the goal: when coming in from the left he tends to place it into the right corner, but when coming from the right he opts for power over placement on the near side. We mentioned that he has six goals in 10 appearances thus far, which is impressive in itself. What adds to that is the fact that he only averages 56 minutes per game this season.
This next analysis gives us an example of the aforementioned power shot aimed at the near side when attacking from the right, while also giving us a glimpse of his raw pace. The move begins after a clever ball from the right-back makes its way into a midfield teammate who drives forward with little opposition presence. As he enters the final third, Brobbey looks to exploit gaps in the defence, but the ball is played on the opposite side of the left centre-half, ultimately forcing the striker wider than he would’ve liked. It was of no detriment to the attack though, as Brobbey seemed to glide across the grass to get to the ball first, unleashing a venomous first-time shot into the roof of the goal.
According to Wyscout, Brobbey averages 2.68 shots per 90 and 7.6 touches in the opposition box – numbers that don’t seem all too staggering in terms of volume, but this only highlights how dangerous he is when he does have the ball at his feet.
This final example encapsulates this segment, involving all the skills he demonstrated in previous examples. His starting position coming in from the left immediately increases in danger as he bursts forward into the box, showing good determination and tactical understanding again.
As Dusan Tadic takes the ball under his control and drives forward, Brobbey has already gone past the RB marking him, now in a dangerous space between the full-back and centre-back. The pass from Tadic is one of perfection in terms of precision and weight, and it allows Brobbey to collect the ball at pace with a delicate first touch, before slotting the ball into the bottom right corner.
Link-up play in midfield
In line with his good tactical understanding and determination to help his team, Brobbey deserves credit for his work in linking up in midfield areas to help progress possession. On multiple occasions he has dropped back into deeper regions to offer assistance – this segment of analysis looks at how he does this effectively.
This analysis gives us an insight into Brobbey’s way of thinking as his team looks to push forward. While a more selfish striker may look to stay on the shoulder of the last defender, Brobbey realises his teammate’s need for support, and so he drifts into a deeper space to lend a helping hand.
Brobbey collects the ball in space, with his back to goal, but knows his teammate continued his run after the first pass and returns the ball with good timing and weight – this made the move a fluid one that allowed Ajax to progress from midfield to attack rather seamlessly.
In this example, we see Brobbey operating in a deeper zone in midfield. The right-back fires a pass into the striker who dropped in to act as an extra man in the build-up phase, laying a pass into the path of his midfield teammate. Brobbey did seem to have a quick glance to see the bursting run of his RB teammate, so it is possible that he played the pass back to his teammate with the idea that he would place a pass into space on the right flank. While this did not come to fruition, the play from Brobbey was faultless and productive for Ajax’s possession.
We know by now that Brobbey is not a selfish player, but a player who works hard and works for his teammates. He also showed good vision in the final third to create chances for his teammates. With three assists in 10 games this season so far, this is another area in which he is dangerous. Below is an analysis of his contributions to creating direct chances on goal.
This analysis provides an example of an assist that brings back memories of the likes of Dennis Bergkamp. Brobbey pins the opposition centre-half as he anticipates the ball from midfield, and while Brobbey isn’t a tall player, his strength is quite remarkable, and he uses it to keep the defender at bay.
As the pass comes in, Brobbey’s midfield teammate, who somehow remained unmarked in the entire attack, starts to angle a run into space further forward, and Brobbey, recognising this, plays a clever, elegant flick around the corner, perfectly into the path of his teammate who collected the ball and went on to score.
Chance creation is becoming a strong part of Brobbey’s game. With an xA of 1.01, he has demonstrated a quality that adds a certain versatility and unpredictability to his style of play. If there is one minor criticism, it’s about as positive as a criticism could be – while he does lend himself to linking up with the midfield and looks to bring teammates into play in the final third, his positioning in doing so sometimes brings him away from the centre-forward role. In some cases, he would be better off remaining central and involving himself in the latter phases of the attack to give himself a chance of scoring even more goals.
Brian Brobbey has every chance of achieving whatever he desires in football if he remains on the path he is currently on. The move to RB Leipzig surprised some when it happened, but the return to Ajax was a wise decision – both for Brobbey in terms of development and for Ajax in terms of having a clinical goalscorer. His impressive technical attributes make him a danger for any defence, but there is room for improvement in some areas.
We mentioned the case of not dropping deep as often, but he also doesn’t dribble all that much currently. With the pace he has and his natural technical talent, it would be a safe bet that he would excel in that area. However, his performances so far for Ajax have been nothing short of dazzling, and he could become one of the biggest stars in Europe if he continues to work hard and score goals.