Ivan Toney: Why the elite Brentford talisman needs to be signed by a European powerhouse – scout report
Ivan Toney has started this Premier League season in the same way he finished the previous campaign, with teams unable to stop his unique style of power and precision. While many people thought the resurrection of Brentford last season was due to Christian Eriksen’s arrival, we explained that there was more to it than one signing, and his departure to Manchester United hasn’t affected Ivan Toney’s goalscoring run.
The ex-Newcastle United forward has been pivotal to how well Brentford started this season, and if he was to depart, Brentford would be in real trouble. The talisman is a big reason why Brentford avoided relegation last year, and will likely be the reason why Brentford rise to the mid-table region of the Premier League table.
With this being a World Cup season, Ivan Toney will definitely be on Gareth Southgate’s radar as a backup to Harry Kane. Although the two have similar play styles, one of the biggest qualities Toney is known for, is his unique and faultless penalty routine. This could be important for any potential success at the World Cup, and so Toney definitely deserves to be on the plane to Qatar.
Furthermore, Toney rejected a call-up from Jamaica in the past year, because of his belief in himself to have the ability to make an impact for England, with the knowledge of Kane’s presence in the squad not phasing him one bit. This highlights his mentality and ambitiousness, which will drive him to play for the biggest clubs around Europe.
This tactical analysis will come in the form of a scout report to show what makes Ivan Toney one of the top centre-forwards around Europe. The analysis will highlight the skills Toney possesses that make him so strong both technically and physically and why he can fit in with the tactics at almost any club around Europe, due to his complete play style.
Ivan Toney has this season mostly played as the lone striker in a 4-3-3 system. Brentford occasionally build up from the back, however, they usually bypass the middle third to find Ivan Toney directly. For this reason, Toney doesn’t get the opportunity to drop deeper into his half to help with build-up, but rather stays high to battle for long balls and knock the ball down for his teammates.
During their Premier League stay, Brentford have also used a 3-5-2 system, with Toney on the left-hand side of a front two, which explains the reason for his heat map being more active on the left side of the pitch. Although it seems like he prefers the left side, Ivan Toney is very comfortable playing on either side, aiding the build-up before eventually getting into the box. We can see he spends most of his time in the opposition box, with Brentford trying to find him directly in both open play, or from set pieces where he is equally as threatening.
A key quality which every top-class striker must possess is the ability to find space in the box, through intelligent movement, to make the chance as easy as possible for himself. Ivan Toney, like other world-class strikers, has the know-how to consistently find himself receiving balls into the box with space around him, due to his ability to find the free space.
This example below shows how he positions himself out of sight of the central defender, and pins the left-sided centre back, preventing him from intercepting the ball. Toney darts into the box, and uses his physical stature and technical quality to hold the defender off, bring the ball to a stop, and coolly slot the ball into the back of the net, inspiring a comeback against Leicester.
A factor which helps separate Ivan Toney from other technically superior centre forwards is his ability to strike the ball with enormous power. The ability to do so means that it is of course harder to stop shots, in comparison to other forwards who may get better chances more often, but panic in front of goal and miskick the ball. Furthermore, Toney doesn’t need to have much space to generate lots of power, which in turn means that defenders can’t afford to even give him a second on the ball, otherwise their goalkeeper gets put in a dangerous situation.
As a result, Toney has a certain gravity to him, which attracts defenders due to his reputation, and provides his teammates with more time and space to receive the ball. While this is from a dead ball situation, you can clearly see how well Toney can strike through the ball. He has a very relaxed and short run-up, which lulls the keeper into a false sense of security as he may think the effort will be softer and more accurate, before unleashing a devastating effort into the top corner, one which is so powerful yet also beautifully curls from outside the post into the top corner.
Another key quality Toney possesses is his ability to remain calm under pressure, no matter the situation. Ivan Toney doesn’t get phased by a lunging or a sliding player, and neither does he get rushed into making a decision. The game is played at Toney’s pace and the relentless pressure from other players makes no difference.
The image below shows a wide array of Toney’s abilities. Firstly, with a player recovering from behind, Ivan Toney has the awareness to slow down, let him run past and knock the ball through the defender’s legs, also displaying his 1v1 dribbling abilities. With the goalkeeper chasing him, and two defenders making their way to the goal line, Toney has the composure to chip the ball perfectly over the defenders’ heads into the back of the net, even though he could’ve possibly gone even closer to the goal or played it to a teammate. This also further proves how confident Toney is in himself and that he has the mentality to succeed under the most pressurised moments.
Ivan Toney’s superb penalty record further proves just how composed he can be in front of goal, and why he should be picked for the English national team. In his entire career, Toney has scored 24/25 (96%) of all penalties taken and has scored all 18 he has taken for Brentford.
His penalty style is quite unique, with a much shorter run-up than most. Ivan Toney walks up to the ball slowly with the ability to keep eye contact with the goalkeeper, to figure out which way they will dive before shooting in the opposite direction. This sort of method, which the likes of Jorginho and Bruno Fernandes attempt, has proved to be quite successful but what makes Toney different to the others is his self-confidence to put the penalty out of the keeper’s reach rather than rolling it to the bottom corner.
Toney avoids the risk of the goalkeeper saving the penalty by having the confidence and ability to put the penalty out of the keeper’s reach every time. Even when he knows he has sent the keeper the wrong way, Toney will always aim for the side netting and has the ability to accurately do so every time.
The final quality which makes Toney so effective in the box is his ability to score with his head and aerial ability. Toney is complete in terms of his ability to score in any way, which makes him a threat in any scenario. Up against a deep block from Burnley, Ivan Toney positions himself on the blindside of the defender and makes a darting run towards the back post. He then uses his amazing heading ability to place the ball into the far corner, giving Nick Pope no chance of saving the shot.
Quality link-up play
Ivan Toney’s excellent link-up play is one key reason why he could play for most teams across Europe and has the ability to act as a link to attacking wide players for any in the world. Toney has the appropriate understanding of when and where to drop deep to help his team progress the ball when required. While Toney usually occupies the two central defenders, he can also cause chaos for opposition midfielders by dropping deep and playing off their shoulders.
This image below displays Toney’s willingness to drop deeper, to offer Ben Mee a passing option after he’s been pressed high by Leicester. Toney knows that Mee is about to launch the ball, and so he drops into the big gap between the midfield and defensive lines before excellently bringing the ball down and laying it off for a third-man runner. The ability to perfectly control a ball, and find the space to do so, shows signs of a really intelligent striker which explains why he could be an important player for lots of possession-based sides.
In addition to Toney’s willingness to drop deep, he also has the ability to perfectly weigh passes for his teammates to run onto. Toney is excellent at identifying runners and having the quality of pass to perfectly execute those actions. This image below shows Toney already gearing up to make the pass before the ball is played to him, with his understanding to speed up play through a first-time pass to prevent the Chelsea defenders from recovering in time.
It is clear that Toney has excellent passing abilities, with a 74.5% pass accuracy for a striker in a direct team where most passes are attempted to offer forward ball progression.
What sets Toney up to the elite bracket, with a skill only the top strikers possess, is his awareness of everything that’s going on. Not many forwards have this level of composure, to stand still and look around whilst being surrounded by numerous defenders. Toney also displays a level of patience, as most players would either attempt to pass, dribble or shoot, but Toney knows there is a space he can penetrate if the run is made.
Toney has the vision to spot a teammate making a run, with an image in his head of the play in front of him already being set. This allows him to play a pass with the knowledge that it will come through thanks to his earlier scans. The fact that he plays the pass with his weak foot shows that he’s a great creator, with the option of playing passes on either foot meaning that there are more passing angles available to him at all times, causing even more problems for opposition defenders.
This pass below, against Manchester United, also displays his excellent passing with either foot, as well as the ability to do so over a longer distance. This pass is made off the back of a long ball from Jensen, which shows Toney’s ability to also run the channels for teams on the counterattack, whilst possessing the decision-making to know when to make the pass. Ivan Toney in the example below has allowed the ball to bounce, luring in Lisandro Martinez which has opened up more space for Mbeumo to attack.
The final aspect which makes Ivan Toney such a good player at linking attacks is his ability to retain possession through his dribbling. Toney’s close control and ball manipulation skills allow him to get out of dangerous situations by luring defenders in to commit to tackles before skipping past them with the ball.
His great dribbling skills also mean he is able to create separation from the defender instantly by knocking the ball to one side. The ability to create separation also allows Toney to make new passing angles for himself, from which he can create more dangerous opportunities. This image below shows how Toney seemingly has no options before he rolls the ball onto his left foot and has a clear pass on to split the defensive line with his left foot.
Ivan Toney is also a monster in physical duels both on the ground and aerially. Toney is 6 feet tall, although the way he wins aerial duels so regularly due to his timing, aggression and jumping abilities make him seem much taller.
In this image below, Ivan Toney beats Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk, one of the best players in the air, to a header by out-jumping him. Toney’s incredible aerial ability to win headers and knock the ball down to teammates makes Brentford incredibly difficult to press.
David Raya, when faced with pressure simply has to launch the ball towards Toney, who boasts a 46.4% aerial duel success rate in the Premier League. Toney wins almost one in every two aerial duels, meaning half the time teams that press Brentford open themselves up to dangerous transitional situations where Toney has knocked the ball down to a teammate to attack an outnumbered defence.
Ivan Toney is different to any Premier League player. He will try things no other player could even imagine. He is a devastating finisher in the box and a creative playmaker all at the same time. Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane is similar in that sense, but no one else comes even close to his style of play in the league.
This image below shows just how original and confident Toney is at the same time. He brings down a long ball over the top and has the awareness to spot the goalkeeper off his line. With the outside of his boot, he attempts a chip from 25/30 yards out, which goes just over the bar. Although the effort was off target, the idea was fine as the keeper was far off his line. Toney also displayed good composure to bring the ball down perfectly whilst under pressure from two defenders.
In addition, Toney also has the flair and agility to attempt passes other players aren’t considering. Johnny Evans gets tight to Toney, with the hopes of making him play the ball backwards, and he leaves a gap behind him that Toney has the awareness to identify. Toney plays an Ibrahimovic-esque backheel pass in behind the Leicester backline which unfortunately gets cut out by Wesley Fofana.
The ability to creatively attempt these threatening situations will keep opposing defenders on their toes in the future, which will only give Toney more time to have the chance to do the easier bits such as bringing the ball down and playing a simpler pass. The unpredictability of Toney has made him a nightmare to defend against, and a kind of player that we haven’t seen too often in recent times.
In conclusion, Ivan Toney possesses all the mental, technical and physical qualities required to perform as a striker in any role in any given team. Toney can hold the ball up, attack the space, link up play and be trusted to finish chances in the box. At Brentford, he hasn’t always been given many opportunities, but with a 40% shot accuracy and 56% dribble success rate, we can see that Toney is a complete player in any sense. He is capable of creating from a deep-lying position, retaining the ball like a false nine, finishing chances like a poacher and holding the ball up like a target man.
Ivan Toney is perfect for any system and deserves to be playing European football week in and week out. He is incredibly valuable to Brentford, and should not be cheap if a team did come for him, but the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United would benefit from a complete forward that is capable in all aspects of play, something neither has a definite solution for.