Jeremie Frimpong 2019/20 – scout report
Celtic have dominated their domestic league for the last decade. Winning the league offers the chance to compete at top European competitions. However, to compete at the European stage Celtic had to bring in quality players at a relatively low price that met their tight budget constraints. Between 2010-2014, Neil Lennon’s first reign as manager of Celtic, he tried to sign young promising but unproven European players. His intention was to develop the players and give them exposure to the European stage before selling them onto bigger clubs for a profit.
Celtic became a great stepping stone club for this cohort of players, gaining first-team action while also gaining valuable experience from playing in top European competitions. Celtic’s recruitment strategy has been successful by discovering and giving a platform for the likes of Victor Wanyama, Moussa Dembele and Virgil Van Dijk who have since moved onto top European clubs. This strategy enabled the Glaswegian club to compete in Europe while also turning a huge profit when the players eventually moved on.
In Neil Lennon’s second stint as Celtic manager, he continues to discover and sign young promising talent from Europe. One player Lennon has unearthed this season and has made a huge impact is young Dutch full-back Jeremie Frimpong. Frimpong first came to Celtic’s attention playing in Manchester City’s under-23 squad last season where he impressed causing the Scottish club to sign him last summer.
This season despite having competition from Mortiz Bauer and Hatem Elhamed at right-back, Frimpong’s impressive performances have propelled him to become Celtic’s first choice in the full-back position. This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report will focus on how Frimpong has made an instant impact becoming one of Celtic’s and the league’s most exciting players this season.
Celtic’s progressive outlet
Coming into the 2019/20 season Celtic were treble, treble winners losing only 5 games in the league last season. The Hoops are renowned for dominating and controlling games through a possession-based philosophy. Dominating possession and patiently breaking down the opposition is how Celtic set up and, with the array of quality players in the team, they overwhelm their opponents and come away with a result.
This season under Neil Lennon his side continued the same patient possession-based philosophy that has stood them so well. However, when Lennon gave Frimpong his debut against Patrick Thistle in the league cup he put in a man of the match performance. That performance solidified his place in the team as starting first-choice right-back but also in subsequent matches with Frimpong in the team Lennon altered his tactics that focused around utilising the young full-back’s strengths.
Frimpong plays the right-back position like he is a right-winger. When he receives the ball he is very direct and positive looking to drive forward with the ball, coupled with these attributes he has electric pace which in all can terrorise opposition defences. Lennon recognised the threat he possessed and tweaked his tactics to ensure Frimpong would receive the ball in space and be able to drive forward with the ball.
In possession, Celtic would look to build-up down the left. the Dutch right-back would position himself wide out on the right but not too high that it would draw the attention of the opposition’s left-sided defenders. The opposition left-winger (his marker) would naturally tuck in thus leaving Frimpong in space. If Celtic could not progress the ball on the left the ball would then be circulated back from the left and out to the right quickly where Frimpong in acres of space can receive the ball and drive the ball forward.
Since the young full-back has broken into the team as a regular, Celtic use this move quite frequently as the young Dutchman’s direct forward style gets Celtic into advanced positions in which the can create opportunities to score.
In the game against Rangers in December, Celtic used this tactic to great effect. Celtic looked to progress the ball down the left-hand side through a patient, possession build-up. Rangers then looked to press Celtic committing numbers across to collapse on the ball. Celtic almost bait Rangers into committing players to the left-hand side and Celtic are able to circulate the ball back to Christopher Julien who picks out Frimpong who is positioned wide on the right. The Dutch full-back is in acres of space as Rangers have committed too many players to the left-hand side of the pitch, as we can see in the image below. Frimpong can then drive the ball forward and use his pace to attack the space.
Frimpong has become an outlet for Celtic to progress the ball forward as the young full-back is so positive thinking and constantly wants to drive the Hoops up the pitch. The Celtic right-back makes 7.1 progressive runs p/90 which shows how effective he is at carrying the ball into advanced positions. Even if the young full-back is not in space and pressured he has the pace, agility and dribbling ability to evade pressure and drive forward with the ball, as he did below against Rangers as he glides by the pressure with ease and drives forward.
Frimpong does not only carry the ball, but he is also effective when passing the ball forward playing 3.1 passes into final third p/90 with a 70% success rate. Overall the former Man City academy player has become a vital part of Celtic’s build-up play being the Glaswegians main progressive outlet out on the right.
When Celtic are in possession, Frimpong acts like a right-winger rather than a right-back. This would suggest that the 19-year-old is adept when attacking but lacks in terms of his defensive contributions. However, the full-back does not lack in this area and tends to his defensive responsibilities. Although Celtic are normally on the front foot in games, so the right-back is not constantly having to defend, but when he is called on he does his defensive job adequately where he is involved in 6.1 defensive duels p/90 with a 60% success rate.
Frimpong has an appetite to win the ball back and looks to turn defence into attack putting his team back on the front foot. The Celtic defender uses his acceleration and pace to latch onto loose balls, which was evident in the game against Aberdeen. The Dutchman was up against a tricky opponent in Niall McGinn but he defended well against him, like in the move below, as the ball is played into McGinn, Frimpong anticipates the pass and uses his acceleration and pace to nick the ball away from the Northern Ireland international. He is not just content with winning the ball as he drives forward and plays a ball forward sending Celtic instantly on an attack.
The Celtic defender has blistering pace which he uses to drive forward with the ball, which I mentioned earlier in this analysis. Frimpong also utilises his speed to make effective defensive recovery tackles. In the game against Patrick Thistle the Dutch defender makes a goal-saving recovery tackle. Patrick Thistle catches Celtic on the counter as the opposition striker runs onto a long ball, Fraser Foster decides to come out and claim the ball but the striker rounds him. Just as the opposition striker is about to tap the ball into an empty net, Frimpong races back and puts in a vital tackle to save a certain goal.
Contribution in the final third
As you watch Frimpong’s performances you will notice that he progresses the ball forward effectively to the final third, which I have addressed in the first point of this analysis. Once he gets into the final he poses the opposition a huge challenge in trying to stop him as he is an attacking threat. With Celtic being on the front foot normally in matches and Frimpong’s eagerness to attack he is involved in 12.2 offensive duels p/90.
The 19-year-old terrorises opposition defences with his searing speed, agility and his close control in tight spaces which makes it difficult for defenders to stop him. Before he was deployed as a right-back at Manchester City’s under-23 side he played as a right-winger in the academy ranks. He attacks in the same style as a typical winger, being very direct and willing to take opposition defenders on, this is evident as he attempts 7.8 dribbles p/90 with a 60% success rate.
Frimpong stands at just 5ft 8 which means he has a low centre of gravity so he can change direction very quickly, coupled with this is his acceleration from a standing start is staggering. He has the ability to lull an opposition defender into a false sense of security standing still where in an instant he can accelerate past them. This gives Lennon another weapon he can use in the final third as Frimpong creates chances by beating opposition defenders where he makes 2.1 passes into the box p/90 and he has 22 shot assists to his name this season.
This season the Dutchman has been carving up defences but he has the awareness to lay the ball at the right time to his teammates to create a chance on goal. He showed great awareness in the final third when he assisted James Forrest’s goal against Ross County. Frimpong drives into the box beating a Ross County player with ease. As he progresses down just inside the by-line he lifts his head and sees Forrest free in the box. The 19-year-old cleverly delays the pass which makes the opposition defender engage him opening the space further for Forrest before cutting it back for him to finish.
In terms of attacking the opposition, Frimpong has a ruthless mentality where he is always trying to punish his opponents. The full-back makes it difficult for defenders as sometimes when he lays the ball off instead of making an overlapping run staying on the right-wing, he makes an underlapping run and drives into the penalty area. With his unpredictability, it’s hard for opposition defenders to keep tabs on him.
The Dutch defender likes to position himself in the penalty area where he has 4.1 touches inside the box p/90. He picks up great positions in the box and this may be from his previous experience when he played up front before he was signed by Manchester City. Frimpong has two goals this season, which is down to his willingness to get in the box and his great positioning, identifying space like in the match against Aberdeen (below). Where he plays the ball through to Odsonne Édouard and instead of admiring the pass he identifies the space and makes a run into the box before being picked out by the Frenchman and before tucking the ball into the net.
With Frimpong’s great dribbling ability, his willingness to take on and beat opposition players coupled with his ability to position himself in space in the box and his finishing means he contributions to a goal every 220 minutes which is impressive from a full-back. He is a real threat who is effective in the final third which Lennon is utilising well as he gives Frimpong the licence to show off his attacking strengths.
Areas for improvement
As shown in this analysis Frimpong has really excelled in his first season in Glasgow but there are some areas the 19-year-old should polish to take his game to the next level. One area where he needs to improve is his ball retention as he loses possession on average 9 times per game. This is a result of trying to do too much with the ball where sometimes defenders double up against him like in the game against Rangers below. Frimpong is pressed by two Rangers players and instead of looking for support, he looks to dribble by them. Frimpong loses the ball and he is out of position, Rangers go on the counter but only for Krisoffer Ajer covering Frimpong Celtic were at risk of conceding a goal.
In such situations, the full-back needs to improve his awareness and decision making identifying the right time to dribble and when to look for support and pass the ball to his teammates, this will reduce the number of times he losses possession and puts his team under pressure.
Another area Frimpong needs to improve and polish is his defensive positioning where sometimes he tends to switch off and, as a result, he is slightly out of position. The 19-year-old poor positioning has been exploited from time to time. In the game against Rangers he was ahead of his defensive line, Ryan Kent was wide on the left-wing and makes a run in behind. Frimpong’s poor defensive position is exploited through a long ball by Conor Goldson to Kent. Kent then plays a first-time cross to Alfredo Morelos in the box who should score, a real let-off for the Celtic full-back.
Jeremie Frimpong has made a huge impact in his breakout season for Celtic. The 19-year-old has become a key figure for Neil Lennon’s side for progressing the ball forward as outline in the analysis. His pace, agility, dribbling ability and willingness to get into the penalty area make him a dangerous player in the final third while also being a solid defender.
The Dutch defenders move to Celtic so far is a success. With Lennon’s possession-based philosophy while also being a front-foot team complements Frimpong’s strengths as he looks to continue his brilliant displays exciting the Park Head faithful when football returns.