Kasper Dolberg 2019/20 – scout report
After scoring two goals in his first eight Ligue 1 games this season, it may be fair to say that Kasper Dolberg required a small period of time to settle into his new surroundings upon moving to OGC Nice from Ajax last August, becoming the French club’s record transfer signing in the process.
However, the Danish international’s most recent eight Ligue 1 games have been much more positive. Dolberg has scored a total of six goals in his last eight Ligue 1 appearances, taking his league tally for the 2019/20 season up to 11. This means that Dolberg has impressively scored more than a quarter of his side’s 41 Ligue 1 goals thus far during the 2019/20 campaign.
Now 22-years-old, Dolberg has continued to develop positively at his new club Nice throughout the 2019/20 season. The well-rounded centre forward continues to look like a player who may be destined to lead the line for a top European team.
In this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, we will discuss some of the key aspects of Dolberg’s game. We will provide a tactical analysis of Dolberg’s role within Nice’s tactics and we will attempt to explain why the 22-year-old forward has played a key role for Arsenal legend and current Nice manager Patrick Vieira’s side this season.
Close-range, first-time goalscoring
As we previously stated in the intro of this scout report, Dolberg has scored more than a quarter of his team’s Ligue 1 goals during the 2019/20 campaign. The majority of the Danish attacker’s goals this season have come as a result of him getting onto the end of a pass or cross from one of his teammates and performing the duty of putting the finishing touch on an attack at the moment that he first makes contact with the ball.
Dolberg isn’t a player who you will typically see taking on multiple men by himself before finishing the attack. Instead, the 22-year-old attacker often gets himself into a positive goalscoring position via intelligent off-the-ball movement. When met with an accurate cross or through ball, Dolberg’s intelligent attacking runs are often effective enough to set him up to send the ball straight into the net with his first touch.
As per understat.com, the Dane has outperformed his expected goals (xG) tally by a total of 2.37 so far during the 2019/20 league season. This essentially tells us that the forward has scored more goals than would statistically be expected of him based on the quality of chances that have been created for him, according to understat’s metrics. This tells us that Dolberg has been relatively efficient in front of goal this term.
The Nice forward’s effective attacking runs have played a significant role in helping Dolberg to perform clinically in front of goal this season. His movement inside the box during the latter stages of his team’s attacks help him to position himself optimally to create goalscoring chances for himself on a regular basis which he often finishes first time.
This image above, which is taken from understat, provides us with a map featuring a dot which represents all 11 of Dolberg’s goals from the 2019/20 Ligue 1 season. As this image shows us, only one of the Nice attacker’s 11 goals have come from outside of the box. In addition to not being a player who typically takes on multiple players himself before finishing, Dolberg also isn’t a player who typically goes for the spectacular, instead generally opting to link up with his teammates when in possession of the ball outside of the box to try and work the ball into a close-range goalscoring opportunity.
Furthermore, eight of Dolberg’s 11 league goals this season have come from within the distance of the goal to the penalty spot. This image illustrates the impact of Dolberg’s off-the-ball movement and its effectiveness at helping him to get into close-range goalscoring positions, as these are the kinds of positions that he scores the vast majority of his goals from.
This image above is taken from Nice’s 2-1 win over Olympique Lyon on the second of February. As we can see, the ball is located on the right side of the box at this particular moment, with the wide man appearing to be lining up a cross. Meanwhile, at this particular moment, Dolberg is positioned behind an opposition centre-back.
At this stage of the attack, Dolberg appears to be making a run around the left side of the defender. The Lyon centre-back checks his left shoulder to attempt to keep himself aware of Dolberg’s movement just before the Danish attacker quickly makes a slight alteration to the direction of his run which sees him quickly dart around the right side of the Lyon centre-back.
Dolberg’s pace and intelligence come into play massively here. The 22-year-old forward times his movement perfectly to get around the front of the defender and he exemplifies his intelligence and a high level of understanding with his teammates by how he quickly gets himself into a good position to capitalise on his teammate’s incoming cross.
Furthermore, his pace is crucial in helping him to give the Lyon defender little hope of reacting to his run, while this also helps him to quickly make his way from this starting position into a position nearer the front post where he can go on to meet his teammate’s cross and finish this attack.
As this passage of play unfolds, we can see how Dolberg’s quick and intelligent movement inside the penalty area pays off. The Danish attacker quickly finds himself on course to meet his teammate’s cross thanks to this run on the inside of the opposition defender. As the ball makes its way into the box at pace, the attacker only needs to make a slight bit of contact to force the ball onto the right path to meet the back of the net, which he does on this occasion.
This image above also shows us how the Lyon defender nearest to Dolberg struggles to maintain a close distance to the attacker due to his quick and sudden movement. This type of movement is a common feature of Dolberg’s game inside the penalty area. He is effective at creating a decent amount of distance between himself and his opponents during the final moments of an attack in order to help him to get a clear strike off at goal.
Dolberg’s physical and technical attributes are important elements of his game which help to make him a well-rounded attacker. His speed can be seen helping him to effectively get into a goalscoring position in this passage of play above, while his technical finishing ability is also a crucial element to his game.
However, it may be fair to say that Dolberg’s intelligent movement, ability to read the game and a high level of understanding with his teammates have been key to helping him to get himself into close-range goalscoring positions time and time again throughout the 2019/20 season.
Dolberg’s link-up play
While the previous section of this tactical analysis piece shows us how Dolberg’s intelligent movement plays an important role during the final stages of his team’s attacks, the attacker’s movement also plays a notable role in other aspects of his game.
In addition to having good technical finishing ability, Dolberg’s technical qualities extend into his impressive ball control and passing ability. Nice make the most of Dolberg’s quality on the ball by getting the attacker involved in the build-up of attacks.
While Dolberg often leads the line for his team, he can often be seen dropping into deeper positions on the pitch, making himself a progressive passing option for his teammates as his team attempt to build from the midfield into the final third.
Dolberg’s ability to read the game well and his effective off-the-ball movement come into play here, while this element of Nice’s tactics also gives Dolberg the opportunity to make use of some of his technical qualities.
This image above provides us with an example of a Nice attack which saw Dolberg drop away from his centre forward position in order to help his side progress the ball into the final third of the pitch. As we can see here, Nice were in possession of the ball on the right-wing, in the middle third of the pitch, just prior to this image being taken. Dolberg orientates himself on the right side of the opposition box towards his teammate in possession of the ball, with his back to goal and an opposition defender.
Dolberg makes himself available to receive a diagonal pass from his wide teammate. The attacker’s positioning successfully allows his side to play through the lines here and advance the ball from the middle third of the pitch into the final third.
As this passage of play moves on, we can see that Dolberg drops into the right half-space to meet this pass as it is played into him. The opposition defender who had been marking Dolberg doesn’t follow the attacker as he drops into a deeper part of the pitch, as he doesn’t want to create a gap in his team’s defensive line.
However, the defender is slightly out of line with his fellow defenders as Dolberg receives possession, as we can see here, which creates some space in behind Monaco’s defensive line which Nice’s right-winger and Dolberg’s strike partner can then probe into and attempt to exploit, as we can see here.
This passage of play provides us with an example of the important role that Dolberg often plays in helping his side to build from the midfield into the final third. The Dane’s movement and technical quality are important at helping Nice to build into the final third of the pitch and Dolberg can often be seen dropping into the half-spaces to make himself a progressive passing option for his teammates from these positions and attempt to create space in behind the opposition’s defensive line for his teammates to try and exploit, as they did during this particular attack.
As Dolberg’s teammates probe into the space that his movement creates, he can subsequently attempt to find their runs with the ball once he collects it.
In addition to dropping off into the half-spaces, Dolberg can also often be seen dropping deep in more central areas of the pitch at times. In this image above, Nice’s holding midfielder is in possession of the ball with two more advanced central midfielders occupying positions ahead of him. As we can see, the opposition’s midfielders are set up effectively to prevent the holding midfielder from advancing play through either of Nice’s other two central midfielders.
However, there does appear to be some space in the centre of the pitch between Monaco’s midfield and defensive lines for Nice to potentially exploit here. They can do this via Dolberg, who will leave his centre forward position to drop into this deeper position and help his side to advance play by linking up with the midfield to create a diamond shape.
This next image shows us how Dolberg links up with Nice’s midfield trio to create a diamond shape in the centre of the park and subsequently help his side to advance play through the opposition’s midfield line.
Dolberg quickly breaks past the opposition centre-back who he had been standing behind in the previous image as he drops into midfield to help Nice to create this diamond shape. The 22-year-old collects the ball from the holding midfielder who can now play directly through the centre of the pitch, avoiding the need to play the ball to either of the two midfielders who had been positioned in front of him in order to advance play into the final third.
As Dolberg receives the ball, he can then play it out to his teammate at the left central midfield position who can now collect the ball facing towards the opposition goal. Dolberg also creates some space in behind the opposition’s defensive line here as his movement draws a Monaco centre-back away from his position.
This passage of play provides us with another example of Dolberg’s link-up play and the importance of his role in helping his side to build into the final third of the pitch. Dolberg’s intelligent movement combines with his technical attributes to help him to be an asset for his side in these situations.
Unselfish runs to create space for teammates off the ball
The previous section discussed how Dolberg’s movement into deeper areas of the pitch can both help his side to advance possession into the final third, as well as create space behind the opposition’s defensive line. However, Dolberg can also often be seen making unselfish runs which attract the opposition defenders away from a specific area, subsequently creating space for one of Dolberg’s teammates to exploit in the process.
This image above provides us with our first example of Dolberg successfully creating space for one of his teammates’ runs via his off the ball movement. As we can see here, Dolberg is positioned on the right shoulder of the opposition’s right centre-back at this particular moment. Meanwhile, his midfield teammate is dribbling the ball towards the opposition’s penalty area, while one more attacker is making his run in between Dolberg and the ball carrier.
As this passage of play moves on, the ball carrier attracts the opposition’s left centre-back towards him due to his threatening dribble. This creates some space in behind that player for the Nice attacker who had been making a run in between Dolberg and the ball carrier to potentially exploit.
Meanwhile, the opposition’s right centre-back is prevented from immediately covering the space in behind the left centre-back as Dolberg made a run drifting over towards the left side of the box which drew the right centre-back towards him. This created a gap between the opposition’s two central defenders, which we can see the right centre-back now attempting to close as the Nice ball carrier plays the ball through to his teammate who is now probing into the space in between the two defenders, as we can see in this image above.
As this attack concludes, the right centre-back fails to close down this Nice attacker who had been played through before he can get a shot off. The defender struggles to make his way across the box in time because of Dolberg’s unselfish movement which resulted in this defender positioning himself further away from the space that the other Nice attacker was targeting with his run.
This next image provides us with a different example of Dolberg making an unselfish run to help one of his teammates to capitalise on a goalscoring chance. On this occasion, Dolberg creates space for one of his teammates from a crossing situation as the Danish attacker makes one of his runs in front of the opposition defender, towards the front post.
Dolberg is positioned just on the edge of the box here, as two of his teammates combine on the left-wing to advance the ball into the box from the wide area.
As the play moves on, the attacker who received the ball inside the box begins to take it towards the edge of the pitch, while Dolberg makes a darting run towards him from the edge of the box.
At the moment that this image is taken, it appears as though Dolberg may be getting too close to his teammate to get onto the end of an attempted cross. However, as we can see, Dolberg’s run towards the ball carrier attracts an opposition defender who follows his run out from the centre of the box.
This creates some space between the left centre-back and the left-back which can then be exploited by the Nice midfielder who can be seen arriving late into the box here.
Dolberg’s unselfish movement ultimately pays off as the Nice midfielder who arrived late into the penalty area here goes on to connect with this cross and sends the ball into the back of the opposition net, while the opposition defenders scramble to make up for their poor positioning.
This passage of play provides us with another example of Dolberg’s awareness of his teammates’ runs and positioning, as well as the opposition defenders’ positioning. While the Nice midfielder does well to time his run, take advantage of this space and ultimately finish the chance, it may be fair to say that Dolberg’s unselfish run played a crucial role in creating this goal.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, Dolberg has continued to develop positively since arriving in Ligue 1 at the beginning of the 2019/20 season. The Danish attacker has shown himself to possess some top quality technical and physical attributes throughout his time at Nice thus far.
However, it may be fair to say that Dolberg’s intelligent movement and impressive ability to read the game stand out as his most important attributes. His movement helps him to create easier goalscoring chances both for himself and his teammates, while it also frequently helps his side to build into the final third of the pitch.
Dolberg is a well-rounded centre forward. However, he isn’t without fault. While he is a physically strong attacker, he can sometimes get outmuscled by strong opposition defenders, which can upset his attempts at holding up the ball on some occasions. However, this is an area of Dolberg’s game which can be improved upon and it isn’t a particularly glaring negative of his game by any stretch.
Dolberg possesses impressive mental, technical, and physical attributes which may help him to become a top centre forward in the coming years, should he continue to develop as he has been thus far in his young, promising career.