Lyle Foster: Monaco’s latest African star
At 17, Foster had already recorded his name in the history books of Soweto giants Orlando Pirates as the club’s youngest ever goalscorer. He also snatched the U20 Cosafa Championship Golden Boot award this year, scoring five goals in as many games on the continental stage.
It is now, under the tutelage of David Bechkoura, that Lyle Foster will look to announce himself to the football world. This tactical analysis uses statistics to look at what makes Foster such an exciting prospect for AS Monaco.
Height, strength and intelligence
His ability to hold off physical defenders was among his brightest assets in his first season at 17. This will give him the confidence that he can compete physically in Ligue 1 when he gets promoted. Standing at 1.85m, Foster is taller than the average height of Monaco’s front line of 1.82m.
Foster’s angled run from the first to the last image shows a run and finish of technical beauty. He attacks the left full-back before scoring a low shot into the bottom corner.
Attacking the left full-back’s right foot is a clever way to unbalance the player. This is because players who use both feet are a rarity. It is also not a tactical trend to use inverted full-backs in the French game. Foster here capitalises, demonstrating his intelligence. His positioning wide on the right allows him the chance at an angled run at goal, from which he is able to finish on his favoured right foot.
Foster’s mazy run forces the goalkeeper to commit. The goalkeeper’s advancement however allows Foster the opportunity to pick a spot on the left with the angle created. The angle allows him to comfortably finish with his laces into the bottom corner in spite of the pressure from the oncoming goalkeeper.
Not only is he adept in the centre-forward position, he also has the strength to stand his ground under pressure. Lyle is able to hold off the covering defender in the final image because of his mixture of strength and positional superiority. It is this strength and positional intelligence that allows him to take the shot at goal.
It is a natural assumption that tall strikers lack the technical finesse of their smaller counterparts. This makes their dribbling a little laboured and their finishing under pressure often suffers. However, we have proven above that Lyle Foster breaks the mould on the typical tall striker. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has an unusual gem under his nose.
Playing off the shoulder and combination play
Traditional forwards are a slowly dying breed. Blame quicker transitions, better technical ability from players all over the pitch, Juego de Posicion and ‘heavy metal football’. This means that players who can lead attacks as well as supply teammates are the popular football norm.
Playing off the shoulder and combination play are important in the highly tactical and technical modern game. Lyle Foster possesses both qualities. This, along with positioning intelligence and maturity, allows play to develop as he waits to explode in the final third. We further discuss what sets him apart in the following images below.
Having already scored, Foster uses the attention of the defenders to move them from a deep central position to one on the right half-space in the first image. This moves the the ball-oriented defenders to cover the half-space. Foster’s teammate is able to capitalise as he moves to occupy the position the forward has left. This allows him the space and time to score with a low shot across the body of the goalkeeper.
Foster proves that he is no one-trick pony by deception, capturing attention and doing the exact opposite of what the defence expects. It is through this that the goal was ultimately scored. This would have been impossible had he not had the presence of mind to create the space for his teammate and the ability to play him in. This combines his spatial awareness with movement intelligence and technical execution.
In the images below, Foster proves that he has the ability to play the goal poacher role too. Let’s take a look.
In the above images Foster allows play to develop while occupying a central position on the shoulder of the defender. He adjusts his position as he moves forward to receive the ball so that the defender is behind him. He does this for two reasons.
Firstly, the defender being behind him means that he now has both possession and protection of the ball. This is important because in possession he has the option to lose the defender with double movement. He can fake right then go left, or run onto a chipped ball from teammates after running past the defence. These available options keep the defenders guessing and as such preoccupied.
The second reason is his adjusted body position. Opening his body up while facing the direction of the teammate on the ball allows him to receive the pass while protecting it. As the second image shows, this allows him to quickly turn the defender while keeping him on his left foot and the ball protected on his right.
His turn of pace eventually gives him the space to take the shot for his second goal of the game, even against the onrushing defence in the final image.
A pressing forward
The inclination to press will be an important element in Lyle Foster’s armoury. This is a willingness he showed even in the Premier Soccer League, with the game showing a heavy preference for ball-comfortable centre-backs. Forwards like Lyle Foster, who can also do the hard work of pressing and making defences uncomfortable, will be worth their weight in French gold.
If Thierry Henry’s Monaco commit to playing a high pressing 4-3-3, a player like Foster might prove useful.
In the images above, we see how Lyle tries to win the ball back immediately from the Atletico defender. He does this by anticipation and closing down the Atletico player, denying space and time. This drastically decreases the viable options the player has in support and disrupts their play.
The team that has won the ball back is often disorganised due to the nature of the transition phase. This is clear from the first image above. The Atletico defenders have adopted a flat shape more geared to restricting space than progressing play. Foster not only recognises this opportunity but he looks to capitalise on it. Football worldwide is showing a strong adoption of gegenpressing. Here Foster shows his suitability to this style of play.
At 18 years old and with the abilities highlighted here, Lyle Foster has the football world at his feet. With time he will set Ligue 1 ablaze as a promising player among the World’s best football prospects.
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