The Ukrainian Neymar: Shakhtar’s ready-made replacement for Arsenal and Leeds target
Left-winger Mykhailo Mudryk has been recalled by Shakhtar Donetsk – who currently sit in second place on the Ukrainian Premier League table – from his loan spell at third-placed Desna, where he spent the first half of the 2020/21 campaign.
So, do Shakhtar view Mudryk as Solomon’s replacement-in-waiting should they receive an acceptable offer for the sought-after 21-year-old?
This tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, will examine the playing style of Mudryk, who turned 20 years old on 5th January and stands at 175cm (5’9”), weighing 61kg (134lbs). We’ll provide some analysis of his main strengths, weaknesses, and how a team’s tactics might utilise him most effectively.
Movement and positioning
To kick off this tactical analysis piece, we’ll discuss Mudryk’s movement and positioning. This section will focus on the areas in which he tends to spend most of his time, where he is most effective and what types of specific movements he makes during a match.
Firstly, this image above shows us Mudryk’s heatmap for the 2020/21 league season from his time on loan at Desna. As mentioned, he prefers to play as a left-winger and this is evident by the heatmap, as the colour is mainly concentrated on the left side of the pitch.
However, perhaps one notable feature of this heat map is that it demonstrates that Mudryk has generally operated in slightly deeper areas of the pitch this term, as opposed to more advanced areas of the pitch, while he also clearly cuts into more central areas of the pitch quite a lot, rather than sticking out wide and constantly providing the width to stretch the opposition backline.
However, we can also see that there is a decent amount of colour right at the byline at the top of the pitch, which is separated from the main area of colour by a patch just at the edge of the penalty area where Mudryk doesn’t spend a lot of time. The reason why there is some colour right at the byline is that he likes to drive to this part of the pitch, at times, on the ball to send in crosses, which we’ll look at in further detail later on in this scout report.
Compare this to Solomon’s heatmap for the 2020/21 league season so far with Shakhtar, and we can see that he occupies a lot of the same areas that Mudryk tends to occupy, with plenty of colour appearing in more central areas as well as the wider part of the left-wing.
One notable difference between Solomon’s heatmap and Mudryk’s heatmap is that Solomon doesn’t get to the byline as much as Mudryk, instead preferring to occupy the position that Mudryk tends to spend very little time, just on the edge/corner of the opposition penalty box.
So, perhaps this indicates one difference in these two players’ games, just based on their typical positioning and where they like to spend their time. All in all, though, it’s clear that they generally occupy similar areas, cutting inside from the left-wing, operating as inverted wingers, with both of these men quite two-footed, though Mudryk is slightly stronger on his right foot.
This image above shows an example of what we believe to be the ideal position for Mudryk to occupy with his team in possession. He excels in the left half-space, either in relatively deep positions like this or in more advanced positions when playing against a deeper block.
When occupying the half-space in more advanced positions, Mudryk’s close control, agility, quick feet and dribbling quality shine through – these are some of the most impressive aspects of his game, and in that type of situation, when surrounded by opposition players high up the pitch in the half-space, his quality in those areas can be highlighted.
However, Mudryk is also a very good ball-carrier, which helps him to excel when receiving the ball in slightly deeper areas like the one we can see him occupying in the image above. This ball-carrying quality is evident in the fact that he has made the second-highest number of progressive runs (4.8) per 90 of any Desna player this term.
We’ll take a more in-depth look at Mudryk’s dribbling quality later on in this scout report, but in addition to what he can do on the ball once he receives a pass in the half-space, another important reason as to why we believe this is the ideal position for the 20-year-old to occupy is that he’s very good at finding freedom for himself in this area of the pitch off the ball before receiving a pass, making himself available for a teammate.
His movement off the ball is very intelligent. He’s good at spotting space and peeling away from opposition players in the blink of an eye to make himself available for his teammates and anticipating where he needs to be, in order to be of most use for his side. This sees him move away from his base left-wing position and drift into more central areas both when his side is building into the opposition half and when playing in the final third.
Considering that he is good at finding space, it can be good for Mudryk, and as a result, the team, for him to be afforded a degree of freedom within his team’s tactics.
Mudryk tends to be very active off the ball, he doesn’t just run around aimlessly, but he also gives the opponent no time to rest, forcing them to constantly stay on their toes and remain mentally alert to his movement, as he’s always looking to find space and gain at least a slight advantage.
While the previous image showed us an example of Mudryk drifting into the half-space, he is also effective out wide, particularly when his team is just progressing out of the early stage of the build-up and we can see an example of this in the image above. Here, we can see the winger facing towards the left-back, as he carries the ball out from the back.
As the left-back progresses further up the left-wing, Mudryk’s mind is immediately on where this ball carrier needs him to be and where he can be most dangerous at this moment. While he begins to move towards the left-back in this image above, making a lunge towards his teammate, this movement was a feint, which he pulled off to try and drag the opposition right-back forward with him, which he succeeds in doing.
After pulling off that movement, Mudryk exhibits his lightning-quick acceleration and impressive agility, as he spins around and begins a darting run in behind the opposition full-back, who he had just dragged forward.
The upfield movement he forced the opposition right-back to make as a result of that player sticking tight to Mudryk created more space for the Desna winger to run into, while the fact that he forced the player to get closer to him made it easier for Mudryk to beat him in the foot race that ensued – not that he needs a head start to beat most players for pace, but this highlights once again how he intelligently looks to gain any advantage via his off-the-ball movement to make himself a more dangerous passing option.
As the play moves on, he does get the through ball played over the top from his teammate as a result of this intelligent movement and dangerous run in behind.
This next passage of play highlights the direct counter-attacking threat that Mudryk poses for his side, with his pace, in particular, once again proving very valuable here.
In this image above, we can see Desna breaking through the centre of the pitch on the counter, with Mudryk making his run down the left-wing on the outside of the opposition back-four. A lot of the time, as we’ll discuss, Mudryk has been the ball-carrier for Desna on the counter-attack, thanks to his ball-carrying ability but if he’s not, then he is still very valuable for his side, as they will often look to play him through the opposition’s last line.
As this next image shows, that’s exactly what happened on this occasion. This passage of play highlights just how quick Mudryk is, as we can see that he made up a lot of ground to get ahead of the opposition right-back quite quickly and by the time this right-back turns his head, sees Mudryk outpacing him and stretches out an arm to try and stifle his run, it’s already too late and the winger is away in behind the last line of defence.
So, it’s clear that Mudryk is a valuable asset to have on the counter-attack due to his pace and his intelligent run-making.
The Shakhtar Donetsk academy product has been dubbed ‘The Ukrainian Neymar’ by some, and to live up to that name, he’d have to be displaying some very impressive dribbling quality, which he does.
Mudryk has attempted a higher volume of dribbles per 90 than any other player in Ukraine’s top flight this season (11.15). For reference, Solomon sits in fourth place on that list at present, having attempted 8.11 dribbles per 90. So, it’s clear that the two players are similar in terms of the fact that they both like to take opposition players on quite a lot.
Mudryk has also got a positive dribble success rate of 52.78%, indicating that he completes his dribble attempts more often than not. This is the 30th-best dribble success rate in the Ukrainian Premier League for the 2020/21 campaign.
Mudryk’s ball control and quality in tight spaces are key to his dribble success. In the image above, we can see the 20-year-old carrying the ball towards goal, slaloming through opposition players. Just before this image, Mudryk received the ball slightly deeper and immediately turned towards goal to take this player on, which, as we can see, has worked out, as this first player is beaten.
As this passage of play moves on, the second player closing in on Mudryk makes his move to try and dispossess the winger and he too is beaten. After getting past those players, Mudryk can run at the last line of defence, in a bid to either get through on goal himself or create space for a teammate to run into by attracting the defenders’ attention, before playing them through on goal.
There is some risk involved with this dribble, however, with the attacker taking on multiple opposition players. While it worked out on this occasion, sometimes Mudryk can be guilty of taking too many players on by himself, so he’s not invincible and can get dispossessed, however, as mentioned, he’s generally quite reliable as a dribbler.
Solomon, however, is more reliable, as the Shakhtar man has got a dribble success rate of 62.96% for the 2020/21 campaign – more than 10% higher than Mudryk’s dribble success rate.
While Mudryk dribbles at a higher volume than his teammate and is generally quite reliable, perhaps he could learn one or two lessons from Solomon with regard to his decision-making. At times, Mudryk opts to continue a dribble despite the presence of a clear passing option and this can result in turnovers, additionally, he sometimes takes multiple players on against the odds and while he is good enough to still come out of those battles with the ball, on occasion, they are still high-risk moments.
If he can learn to pick his moments better, with regard to when and when not to take players on, with the level of dribbling quality he has, it would surely be more efficient and result in a higher dribble success rate, so perhaps that’s one area Mudryk can improve.
One of the big positives to his game from a dribbling perspective, however, is that he retains a lot of his rapid pace while carrying the ball.
As well as having excellent ball control and agility, Mudryk can dribble at a very fast pace, which makes it difficult for defenders to time challenges on him as he carries the ball towards goal. This is one of the key reasons why he is such an effective ball-carrier from deeper positions. Not only is Mudryk capable of successfully beating players while carrying the ball and a reliable player to complete his dribble, but he is capable of getting the ball upfield quickly.
In the image above, we can see an example of Desna having just won the ball back on the edge of their penalty area. As the opposition begin to counter-press, Desna manage to play around them, while Mudryk peels away into space.
The winger is immediately found in space and tasked with carrying the ball upfield he manages to do so at a quick pace before reaching this point at which he beat this man in midfield and played the ball up into the centre-forward’s feet, effectively pushing his team upfield and putting the opposition right on the back foot.
One final weakness to Mudryk’s game in terms of dribbling and receiving possession is that he could do with making himself more aware of his surroundings on receiving the ball. He doesn’t check his shoulders enough and this leads to some seemingly careless moments like the one shown in the image above, where he receives the ball and knocks it behind him, only for an opposition player to read the movement and dispossess him.
This could have been avoided if Mudryk had been more diligent in checking his surroundings and then taken the ball in a different, more careful manner.
At times, he gets away with this because he is so quick, both physically and on the ball, that he can get to the ball and evade the incoming challenge. However, it can also lead to attacks being wasted, so this is an area for the winger to work on, which could also help to increase his dribble success rate.
Crosses and creativity
As mentioned earlier in this tactical analysis piece, Mudryk likes to drive all the way to the byline with the ball to send in crosses. In this section, we’ll provide some analysis of his crossing, as well as some other aspects of his game from a creative standpoint.
This image shows us an example of Mudryk in his preferred crossing position. He’s playing the ball into the box on his weaker left foot from this position, and that’s because he’s very comfortable playing with either foot. As a result of his two-footedness, when 1v1 with an opposition defender in a wide position like this, Mudryk tends to cut inside and outside, keeping the opposition player guessing as to what his next move will be.
A lot of the time, that move sees him drive to the byline like this and send a cross into the danger zone from a relatively close distance.
More often than not, Mudryk will perform crosses from closer to/just inside the penalty area rather than from wider/deeper positions.
From these types of positions, he’ll typically do one of two things. Firstly, a lot of the time he looks to play a low cross into the box, essentially in an effort to find a free man arriving late at the edge of the box by pulling the ball back to them. Secondly, as is the case in the image above, he often plays chipped balls into the box from these positions as well, with those crosses often aiming to set a teammate up at the back post.
As far as creativity goes, Mudryk has got an xA of 1.13 for the 2020/21 campaign, which is greater than Solomon’s xA of 0.86 for the 2020/21 season. This averages out to 0.18 xA per 90 for Mudryk and 0.13 xA per 90 for Solomon.
One reason why Mudryk has got a higher xA than Solomon may be that it might be fair to call Mudryk a slightly more direct player, with the 20-year-old having played 7.28 forward passes per 90 this term, compared to Solomon who has played 4.81 forward passes per 90. Mudryk’s forward pass accuracy is just 61.7% compared to Solomon’s which is 84.4%, however, this highlights an important aspect of Mudryk’s game, which is that he is constantly looking to play forward passes.
Similarly to the point on picking his moments better in terms of his dribbling, you could certainly argue that Mudryk could do with pacing himself and taking a bit more of a considered approach on the ball to be even more effective with his forward pass attempts, but at present, he does provide a constant threat to opposition backlines, either via his dribbling or his passing, which is something that should excite Shakhtar fans.
Next up, we’ll provide some analysis of Mudryk’s shooting. This section will specifically touch on how Mudryk can improve this area of his game.
The image above shows us an example of the kind of area in which Mudryk has taken many of his shots this season – at a significant distance, cutting inside from the left-wing onto his stronger right foot.
These goalscoring attempts haven’t been very successful, with Mudryk only managing to hit the target with 33.3% of his shots in the 2020/21 campaign so far. Meanwhile, Solomon has hit the target with 50% of his shots this term. Additionally, Mudryk has got an xG per 90 of 0.12, while Solomon has got an xG per 90 of 0.19.
So, while Mudryk edged Solomon to the xA crown, Solomon is the most efficient shooter of the two and the best goalscoring threat, at present.
This isn’t a massive surprise as Mudryk does take a lot of shots from less-than-optimal positions. He isn’t a great long-shot taker at present, with many of his long-shots either going straight into the goalkeeper’s hands or missing the target by a significant distance.
Additionally, inside of the penalty area, he’s not the most composed player in the world and, at times, drags the ball wide of the centre before taking his shot, narrowing the shooting angle and giving himself a worse goalscoring opportunity.
So, one more potential area of improvement for Mudryk is in terms of his shot selection and composure in front of goal.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece, in the form of a scout report, it’s clear that Mudryk is far from the finished product and he still has plenty of issues in his game to be ironed out.
However, he’s a very exciting dribbler and a creative force for his side, and with the 20-year-old valued at €600k, (£533.64k), per Wyscout, which makes him €14.4m (£12.81m) less than Solomon (€15m) (£13.34m), perhaps there is a case to be made for Shakhtar to cash in on Solomon, in favour of the returning-from-loan academy product, who has seemingly got a very bright future ahead of him.