Neal Maupay 2019/20 – scout report
Brighton and Hove Albion’s Premier League dream was almost shattered as they only finished one place above the relegation zone last season. The lack of good results made the board move to secure the services of promising manager Graham Potter for this campaign. Albeit their constant struggle as a mid-table club, the new manager has helped the Seagulls to improve their performance.
However, Potter was not the only new guy arrived at the Amex Stadium last summer. One of those men includes Neal Maupay, who was transferred from the Championship side Brentford. The 23-year-old forward somehow has been a revelation because of his good display for the club. Without further ado, this tactical analysis will inform you of his role and impact for Brighton.
Maupay is a pure centre-forward. Looking at the statistics, he played all of his games at Brentford in that position. Maupay was able to collect 28 goals and nine assists in 49 matches last season. Such a feat pulled Brighton’s attention, thus allowing him to enjoy top-flight football again.
The Frenchman is Brighton’s main option at centre-forward position. This is partly because the former talisman Glenn Murray is getting older, yet the former trialist Aaron Connolly is still too raw to be trusted every week. If we look at the stats, Maupay has only scored eight goals and made two assists for his new club.
Some may say the feat is not special; more like a mediocre performance rather than a brilliant display. However, we need to see the bigger picture before we jump into such a conclusion. This season, Brighton have only scored 32 goals in the Premier League. It means that Maupay has contributed to 10 (31.25%) of their league goals. Furthermore, the Seagulls already scored more league goals than last season despite fewer matches played. This is why Maupay is important for Brighton’s tactics.
The multi-purpose spearhead
In this part of the analysis, we’re going to take a look at the Frenchman’s main attacking roles. Maupay is mainly instructed to stay central in Brighton’s attacks. This means the Frenchman would pin the opponents’ backline for most of the time rather than dropping freely alongside the midfielders. The objective is to allow the wingers to tuck inside and play in between the lines.
However, he would also drop a bit on some occasions, mainly when Potter sets his attacking line with two strikers. While his attacking partner pins the backline, Maupay would drop into space in between the lines. This would allow him to combine with the midfielders or to send the ball to his teammate on the flank.
Maupay’s dropping movement also has another purpose. In the process, he would pull the nearby centre-back’s attention when dropping in between the lines. As a result, this could open a gap in the opponents’ defensive block. The gap then would be attacked by his attacking comrade with a quick sprint in behind. One of the deeper players (mainly Dale Stephens) then will serve the running forward with an aerial through-ball as seen below against Arsenal.
The pace is Maupay’s main tool in his armoury. Nevertheless, it’s never about the tool itself, instead, it’s how he makes it functional. To utilise this trait Maupay would usually attack from the nearby centre-back’s blind-spot. By moving to that particular area, Maupay could make himself rather undetectable for the defender. This is because the centre-back also needs to focus on the ball at the same time.
It doesn’t stop there. Maupay would usually put himself between the opponents’ defenders, mainly the full-back (or wing-back) and the centre-back. However, he would be somewhat closer to the centre-back rather than to the far-side defender. The Frenchman is too far from the full-back/wing-back; making him unreachable for the defender. At the same time, being at the centre-back’s blind-spot would allow him to be undetectable. His explosive pace could then be unleashed to attack in behind.
The trait and tendency make Maupay very dangerous against a high defensive line. His quickness enables him to win most of the footraces into space in behind. Not to mention his early advantage by being on the defender’s blind-spot. In the process, the Frenchman would be served with a lofted ball from a deeper teammate.
More in his armoury
Maupay is not just about pace as he has more tools in his bag. One of the special traits he has is his calmness in tight spaces. He also has a quite good close-ball control to enhance that trait. Those two help him to keep the ball against multiple opponents to continue Brighton’s attacks, either for his teammate(s) or for himself.
Speaking about creating chances for oneself, Maupay can also do that quite well. His tendency to make shots from outside the penalty area is the reason behind that. The statistics show that Maupay averages 0.9 long-range shots per 90 minutes in the league. That’s equal to 26.47% of all his goal-scoring attempts.
Even better, the Frenchman can shoot with both of his feet. The stats show that he attempted 1.8 shots (52.94%) per 90 minutes with his stronger right foot. Meanwhile, his left foot has registered 1.1 shots (32.35%) on the same rate. Some of those weak-footed shots even came from outside the 16-yard box.
Potter likes to set his team up in various shapes, ranging from 4–4–2, 4–3–1–2 (or 4–4–2 diamond), to 4–3–3. However, one principle stays the same with those formations: the opponents’ defensive midfielder(s) must be prevented to receive the ball. To do that, this tactic would mostly be executed in a mid-high pressing system. Either the forward pairing or the attacking midfielder would be tasked to close down the central area and force the opponents to play wide.
Brighton is not the most aggressive team in terms of pressing. Mostly they would allow their opponents to have the ball in their early possession phase. However, if the on-ball centre-back holds the ball for too long, then the nearest Brighton forward would step up to press him. This pressure is targeted for the centre-back to send the ball wide or even better, kick it long against Brighton’s towering defenders.
When the ball is being played wide, the Seagulls would flock the wide-area and try to win the ball back. In the process, the ball-side forward would leave his nearby centre-back, then come close to join the ball-side press. This helped Brighton to have a numerical advantage in the flank, thus increasing their probability to regain possession.
This final part of the scout report will take a look at the potential issues in Maupay’s game. As mentioned before, Maupay is a target-man who likes to attack the defender’s blind-spot in the final third. Indeed it’s a good weapon, especially for a relatively small centre-forward like him. However, it seems that he has a minimum variation in his off-ball movements. Quite often he would focus too much on attacking the blind-spot. Even worse, this also means he could neglect a bigger space inside the opponents’ backline.
Another issue is that he has a relatively identical playing style to the 20-year-old Connolly. Both forwards seem to have rather similar explosiveness as well as the tendency to make runs in behind in the final third. On some occasions, they would occupy the same area or make the same movement; thus making them easily predicted by the defenders.
Despite being deployed as a centre-forward for most of the time, there are some matches where Maupay plays in the flank. Unfortunately, the numbers prove that he’s not a special dribbler by any means. So far, Maupay has attempted 2.3 dribbles per 90 league minutes; the sixth-highest in Brighton. Yet, he only managed to get 0.8 (34.78%) successful dribbles from those attempts.
Maupay is a good addition for the Seagulls. His explosiveness and tendency to attack from the blind-spot makes him a problem for any Premier League team. The Frenchman has even cemented his place on Brighton’s first team despite his lack of top-flight experience.
Despite all that, the 23-year-old proves that he has some weaknesses that he needs to work on. He has a brilliant coach in Potter at his disposal to help him develop his game. If he can improve and get double-digit goals next season, he could be the potential target for any big clubs in 2021.