Paul Onuachu: The 37 goal Genk giant linked to Arsenal – scout report
Usually, when scouting players or merely just watching a player, comparisons can be drawn with other footballers around to explain to someone the player’s style of play and what to expect from them. Hence why often when an exciting and agile winger comes on the scene, we hear claims of the ‘next Messi’ and the ‘next Ronaldo’ among others.
However, there are times when a player is so unique and different from the rest, these comparisons are extremely hard to come by. This is certainly the case with Genk centre-forward Paul Onuachu. The Nigerian striker stands at 6ft 7 inches tall, a truly fascinating sight when watching him play, and is currently one of the most prolific goalscorers in European football.
This season, he has managed to bag himself 37 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions for club and country which has seen him on the news regarding a potential future transfer to Arsenal in the coming months when the summer window opens.
The 26-year-old has been truly incredible this season for Genk under John van der Brom and has been one of the major players for them, if not the major player, in their race to overtake Club Brugge and claim the Belgian Pro League title.
This article will be a tactical analysis of the centre-forward in the form of a scout report. It will be an analysis of Onuachu’s style of play as well as looking at how he fits into Genk’s impressive tactics.
It must be noted that this article was written and edited prior to Thursday afternoon’s game against Royal Antwerp so some of the stats may be outdated and perhaps his goal tally has increased.
Style of play
As already stated, Onuachu is 6ft 7 inches tall, or 201cm, which is a monstrous and terrifying height for any centre-back defending against the striker. His height gives him a massive aerial advantage over almost every opposition player he faces.
He also weighs 205lbs or 93kg, equating to roughly 14½ stone, meaning he is also extremely big physically which gives him a major advantage against defending players much as his height does. With his combined height and strength, Onuachu is one of the most incredible footballers to watch because of the major physical superiority he has over defenders.
However, the right-footer is not merely just a physical presence in the box used as a sort of battering ram against opposition players, he is also a very talented centre-forward and his all-round play is quite good.
The issue with the striker is that he is not very gifted on the ball because of his attributes and can look quite awkward at times, although he does still have a strange and innate ability to keep hold of the ball as he is extremely difficult to tackle.
Looking at his heat map, we can see that he is not just a number 9 who remains between the sticks, although this is the area of the pitch where most of his involvement is. Nonetheless, the Nigerian centre-forward also drops deep quite a bit and looks to receive the ball to feet.
We can see from the heat map that he still has quite a lot of involvement in the midfield areas, positioning himself between the lines and creating angles for his teammates to play to his feet before he holds it up and looks to link up surrounding players.
Onuachu uses his body a lot when he receives the ball and holds off defenders using his long arms to keep the defender at arm’s length and give himself room to pick his next move. This helps Onuachu as he is not the most technically gifted player due to his physique.
Not only this, but Onuachu also drops deep into the midfield area from goal-kicks as his physical attributes give Genk a major advantage by allowing them to play direct to the striker to gain easy progression up the field.
We can see from this data visual representation above, Onuachu has been so impressive in his centre-forward play and has been the best striker in the Jupiler Pro League compared to the other number 9s.
The two most impressive statistics from this data visual are his shots per 90 ratio (S/90), his shots on target percentage (SOT%) as well as his goals per 90 rate and goal conversion percentage (GC%).
Onuachu is taking roughly three shots per game only which is not that high. However, he is scoring 0.97 goals per game, almost one goal per match. As we can see from his 32.04 percent goal conversion rate, the Nigerian is scoring with every third shot, an utterly stupendous goalscoring rate.
Some other noteworthy stats from this data visual are that he receives 3.11 long passes per 90 (LRP/90) and also has a 78.46 percent passing accuracy which is solid for a player without incredible ball skills.
As already stated, he is the top goalscorer in Belgium’s top-flight league by quite some margin.
The striker has 33 goals in the league as we can see, 12 more goals than Thomas Henry from OH Leuven in second. Onuachu is overperforming his expected goals numbers of 29.74 by more than 3 goals showing how prolific he has been this season.
Fox in the box
When you think of the phrase ‘fox in the box’, you think of some of the best goal poachers in history such as Manchester United and Real Madrid’s Ruud van Nistelrooy, Filippo Inzaghi, and even Miroslav Klose. However, currently in European football, Onuachu has to be considered one of the best goal-poachers out there.
The Nigerian centre-forward has scored all 37 of his goals this season in all competitions for club and country inside the penalty box with almost all of his shots coming from inside the area too.
A lot of Onuachu’s goals are headed goals as one would expect from a player of his physical and aerial capabilities. He has scored the most headed goals in the Jupiler Pro League this season with 8. However, he is certainly not static in the box, waiting for the crosses to hit his head. His movement inside the box is very impressive and it is clear that he has a very vivid understanding of where his teammates are going to put the ball.
What is also clear though is that his teammates know what movements he is going to make to get himself free. Onuachu tends to start behind the defending player before making a sharp dart to get himself in front to get on the end of a cross. This has worked so well for him this season.
Here is an example of this quick near post movement by Onuachu to put his side level against RSC Anderlecht in a recent match. He began on the centre-back’s blindside before making a darting run in front to latch onto the end of an excellent cross before executing a wonderfully placed header into the far-left corner.
We can see another example of this near-post run here with the same principles and movement although the end product was not as successful.
In the previous image, Onuachu made a forward run before quickly darting inside to get onto the end of the cross. This time he moved diagonally before sprinting forward to get in front of the Anderlecht defender.
This intelligent movement helps him to create space for himself in the box and is one of the main reasons behind his insane goalscoring record this season. Having a player with smart movement inside the area combined with the physical and technical qualities he has makes for a terrifying combination for defenders.
Allows his side to go direct
As already stated in little detail in this article, having a player with the strengths of Onuachu allows his side to go long at times with a high chance of them being able to retain possession providing they have the correct support system surrounding the centre-forward.
Particularly in instances when Genk or Nigeria are being pressed high, they have the option to play long to progress themselves up the pitch quickly, again it depends on having the correct support system to win the second balls though.
Surprisingly, Onuachu’s aerial duels percentage is merely 46.1 percent. However, he does compete in 9.37 per 90 so he is still winning between 4 to 5 aerial duels per game on average.
Nonetheless, this does not take into account the number of times that Onuachu chests the ball. Similar to Marouane Fellaini, the Nigerian has a high tendency to chest the ball down due to his height, something that he does really well before laying it off to his teammates who can take over from there. Onuachu obviously feels as though he gets more control from chesting the ball as opposed to heading it down to supporting players.
During Fellaini’s time at Manchester United and Everton, many people jokingly claimed that the Belgian had a foot on his chest due to his impeccable ability to control a ball from any height. The two players are very different in their all-round game, but they do have this in common as Onuachu also has an astonishing ability to chest a ball and control it from any height before bringing it down and laying it off to a teammate.
Regardless, he is still very useful of course using his head when the balls are played long towards him. Van der Brom typically has at least one or two players running in behind the massive Nigerian centre-forward whilst two or more support in front to give them a decent support structure to challenge for second balls depending on whether the ball is flicked on or knocked down by Onuachu.
Having one player attacking the space in behind is very important when playing with Onuachu. The reason for this is because he likes to sit right in front of the opposition’s centre-backs before moving deeper to contest a direct pass to his head. Of course, in doing so the centre-back will be dragged out of position to challenge for the high ball leaving space in behind.
Onuachu’s two assists for Genk this season have come from that exact move too. On both occasions, Genk decided to play directly to their giant centre-forward who was sitting on the last line occupying one of the central defenders of the opposition before quickly dropping deep to win the long ball, dragging the defender out of position to contest with him.
In doing so, the defender left massive gaps at the back for one of the Genk supporting forwards to run into and be played clean through on goal providing Onuachu could flick the ball on successfully, which he is very capable of doing.
Receiving between the lines
Onuachu is not particularly quick and so he tends to play with his back to goal for the most part, looking to receive the ball to feet if not in the air. Onuachu is arguably better at playing with his back to goal when he has the ball under control as he is quite predictable when driving forward at defenders.
Nonetheless, similarly to his starting approach from a long ball, the 26-year-old plays with his back turned to the defender right in front so that when he receives the ball to feet, he can back into the defender and hold them off before linking up other players around him.
The Nigerian likes to keep defenders at arm’s length when in possession of the ball as he has quite long arms and can make room for himself to pass.
In this image, we can see an example of Onuachu using his size to his advantage to receive the ball under pressure. The left-back of Genk played directly to his feet and made a dart down the left flank to seek a one-two. Onuachu is holding off the centre-back using his body and his arms and is able to keep the defender at bay, allowing him to pick his next pass carefully.
The Nigerian may lack some technical skills, but he is certainly not lacking in intelligent centre-forward play. In areas that he does lack quality, he makes up for it by using his body to the fullest extent in order to mask the deficiencies.
One of Onuachu’s biggest and most notable weaknesses is that he tends to run out of steam in games around the hour mark. The reason for this is unknown but a rough guess would be that his sheer body mass forces him to puff out with still a fair chunk of the game left to go.
In the Jupiler Pro League this season, the Nigerian has played the fifth-highest amount of games out of every player in the league.
However, the Nigerian has averaged just over 71 percent in all competitions this season, meaning he tends to get taken off by van der Brom with roughly 20 minutes left. Of course, this is not ideal for a centre-forward in a top-five league because more often than not, the final 20 minutes of a game are crucial to the outcome of the match.
Say for example Genk are losing by one goal or the game is level, these are the situations when you need your centre-forward to be at his best, to get the goal to level or win the game. This is certainly a red flag to watch out for when a team is weighing up whether to go for the 26-year-old’s signature or not.
Onuachu’s transfer value according to Transfermarkt currently stands at €17 million. Considering his age and the fact that he still has more than three years remaining on his deal, if a club like Arsenal came in for his signature, it would be likely that they will be forced to pay in the region of €25 to 30 million, although this depends on the contents of the deal.
From what we have seen, Onuachu would have no problem playing in a physically demanding league such as the Premier League and it would be very exciting to see a player of his capabilities and features terrorise backlines in England.