Róbert Boženík is a name you probably aren’t familiar with. The nineteen-year-old Slovakian striker from MŠK Žilina comes from a breakout season in the Fortuna Liga in which his statistics show that he scored 13 goals in 32 appearances. Boženík has already been compared to Krzysztof Piątek and has been linked with a move to Genoa to replace the Polish striker. This tactical analysis will profile the striker and explain why clubs all over Europe should be on the phone to Žilina.
Boženík is a Slovakian striker, born in November 1999 and who just finished an impressive first season in the Slovakian top flight, the Fortuna Liga. He has come through the ranks at Žilina and after impressing in the league he has also been given his first caps for Slovakia. The return of thirteen goals in his first senior season is very impressive. The links to Genoa, who hit the jackpot when finding Piątek in Poland last summer, therefore make sense. Genoa’s sporting director Giorgio Perinetti has an excellent track record when it comes to unearthing potential diamonds and, if he has identified Boženík when going through his transfer market analysis, then we can be quite certain that the Slovakian has a lot of potential.
Tactical analysis: Róbert Boženík’s style of play
Boženík is similar to Piątek in many ways; he’s a natural penalty area striker who lives on the shoulder of the last defender and always finds the right spaces, his movement in the box is fantastic and he is a natural finisher. His physique, at 1.88 metres and 81 kilos, makes him a tough striker to deal with and a real threat in the air. However, Boženík is also surprisingly quick and quite skilful. These different technical and physical attributes make him such an exciting centre-forward.
Movement inside (and outside) the box
What marks Boženík out as a clever striker is his excellent movement inside the penalty area. He reads the game spectacularly and makes smart little runs into spaces from where he gets that extra half-yard to score. The image below is a telling example. He starts behind the defender and makes a run into the first post area where he connects with the cross and scores. Additionally, he uses his strength to hold off the defender before making the run.
We have a similar situation in the image below. The cross is about to be delivered from the right wing. Boženík holds off the defender and then makes a run into space. Well there, he throws himself into the trajectory of the ball and scores.
Boženík is very clever with his movement outside the penalty area, too. In the image below, he (yellow) has identified a gap at the heart of the opponent’s defence. He makes a run into that space, receives the ball and finishes calmly. Of course, this is terrible defending, but Boženík did well to identify the space and then to capitalise on it.
In the image below, Boženík’s teammate is driving forward with the ball. He makes an arched run away from the defender to increase the space available to him were he to receive the ball. He does and scores with a thumping strike.
A lot of strikers can finish well, run fast or link up well with their teammates but they lack the deft movements needed to get that little plot of space from which to score. Boženík has that ability and he identifies these spaces quickly and correctly very often.
Movement is what gets you into the positions to score, and then finishing is what allows you to put the ball away. Fortunately for Boženík, he is a fantastic finisher. He often finishes with one touch, and he usually buries his strikes out of the goalkeepers reach. He also scores technically advanced goals such as the backheel he managed in the image below. Firstly, we can see how he (dark blue) once again uses his strength to hold off the defender. He then makes a run towards the first post area where he meets the low cross with a backheel into the top corner. It was a truly brilliant goal.
However, goals like the one in the image below are what makes Boženík so exciting to me. He just knows where to place the ball. Here, he receives a square pass from the right. As such, the goalkeeper is forced to move sideways to follow the movement of the ball. Boženík has space and a very advantageous chance of scoring, yet doesn’t fluff his lines but remains calm and places the ball in the corner that the goalkeeper was coming from. This is simple and obvious stuff, but very few strikers do this consistently.
Boženík scores first-time shots, he scores backheels, he scores headers, he scores 1v1s with the goalkeeper and he scores tap ins. The ability to score any type of goal suggests we are in the presence of a new striker of the Ruud van Nistelrooy ilk.
The one area where Boženík must improve most is his overall link-up play. That’s not to say he isn’t already good at it. But if he’s exceptional in terms of movement and finishing he still has some way to go before being a fantastic link-up player. He does have all the abilities to become this, mind. His technique and close control are really good, his strength allows him to hold off defenders and act as a target man for passes to bounce off of and he has the speed to play fluidly too.
The image below highlights Boženík’s technique and intelligence. As he receives the ball, he is pressed by two opponents. Boženík simply taps the ball between them into the empty space and then makes a run outside the deeper defender to get the ball on the other side. This little piece of play highlights quick thinking, intelligence, and superb technique.
It is his passing that needs to improve further and if he does improve upon it, then we are talking about a complete number 9. Until then, Boženík is an excellent goalscorer and a good player, but if he improves his link-up play he will be the full package.
As this tactical analysis has shown, Róbert Boženík is a very talented striker that forms part of an exciting generation of Slovakian players alongside the likes of Stanislav Lobotka, Milan Škriniar, and Dávid Hancko. When he was given his first start for Slovakia in the 5-1 win over Azerbaijan last week it was just the next, logical step of a fledgeling career. This summer, expect Genoa or some other club with a terrific scouting system to secure the services of the striker, and then expect them to make a huge profit on their investment in a few years time.