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Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town – scout report

Sam Hoskins: Northampton Town’s talismanic winger who can’t stop scoring – scout report

Those who have followed the EFL over the last seven or eight years will be familiar with the name Sam Hoskins, the 29-year-old winger who is currently on fire for Northampton Town in League Two.

One of the reasons it is difficult to find success in League Two, League One, and the Championship is the length of the season – keeping good form over 46 games takes some serious steel, but a reliable goalscorer always helps. In Sam Hoskins, Northampton seem to have exactly that this season, with the winger banging in 11 goals in just 10 league games: quite the remarkable start to the season.

It is his form that has helped Town become a feared team early on, with the Cobblers currently sitting in second place, second only to Leyton Orient who are currently enjoying the best start a team has ever had in England’s fourth tier. Hoskins is currently the top scorer in the division and was awarded the Player of the Month award for August.

In this scout report, we will provide a tactical analysis of Hoskins’ style of play – looking at how he fits into Northampton’s tactics and how he has managed to be in fine scoring form despite not even playing as a striker. There will also be an analysis of how he contributes to build-up play phases and general possession.

For the purpose of this scout report, any data used will be from this season’s EFL League Two only.

Player profile

At 29 years of age, Sam Hoskins is a player with good experience. Most of his career has been spent in League One and League Two and he’s racked up almost 300 games across those two levels. He also has a small amount of Championship experience from his time at Yeovil Town. He has, however, been a staple of Town for six years and has appeared for Northampton on more than 300 occasions in all competitions. His previous clubs include Yeovil, Stevenage, Rotherham United, and the current Premier League club Southampton.

Standing at 5”7”, he isn’t a player who relies on his aerial ability or strength, but more on his pace and agility. Throughout his career, he has mainly operated on the left flank, right flank, and as a centre-forward – as we can see from his heatmap of this season so far, his versatility is still coming in handy.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics

The key to his sublime scoring form

Hoskins’ natural position on the pitch is as a winger, so his primary role has rarely been to be the goalscorer of the team, more the chance creator. He is, however, no stranger to a goal, having scored 81 career goals so far. Without a doubt, though, he has never had a purple patch like he’s had in the early stages of the current campaign. This segment of analysis will look to uncover why he has been so effective in front of goal this season.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics
Hoskins finds good space before dispatching a half-volley into the back of the net

The analysis above is a still image taken less than a second before Hoskins unleashed a half-volley into the bottom corner. The move itself was a classic – a throw-in launched into the box towards a physically gifted player, who wins his aerial duel to knock the ball towards Hoskins. As you will see in the analysis that follows, Hoskins has the ability to find unoccupied space and make the most of it.

And that is exactly what he did above: took up a space just inside the box that was poorly defended, essentially leaving him free to latch onto any flick-on that came his way. He anticipated the ball well and finished it nicely. Nothing intricate about the goal, just good awareness, and quality finishing.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics
Hoskins makes a darting run in behind before producing a neat finish.

The second analysis of Hoskins’ goalscoring prowess yet again highlights his ability to get into space and punish the opposition but in a different area. As we can see in the first image, the opposition defence is stretched with very little support from the midfield, so from the perspective of the side conceding this goal, it is very poor.

However, there is still a lot of work to do in order to exploit that poor defending. Hoskins hangs slightly off the defender to remain free before making a darting run in behind him. Hoskins collects the ball and shows good composure and again, quality finishing, to put the ball past the keeper.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics
A good display of awareness from Hoskins, before he slots the ball past the keeper.

I think by now, you are starting to recognise a theme in Hoskins’ style of play. He has a special skill of taking advantage of poor defending/positioning from the opposition and taking up spaces that are very dangerous, yet open. He does the same again but gives us undeniable proof that he isn’t just doing it by fluke.

The first image shows us Hoskins drifting towards the box, remaining free in space, but taking the time to scan around him to assess the positioning of the opposition. This scanning would influence his decision to strike the ball first-time when he receives the ball. The strike itself was a well-controlled, placed finish into the bottom corner with too much power for the keeper to stop.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics

With an xG of 4.02 in the opening ten games, Hoskins is clearly a genuine threat in front of goal and is on course to take this kind of form further into the season. The visual above gives us some insight into where his shooting is most effective. Like any good goalscorer, he is a threat inside the box – his quality finishing and composure go hand-in-hand in a variety of scenarios to allow him to find the back of the net.

Chance creation & contributing to build-up play

Hoskins may be on fire in front of goal lately, but he has also been putting in the work in the more primary roles of a winger – getting involved with build-up play and being dangerous in the final third. He has two assists to his name so far this season, and in this segment of analysis, we will provide some insight into how collaborative contributions in the attack.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics
Hoskins regains possession and follows it up by driving forward to provide an assist.

This first analysis of Hoskins’ attacking contributions that aren’t goals displays a number of skills the experienced winger has. He starts the move by pressing and dispossessing the opponent and makes sure to get the ball under his control soon after. From there, he uses his raw pace and dribbling ability to carry the ball all the way to the area you see in the second image, which is where he demonstrates his vision and passing ability.

The pass he plays into his teammate isn’t a “hit & hope” cross we see sometimes, but instead, a calculated delivery – a pass that had good weight and timing behind it, allowing his teammate to easily control it, carry it forward and smash the ball home. Some good old-fashioned wing-play from Hoskins: run down the wing and find the right delivery.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics

This visual shows us where Hoskins has created chances from this season. Both of his two assists have come from the right flank, but as we can see, he is also effective at creating chances from the left side and occasionally from a central position. His xG assists for the season currently stands at 1.35 – a number he will look to improve on if his scoring numbers fade slightly as the season goes on.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics
Hoskins beats three opponents to carry possession into the opposition half.

Hoskins is a player that is difficult to catch once he gets going. His pace, agility, and low centre of gravity make him a nightmare to defend against at times, and above is an example of him putting this skill to good use. Collecting the ball inside his own half, he has to get his next action right as losing the ball in that area could have dire consequences. There were safe options available – passes or actions that would’ve come with minimal risk but Hoskins saw the opportunity to launch a counterattack for his side.

Using that pace we mentioned, he ferociously drives through a pack of three opponents to find himself inside the opposition half, where his next move highlighted an area of his game that lets him down on occasion. The best move would have been to play the pass to the wide teammate at the moment of the still image above, which would allow the flow of the attack to continue. Instead, Hoskins held onto the ball, waiting for his wide teammate to make a run in behind the full-back before the Town top scorer attempted a hopeful through-ball that lacked timing.

Sam Hoskins at Northampton Town 2022/23 – scout report tactics

The visual above is somewhat of an extension of his positional heatmap. It shows us where he crops up the most, as well as his actions. It is interesting that he is present more frequently on the left flank, as a lot of his important play comes from the right flank or even a central position.

In terms of his crossing tendencies, he tends to cross from a slightly deeper position, around the corner of the box – on both flanks, with a lower number of crosses from the byline. According to the data above, his crossing is more accurate from the left flank, which may be related to him being right-footed. He would cut inside onto his favoured right foot to deliver an outswinging cross – crossing from these angles are often hard to defend against.

What the visual above does is highlight Hoskins’ creativity and attacking danger – his ability to create chances from a multitude of positions.

Conclusion

While Hoskins has always been an important player for Northampton Town, it seems that he is reaching his peak late on this season, at 29 years of age.

A player with great tactical and environmental awareness, he is able to identify and exploit the smallest of spaces for chances on goal. His pace and agility give him the edge in a variety of situations, which, paired with his high work ethic, make him an opponent’s nightmare.

His form so far this season is the biggest reason for Northampton finding themselves second in the table, and if he can perform for the remainder of the campaign, you would expect them to be celebrating promotion come May.