Victor Osimhen at Napoli 2019/20 – scout report
Lille striker Victor Osimhen has made up his mind to join the Serie A side and moved to Napoli. The forward has been linked with a number of European clubs like Liverpool and Inter following his eye-catching performances for Christophe Galtier’s men in the 2019/20 season. The Parthenopeans have, however, been leading the race to secure his signature and the striker was believed to be close to securing a move to the side last month before his agent raised the issue of racism in Italy.
The 21-year-old forward recently changed his agent which led to the delay in wrapping up his transfer to the Stadio San Paolo outfit. The striker sealed a €60 million move to the Parthenopeans which is subject to successful medical examinations, having been swayed by manager Gennaro Gattuso’s genuine interest in him.
Last summer, Lille sold Ivory Coast international Nicolas Pépé to Arsenal for £72 million, and Osimhen’s deal is another outstanding transfer for the Mastiffs. The forward joined the Stade Pierre-Mauroy outfit last summer from Belgian side Sporting Charleroi and impressed in his debut campaign with the side.
Role in the system at Lille
Lille preferred to start their matches in a 4-4-2 formation. Gabriel and José Fonte formed the centre-back pairing, while Domagoj Bradarić and Zeki Çelik were stationed at left and right-back respectively. In midfield from left to right were Jonathan Bamba, Renato Sanches, Benjamin André, and the dynamic Jonathan Ikoné. Finally, spearheading the attack was the striker partnership of Victor Osimhen and Loïc Rémy.
When the full-backs were in a good position near the touchline or in half-spaces, they tried to get the ball to Osimhen or Ikoné most of the time, who tried to establish possession in the final third. These two attackers are good in the air, especially Oshimen, so it is reasonable for his pattern to exist.
As you will see in this analysis, one of the biggest principles Osimhen used in his game at Lille was leaving his position as a centre-forward and drifting wide. From the heatmap below, we can see that Osimhen is very active around the final third. He does not just drop down a lot in the middle, but he is also quite active in linking up the play in the wider areas. He seems to roam wide quite often with the tendency of going to the right side of the field.
This movement has several functions The first one is that the central area is usually more crowded as there are more players, so it is tougher to win the ball in the centre. By moving closer to the touchline, Osimhen creates space for himself and also disrupts the opposition defence, even if they already studied this movement and ready to exchange the marked players.
The second reason is that full-backs are shorter and less physical than centre-backs so Osimhen has the advantage in the air as he has to compete with physically weaker players. Also, he has great acceleration so he gets the ball first most of the time. This is also the reason why Osimhen´s movement lead to the fact that Lille´s most attacks were made through the centre or the right-wing as you can see in the map below.
Role in the system at Napoli
At the end of the season, Gennaro Gattuso employed a typical 4-3-3 for his Napoli side. The most used backline, from right to left, were Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Nikola Maksimović, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Elseid Hysaj. Diego Demme started as the holding midfielder, joined by Allan and Fabián Ruiz. Napoli’s top scorer Arkadiusz Milik, who scored eleven goals, was the centre-forward, with Lorenzo Insigne on the left-wing and José Callejón on the right. Dries Mertens also played as centre-forward this season. With Fernando Llorente, there is another forward in the squad. However, he did not play much this season and is already 35 years old.
However, Napoli started into the season with a 4-4-2 formation. It is the same formation used by Lille. Mertens and Milik always changed roles as centre-forwards. Most of the time Mertens played as a false 9. At Lille, we already saw that Osimhen and Rémy were lined up as striker pairing. With Osimhen at Napoli, Gattuso might change his formation back to a 4-4-2 again.
This would benefit Napoli´s game as Osimhen would move out wide to the right-wing during the match again. This would lead to more possession on the right side of the pitch and therefore, more attacks could be initiated from the right-wing and the centre. This was a problem this season as the most attacks were made by Insigne from the left-wing. So, Osimhen will help Napoli to become more flexible in the opponent´s third.
Osimhen has such an impressively athletic physique. This provides him with a massive advantage in his game, especially when combined with his technical proficiency and tactical intelligence.
Osimhen has a lean body build but he looks quite muscular. He seems to be naturally fit and strong. The 21-year-old striker is 1.85 m (6’0″) tall and for a player his height, he is quite agile and possesses particularly good body balance and coordination. He is a very difficult man to shrug off the ball when he is shielding or dribbling, due to the mixture of his strength and body balance. His good agility also means that despite his fairly large frame, Osimhen can move and change directions with or without the ball quite quickly. In the image below, the defender has no chance to win the ball back as Osimhen uses his body strength to shield the ball.
The Nigeria international is also exceptionally good in the air. Firstly, this is due to his incredibly good jumping reach. Aside from his tall figure, he seems to have a good core and lower-body strength as well as plyometric strength, which in turn helps him generate excellent velocity which launches him quite high vertically. Secondly, he seems to also have a quite good upper-body strength and body balance which make him quite solid in the air. All of these coupled with his good reading of the game, positioning, and movements make Osimhen a genuine threat in the air upfront, while also being extremely useful defensively. In the following image, Osimhen wins an air duel as he is used as a target man in Lille´s build-up play.
Osimhen made an impressive amount of 10.82 aerial duels per game on average last season and he managed to win around 41.4% of them. This means that he is not just actively making aerial challenges, but he is also winning a good amount of them. Obviously, he wins more aerial duels than Mertens (17%). But, Osimhen still needs to improve this statistic to compete with Milik (46%) and Llorente (85%) as they are known as two of the best headers in world football. Mertens compensate his unsuccessful aerial duels with his successful pressing (7.4 per 90 minutes). Osimhen provides 5.4 successful pressures per 90 minutes. This is more than Milik (4.2) but less than Llorente (5.9).
This means Napoli now have not just a pacey and powerful striker who can be a threat on the ground, but also in the air.
Aside from his physical strength, Osimhen also possesses a very impressive amount of pace. Again, due to his outstanding power and explosiveness, Osimhen has this quick burst of acceleration, helping him to reach his top speed much quicker and providing him with the advantage in a short-range race. Not just short-range, his blistering pace can also be seen as he is racing to the ball in medium and long-range, making him a very good counter target as he can almost always win the race against defenders when the ball is passed into space.
In the image below, Osimhen uses his speed in a counter-attack after getting a pass into space on the right-wing.
Osimhen seems to have decent ball control. He seems to be fairly comfortable receiving the ball with his chest or either foot, and often the touch looks quite good as the ball does not stray too far away from him. However, other times the exact opposite happens; a poor first touch and the ball goes too far. Due to his impressive acceleration and top speed, Osimhen often can make it up by quickly chasing the ball and reaching it first.
He has decent skills on the ball and occasionally can be seen utilising it smartly, especially when he is isolated or in a tight space. Unlike Mertens or Insigne (who are quite good at dribbling), Osimhen’s dribbling skills are fairly standard. Most often he would try to knock the ball to one side or past the opposing defender to get through, no fancy skills at all.
That is why Osimhen tries to avoid a 1-vs.-1 situation and simply play as a target man most of the time. If he receives the ball, he only uses one contact to lay it off to one of his teammates from the midfield. In the following image, Osimhen receives the ball in tight space and lays it off to a better-positioned teammate immediately.
Statistically, Osimhen recorded an average of 4.1 dribbles per game last season with a success rate of 46.9%. However, he only provides 0.56 dribbles per 90 minutes. In this category, Milik (0.85), Llorente (0.91) and Mertens (1.25) are all better than Osimhen.
The 20-year-old striker is not an exceptionally good passer. He already has the strength and knows where to position himself, however, his distribution is not very good and this is certainly something he needs to improve if he is to be a good link-up player.
Osimhen needs to do better in controlling the amount of power he uses to pass the ball as well as directing the ball towards his teammate. Most of his passes are not well-weighted and often make it hard for his teammates to control or get to.
He definitely has to improve his passes into the penalty box as he only provides 0.22 of them per 90 minutes. Even Milik (0.53 per 90 minutes) and Llorente (0.64 per 90 minutes) who are known as box-players provide more passes from without.
However, despite his not-so-impressive passing ability, the Super Eagles striker is an excellent finisher and there are reasons why.
Osimhen is an excellent striker of the ball. He is able to take shots with his left just as well as his right which is his stronger foot. His shots are powerful and accurate due to the combination of his power and shooting technique.
Napoli should not worry so much about missing out on goals this season as Osimhen can surely provide them with what they need. Osimhen is more than just a splendid striker of the ball. He is a clinical striker who can convert chances effectively. Osimhen is calm and composed when in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. He tends to chip the ball over the goalkeeper but also tries to pick a corner and shoot, or try to dribble past/get around the goalkeeper before taking a shot.
In the following image, Osimhen provides a perfect movement and starts a run in behind the opponent´s defensive line in the best moment. After receiving the interface pass, he only needs to beat the opponent´s goalkeeper by chipping the ball into the back of the net.
Due to his burst of acceleration, quick reactions, and his ability to be in the right place at the right time, Osimhen should be a sufficient replacement, if not an upgrade from Milik at Napoli. Osimhen has the highest xG of 0.57 per 90 minutes and therefore, he is by far the best. 13.6% of his shots are converted. This is a quite good quote but Mertens (15.5%) and Milik (17.2%) are better still.
Positioning and movements
What makes Osimhen a good striker and can potentially take him to another level are his intelligent positioning and off-the-ball movements. As mentioned previously, he is a clinical striker, a fox in the box, but despite his excellent instinct in front of goal and his impressive finishing ability, he can’t be a good striker without the ability to position himself or move to the right place at the right time. Fortunately, this is actually something that Osimhen is quite strong at.
When his team is in a defensive phase, he would often stay rather high and sit in the half-space. A lot of other times he would also stay central. When the ball is won, his teammate would launch a long ball into space behind the backline for him to chase. By sitting in the half-space that means there would only be one defender who would be guarding against him as full-backs would usually go forward to help out the attack. By staying the half-space, Osimhen could also anticipate and quickly get to the passes that are directed into the flank as well as to the centre. Or, he could also drag and split the two centre-backs when in the transition to attack, allowing his teammates to exploit the game when they are on the break.
In the next situation, Osimhen provides a run in behind the defensive line again. Therefore, he uses the half-space between the opponent´s centre-back and left full-back. For defenders, it is extremely difficult to defend this kind of movement in a counter-attack.
Osimhen’s movements without the ball seem to have improved a lot since his days in the youth side of Wolfsburg. He seems to be much more aware of his surroundings and he times his dashes quite well. However, he has not seemed to have perfected his craft yet. He is caught offside once per game on average last season which is still a rather poor number. Sometimes he still moves too early and sometimes too late – although when he is late he can always catch up with the ball using his blazing pace.
His movements also prove that he is certainly the kind of player you would want to mark with multiple players. When preparing to receive his teammate’s delivery inside the box, Osimhen tends to make two runs: one to make the defender thinks he’s going one way and the other one is to get into position to receive the ball. We can recognize this style of movement in the following image.
Osimhen is a very good striker and with 21 years, he still has lots of potential to improve. In the last season, he scored 18 goals and assisted 6 more goals in 38 matches. This shows his goal-scoring quality that will help Napoli next season. With Milik likely to move to another club and Llorente who only has a contract to 2021 and is already 35 years old, Napoli is completely right to sign Osimhen as their new striker. It will be interesting to see if he worth his transfer fee.