Despite somewhat of a golden generation emerging for both Ajax and the Netherlands recently, there still seems to be something missing. For years, both have missed having a real number nine. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has led the line for both over a long and prestigious career, but with ‘The Hunter’ well in the twilight years of his career, it is time for a new man to pick up the torch. Brian Brobbey only turned 17 in February but already much is expected of the young striker. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of previous De Toekomst graduates, 2019/20 could be huge for Brobbey.
This tactical analysis will look at the style of player Brobbey is and could be, using statistics.
Brobbey was born in Amsterdam in 2002 to parents of Ghanaian descent. Raised alongside three older brothers, all of which have been capped for the Netherlands at some level, he was given the ideal footing for a blossoming young footballer. Alongside a family with a fine football heritage, he has spent his entire football education at one of the world’s finest footballing institutions thus far. Ajax and De Toekomst are the ideal breeding ground for young talent. Well-known for promoting youth early, there are few academies in the world who could provide a better education than Ajax. The legacy of Johan Cruyff will always allow opportunities for youngsters like Brobbey so it will be fascinating to see when he steps up.
The most striking thing about Brobbey for his age is his athleticism. Even when the technical ability is lacking, pace and power can cover up a players’ flaws. Standing at just under six foot tall with a muscular build, he is far too much to handle for young defenders. The most common comparison found is Romelu Lukaku. Both possess incredible athletic attributes and a knack of scoring goals by playing off the shoulder or getting into opportunistic positions within the box. In my opinion, however, Brobbey possesses a high footballing IQ, using his intelligent movements to find an extra yard of space within the pocket or bamboozling a defender with a quick shift, which Lukaku often lacks. Furthermore, Brobbey is also effective when linking play, hardly a surprise when you consider his footballing education.
A great example of Brobbey’s strengths can be seen in the images below, as he opened the scoring for the Netherlands under-17 against Sweden in their opening group game. The Netherlands went on to win the tournament after Brobbey opened the scoring, with him finishing as their joint top scorer. Against Sweden, Netherlands built slowly through the midfield. He was able to tie up his marker close to him as well as keeping the attention of both the right back and the other centre back. Brobbey being able to pin three players left a gaping chasm in front of the defence for Ajax team-mate Naci Ünüvar to exploit.
As Ünüvar advanced into the space, Brobbey was able to lose his marker with a quick double-movement and give his team-mate a simple through ball in behind for him to slide the ball past the goalkeeper. Whilst Dušan Tadić has been particularly effective in a false nine role this season, a real nine could be of great use to Ajax. His off the ball movement and ability to pin opponents, coupled with good finishing off both feet and his head make him a dangerous prospect moving forward. His raw attributes like pace and power can only be further enhanced in the future as he grows. In addition to that, whilst his link up and passing is good, it can only improve and become more of an asset.
Brobbey in numbers
Brobbey is impressive when using tactical analysis, but even more so when you crunch the numbers. For Ajax’s under-17 side he managed 26 goals and four assists in just 24 games. Upon promotion to the under-19 side, he continued his electric form with 34 goals and si assists in 36 games. A total of 70 goal contributions in 60 games, an average of around 1.2 per game were also enough to see him promoted to Jong Ajax twice over the course of the season.
He has proven himself as a big-game player for both Ajax and the Netherlands, too. On the surface, the basic numbers are impressive. A haul of four goals in six UEFA Youth League games, as well as 16 in 22 for Netherlands under-17 show his ability to jump up a level when required. When you look at his figures in depth, however, they become even more impressive. In 25 matches for Jong Ajax, Netherlands under-17 and in the UEFA Youth League, he returned 11 goals, an average of a goal every 143 minutes. This also sits parallel with his xG over the period which was a total of 11.29. Whilst under-performing very slightly, it does show the consistency of the finishing from Brobbey.
There are improvements in some key areas needed, however. A pass completion rate of 78.8% is not critical to a striker but could do with some polishing up to enhance his all-round game. His dribbling is similar, too. Whilst he won’t be judged too heavily on it, a completion rate of 68.4% sits a little lower than what would be required to succeed at Ajax.
Brobbey almost certainly has the attributes to succeed for both Ajax and the Netherlands. His profile meets the criteria of player that both have been searching for over the past couple of years. His raw pace and power are fantastic assets, as is his ability to get into the key areas in the box and score goals. It will be interesting to watch next season as he inevitably makes the move to Jong Ajax more often, whether he can penetrate the first team as well.
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