The 2018/19 season has been an amazing season for some. Numerous talents had a breakout campaign, while many others were just discovered by scouts all around the world.
Due to the massive amount of talents surfacing, showing their abilities and capabilities to the world – there were some that perhaps didn’t get the same amount of attention as the others. These players are, no doubt, ridiculously talented, but scouts/recruiters just seem to miss out on them. There are tons of names to mention, but today we’re going to talk about one particular player.
His name is Antonio Mance, Trenčín’s potent striker. The 23-year-old Croatian striker was brilliant last season despite playing in an underperforming team. Mance played 30 games for Trenčín across all competitions before moving on loan to Nantes. Unfortunately, his spell in France was relatively disappointing, but he definitely should not be the one to blame for it.
The prolific striker came back to his club after his loan spell, but he seems to be on his way out again this summer.
What’s his role in the team?
Mance played in a team which use a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 system throughout the season. He led the frontline of Trenčín, playing seemingly in the role of a target man. Alongside him played blisteringly pacey wingers in Joey Sleegers, Osman Bukari, Milan Kvocera, and Milan Corryn.
Trenčín tended to build their play up patiently – working their way up from the back, playing a possession-based game, and move the ball a lot laterally. They seemed to prefer advancing through the middle, trying to lure wide defenders out of position and then break through the flanks, either with overlapping full-backs or wingers.
In this system, Mance was tasked to stay central, drop slightly deeper to help the linkup play when needed, make runs in behind the defence, get into dangerous areas, and most importantly convert the chances.
Trenčín also played with a high defensive block and they pressed high up the pitch aggressively. Mance seemed to be instructed to press the defence (usually the centre-backs), giving them a hard time to play and build up from the back.
Pure striker – tactical analysis
A simple way to describe Mance is that he’s a pure striker. His main task is to bang in goals week in and week out and he duly did very well. The 23-year-old striker scored a total of 19 goals and created a further three more in 36 games across all competitions last season. That is 18 goals in 30 games for Trenčín before he went on a six-month loan and scored only a single goal in six matches for Nantes.
Now, goal tally aside, let’s talk about what makes him a very good striker and a thorn on the opposing team’s side.
Ice cold killer
Now if we’re going to talk about a striker, a pure striker especially, we’d talk about how good he is in front of goal. Now I’d tell you something about Mance – he is outstanding in front of goal.
In average, Mance scored 0.5 goals per game from a 0.3 xG. Judging purely from those numbers alone, you’d certainly already have some idea of how effective the Croatian striker is in front of goal.
Statistically, Mance is quite an accurate shooter. According to the stats, the young striker recorded an average of 2.5 shots per game with 44% of them being on target. Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, for example, took an average of 3.3 shots per game with 45% accuracy. He’s also not really far off from Andraz Sporar’s record. The Slovan Bratislava striker is unequivocally the best striker in the league as he scored 34 goals from 36 games. He recorded an average of 3.4 shots per game with a very impressive accuracy of 56%.
Mance is a fox in the box. He is most dangerous when he’s inside the box and he scores most of his goals there.
What makes him a real killer inside the box is his composure. A lot of times his teammate would pick him out as he freed himself from the last defender and he calmly and confidently picked his corner and slotted the ball in. Some other times he’s not afraid to go around the keeper and easily put it into the net.
Now let’s take a look at his shot map last season here.
As you can see a large amount of his on-target shots/goals come from inside the box rather than outside. Taking long shots from outside the box is not his preferred move and he rarely takes one. Keeping him at bay inside the box and prevent him from taking a shot at goal could limit his threat considerably.
Trenčín seemed to make great use of his excellent physicality. Standing 1.89m (6’2”) tall, the Croatian striker just seems to possess immense power and strength. He is very strong and has great body balance. His height, as well as strength, makes him a difficult man to beat in the air. Mance recorded an impressive 4.6 aerial duels per game with 32% success rate throughout the 2018/19 season. It’s not a bad record, especially if we compare that to Romelu Lukaku’s 4.9 aerial duels per game with 47% success rate. Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud also recorded some similar numbers, completing an average of 4.9 air challenges with 41% success per game.
As Trenčín occasionally tried to get the ball forward via lofting it past the midfield, Mance often had little problem bringing it down for his teammate or controlling it, holding it, and moving it towards more creative players.
Mance’s physical strength seems to always give him great advantage up front making him a terrifying, immovable boulder to the opposing defence.
A large part that contributes to Mance’s excellent goalscoring tally is his physicality. And it’s not just his upper-body strength, but also the amount of power that he could generate with his feet. Mance loves to blast one past the goalkeeper. His accurate shots are even more dangerous due to the amount of power behind it. At times the goalkeeper won’t even realise that the ball’s already in his net due to its pace.
Positioning and movements
Aside from his physical strength and effectiveness in front of goal, Mance’s positioning and off the ball movements are also prominent parts of his game. His ability to find spaces to run into and position himself in the right place and at the right time makes him a real dangerous threat up front.
Mance loves to make runs in behind the defence and his timing is absolutely marvellous. Despite not being a very quick nor agile, Mance is a pretty difficult player to mark. He knows where he needs to be, when to hit the gas, and how to avoid getting caught in the offside trap.
Let’s take a look at the picture below.
Mance tends to make runs between two defenders. He loves to play off the shoulder of the last defender, lurking behind them and beating them to the ball.
Mance mostly stays forward and central at Trenčín, rarely moving away from his designated spot. He occasionally drops slightly deeper to help the linkup play.
As we can see from the heatmap above, most of his time in a game was spent inside the box (mostly in the central areas). Occasionally he’d drop slightly deeper in the areas between the box and the halfway line. The hot spot in the middle (halfway line) doesn’t mean that he’d drop deep and wander far off his position. But rather it merely shows his positioning when his team were under attack/defending in a low-block. It shows that Mance tended to stay forward when under attack.
Mance’s main job may be to convert opportunities into goals, but he won’t be able to get to the end of the attack if his team can’t create any chances. That’s why he needs to help his team link up.
Let’s take a look at the picture below.
As we can see Mance seems to drop slightly deeper. He does this to not just offer passing option, but to also open up some space as well as attract his marker out of position which could disrupt the defensive line.
Mance is not a really shabby passer as well. In fact, he’s pretty much the opposite. He may not deliver so many passes, but he’s actually quite accurate. Last season, he averaged around 13 passes per game and he completed them with 75% accuracy. He even averaged around 0.8 key passes per game, which is not bad for a pure striker who’s often perceived as the kind of player who lacks creativity.
The Trenčín striker also has a good first touch, rarely miscontrolling the ball when receiving it. Combining that with his strength and ability to hold off the defenders as well as excellent positioning and movements – he makes a perfect player for link-up plays.
Perhaps not everybody knows this, but Mance seems to be quite a decent dribbler as well. On some rare occasions, the tall striker showed his aptitude, beating players (including goalkeepers) on 1v1 attacking situations.
Last season, Mance averaged around 2.9 dribbles per game with a 55% success rate. If we compare that to one of the best dribbling strikers, Sergio Aguero, (3.4 dribbles with 50% completion), Mance can be considered a pretty good (or effective) dribbler.
Mance may be a cool finisher, a striker with a killer instinct, but he’s quite dependent on his teammates’ services. He’s not really a player who can create a chance by himself. Most of his goals last season were from his teammates’ assists. Without proper service, his threats can be considerably diminished
The 1995-born striker also seems to lack pace. He may have a fairly decent overall speed, not very quick. And he also lacks the explosiveness and the acceleration – which is pretty normal for a target man who dwells inside the box. But his lack of pace often renders him struggling against defenders who have pace and power.
He may also not be the perfect counter target, but there’s a way where he could work well in a counter-attacking team. Trenčín were actually pretty quick in transitions from defence to attack although they didn’t rely mostly on counter-attacks. Occasionally when trying to launch a counter, there’s at least one quick winger staying forward alongside Mance to provide the pace while Mance was usually waiting in the centre to receive the ball, hold off the defender, and give it to the pacey winger. The similar style of counter-attack can be seen in France’s 2018 World Cup campaign where Giroud and Kylian Mbappe were the most prominent figures in France’s counter-attacks.
Aside from all that, Mance is also not a very active defender. He does love to press the opposing defence and chase down defenders, but he tends to not drop deep and trackback. He also recorded pretty low defensive involvement last season with an average of only 2.2 per game. Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, for comparison, made an average of 4.7 defensive challenges per game. That’s twice more than Mance and mind you, the latter played in higher intensity and simply more difficult league.
Mance’s loan move to Nantes in the middle of the season was disappointing, but the French club didn’t do him fairly either. Sadly, the towering striker didn’t get enough opportunity while being forced to adapt quickly to a drastically different style of play as well as atmosphere. The Croatian striker has quite a similar playing style and attributes to Les Canaris’ hero Emiliano Sala. Both are clinical in front of goal, physically strong, imposing in the air, intelligent in their positioning and movements, and excellent at linking up the play.
As of now, Trenčín have found an agreement with Croatian club Osijek for Mance for a fee around €1.3million and the striker will be back to his home country in July. But the question is, will he be back to Europe’s top five leagues again someday? Perhaps if he can replicate his impressive form at Trenčín, his club will be receiving calls again from Europe’s top teams in the next transfer window.
As this analysis showed, Mance is very talented and has bags of potential, but some rather unwanted unfortunate events hampered his potential European breakout. Perhaps next season will be his season, but we’ll soon find out about that.
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