The English Premier League continues to rise and grow its financial dominance as it is the richest league in world football with annual revenues of over £4 billion. This money has attracted billionaire owners to the Premier League who have invested heavily in facilities, infrastructure and also in the youth academies of each team. Young English players are benefiting from the investment as there are now better facilities and coaches in which they can become better overall players. The downside of the money being pumped into the Premier League is that owners are focused on the short-term and want to win trophies and see a return on investment almost instantly. This results in Premier League teams buying the best players leaving the young English academy products way down the pecking order in terms of the first-team action. Young English academy players are starting to look aboard to gain first-team action with English players now playing in over 20 leagues aboard.

One of those players who has taken the leap aboard to gain first-team action is the 21-year-old Tottenham academy product, Marcus Edwards. After a number of years being in the Tottenham reserves and going out on loan Edwards signed with Vitoria on a four-year deal. Marcus Edwards has certainly benefitted from the move to Vitoria. Edwards worked his way into the Vitoria first team and has now established himself as a key player. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of the role that Marcus Edwards plays at Vitoria, and why he should have some big teams monitoring him closely.

Positioning

Marcus Edwards predominately plays in the right-wing position. Ivo Vieira normally sets up his side in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Marcus Edwards staying out wide right, as you can see in his season’s heatmap. Edwards stays so wide to create a 1v1 with the opposition left-back, making it easier to beat the defender and set up a dangerous opportunity.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics
Marcus Edward’s heat map 2019/20 season                                                            Credit: SofaScore

Edwards does not stay wide on the right all the time as he is intelligent enough to come off his wing in order to receive the ball and as a result also draws his marker infield. Edwards has certainly developed under Ivo Vieira and is starting to recognise where the spaces are on the pitch to receive the ball. In the image below, Edwards identifies where space is, to receive the ball as Vitoria try to progress the ball forward. Edwards does not make it easy for the defender as he moves off the attacking line.

The opposition defender is unsure whether to follow Edwards out or stay in his defensive line. This seed of doubt that Edwards puts in the defenders head shows the positions he is taking up are causing problems and opening up space for him and his teammates, this is what the top quality players are doing in his position which shows his progress and maturity.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics

Dribbling ability

In Ivo Vieira’s system, Marcus Edwards plays out wide on the right to create 1v1’s, as I mentioned earlier. Ivo Vieira wants to create a 1v1 for Edwards because he is an incredibly good dribbler. Marcus Edwards this season, when faced in a 1v1 duel, has won over 70% of 1v1 duels so Edwards can go by his marker with ease which sets up dangerous opportunities for Vitoria. Edwards has a very direct style coupled with good feet and a low centre of gravity which makes him such a great dribbler of the ball. Edwards runs straight at defenders making them commit and taking them out of the game as he averages an impressive 3.7 dribbles completed per game.

It is refreshing to see Edwards run and take on opposition players as a lot of players are less likely to do it nowadays and more likely to take the percentage pass, instead, to improve their in-game statistics. Edwards is certainly benefitting from his direct style and his great dribbling ability which is leading to goals. In the image below, Edwards receives the ball at the edge of the box. He is surrounded by three opposition defenders. Most players would pass the ball off to a teammate but Edwards sees a gap and dribbles by the defenders. This opens up a goal-scoring opportunity which he takes as he finishes well past the keeper.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics

Marcus Edwards has such good ball control it looks like the ball just sticks to his feet. Edwards is also very good at anticipating when the defender will try to tackle him and is very good a changing the direction of the ball at the last minute. With a direct style and such great anticipation leads to opposition players fouling Edwards in an attempt to stop him from getting into dangerous areas of the pitch.

Edwards averages 3.3 fouls on him per game this sets up dangerous set pieces for Vitoria close to the opposition’s goal. In the image below, Edwards receives the ball and is doubled up but he dribbles past the first defender and is about to dribble by the next defender but he fouls Edwards as he is about to race away from him. This sets up a dangerous set-piece which Vitoria nearly score from.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics

Shooting and finishing

With Edwards being in such an advanced position and having such great dribbling ability, leads to him getting himself into more goal-scoring opportunities. Edwards has started to take more shots on goal as he takes 1.1 shots on goal per game. His shots are evenly distributed half and half between taking shots outside the box and shots inside the box. Edwards normally engineers a long shot from outside the box by cutting in from the right-wing and hitting the shot predominantly on his stronger left foot.

His shots from inside the box normally come as a result of him staying wide as his teammate on the opposite wing hit the far byline Edwards is free at the back post as the opposition full-back tucks in to cover his teammates moving across the pitch trying to defend the winger on the left side. This gives Edwards time and space to get a shot on goal away.

Overall Edwards is not scared to have a shot on goal and backs his shooting ability. From a Vitoria corner, Edwards positions himself at the edge of the box where the ball falls to him. Edwards’ first touch to set up the shot is brilliant but his volley is close but just wide, as you can see in the image below.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics

Ivo Vieira would love if Marcus Edwards would maybe shoot more often as he has great a  technique and of the shots, he has taken this season he has managed to get 56% of his total shots on target which shows his impressive accuracy.

What is more impressive if you dive deeper into his shooting stats is that he has a 25% conversion rate this season which is better than the likes of Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero. Marcus Edwards shots are hitting the goal where it is difficult for opposition keepers to save. In the image below, Edwards hits another long-range shot this time it’s on target and results in a goal.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics

Passing range

Another area where Marcus Edwards is excelling this season with Vitoria is his passing ability. Edwards has an overall 81% passing accuracy this season attempting 14.3 passes per game in the opposition half showing he is playing balls in dangerous areas of the pitch that can hurt the opposition. Edwards is the main creative spark in Vitoria’s attack as he makes 1.2 key passes per game which shows his awareness and vision in the final third.

In the image below, Edwards shows his awareness in the box as he is surrounded by opposition defenders but instead of taking the ball into him he sees a teammate free and cleverly backheels it to him which sets up a shot which is just wide.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tacticsMarcus Edwards has certainly developed under Vieira. One area that has improved is Edward’s decision making and reading of the game. Edwards is starting to understand when to dribble with the ball and when to pass to a teammate. Edwards is merging both his dribble and passing abilities well. Edwards is dribbling by opposition players and once he gets into space is lifting his head and picking out a teammate who is free and in a dangerous position.

In the image below, Edwards picks the ball up on the halfway line. He dribbles by to opposition players before lifting his head up. He spots his teammates’ movement and plays a sublime pass in behind. Only for the opposition keeper having a good starting position and sweeping up  Vitoria would have had a goal-scoring opportunity. This is a huge area where Edwards has added to his game.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics

Where Marcus Edwards needs to improve

Marcus Edwards has a lot of great qualities, as I have mentioned above. However, Edwards is not the complete package and has some areas he needs to improve on to take his game to the next level. A big weakness that Edwards has is he is quite weak aerially. Marcus Edwards loses nearly 70% of his aerial duels. A major factor contributing to this is his height as he is only 5 foot 6 inches. The majority of players that face him are taller than him so he struggles to win the ball in the air. If Edwards just improves his body position he will win more duels in the air and this is a big factor in the game with teams now looking to play balls over oppositions pressing through long high balls in the air.

Another area and may be more urgent in terms of improvement for Edwards is his crossing. One of the main roles of a winger is their ability to cross the ball into the box for their attackers to score. This is an area where Edwards lacks big time in terms of his ability to cross and pick out a teammate in the box. Edwards is not picking out a teammate the majority of the time as  66.7% of his crosses are not accurate. Edwards has shown this season he has a good passing range but he seems to rush his crosses. Edwards should take the same approach to his passes by lifting his head up and slowing the game down in his mind before hitting a cross into the box. Not every one of Edwards’ crosses has to be accurate but he can’t be as wasteful as he is, so he must improve on his crossing accuracy if he is to be considered by bigger teams.

Would Edwards fit into Tottenham’s current system

Marcus Edward being at Tottenham since the age of eight moving up all the grades up until the under 23 Tottenham team and was tipped to be a star for the first team. However, Edwards was not in the plans of then manager Mauricio Pochettino so he left for Vitoria at the beginning of this season. Pochettinho after some poor results was sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho as Tottenham’s new manager. With Tottenham’s new managerial appointment throws up the question if Edwards was still in the Spurs squad would he fit into Mourinho’s system. Since Mourinho took over as Tottenham manager he has implemented a completely different style to Pochettinho as you would expect.

When in possession, Tottenham form a 3-2-5 formation, committing five players to the attacking line as Aurier moves up to create the width on the right. Similarly in the game against Portimoneses Vitoria played the same formation in possession. Marcus Edwards played in the right half-space of the five committed to the attacking line, as you can see in the image below. Edwards was very comfortable in this position as he got himself a goal and produced a man of the match display. This shows Edwards is very comfortable playing that system.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics

Another element of Tottenham’s system under Mourinho is Mourinho wants the players who are in the half-spaces alongside Kane or the main striker to make runs beyond him. Marcus Edwards is always coming in off his wing and looking for a ball in behind. Edwards’ body position and movement are quite good, as you can see in the image below.

Which after a couple of attempts of the movement causes the defensive line to drop deeper as they are aware of Edwards’s pace. With opposition defence dropping deeper due to Edwards’ movement it opens up space for his teammates to get on the ball and control the game in the midfield area.

Marcus Edwards 2019/20- scout report tactical analysis tactics

Marcus Edwards can certainly play in Tottenham’s current system under Mourinho but the bigger question is would he get in the starting line up. Currently in the position that Marcus Edwards would take up in the team is Lucas Moura. Comparing Edwards with Lucas Moura, Edwards fairs quite well. Both Edwards and Moura are quite similar as they both have a very direct style and like to dribble by defenders. Lucas Moura has scored more goals (6) than Edwards this season but Edwards has contributed to more goals for his team than Lucas Moura (8 goals {4 goals 4 assists} vs 7 goals {6 goals 1 assist}). Edwards has a significantly better conversion rate then Lucas Moura (25% vs 14%). Edwards and Lucas Moura’s dribbling statistics are quite similar but Edwards attempts more dribbles per game ( 3.7 vs 1.6 dribbles). Edwards also is more creative by making 1.2 key passes compared to Lucas Moura’s 0.6 key passes per game.

Marcus Edwards is performing better than Lucas Moura this year but Mourinho would more than likely put Lucas Moura in the starting line up ahead of Edwards if he were still in the Tottenham squad. Edwards has only started to perform well since he started to play for Vitoria less than six months ago. Lucas Moura is a more consistent, proven Premier League player and is a more established player overall. With the signings of Sessegnon and Jack Clarke it is unlikely that Edwards will be back in a Tottenham shirt anytime soon.

Conclusion 

Marcus Edwards has certainly excelled since he made the decision to take the leap and play aboard in Liga NOS. The reason Edwards is playing so well is down to Ivo Vieira’s tactics that play to Edwards strengths. Edwards has improved and his skills, like his dribbling ability, shooting, and passing range have come up leaps and bounds, which is shown in my analysis.

Marcus Edwards is not the full package however and needs to improve his aerial ability and his crossing accuracy. If Edwards just improves his weaknesses just a little bit and keeps producing them numbers on a more consistent basis he will end up at a big club in the future. A raw talent with big things ahead of him if he works hard and keeps improving. Edwards is in the right place under Ivo Vieira at Vitoria as the coach builds his team around Edwards.

Jake Meehan