In this tactical analysis scout report, we will take a look at Emmanuel Dennis; a 22-year old Nigerian forward, currently plying his trade for Club Brugge – who sit atop the Belgian Pro League. He is a physical striker who is capable of playing on either wing and has a keen eye for goal. So far this season he has made 17 appearances for the first team, amounting to 54% of the available minutes.
Dennis has been a very solid player this season, scoring a number of goals, with a memorable two goal performance in the Champions League against Real Madrid. He also made his debut for the Nigerian national team in September 2019; featuring for 19 minutes in two friendlies against Ukraine and Brazil. He is currently valued at around £10m. However, he is being speculated to be the subject of a £25m bid from Newcastle United, of the Premier League – presumably with a view to solve their lack of goals.
How Dennis fits in at Club Brugge
Club Brugge have had a distinct favourite formation so far in the 2019/20 season, as they have played a 3-5-2 in 40% of their games; alongside a 4-1-4-1 formation 24% of the time. This has led to Dennis fluctuating between a striker and a winger. He has played ten league games at striker, five at right-wing, and the remaining two at left-wing.
This demonstrates his ability to be comfortable in a number of positions, albeit preferring to operate as a striker. This is more than likely why Newcastle are showing interest in him; they need a striker who is a consistent goal-scorer, and being comfortable in more than one position is a bonus.
Dennis’ heat map is rather unusual for that of a striker. He seems to position himself outside of the box and drift wide. It does have to be noted that he has played some games at left and right-wing, however, the majority of games have been in the centre forward position.
His heat map could be this way because Club Brugge have favoured playing a two-striker formation this season; explaining why Dennis appears to play wider on his heat map.
His heat map also shows that he isn’t in the box that often – an indication of his style of play; suggesting he is not a traditional number 10, but instead prefers to drift wide and wait outside the box, ready to make a late run onto a through ball.
This is demonstrated in the below image; Emmanuel Dennis makes a clever run from outside the box, onto the through pass from his teammate. This enabled him to be clean through on goal, to which he finished to perfection resulting in a goal.
When looking at Dennis as a potential transfer target; first an assessment needs to be made as to whether his style of play would fit in well with that of his fellow teammates. In order for his addition to the team to be a successful one. And if not, recruitment would need to take place.
Just a goalscorer?
Emmanuel Dennis has a decent goal record, finding the net five times in the league this season, in 17 appearances.; an average of 0.42 goals per 90 minutes. Although this statistic does not appear impressive at first glance; when broken down it equates to a goal every other game – not a bad record for a striker. We must also note that he has only played 54% of available minutes in the league this season; certainly hindering his chances of scoring. One game he was brought on as a substitute and ended up playing one minute; hardly giving him the opportunity to make an impact on the game.
If we compare this to his expected goals (xG) figure, he is expected to score 0.38 goals per 90 minutes; his average goals of 0.42 exceeds the expectation of him, which is impressive in itself. It shows that he does have goalscoring ability and, given more minutes in the team, he may score even more goals.
However, is that all he is? Can he provide more than just goals for a team?
As has been mentioned, Dennis can provide utility to teams, with the ability to play in a number of positions. He has been deployed as a winger before, but is he really capable of playing there?
The Nigerian international has a 75% pass accuracy rate, and averages 26.94 passes a game; this is fine, but he may look to attempt less risky passes and improve his accuracy if he wants to take his game to the next level.
Unfortunately, he has less success when crossing the ball. Dennis averages 2.51 crosses a game, but these only find their target 25% of the time; leaving a little to be desired. However, he has proven that he is capable of doing it; assisting a goal from a cross on a number of occasions.
Dennis has also shown a great physical presence on the pitch, a desirable asset for any striker to have. He has shown great strength to hold the ball up, and wins physical duels with opposing defenders. He averages 33.2 duels every 90 minutes, winning 36.3% of these duels; not a bad average when considering he is battling against the greater physicality of defenders.
Emmanuel Dennis also possesses a great deal of pace. He has shown that he is able to beat almost any defender in a foot race. This is evidenced in the image below.
Obviously it’s never a bad thing for a forward to be rapid, but it’s especially important that Dennis is quick. Due to his style of play being as described; for him to make runs into the box, he needs the pace to be able to beat opposing defenders.
King of speed but what about control?
As has been mentioned, Dennis is rapid. But this can sometimes be to his detriment. He averages 9.87 dribbles per 90 mins. However, only 40.2% of these are successful. This could potentially be as a result of his pace, working to his detriment when attempting to control the ball. What I’ve noticed from watching footage of Dennis is that he attempts a dribble, and beats a couple of players, but he’s running so fast that he overruns the ball and ends up taking a heavy touch straight into the feet of the defender.
But, having said this there are certainly positive signs. If Dennis can learn to fully utilise his pace and weight his touches correctly, his dribbling would become lethal.
A defensive presence too?
We have learned that Dennis is an immense threat in front of, and leading up to, the goal, but what about the other end?
It’s not often that we talk about an attacker’s ability to defend, but Dennis has been called upon to do it before, and he does it well – for a forward at least.
As shown above, Dennis has in the past been called upon to make last-ditch challenges and tackles, even in his team’s box. As well as tackling, he also averages 2.09 interception per game.
This may not necessarily be important for a striker, but if he’s playing on the wing it shows an ability to get up and down the pitch and offer something for the team at either end. Not only showing an ability to defend, but it also shows a willingness to work for the team – something that a lot of players lack these days.
In addition, it appears that he is happy to go out of his way, out of his normal position, to work for the team and win the ball back, or stop a goalscoring opportunity; I think that shows a great deal about his character, which is equally as important as his ability as a player.
To conclude, Emmanuel Dennis is a strong striker with blistering pace and a keen eye for goal. He operates best in a dual-striker formation alongside a target man-like striker who possesses the ability to pass; this allows Dennis to sit in his desired position just outside the box and run onto balls played in behind the defenders.
He hasn’t been given a plethora of opportunities in the first team, only playing 54% of the available minutes. If he was given more chances, he surely would take them.
He can certainly bring goals and a positive attitude to any team, and he can already perform against top-level competition (such as Real Madrid). I personally think that he would be a good fit for Newcastle United, he would be able to bring goals that they are severely lacking right now, especially if he was utilised correctly.
If Steve Bruce could pair him up with this “other striker” that we keep referring to, someone like Andy Carroll perhaps. Someone that could hold the ball up while he makes his runs into the box, then Newcastle would certainly find the ball in the back of their opponents net more often than they have recently.
Overall, Emmanuel Dennis is still very young at 22-years-old. He already has the ability to compete at one of the highest levels, and has experience playing for a top-level club in his league – and he has Champions League experience to boot.
With a bit more work on his finishing, dribbling and passing, we could be looking at a 20/25 goal a season striker in a few years’ time. I think he would be a good signing for Newcastle, and under Steve Bruce, he very well could find his break in top-flight football.