In this tactical analysis scout report, we will take a look at Jonathan David. He is a 20-year-old Canadian centre attacking midfielder, currently plying his trade for KAA Gent, who sit 2nd in the Belgian Pro League.
David has made an explosive start to his career in Belgium, scoring 30 goals in 59 league appearances for Gent. He is a pacey attacking midfielder, with an eye for goal, who has made impressive leaps in ability recently. This season alone he has a total of 23 goals in 39 appearances, in all competitions, with his most recent coming against Roma in the Europa League.
A full Canadian international, David has already made 12 appearances for his country, finding the net 11 times so far.
He currently holds a value in the transfer market of around £18m, resulting in immense interest from bigger clubs. With a goalscoring record like that, and all the potential in the world, who wouldn’t be interested? As it stands Arsenal are interested in the forward, especially if they see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leave the Emirates.
However, according to reports, Jonathan David’s most favoured move is a move to the Bundesliga, with Bayern Munich supposedly interested; especially as they recently signed his fellow countryman, Alphonso Davies.
Where does he fit in at KAA Gent?
So far this season, KAA Gent have seriously favoured a 4-3-1-2 formation, with an attacking-midfielder sitting just behind the 2 up top. I say they’ve seriously favoured it because they’ve used it in 78% of their games this season, with little variation; but, it does seem to be working, with them currently sitting 2nd in the Belgian Pro League.
The reason it has been working so well has largely been down to this man, Jonathan David. He’s played a seriously impressive 80% of all available minutes and has had a hand in 44% of Gent’s goals this season.
As displayed in his heat map, David has played the majority of his games as a number 10, just in behind both strikers. His role in this position would seemingly be to try and create chances; it seems as though he’s also very happy to take them too! He’s also featured as a centre-forward this season, to very great success, with seven goals and an assist in eight appearances.
The first thing that you notice for Jonathan David is obviously his goalscoring record. It was the first point made in the article and, as I said there, it’s very impressive. It works out to 0.57 goals per 90 minutes; pretty much a goal every two games. It’s impressive for a striker to have that many goals, let alone an attacking midfielder. Alongside this, he also sits with ten assists in all competitions this season, averaging 0.21 assists per 90; which is an assist roughly every five games.
Realistically, these figures don’t really mean anything on their own. Sure, he’s scoring 0.57 goals a game, but is that good relative to how he has been performing? To tell us this, we have to compare the figures he is actually putting up, to the ones we expect from him.
In short, Jonathan David is far-and-away exceeding what is expected from him on the goals and assists front. His expected goals figure is 0.42 per 90 mins, and his expected assists are 0.12 per 90.
Where are the goals coming from though?
The first question we must ask is precisely that, where are his goals all coming from?
It goes without saying that David is an excellent finisher. But, personally, I believe most of his goals come more through clever positioning than just his raw shooting ability.
With him playing just behind the front two, it appears that he is afforded a bit more freedom in his movement in the attacking phase of play. This allows him to make late runs into the box, or even wait at the edge of the area, ready to make his move. It’s as if he is an attacking midfielder with the mind and positioning of a centre-forward.
Many of his goals have come from just that. He will wait on the edge of the area, or the penalty spot, either waiting for a pass to run onto or for the ball to come loose. He then pounces on any slight opportunity, often making the most of any chance he gets.
We see an example of this in the image above. David is waiting in the area and the ball comes loose after a coming together of a few players. The Canadian international then acts quickly, getting to the ball and slotting it into the back of the net. This assessment of David’s style of play is backed up by the fact that he averages almost 5 touches in the box every 90 minutes.
Running through on goal
David’s goals don’t just come from goal-hanging though. He’s proven that he can run through on goal, beating the offside trap and getting onto long passes and through-balls alike.
This displays his pace, and strength, to beat other players; as well as demonstrates his ability to control, and run with the ball up the pitch. He only finds himself offside 0.26 times per 90 minutes, which really emphasises his intelligence, and reading of the game; as well as his sheer pace, as he doesn’t even need to be close to being offside if he can run past defenders with such ease.
However, there is an argument that maybe he doesn’t implement this into his game as much as he maybe should. Clearly, it is effective, as he has scored several goals via this method. However, he only averages 1.62 progressive runs per 90 minutes, which is arguably rather low, especially for an attack-minded player.
Not only does he find goals for his team by running through defences, but he also wins fouls; approximately 2.31 per 90 minutes. With the nature of his positioning and the way he moves on the pitch, the fouls he wins are often in dangerous positions, on the edge of the opponent’s 18-yard box.
Does he do anything besides score?
Yes, he does, as it happens. As we’ve already looked at, he has shown the ability to provide assists for his teammates numerous times this season; and this comes down to his ability to pass the ball.
David averages 30.46 passes per 90 minutes, finding his intended target 81.2% of the time; a very respectable figure in itself.
In the image above, David sends a through-ball to his teammate in the final third of the pitch, resulting in a goal. These types of passes seem to be among his favourite and are where he has found a lot of success. He makes a pass into the final third of the pitch 2.76 times per 90 minutes, with a 73.3% success rate, which is likely where he has found a number of his assists this season.
He’s also not afraid to control the tempo of the game for his team, making an average of 8.22 back-passes per 90 minutes. He does this with a 90.4% accuracy rate (and you’d hope so too!). This, again, highlights his intelligence on the pitch, as he demonstrates that he isn’t always blindly looking to get the ball forward as quickly as possible; he’s working hard to create situations that are far more likely to be successful.
It must be noted, as a caveat, that Jonathan David has a bit of work to do with his passing (he is human after all!). He sees only a 47.8% success rate in his long passes and a 30.8% success rate in his crossing. However, he clearly has recognised this as an area he needs to improve in, as he doesn’t particularly attempt many of either, attempting 0.55 and 0.93 of each pass respectively, every 90 minutes.
Overall, it must be said, that Jonathan David looks like an extremely exciting, and talented young player. He has international experience and has experience playing in European cup competitions to boot.
He clearly can find the back of the net and has all the other attributes you’d want in an attacker. The only question would be whether he could make the step up to a bigger league; something he has somewhat proven already, by scoring against bigger clubs in the Europa League.
With Arsenal looking at him as a potential replacement for Aubameyang, would he fit in there? I’m not totally sure. He’s without a doubt a good player, but he and Aubameyang play in different positions, so it would depend on whether Mikel Arteta would build the team around David as an attacking midfielder, or whether he would shoehorn him in as a striker, alongside Lacazette.
I think David would do perfectly well as a striker, he clearly has all the necessary qualities to be effective in that position, and he has played there numerous times this season already, scoring almost a goal a game. But would he be as effective as he has been in that free-flowing, roaming attacking midfielder role?
Personally, I think the most suitable move would be for him to go to Bayern Munich. I think the way the team play would suit him more; especially as you could potentially draw similarities between him and Thomas Müller. Sitting a little deeper behind the striker and being an attacking midfielder, with the brain of a striker. I think the move would be ideal for Bayern too, as he’s effectively a 10-year younger version of Müller!
As well as this, Bayern have recently signed his good friend, and fellow countryman, Alphonso Davies; and look how that’s worked out for him!
Being valued at £18m in the transfer market, you’d obviously expect him to command a much higher final transfer fee than this. However, I think that it would absolutely be worth it for a club in a bigger league to invest in this young, exciting, talent who clearly has a lot to offer; and is absolutely first-team ready already!