The Balkan region has long been synonymous with being football mad, and one of the most successful clubs in the region has been Partizan Belgrade. Partizan’s success is the backdrop of being such a well-run club where it has developed one of Europe’s most renowned youth academies becoming a feeder club of talent to the giants of Europe. Partizan’s Teleotik Academy has produced some household names including Stevan Jovetić, Matija Nastasić, Stefan Savić and Aleksander Mitrović who have excelled in Europe and for the Serbian international team. Looking to follow in their footsteps is young striker Dusan Vlahovic who back in 2016 became Partizan’s youngest ever player in history to feature in the side. The then 16-year-old striker put in impressive displays for his team which sparked the interest of many clubs in Ligue 1, Serie A and the Premier League, who fought for his signature.
In 2017, Fiorentina won the race to sign the young Serbian striker agreeing on terms that he would officially sign on his 18th birthday in January 2018. Vlahović struggled to force his way into the first team under Stefano Pioli but under Vincenzo Montella and now under new manager Giuseppe Iachini the striker has been given his opportunity and he has taken it with both hands. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of the role that Dušan Vlahović plays at Fiorentina and will show how the young striker has been leading the line and devasting opposition defences with his strength, pace, and power.
Under Iachini’s 3-5-2 formation Vlahović plays in the two-man front line supported normally by the highly-rated young Italian Federico Chiesa. The 20-year-old Serbian striker has the physical build and stature to be a target man, which he plays to great effect. However, Vlahović is not static upfront and does not solely play that role, the striker loves to roam to the wings and all across the front line plus he tends to come deep to receive the ball and link-up play, which you can see from how scattered his heatmap is below. This makes him unpredictable and keeps opposition defenders guessing making him a quite versatile and effective striker for La Viola.
Off the ball movement
One of the area’s that makes Vlahović such an effective striker is his off the ball movement which disorganises the opposition defensive structure creating space and opportunities for him and his teammates. The 20-year-old tends to move into the half-spaces or to the wings making and in to out movement to receive the ball or to open up the centre of the opposition’s defence. Vlahović is clever and stays central, he also uses his big frame to occupy the opposition defenders, when his teammates progress the ball up the pitch the Serbian darts out to the half-spaces, his timing and his pace catch out his markers who are reacting and on the back foot, and the Fiorentina frontman either gets played in behind into space or his movement opens up the centre from the opposition defender being pulled out of position.
In the image below, Fiorentina is on the attack and have advanced the ball into the oppositions half, Vlahović stays central and holds his run until his teammate has just got past the oppositions midfield line, the young Serbian identifies where the space is and times his run from in to out to perfection, he gets played in behind but the chance is squandered.
Contrastingly, the 20-year-old also likes to switch out to the wing or drop deeper into midfield thus not occupying the opposition defenders. His movement is very clever because by not occupying the central defenders he is able to drift into a position into space without the opposition defence noticing.
The striker’s timing is extremely good, for example in the game against Monza in the Coppa Italia, he drifts from a deep position into the half-space as the Monza defenders do not notice and both charge out to the ball, Vlahović sees the space and times and bends his run to keep himself onside before he is played in and he finishes past the keeper.
With the young Serbian making runs from in to out and switching out wide to the wing his unpredictable and clever runs sets himself up with a lot of 1v1’s against opposition defenders. The striker wants to get himself in these positions because he is quite technical and is a very good dribbler of the ball. Vlahović backs himself to beat a defender making 0.9 dribbles per game, he also has a good success where he beats an opposition player 61% of the time. When the Fiorentina forward beats his man he is always looking to pick out a player in the box or deliver a cross into a dangerous area.
In the image below, Vlahović drifts out wide the wing where he is in space, he teammate plays the ball out to him and he drives into the box before being met by an opposition defender, the Serbian drops his shoulder and runs towards the byline, with his weaker foot he hits a low cross into a dangerous area, the ball hits off the opposition defender at the back post and goes into the back of the net.
The under-21 Serbian international is able to take on and dribble by multiple players as he cleverly uses his strength and power to protect the ball and hold off players buying him time to think about how to dribble by the opposition players. By using his large frame and strength it difficult for opposing players to take the ball off him. With Vlahović using this advantage coupled with his dribbling skills he is able to go by players with ease create opportunities for his team.
An example of this can be seen below, As Fiorentina have a throw-in, Vlahović drifts out and makes himself available and the ball is thrown to him, the Serbian holds off his marker and uses his god dribbling skills to go by him on the touchline, another opposition defender tries to tackle him but shrugs them off and with the player off balance, he dribbles by them and hits a dangerous cross into the box only for the keeper to palm the ball away.
Shooting and finishing
The most important attribute needed for a top striker is their finishing and their ability to score goals. To increase your chances of scoring goals a striker needs to be able to get shots on goal and the young Serbian certainly delivers in this area taking 3.8 shots per 90 minutes as he creates shots through his clever movement and dribbling ability. What is most impressive about the former Partizan striker is his non-penalty xG 0.47 per 90 minutes which is up with the finest strikers in Europe showing he is shooting in dangerous positions on a consistent basis which is what you want from your striker. The Fiorentina forward has scored 6 goals in league from 10 starts which is an excellent return.
What you notice about his goals is his great shooting ability and finishing where he scores some outrageous goals, he hits the ball so cleanly and accurately that the opposition keepers are unable to save the attempt. A prime example of his great finishing is illustrated in the image below, Fiorentina are on the attack and switch the ball over to the right-wing, Vlahović makes a dart out to half-space and receives the ball down the line, the Serbian striker runs with the ball inside the box where he is faced by a Napoli defender before the defender gets to him he strikes the ball with barely any backlift and it curls around and into the far corner of the net, such a beautiful, exquisite finish from the Serbian.
Vlahović uses all his attributes to create and score his goals. The striker has great movement and always puts himself into dangerous positions to score goals, he uses his dribbling ability when he receives the ball to evade and go past defenders to open up an opportunity to shoot, where he has the finishing ability, precision and power in his shot to ensure when he gets the chance he is able to beat the opposition keeper.
A prime example where he uses all these strengths is in his goal against Inter, Fiorentina have defended and cleared a corner and so are on a counter-attack, Vlahović positions movement is well-timed and well-executed as he peels off into the half-space on the last line, he receives the ball and has no support so uses his pace, power, and strength to go by Milan Škriniar, the Inter defender recoveries well but at the edge of the box, The Serbian uses his dribbling ability to shift the ball beyond the defender, as he gets a bit of space he hits a devasting shot into the top corner past the stranded keeper, a truly magnificent individual goal.
Fiorentina has got a special talent in Dušan Vlahović. The Serbian is La Viola’s joint top scorer and has contributed to just under 20% of the Serie A side’s total goals this season from just 10 starts which is extremely impressive. Under Giuseppe Iachini the young Serbian has been given his chance and with the new Fiorentina manger’s tactics, the 20-year-old has been able to showcase his excellent movement, his great dribbling ability, and his outrageous finishing and shooting, as shown in the analysis. Coupled with all of these technical skills the Fiorentina striker has the brute-force associated with the Balkan region through his strength and power which could potentially make him into the complete forward.
After every goal, Vlahović performs the same celebration where he blocks his ears with his fingers jesting about drowning out the noise from hysterical fans. If the Serbian keeps improving and producing those outrageous and devasting goals, he will need a lot more then his fingers to block out the noise from the Fiorentina faithful and beyond.