The ‘not so’ ever-budding biosphere of football remains at a standstill. Yet as each day passes, the financial side continues. Bills must be paid and contracts must be respected.
At present, the Scottish Premiership is temporarily suspended and resides in limbo. For Celtic, this means players and staff must remain in fighting shape as they sit 13 points clear at the top.
Moreover, a potential rollercoaster of emotion may be in store during the summer break. Why? Their star player, Odsonne Edouard, continues to attract interest from potential buyers, most notably, Arsenal. With two years left on his contract and the player in question remaining silent, fans are left wondering if they’ll ever see him play for the Hoops again.
This season, the former PSG prospect has broken into his stride. He’s netted 28 goals and collected 14 assists from 43 games. Compared to last year where he netted 22 goals and 8 assists from 52 games. These figures suggest Edouard is improving. The upward trend in performances also suggests Edouard is on course to achieve his potential. On top of this, playing regular football and accumulating confidence will delight his international coaches.
This scout report will better inform the reader of Edouard’s’ strengths and weaknesses. It will provide and make use of his statistics from this season. By doing so, we can develop an objective foundation that will allow for an accurate evaluation of his ability.
The picture above illustrates Edouard’s movement using a heat map. The white dot depicts his position on the team. The analysis shows Edouard drifts out left. Furthermore, the red area around the kick-off spot shows Edouard plays for a side that scores frequently. With that in mind, note the lack of time spent in the box. Instead, he prefers to drop short. By playing in this area he is encouraged to shoot, run at defenders and cross balls in as he cuts inside on his preferred right foot.
Be it for Celtic or France U21’s, Edouard scores goals. On average, Edouard takes 3.7 shots a game hitting the target 43% of the time. In total, 70 shots on target from 161 shots at goal. Edouard scored 40%.
The graph above displays every match Edouard played. It compares his goals scored (blue) to his expected goals (red(xG)) from each game. The linear lines show the trend of the two statistics in relation to the time of the season. So what does it all mean? Firstly, the linear goal scored line remains above the linear xG line. This tells us that he has achieved more goals than expected. Secondly, the gradual incline of both trend lines indicates that he has increased the number of goals scored as the season progressed. The statistical evidence confirms his goal-scoring ability.
Naturally, the prolific young players combine their technique with pace and fearlessness. However, in most cases, as they hit their mid to late twenties, through injury or age, they lose a yard of pace and they begin to doubt themselves. Sound familiar? Fortunately for Edouard, his game doesn’t rely solely on these qualities.
Now, a tactical analysis will be used to evaluate his performance in context. Firstly, at 6’2”, he competes in the air and holds defenders off. His ball control in tight areas grants him an extra millisecond to pick a pass or a spot in the net.
The picture above demonstrates these skills. Facing a deep defensive line, Edouard positions himself in front of his marker to receive a pass ‘into feet’. Using strength to hold the opposition player off, he evades incoming pressure and turns with control. He then uses his technique to slot the ball into the corner. Despite the oppositions best efforts to pressure Edouard from all angles, he showed strength, control and composure to score for his team.
Edouard also uses a range of clever movements to create and exploit space for him or his teammates. And of course… he’s quick!
The picture above demonstrates Edouard’s anticipation, speed, and ball control. The striker anticipated the pass from midfield, dropping deep and positioning himself between the two defenders. If he had received the ball, as in the previous example, he would have lost possession immediately. Instead, he received the ball at an angle, allowing him to drive forward and escape the challenges from the defenders. Moreover, no extra touch is needed for him to turn. His youthful pace allows him to distance himself from the defenders and score.
The picture above shows the wide runs Edouard attempts. This demonstrates his range of attacking moves. Previously the striker dropped deep to receive and turn forward, this time he dropped deep, before cutting across his marker. His varying runs provide a constant problem for defenders. In their mind, they must decide whether to defend the space or the player. If they choose to press the player space will open up between the defence. If they choose to defend the space, then the opponent has time to receive a pass and decide his next move without pressure.
Furthermore, Edouard has shown he has the ability to score free-kicks. However, what stands out above all else is his aura. At 22 years old, it’s quite understandable to be caught up in the chaotic emotional moments of football. Yet, Edouard barely cracks a smile. In the past, he has come under fire for his lack of emotion. Fans stating, ‘it doesn’t look as if he cares’ perhaps, or perhaps it’s the paranoia of losing him. For me, this trait shows a true professional, unflinching and unnerved regardless of criticism.
Edouard’s 14 assists suggest there is more to his game than goal-scoring. On average, Edouard attempts two passes into the penalty area per game, completing 64% of them. This equates to an average assist rate of 0.3 a match with an expected assist (xA) value of 0.24.
The graph above represents all of Edouard’s assists throughout the season. As in the previous graph, the blue line represents the reality and the red line reflects the expected rate per game. Early in the season, Edouard exceeded expectations. However, throughout five contests, Edouard failed to assist a goal, despite his xA, which suggested he had opportunities to do so.
Passing isn’t his only method used to create chances for his teammates. In addition, Edouard will drop into the space between the lines. By doing so, defenders must decide whether to stay or go with Edouard. The example above shows the defender decided to go with him. Edouard manoeuvres his body into an excellent position to receive the ball. His control prevented the defender from making a tackle, allowing him to link up with the Celtic forward. This shows he has a sound level of knowledge for the attacking tactics of the game.
The picture above demonstrates the benefits of a forward that drops into midfield. Notice how the circled defender is isolated and has two Celtic players running at him. This is an extremely hard scenario to defend against. Subsequently, the wide players move further forward as Edouard defends the vacated space. This move isolates defenders, creates space and permits Celtics midfielders and fullbacks to attack.
When teams defend the space in behind, they encourage Edouard to drop deep and receive the ball. This prevents the striker from playing through or between the lines. The picture above shows the danger with this approach. Realising the lack of space, Edouard has the ability and vision to execute a cross back post. St Mirren’s approach failed because of Edouard’s talent when given to much time on the ball.
Can he be stopped?
Ok so with that in mind, have teams successfully nullified his threat? Well, not many have.
Above, Kilmarnock denied Edouard space in his preferred position. This prevented the striker from shooting but it did leave them vulnerable to a switch ball. Celtic picked up on this and utilised their wingers instead.
Perhaps the best example to stop the in-form striker was the strategy employed by Rangers. They played with an extra midfielder that would man-mark Edouard when he came short. Ranger’s five man midfield denied Celtic’s forward and wide units space and time on the ball. As a result, Celtic created few attacking opportunities and ultimately lost the game.
There is sufficient evidence to suggest that Edouard possesses the building blocks to become a top-class striker. Mentally, he’s calm in front of goal and is eager to learn, according to previous coaches and managers. Tactically, he understands and uses a variety of moves to break lines and shows an ability to read and recognise patterns of play. Physically, he’s fast, strong and agile but needs to become relentless, working hard in and out of possession, to reach the next level. Technically, Edouard can dribble past defenders, hit free kicks, find key passes and strike a ball with precision and power.
Young stars tend to lean heavily on their pace, meaning as they grow older and their body begins to deteriorate they aren’t half the player they once were. Edouard breaks that mould.
It’s a rare thing for any young player, unfamiliar with the native language, to settle and establish himself. Edouard defied the odds and has proved many of his critics wrong given his track record on and off the field at Celtic.