Mikkel Kaufmann is a Danish 19-year-old who broke into Aalborg’s first team in the 18/19 season, playing 322 minutes. He has really made his mark in the 19/20 season, establishing himself as a starting striker and scoring 7 goals between July and January. This earned him a £2.7m move to Copenhagen.
Target Man play
The first thing one notices when watching Kaufmann is his physical stature. He stands out from others on the field due to his large, muscular frame. Combined with clever use of his body, this allows him to function effectively as a target man, where he is comfortable receiving the ball on the floor and in the air with his back towards goal. This is something that sets him apart from many players of his age as they don’t tend to be as physically developed as he is.
In the air
He is the target from goal-kicks when Copenhagen choose to take them long. He drops off from his centre forward position so that the team forms a 4-2-3-1 shape. This allows the wingers to be close to him on either side, central midfielders can drop off for knockdowns, whilst his strike partner can run beyond him to chase flick-ons. In the image above he drew two Horsens defenders to challenge him, creating space for his teammates.
His aerial duel win rate is 40 % which is 5% above average for strikers. This makes going to him in the air an effective strategy for his team. He’s also above average for aerial duels contested per 90, with 7.43 (avg is 5.98). This shows that his team are aware of his abilities in the air and look to utilise this in their tactics often.
On the ground
When it comes to receiving the ball to his feet, he also favours coming short to receive the ball from central midfielders and defenders.
In the image above he came to receive the ball from midfield, using his body to protect the ball from the oncoming defender. This allowed him to flick the ball around the corner to a teammate with his first touch.
Moves like this are a feature in the young Dane’s game. He’s got the skill and confidence to play a clever flick like that, but he’s also got the strength and battling qualities to hold it and wait for support if needed.
Above is a demonstration of how Aalborg used Kaufmann’s hold up and link play in their tactics. The ball is at the feet of the central midfielder, which means Kaufmann comes short to be an option. Seeing this, Frederik Borsting (25) makes a run inside the fullback.
Kaufmann didn’t quite get the pass right on this occasion but if he had it would have led to a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. This showed Kaufmann’s intelligence as a target man. He does not simply rely on brute force in the penalty box, but on clever movements as well.
Wyscout uses a metric called PPDA (passes per defensive action) to measure pressing. This metric gives an average of passes allowed before the team in question attempts to win the ball back. In this case: the lower the number, the higher the press. Copenhagen rank as the 2nd highest pressing team in Superliga as per PPDA with an average of 8.99. Pressing is a key aspect of their tactics.
As the centre forward, Kaufmann leads from the front in that regard. This is shown by the fact that he ranks in the 60th percentile for defensive duels of all strikers in the league.
However, without access to advanced data like Statsbomb’s pressure events, it’s hard to fully quantify pressing in our analysis. Much of what goes on is closing down, which wouldn’t be recorded as an event according to Wyscout.
In the image above we see Kaufmann pressing to close down Celtic’s Jozo Šimunović, who had no choice but to pass back to his goalkeeper.
As the ball went back to Fraser Forster in the Celtic goal, Kaufmann kept the pressure on. This forced Forster to play a hurried long ball, which was turned over to Copenhagen.
It is common to see Kaufmann press like this. He has a large frame, but he has the pace to cover ground quickly and fitness to press all game. This makes him a real headache for central defenders to deal with.
Looking at his play facing towards the opposition goal, Kaufmann favours carrying the ball. He does so with strong, powerful runs and likes to take shots at the end of these runs. In fact, he has taken a shot after 41.3% of all dribbles attempted.
He’s not a particularly skilful dribbler, with his ball-carrying style being more in the vein of a Yaya Toure type player bulldozing his way through defences. His dribbles are focussed around power rather than close control.
The weakness here is that he can let it run loose. He could do with getting his head up more as he carries the ball to ensure that he makes the best decision possible as he is a bit raw in this area. Currently, he tends to have a one-track mind once he embarks on a dribble. His instinct is to drive towards goal and take a shot.
In this example, Kaufmann has embarked on one of his powerful runs. However, he has missed Pep Biel (number 16) who is in wide-open space with a clear run towards goal. If Kaufmann could have managed to play the ball into his path it could have led to a good chance.
The striker did manage to evade the two Horsens defenders but he took a heavy touch. This meant that he had missed the opportunity to play the ball to Biel. Instead, he took a shot which he dragged wide.
When it comes to passing, Kaufmann is below average compared to other strikers in the league for passing accuracy. His figure of 71.17 isn’t so far below average (73.77) to be majorly concerning, but it is a weakness. Strikers tend to have low passing accuracy as they make passes in the final third, but he is sloppy. As above with his dribbling, he could do with keeping his head up a bit more so that’s he’s fully aware of the whereabouts of his teammates when looking to make passes.
During the Europa League tie at Celtic, Kaufmann showed his skill at finding space to get behind the defence. This led to an excellent opportunity for him to find a teammate in the penalty area.
Unfortunately, he let the ball run across his body rather than take it in his stride. This meant that he took it a little wider than he meant to. Subsequently, he hurried the pass and played it straight to a Celtic defender. If he had got his head up earlier he would have seen Jens Stage (highlighted in black) arriving late.
Finally, the area of the game that strikers are so often ultimately judged on; goalscoring.
Kaufmann is not far from the fabled ‘goal every other game’ that often gets mentioned as a desirable characteristic from a top number nine. He has 7 goals in the Superliga this season at a rate of 0.42 per 90. Unfortunately, he hasn’t managed to score for Copenhagen since his move but that only accounts for 353 minutes. However, he still ranks as one of the most prolific players in the whole league, as shown below.
Positioning & anticipation
He regularly gets himself into good positions to score, ranking him in 3rd in the league for xG per 90. This is extremely impressive for a player as young as Kaufmann and suggests that the goals scored this season are more than simply the result of him hitting a lucky run of finishing.
Breaking this down a little further, let’s look at his shot locations for the season.
There are wild long shots on here but the majority are from within the width of the 6-yard box. This is the golden zone for a centre forward.
His excellent positioning is reflected in his impressive figure of 0.17 xG per shot. He doesn’t have a high xG per 90 because he’s taking a high volume of poor shots but because he gets maximum value for his efforts.
If he continues to take lots of shots from these positions, he’s likely to become a great goalscorer.
In this example, Kaufmann is on the move and anticipating the ball into the box. He seems as if he is about to run across the centre back but instead runs behind.
This allows him time and space to jump for the header without being challenged. Once again he’s managed to get a chance on goal from the ‘golden zone’. His quality in the air comes to the fore, as he heads low into the corner to score.
Regarding finishing – he’s tracking well, scoring 7 from a total xG of 7.55. His conversion rate of 15.56. is above average for strikers (the average is 14.22), which suggests he could become an elite finisher.
The goal below is an example of his top-quality movement and finishing.
Here he showed clever movement by running on the blindside of the Silkeborg central defender.
Receiving the ball from Kasper Kusk, his body position allowed him to control it and set himself in one movement. He then finished powerfully across the goalkeeper. This demonstrated his excellent ball-striking technique.
These are the types of movements he will need to produce consistently in order to become an elite striker.
Room For Improvement
At times Kaufmann’s first touch can let him down. It isn’t as big an issue when facing away from goal as he protects the ball with his body. When facing goal he can find that it gets away from him too easily.
In this example, he attempted to turn and receive the ball in one movement in order to run towards goal. He wasn’t able to control the ball properly though and the covering centre back swept it up easily.
This example shows that his touch can still let him down even when protecting the ball with his body. He came to receive the ball from a throw-in and wanted to return it to the thrower.
His first-touch bounced away from him though and he found himself surrounded by 3 Horsens defenders. This meant that he wasn’t able to pass the ball back and conceded possession.
If he is to make it as an elite striker he will need to improve his first touch.
Kaufmann still needs time to bed in at Copenhagen and he’ll hope to score his first goal for his new team as soon as possible when the Superliga returns. This scout report has shown that he possesses excellent potential though and a skill set that could see him becoming a leading striker in the division on a consistent basis.
In future, he could fit in well in the English Premier League due to his excellent physical attributes. He is currently playing in a 4-4-2 at Copenhagen so he could be an option to replace Dominic Calvert-Lewin in Everton’s current system or Chris Wood at Sean Dyche’s Burnley. At Aalborg he played centrally with wide forwards either side of him, so he could be an option for any club looking to get wingers in behind by latching onto flick-ons from a powerful forward as a key part of their tactics.