Jonjoe Kenny is one of many young English players to move to the Bundesliga in pursuit of experience. Kenny moved to Schalke on loan last summer from Everton and this scout report will analyse his performances.
Coach David Wagner has played Kenny as a wing-back and in a back four this season, with fluctuating success. This tactical analysis will consider Kenny’s attacking quality but also his tendencies to step out of the defensive bank.
A proactive wing-back
Kenny’s best position is when playing at wing-back because he can play to his strengths in this position. Although his general position on the pitch requires defensive work, Kenny’s quality shows when going forwards. He joins attacks and frequently appears on the edge of the box when the space in front allows him to do so.
We saw his nature to move up the pitch with his superb strike in Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Union Berlin. With highlights like this, Kenny shows how comfortable he is on the ball and the confidence he has in taking risks.
In the image above, Kenny showed his attacking intent when stepping out to score against Union Berlin. He joins the attack from a narrow position, this could be a result of Schalke adopting a back four.
This was also shown here in their 2-1 away defeat to Fortuna Düsseldorf, where he finds himself in an advanced position but misses the target.
Kenny played at right wing-back here, his attacking nature shows he is keen to move up the pitch, regardless of his position. Kenny emerges from the centre of the pitch to provide an option and a significant goalscoring opportunity.
His movement and progress up the pitch benefit Schalke’s attacking tactics because he provides another option for his teammates. Kenny is good at noticing when space in front of him opens up and when an attacking move is developing.
This is an important feature of this analysis because one of Kenny’s key strengths is to break from his defensive responsibilities and act as an attacking winger.
Passes into the playmakers
When wingers are positioned on the touchline, they are creating space and forcing the opposition to stretch to the edge of the pitch. Kenny is similar to wingers in the way he progresses forward and playing at wing-back suits this mindset.
Similarly, Kenny is most effective when receiving the ball on the touchline and passing inside, as opposed to attempting long balls. This is because when you feed the ball inside, you are finding the playmakers in midfield who can then look to create a chance.
If he neglects this option and passes or runs down the line, he is ignoring the options that he has in midfield and is potentially running to nowhere down the line.
This feature of Kenny’s decision-making is important because it outlines how the Englishman positively contributes to attacking moves.
Fullbacks have a tendency to play long balls into the strikers, which Kenny frequently attempted in the first half of this game.
However, he cannot join the attack because the strikers are not likely to trap and re-distribute the ball every time. This is another issue with Schalke’s play since the Bundesliga restarted, David Wagner’s side does not look after the ball.
The example above shows Kenny playing the ball inside where two Schalke midfielders have found a pocket of space. This is a far more productive use of the ball because it is important to move the ball to your playmakers as quickly as possible. Once Kenny completes the pass, he can use his momentum to run down the line and contribute further.
A team with defensive frailties
Schalke have conceded 14 goals in their last seven games and haven’t won a game in the Bundesliga since January. Kenny has been part of a team that is poor at defending and this will not help him improve as a young player.
This part of the analysis will show Kenny’s defensive weaknesses but also how he can defend efficiently. Kenny plays with determination, but his eagerness to step up results in the ball being passed around him too easily.
Against Düsseldorf here, Kenny has stepped out from the red circle to block the pass from the Düsseldorf attacker. However, the marked area is free and Düsseldorf has the chanüe to attack once the ball bypasses Kenny.
Allowing space on the halfway line proves costly, especially as this example was in the first few minutes of the game. Although he can play high as a wing-back, there is a lack of positioning as a whole with such space opening up.
In the above picture, the majority of Schalke’s midfielders are in the opponent’s half and behind the move that Düsseldorf is building.
When Kenny and the other defenders step up too far like this, they are vulnerable and exposed and this has contributed to their poor form.
If Kenny continues to make rash decisions, Schalke will always leave space behind their defence which will lead to the opposition creating more chances.
Importance of defensive shape
Unfortunately, Schalke’s defensive issues were clear when they were defeated 3-0 at home to Augsburg.
Kenny had a 50/50 tackle with Noel Joel Sarenren Bazee in the above image, who won the ball and went on to score. Kenny is the last man and it is a risk to slide in, as you are out of the game if you make an unsuccessful tackle.
He should stand and assess the situation to stay in the game, even if he initially does not win the ball. There is desperation in Kenny’s challenge, which is not a manner you would associate with his style of play.
When sticking to their formation, Kenny and the defence are organised and each Schalke player is in the correct position.
Schalke have previously shown that they are capable of defensively solid performances, they won four of their first six Bundesliga games this season. They had stand-out victories against Hertha Berlin and RB Leipzig when they impressed in attack and defence.
In this example of the player analysis, Kenny displays a much more disciplined approach to defending tactics.
In this situation above, Kenny is watching the winger and has not jumped into the situation. His centre backs are marking the forwards, Schalke are in control and are restricting large spaces opening up.
When Schalke maintain this defensive shape, it is difficult for the opposition to find gaps and create space. This is an example of how Kenny is able to defend without making a rushed decision.
Attacking breakdown leading to exposure
Kenny’s attacking ambitions have previously resulted in exposure to counter-attacks. This was clear in their 4-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund.
In the examples above, Schalke are back-tracking as Dortmund complete a successful counter-attacking goal from Thorgan Hazard.
As shown in the second image, Bastian Oczipka is passing the ball back to Markus Schubert, who makes a poor kick and Dortmund subsequently score.
On both occasions, Schalke failed to maintain possession and left Kenny exposed and unable to help. In their game against Dortmund, Kenny could not contribute in these situations due to his teammates being dispossessed.
For Kenny to positively contribute to offensive periods, Schalke must maintain possession and use the width that Kenny provides.
Inconsistent selections at his detriment
Since the return of the Bundesliga, Kenny has had Jean-Clair Todibo, Salif Sané and Ozan Kabak as his right-sided centre-back partner. This lack of consistency in the defensive selections is not beneficial. Schalke’s defensive issues were clear in their 1-1 draw with Union Berlin.
They allowed balls to bounce when clearing corners and there was a lack of conviction in defensive decision-making. Union Berlin were able to play passes in behind Schalke’s defence and find gaps in between the defenders, this forced Kenny to recover.
When Union Berlin sent low crosses into the box, Anthony Ujah and Martin Andersson split Kenny and Kabak when trying to meet the cross.
On both occasions, the forwards split Kenny and his centre back partner, with both uncertain of marking positions.
Kenny had to track a runner that was not his responsibility, luckily Ujah did not meet the cross. These sequences are examples of what Schalke are currently struggling with and Kenny’s defensive responsibilities.
Since Bundesliga restarted in May, Kenny has performed consistently and but he does have clear defensive weaknesses.
Kenny is a good wing-back and Schalke have shown that they are able to control situations with a back-three with wing-backs dropping when they are out of possession. David Wagner’s side must keep the ball for longer periods in key areas of the pitch for Kenny to contribute to goalscoring opportunities.