Looking For Players In Different Leagues: Forwards

Albian Ajeti – 21 – FC Basel

Having recently won his first few caps for Switzerland, and playing for a club pretty well known for possessing talent, Ajeti isn’t really an obscure suggestion, but he could still offer decent value in the transfer market. Basel’s record departure is ~£20m for Breel Embolo, making around £15m seem pretty feasible for Ajeti (though I wouldn’t read too much into this number, as I’ve just pulled it out the air).

Ajeti has had a great start to the 2018/19 season, as well as putting up strong numbers last season. Playing 2332 minutes, Ajeti managed the 2nd highest xG total in the Swiss League with 14.2, which he slightly out performed to score 17 goals. This gives him an impressive 0.55 xG p90, the 3rd highest in the Swiss League for those with more than 900 minutes.

Possessing the 2nd highest touches in the box p90 gives the impression that he’s mostly a penalty box striker – not getting too involved in the build-up –  which is backed up by the fact he only attempted 16.94 passes per game last season. With that being said, his xA of 0.16 p90 isn’t too bad when considering his pass numbers, while also attempting 4.21 dribbles p90 – with a 66% success rate.

His impressive numbers have carried on into this season, although he’s only played 965 minutes so far, his xG is 0.61 p90, he takes 5.88 touches in the box p90, attempts 3.54 dribbles p90 (with a 71.2% success rate) and has an xA of 0.14 p90.

Watching a few clips of him (and I really mean a few) he seems fairly comfortable shooting with either foot, while also being okay in the air. Then, while his biggest assets seem to be revolve around scoring and his work in the box, he seems capable of receiving the ball with his back to goal and being able to hold it up and bring others into play. It’s only a couple of clips, but this can be seen below.

Overall, Ajeti definitely seems like a talent worth following. Switzerland have paid attention to his performances, so it’s not as though he’s underappreciated or under the radar, but he could still offer good value for a club that’s looking for a young forward.

Julian Quinones – 21 – Tigres UANL

While I’ve seen Basel play a few times in European competition and I’m familiar with a few of their exports, I’ve never seen anything of the Mexican league, making this pick even harder for me to judge.

Quinones is contracted to Tigres UNAL, but spent last season on loan at Lobos BUAP. On loan at Lobos he spent the majority of his time playing through the middle, while so far at Tigres this season he’s spent more time on the right (according to TransferMarkt).

On loan at Lobos he managed an impressive xG of 0.54 p90, coming from 2237 minutes, however his xA lacked a bit with 0.1 p90. In his 593 minutes so far this season for Tigres, which is a tiny sample size I know, his xG has taken a hit but his xA is looking more impressive. His xG is 0.36 p90 while his xA is 0.35 p90. This is only from ten games, with four coming as a substitute, but a 21-year-old with an xG + xA of 0.71 p90 is definitely interesting.

Adding to this, this season he has managed 4.33 touches in the box p90, and 7.21 dribbles p90, with a 66% success rate and 2.02 runs p90 being deemed as progressive. Playing upfront for Lobos last season he even managed 5.15 recoveries p90, I’m not sure how well this ranks overall, but to use Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino as a benchmark, Firmino managed 6.23 recoveries p90, making the 21-year-old Colombian’s numbers seem pretty impressive.

He’s shown an ability to get into good goal scoring positions, while this season has also begun to create regularly for his team-mates, as well as taking a high number of touches inside the box and working hard without the ball.

I’ve only watched clips of him from this season, and even then only of his creativity, dribbling and shooting, but I’ve included a few below. He seems to like crossing for Tigres this season, with a good few chances he’s created coming from crosses, then I’d imagine it’d be better to look at his goal scoring from last season where he played central and had the better xG p90. You also won’t be surprised to hear he’s under performing his xA this season when seeing some of the clips below.


He seems a bit rough around the edges, but it feels as though there is some potential there. When you consider that Hirving Lozano left Pachuca in the Mexican League for ~£7m, then you wouldn’t expect Quinones to cost more than that. For less than around £5m it could be an interesting gamble for an Eredivisie or Portuguese League club. However, he was apparently involved in a drunken fight with his team-mate at Lobos last season, which may put some potential suitors off.

Erling Haland – 18 – Molde

Haland already has a deal to join Red Bull Salzburg, but I thought I’d include him here as his numbers are crazy for an 18-year-old – even if the league isn’t the strongest.

In 2018 Haland has an xG of 12.65 from 1647 minutes – 0.69 xG p90. Unfortunately, due to the seasons being weird in the data, I can’t look at his other numbers properly. It’s only separated into seasons (July onward) but the Norwegian league doesn’t run from July to May like other leagues. The main thing he offers does seem to be his goal scoring, however since July he has also managed 0.29 assists p90 from 0.19 xA p90.

When I started watching clips of him the first few goals all seemed to be from crosses, which doesn’t seem too surprising given he’s 1.92m tall, but he does seem to have quite a bit more to his game than just being a target man to hit with crosses. He seems pretty capable of running with the ball and beating his man, though his physique seems to help with this, while also seeming pretty adept at making runs in behind and pressuring the opposition when out of possession.

His two goals against Brann, in almost as many minutes, help showcase this. For his first the ball is hit over the top, he takes it down and beats his man before scoring. For the second you can see he’s happy pressuring off the ball, before getting lucky and having the ball run through to him, but then he shows good composure to go around the ‘keeper and just roll it in.

Costing just £3.6m, it seems Salzburg could have made a great signing, he’s putting up strong numbers while just being 18-years-old and playing against grown men and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him move into the top five leagues in the next few years should he continue developing in Austria.

Alfredo Morelos – 22 – Rangers

Morelos joined Rangers for ~£1m from Finnish side HJK Helsinki, which seems to be great value, particularly as they reportedly turned down ~£4m from Boredeaux over the summer.

A quick google search on Morelos brings up quite a few stories about the temper or ill-discipline of Morelos, but looking past that, he has some impressive numbers for Rangers. His xG was 0.63 p90 last season, the second highest in the league, but he played 1710 minutes more than the player who finished top (Maclaren from Hibernian). He under performed his numbers by quite a bit, scoring 0.48 goals p90, but this has reversed so far in 2018/19 – where he has 0.49 goals p90 from 0.38 xG p90.

Another spot where Morelos stands out is for touches in the box, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given his xG numbers, but his 5.57 touches in the box p90 was again second in the league, this time only behind Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths (who played around half the amount of minutes).

He attempted 3.48 dribbles p90 and had an xA of 0.15 p90 last season, which are both okay, but nothing too crazy – although his total xG + xA of 22.72 was the highest in the league last season.

I’ve only watched a few clips of Morelos from this season, but he looks like a decent player. I’ve only included two clips of his goals and one of his link-up, but I quite like what I see in them.


I quite like how in the first one he creates the chance for himself with the little cut-back, then in the second I like how he makes the run ready to be played through on goal, but when the ball is pushed out wide he adjusts and moves to a central position ready for the cross. It’s only small things and neither are incredible, but I quite liked it when I saw it. Then in the link-up clip he turns him man well, and rather than just whipping in an aimless ball he picks someone out on the penalty spot.

Having looked at so few clips there’s a good chance I only saw the good stuff, but at just 22-years-old and with some impressive numbers, it feels like there has to be some potential there.

For some reason, I’m a lot more interested in Morelos after reading about the temper and discipline than I was with just seeing the xG numbers. With strong numbers and clubs like Bordeaux reportedly being interested, it seems he could be a decent buy for a club, particularly for under £10m. When you consider Moussa Dembele went for ~£20m who had incredible numbers in 2016/17 (0.88 xG p90) and similar numbers to Morelos last season (0.59 xG p90), if Morelos can repeat his numbers from last season and cool down a bit, he could make a decent signing for a club in the top five leagues for under £10m, and a nice bit of profit for Rangers.

Munas Dabbur – 26 – RB Salzburg

At 26-years-old Munas Dabbur is the oldest player by some distance on this list and after helping RB Salzburg to the Europa League semi-final, he definitely isn’t an undiscovered gem. This, plus a TransferMarkt value of £11.25m, meant I initially wasn’t going to include him here, but with his numbers being strong, I thought it’d be stupid not to.

This season he has the highest xG + xA in the Austrian Bundesliga by some distance (11.59 xG + xA, next closest has 7.42) and you might assume that this is because he’s played the most minutes, but only one player in the top ten has played less minutes than him this season. His xG + xA p90 is a crazy 1.31 so far this season, although that’s likely due to the small minutes played so far.

Looking at the 2017/18 season he again had the highest total xG + xA, which averaged out to 0.789 xG + xA p90. The majority of this came from his 0.61 xG p90, the highest in the league, which is impressive given he played 2682 minutes and only one player in the top thirty for xG p90 played more than that.

With these strong xG numbers in mind, you’d assume that he would also lead the league for touches in the box, but that isn’t the case. Last season his touches in the box p90 was just the 15th highest in the league. With that being said, this season that’s changed a lot and he’s up to being clear in first spot with a huge 7.12 touches in the box p90.

Like pretty much all the players I’ve mentioned here, the main draw is his goal scoring, but playing for RB Salzburg means he’s also got to work hard out of possession which is a nice attribute to have. His 4.26 recoveries p90 from last season isn’t huge, but seems pretty good for a forward. I only had a quick look at some clips, mostly his link-up play and only really from the game against RB Leipzig, but he seems pretty competent at holding the ball up and linking up with his team-mates – rather than being the kind of forward who is invisible when not scoring. (The clip freezes in the middle, I’m using a different program now, rather than the old cheap one I was using to just append clips, so it shouldn’t effect the other clips)

<
At 26-years-old a club moving in for him would want an immediate impact, but he seems like he could still offer decent value. From a quick google there’s stories of Crystal Palace and Fiorentina being interested in him, and I think it’d be a good move for either of those clubs, Palace especially with their goal scoring problems. I have no idea how much he’d cost, but something under £15m seems like it’d be a decent gamble based on his numbers.

Conclusion

From the above names, Ajeti is probably my favourite option. He seems to be a good, well-rounded forward, already having two impressive seasons in the Swiss League and looks to be on his way to a third. When watching him it feels like he could make a decent signing for a Europa League level Bundesliga club, though when looking through Bundesliga teams there wasn’t one that stood out as necessarily needing him.

Quinones seems like an interesting gamble, though I know too little about him to say anything more, while the same can be said about Morelos. Haland seems to have big potential and should be worth following to see how he does with Salzburg, while if he’s been bought for the first team it feels like it may not be too long before he’s seen the in the big five leagues.

Then, given his age, Dabbur would be the signing where an immediate impact is most wanted. He seems like he’d be a decent choice for a mid-table to Europa League level club in the top five leagues, particularly one who want to press when they lose the ball. They dipped into the forward market in the summer, but someone like Atalanta may not have been a bad option. Dabbur could do work off the ball similar to Petagna did (who’s been loaned out to SPAL), but offer more goal threat than the 23-year-old.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *