Newcastle United have agreed a deal to sign Alexander Isaacs, one of Europe’s best young strikers, from Real Sociedad in a club record deal.
The 22-year-old Sweden international has been linked to clubs across the continent and has been one of the ten rising stars the athlete A glimpse ahead of Euro 2020. Today we have republished that piece that debuted on June 7, 2021 here.
There’s a new type of target guy running around in a mess.
As high-level football has become increasingly focused on offensive moves in transition, the attributes needed to play as a lone striker have been rewritten. If in his prime with Chelsea a decade ago Didier Drogba was one of the many to dominate the 4-2-3-1 dominance and end of the frontman who Just Working in the opponent’s penalty area, then players like Erling Haaland became part of a new breed of pressing, creating and scoring goals.
The attackers of the next decade will likely be the athletes who are physically capable of creating moments of explosive speed and power to break through high-line defences. They will need to be able to play with their back to goal, but also to press from the front and cause trouble for defenders in wide areas. These players are likely to have quite a few skill-based moves to beat at least one defender from a standing start and a range of shooting techniques so they can finish chances with both placed and powerful finishing touches.
It’s in great demand, which is why any player who seems capable of meeting such a long career spec is mentioned along with an astonishing transfer fee. These are lone footballers – players who shouldn’t already be there but are there if you go in the early hours to spot talent from unknown lands (or just watch the highlights of La Liga and Ligue 1, as we do).
Alexander Isaacs, a 6-foot-3-inch (190 cm) striker for Spain’s Real Sociedad and Sweden, appears to be one of the next generation of the genre.
Isak is a sweaty player in that when he’s hot, he’s truly warm. During the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, for example, he scored a late equalizer against Barcelona (with a 2-2 draw on December 14) to fire 12 goals in as many matches, including two at the Bernabeu to help knock out Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. King’s Cup.
Born in Stockholm to Eritrean parents in northeastern Africa, Isaac was marked by Isaac’s scoring prowess compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic (another “flexible” target man). While there are some similarities between the Swedes, there are a lot of differences regarding the young striker.
Isak doesn’t have Ibrahimovic’s unlimited belief in himself and ability to bend football events to own his will yet, but he does appear to have extendable legs and an ability to score from some unbelievable situations.
Isaac’s career path was quite interesting.
He made his debut for Stockholm club AIK in the 2016 season with 10 goals in 23 games, and was signed at the age of 17 by Borussia Dortmund coached by Thomas Tuchel, who beat a host of suitors including Real Madrid in January 2017. Best part of Two years between the first teams of Dortmund and the B team and the Dutch side Willem II on loan.
The combination of phenomenal speed and innovative finishing means Isaac’s talent was never in question – during his time in the Netherlands in the second half of the 2018-2019 season, he became the first foreign player there to score 12 goals in his first 12 games – but, like many Of great talent, the question became which club would be the best environment for him to grow properly.
The answer was Real Sociedad, after coach Roberto Olabi persuaded the young Swede to join in the summer of 2019.
Two seasons saw Isaacs in the Basque city of San Sebastian show his talents first in the counter-attack, running into balls behind Martin Odegaard’s defenses in the 2019-20 season and then as a competent passer, forming cumulative triangles. With David Silva and his other teammates last season.
Last season saw Isak become the first player aged 21 or younger to score 17 goals in La Liga since Sergio Aguero did so for Atletico Madrid in 2008-2009.
A good display of Isak’s talents can be found in 3-2 loss to Sevilla in Januarywith the striker first pressing defender Diego Carlos to score a comic own goal before falling back at the back post from a corner kick to end the match with one touch to make the score 2-2.
Isak’s smarterscout profile also helps detail his latest season.
For those unfamiliar with smarterscout profiles, they break down parts of a player’s game into different performance, skill, and style metrics, and then give scores based on how often they perform a particular stylistic action or how effective they are compared to others playing in their positions. , results in a total score between zero and 99.
What the above graph tells you
Isak shoots a lot (high shot size rating), contributes significantly to his team’s scoring chances (high score in xG from shot creation) and generally catches the ball in central positions in the penalty area (receptions in the opponent’s box).
He’s a good ball carrier (high score for dribbling size and dribbling) but tends to dribble only short distances from A to B, rather than more wide passes and passes in space, as the winger does. He performs well in effectively pressing the opponent from the front as well (this is a strong number in defensive impact).
He doesn’t compete much in the air for a player of his height (see his low score for Air Fencing Quantity).
As shown in the chart below, he is extremely high in terms of success in his aerial duels – he is considered below average in his ability to win them both in open play and from set pieces.
This is a common side effect of soccer players with early growth spurts, as their back muscles are not as well developed as in younger players. This is something Isaac will have to develop if he wants to be like Ibrahimovic.
What your eyes might tell you as you watch Isaac
He scores a lot of one-touch finishing, similar to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s recent work with Everton.
He’s a bit skinny, somewhere between Ibrahimovic and Peter Crouch in terms of build for tall strikers, though he’s likely to swell with age if he wants to up his game.
How would you explain Isak if you are at a bar with friends and his name appears
“Imagine Jamie Vardy – but 6 feet 2 inches tall, and with better dribbling.”
“He’s a nuisance to a target guy, like Olly Watkins – a scourge for defenders when under pressure, but you can also make long passes at him to fend off.”
“Have you ever seen Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in Dortmund, when he was so fast and making missed passes from the opposing full-back?”
“He will link up with the Champions League club next year and then tear up the competition, along with a host of other forwards who are 6ft or more in height.”
This latest look might give you some weird looks, but here’s some additional smarterscout data for those who want to compare with some of the strikers already in the Premier League.
“I think this is the natural evolution of a striker position based on tactical trends – most notably pressing and high lines,” says Sam Tighe, football journalist for the Ranks FC podcast who has covered Isaacs previously.
“Shoulder runners who aim to take advantage of the space in the back are back in vogue, but thanks to the sports sciences, they’re bigger, stronger and better than ever. So you have Isaac and Tami (Abraham) and (Dusan) Vlahovic from Fiorentina and Dominic Calvert-Lewin and others. Big and strong. , fast and fast, but good footballers too. They can change from ‘in the back’ to ‘target man’ on demand, depending on the state of the game.”
The demands placed on the target men change as football reinvents itself at the top level, but Isaacs seems to be more than just doing the job he’s doing.
(Top image: Getty Images; Design: Sam Richardson)
Athletic 10 Euro stars
Alan Shearer on Robert Lewandowski: The old school goal-scoring machine. I love him
Aymeric Laporte: Why did he switch from France to the center of the Spanish defence?
Kylian Mbappe: The jewel in the crown of France and the true heir to Messi and Ronaldo
Kevin De Bruyne: A Belgium man on a mission
Joao Felix: The Portuguese Wonder Woman who is Not Next Ronaldo
Matthijs de Ligt – He is no ordinary footballer
Nicolo Parilla: The Italian Continuing Midfielder
Harry Kane: the ever-evolving striker and his relentless pursuit of greatness