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Daniel Stefulj – Scout Report

Age – 20 (08/11/1999)

ClubRijeka

Nationality – Croatian (Born in Langenhagen, Germany)

Position – Left Wing back/Left midfield

Foot- Left

Height – 6”1

Weight – 81kg

Build – Lean

Contract Expiry – 15/06/2024

Stefulj predominately plays as a left wing back in a 5-4-1 but is given freedom to progress and plays as a LM in a 4-1-4-1 when Rijeka are in possession. On the ball Stefulj is very comfortable going forward and defensively ok. His first touch is good and is often used to take him inside as he’s usually very close to the touch line. He could be viewed as a safe passer but I think that he’s very good at not taking too many unnecessary risks and retains possession well by dropping balls into the midfield. He’s capable of playing disguised passes through the lines. However he’s an excellent crosser and can put in a variety of crosses that cause the opposition a lot of problems. Daniel is very good at whipping balls into the box first time and swinging them away from the Goalkeeper which forces him into making a decision on whether to come for it or to stay. When Stefulj receives the ball near the touch line he often takes a touch to shift the ball out of his feet to create a better angle that allows him play deeper crosses or switches. The majority of Stefuljs crosses are into dangerous areas and he still finds these areas with a variety of crosses(drilled, floated, deep etc). Daniel has good vision and is able to open his body and play passes inside when he’s pinned to the touchline. He’s comfortable taking players on but prefers to cross early rather than drive into the box and shoot.

Great technique on a first time cross from Stefulj.

Defensively Daniel Stefulj is pretty raw and it’s an area of his game that needs improving especially if he’s going to play as a Left back in a back four long term. He’s an aggressive ball winner but sometimes flys into challenges when it’s not always the wisest thing to do and does seem to slide tackle often which then limits the speed of the counter attack if/when he wins the ball. However he does use his body very well when defending and makes it very difficult for the attacker to get past him given his height and build and the fact that he seems to tangle his legs in between the ball and the opponent which makes it tough to beat him. However he’s still pretty raw when defending 1v1 and isn’t the most intelligent in these situations due to the fact that he often commits early to win the ball as opposed to shepherding the player away from goal. Daniel reads the game pretty well defensively and uses his body to intercept passes and launch balls forward to counter. When competing for loose balls Stefulj sprints at a great intensity to be the first to the ball but struggles to decelerate so often loses the 50/50 due to this. However, if he does some work off the pitch that can improve his deceleration then he can become a great presser as he is a great runner off the ball and loves to close passing lanes. Stefulj doesn’t try and over play at the back and isn’t afraid to put his foot through the ball to clear it, this shows a good level of defensive maturity in my opinion. Aerially Daniel is ok and can defend high balls but doesn’t have to defend crosses as frequently due to the fact he’s a LWB in a back 5 but this would change if he’s to be used in a back 4.

Physically Daniel Stefulj is great and has a great engine. Stefulj is quick over 10 yards but struggles to reach higher speeds over longer distances. He’s strong and protects the ball well when necessary, he’s got great upper body strength which is useful when keeping the ball in the corner to run down the clock. He’s a player that likes to under lap when he moves into the final third as it creates different crossing angles and opens up the opposition defence. Stefulj isn’t the quickest to turn and isn’t the most agile in defensive situations so up against a tricky winger he could face some difficulty. Stefulj has great stamina and is able to get up and down the pitch for 90 minutes and makes it look easy and he still covers a lot of ground. Something I like about Stefuljs game is the fact that he’s not one paced and can inject pace into some moves with his ability to overlap and under lap if players drift wide.

Positionally Stefulj is good and has good awareness of attackers behind him that float into channels. Given the fact that he plays as a wing back for Rijeka he rarely finds himself touch tight to an opposition so he must be aware of the full back in front of him and the winger behind him. Stefulj manages this well by frequently looking over his shoulder to make sure he’s aware of his surroundings. However sometimes he does get caught too high up the pitch where he’s too eager to win the ball back in high areas. When his team are in possession he retains width excellently and is disciplined in this so doesn’t find himself drifting inside which gives attackers and central midfielders space to roam in. Stefulj likes to make late runs into the box at the back post but is slightly hesitant at times and doesn’t ‘gamble’ on crosses as much as he could, and he could add some more goals into his game by doing this.

The future

Due to his crossing ability, great stamina and physicality I can see Stefulj being used as a Left back long term. If he can improve defensively this season he’ll have potential to be a very good one that’s capable of playing in a top 5 league. I think that Stefulj would be available for a relatively low fee (Under £5m) but does have 4 years left on his contract. I believe that he would suit a side that play with a high intensity and he could be perfect for Oliver Glasner’s Wolfsburg if he’s given time to improve defensively and adapt to playing as a left back- wouldn’t be much pressure to instantly adapt due to Jerome Roussilon being one of the best in the league in this position . In the short term I think that it’s best for Stefulj to remain at Rijeka for a season at least so that he can improve defensively and this should come given their participation in the Europa league, where he’ll be playing against AZ, Real Sociedad and Napoli so he’ll be tested against some top wingers. Daniel Stefulj is a player that I really like and see him becoming a good player at a high level but does have room to improve defensively.

Thanks for reading and if you’d like to see more check out my other blog posts and my twitter – @scoutxd1

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Scouting Norway

In this post I will be scouting some U25 players that play in Norway’s Eliteserien. Norway are on the cusp on something great at a major tournament with talented players such as Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard amongst some of the finest. I think that the Eliteserien isn’t a league that’s really looked at by clubs and in this post I will be scouting some U25 players that clubs could look.

Jens Peter Hauge(20)

Hauge is an exciting Norwegian left winger that plays for Bodo/Glimt who are currently top of the league. Bodo play some great fast attacking football and Jens Peter Hauge is key to this. Hauge is rapid with and without the ball, he’s explosive and has great agility which allows him to go inside or outside when attacking defenders, which causes huge problems when up against an immobile defender. JPH is a fantastic dribbler and likes to cut inside onto his right foot and take players on where his unpredictability is important as he can either use a skill to get past someone or play an early ball into the striker. Hauge is a massive goal threat for Bodo/Glimt and is a great finisher inside the box.

What next?

In my opinion I think that Jens Peter Hauge would be very well suited to a top eredivise side due to his great technical ability and can get away with his lack of physicality. I don’t think that Hauge would suit English football due to the fact that I think he would struggle when up against athletic full backs, but if I had to recommend an English team that he could do well at I’d say Leeds, as I think that he would learn a lot from Bielsa and given his workrate it could be interesting. However since writing this Hauge is reportedly close to a move to AC Milan and I’m excited to see how he gets on in a top 5 league.

Patrick Berg

22 year old Norwegian midfielder playing for Bodo/Glimt. Berg is around 5”9 but is fairly strong and protects the ball well. He’s great at dropping into pockets of space and carrying the ball out. He reads the game well to intercept passes and has great vision to play passes through the lines. Berg can be an aggressive ball winner but needs to learn when the right time is to press aggressively and not get turned easily by the player. Patrick is a great long passer and likes to spray balls out to wingers Jens Peter Hauge and Philip Zinckernagel. Berg has a great speed of thought when he’s on the ball and always seems to be one move ahead of the opposition which hurts the opposition.

What next?

I think that the best next step for Patrick Berg would be to a side in the Bundesliga 2 that preferably play a 433 with a focus on attacking down the wings. He’s a player that I wouldn’t say is suited to English football due to his size and aerial ability and would be a lot better going abroad to a league that will allow him to develop further before making the step up to a top 5 European league. Berg is under contract until 31/12/2021 and could be available at a cut price if he decides not to sign a new deal and could be one to keep an eye on.

Tobias Christensen

20 year old Norwegian attacking midfielder playing for Molde. Physically he’s sound and can carry the ball excellently and at pace whilst holding defenders off . Christensen is a good dribbler and picks the ball up in nice areas in between the lines and often receives the ball on the turn which allows him to progress the ball at speed quicker. However he does often hold onto the ball slightly too long and takes one or two touches too many. He’s got the ability to find players in behind with disguised passes. Christensen is also not afraid to shoot from outside the area despite it not always being the best option.

What next?

Christensen is still pretty raw and needs to work on his end product and decision making before becoming a starter at a higher level. Due to his physicality I think that he could be a good option for a higher level team in the Danish Superliga where he can work on his decision making and play in a higher intensity league. In my opinion given the affects that Covid has had on football clubs across the world I think that Tobias Christensen could be available at a cut price for a Danish side. In the future should be develop technically I think he’s physically sound enough for England.

Henrik Heggheim

19 year old Norwegian centre back playing for Viking. 6”1, good mobility, uses his body well to win the ball back but can be stronger . Heggheim is an aggressive ball winner and reads danger well for a player of his age. Aerially Heggheim is good but sometimes gets bullied by taller strikers. On the ball Henrik is great and is very composed, he can bring the ball out and progress it well however he’s often unchallenged when carrying it out from the back. Henrik is a pretty good long passer and can clip balls long and over the top. I feel like he’s a player that’s very talented but raw and can still become a good player with the more games he plays.

What next?

Due to the fact that Henrik Heggheim has only recently broken into the Viking first team I think it’s best for his short term future that he stays for another season or two and develops. He’s also recently signed a new 3 year contract so Viking will be reluctant to let him go. However an English club may want to sign Heggheim and loan him back to Viking for a year or 2 as I think he’d suit English football in the future.

Christian Borchgrevink

21 year old right back that plays for Valerenga. 6”0, great stamina, has the ability to hold players off when running with the ball but isn’t the quickest over long distances with the ball at his feet. Christian reads the game well defensively and is able to intercept passes and progress the ball up the pitch for his side. In the final third Borchgrevink likes to overlap and underlap and this is very useful to his side as he’s a good crosser and varies his crosses. Borchgrevink is a decent 1v1 defender and likes to show the attacker away from goal but does need to improve when he goes in to win the ball.

What next?

I think that Borchgrevink has the physical capabilities to play in the championship and would be a nice pick up for a bottom half championship side and wouldn’t cost more than £1.5m in my opinion. However he is under contract until 2023 so Valerenga may ask for more than what I think he’s worth. Borchgrevink isn’t very mobile but and turns relatively slowly but if he becomes a bit leaner then he could have a potential future as a wing back given his great stamina and work rate.

Victor Okoh Boniface

19 year old Nigerian striker that plays for top of the league Bodo/Glimt. Great pace with and without the ball, looks to run in behind but can come deep and look for the ball to progress it himself. He’s got great running Lowe which is useful when he has the ball in the channel and goes 1v1 with a full back. Bonaface looks for give and go’s around the penalty area band often looks to make darting runs into the box. He’s a very good finisher in the box and gets into good positions to finish and is quick to react to second balls in the box. He’s excellent at losing his marker in the box and is a good in the air making him a threat from crosses.

What next?

Victor hasn’t yet solidified a starting spot in the Bodo/Glimt side so that should be his immediate target as a I’m sure he’ll impress people when he’s playing full games regularly. In the future I think that he would shut the Bundesliga 2 or championship where he can develop before making the step up to a team in a top 5 league. But in the short term there aren’t many places in Scandinavia that are better for his development than Bodo/Glimt so he should stay in Norway for a season or two before moving on.

Kristian Tonnessen

22 year old Norwegian left back that plays for Start. He’s quick, has good work rate and is agile. Kristian is a very good ball carrier and likes to drift inside where he either crosses l the ball or feeds a striker with a through ball. He’s left footed and has a good eye for a pass and likes to play balls inside the full back to under lapping attackers. He’s a very good crosser and likes to whip them in at pace and low or put teasing crosses in that drift away from the goalkeeper. Defensively he is sound but sometimes too eager to win the ball back.

What next?

I think that Tonnessen is suited to English football given his height, work rate and great crossing ability. He’s best suited to a team that plays direct football and has a target man so would suit a team like Cardiff. I believe that he’d be relatively cheap coming from start who are currently 14th in the Eliteserien. He’s still got room to improve defensively so doubt that a championship side would gamble on him so I’d recommend him going to the eredivise to improve defensively where a bottom half club could make a tidy bit of profit should he improve.

Thanks for reading and If you’d like to see more of this scouting and analysis then check out my other blog posts and also my Twitter @Scoutxd1

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Mads Frokjaer Jensen – Scout Report

Mads Frokjaer- Jensen

Age – 21 (29/07/1999)

Club- OB

Nationality- Danish (Capped at U21 level)

Foot- Right

Position– Central midfield/Left Winger

Mads Frokjaer Jensen is a product of the youth academy in Odense and is under contract at OB until June 2024. When Mads Frokjaer Jensen plays on the left wing for OB he is given freedom to drift inside and play in half spaces between the opposition full back and centre back. Frokjaer is right footed so likes to cut inside onto his stronger right foot. Frokjaer Jensen also helps his full back defensively and stays wide to stop overlapping full backs whilst his full back tracks the opposition winger. At OB he also plays on the left of a three man midfield and is again given freedom to roam but he helps out defensively.

Arrow indicates where Frokjaer likes to attack

Frokjaer Jensen is relatively tall at 6”1 but has great acceleration which he uses to beat players 1v1 especially when there’s a lot of space to run into in behind the player. He’s a player that is explosive off the mark but can also decelerate really well and this causes defenders problems.Mads Frokjaer has a good work rate and tracks back a lot which is of great use to his side. Frokjaer has great agility which helps him get around players when he drops a shoulder to beat a man. Despite his slight build Frokjaer is surprisingly strong and has good upper body strength which he uses to protect the ball from defenders and this is very effective when paired with his great ball control. Athletically Mads is excellent and has great stamina which allows him to carry the ball at pace late on and cause defenders problems when fatigue is setting in for them. Frokjaer Jensen is ok aerially and is good enough to win headers from opponents goal kicks but isn’t a player that would be an aerial threat at the back post from crosses as it’s not an area where he excels.

Frokjaer showing his upper body strength and ball control which allows him to beat a man.

On the ball Frokjaer is a pleasure to watch and makes everything look so easy. He has a great first touch which the majority of the time takes him away from a defender and brings him inside where he likes to play. He’s a great 1v1 dribbler and is good with both feet which helps him get out of tight spaces which he finds himself in when on the ball out wide. When watching the Danish midfielder it seems as if the ball is almost stuck to his right foot and his control and ball manipulation is fantastic. This causes the player to be fouled often as the opposition become increasingly frustrated with their inability to dispossess Mads. Frokjaer is a great progressive runner and is fantastic at carrying the ball up the pitch and into the opposition third. Frokjaer is one of the top progressive runners in the Danish Superliga over the past year with 3.13 progressive runs p90. However one criticism that I would have of Frokjaer is the fact that he sometimes takes a touch too many and loses the ball. He is great at playing quick give and go’s where he plays a quick pass into a central midfielder and drifts into half spaces to drive at the opposition defenders as shown in the GIF below.

Frokjaer playing a 1-2 after drifting inside which results in a goal.

Frokjaer is a very good deep crosser and is able to float deep balls into the box when he’s played as a central midfielder in a midfield 3. His passing range is very impressive and can switch the ball to the opposite flank but can also play safer passes into midfielders. In my opinion, I think that Frokjaer is very sensible with possession. This doesn’t mean that he’s afraid to try adventurous passes as he is more than capable of playing balls through the lines to attackers.Frokjaer is great at retaining possession and waiting for clearer passing lanes to open which indicates his mature decision making in when to play killer passes that will hurt the opposition. Frokjaer is a fairly good progressive passer but doesn’t play as many progressive passes due to his preference to play 1-2s and look for a return ball after playing a pass and then carry the ball after receiving it back off a teammate. He’s also dangerous from free kicks and corners given his great technique.

Frokjaer showing his great vision and technique to play a deep cross into the striker.

As shown in the GIF above the Danish midfielder has excellent vision which allows him to play balls over the top and in behind to team mates which others don’t see or have the ability to execute. Frokjaer is a very intelligent player and it’s shown in his positioning. He often drifts into spaces between the oppositions defence and midfield this allows him to receive the ball on the turn a lot easier as he’s usually not being pressed or marked, but if he’s marked it will drag an opponent out of position and create spaces for him to play passes/ run into. When playing out wide he is disciplined positionally and stays wide which stretches the opponent defence and allows his full back to under lap and take up the spaces to cut the ball back. Something noticeable about Frokjaers game is that he likes to start relatively close to the touch line then when he receives the ball his first touch is to push the ball out in front of him which allows him to drift inside and run at players or play a switch to a player on the right hand side. Frokjaer is a very quick thinker and it shows in his body positioning when he receives the ball and is great at moving the ball quickly so he’s able to play a quick pass as shown in the GIF below.

Great awareness and body positioning to take out two players with a great turn.

Personally I think that Mads Frokjaer Jensen would be best suited to playing as an 8 in a 4-3-3 that’s given the freedom to roam or as a 10 in a 4-2-3-1. This would suit his preference to roam and not be restricted to a rigid system. His skill set is best suited to this position given his ability to carry the ball from deep and inject dynamism into a team. I think that another season or two at OB would benefit Mads Frokjaer Jensen vastly as he’s still got some flaws in his game that he can improve on before making the step to a top five league. However if I had to suggest a move for the player right now I’d say that he’s a good fit for Brentford and would give Thomas Frank tactical flexibility given the players ability to play on the left and as a central midfielder especially due to the fact that Said Benrahma is likely to leave the club. But I’d strongly suggest that he remains at OB for another season to further his development. Mads Frokjaer Jensen is a pleasure to watch and i am looking forward to watching the player develop this season.

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Teams I’m looking forward to seeing how they get on in 2020/21

This post will feature overviews of teams that I’m looking forward to watching in the 2020/21 season. It will feature teams from the Premier League, Bundesliga, championship and more.

Southampton

The Southampton board stuck by Ralph Hasenhuttl since the 9-0 defeat to Leicester last season and results massively improved and the saints were very impressive after lockdown. Hasenhuttl’s side have looked very good in their 4-2-2-2 since the restart and striker Danny Ings was on fire, scoring many important goals. The high intensity football has attracted many plaudits and matched with their away form saw them finish 11th last season. So far Southampton have brought in right back Kyle Walker-Peters from Spurs and exciting centre back Mohamed Salisu from Real Valladolid. Southampton have lost midfielders Pierre Émile Hojbjerg and Harrison Reed to Spurs and Fulham so may still be in the market for a central midfielder.

Kyle Walker-Peters performed very well during his loan spell last season and has excelled in the final third for the saints. Mohamed Salisu is a promising Ghanaian centre back who’s great in the air and a dominant defender on the ground. Salisu is also capable of carrying the ball out from the back and should adapt well to English football given his physical attributes. Che Adams had a very good end to the season and I’m expecting him to carry on that form and hopefully adding some more goals to his game. Che Adams struggled to adapt to the premier league before Christmas but as time went on he got used to the pace and Hasenhuttls demands and looked a real threat. Che Adams has great goal scoring instincts and they showed with his halfway line goal against Manchester City and I’m confident he can help Danny Ings with the goals next season.With the additions of Walker-Peters and Salisu I’m confident that the Saints can build on their great end to last season and challenge for the Europa League positions.

Norwich City

Following a 20th place finish in the premier league last season Norwich find themselves in the championship and have the squad capable to bounce back I think. Norwich have been very clever in the transfer market so far this summer bringing in talented youngsters like English right back Bali Mumba(18), rapid polish winger Przemyslaw Platcheta and Danish defensive midfielder Jacob Lungi Sorensen. They’ve also brought in some homegrown players that are ‘proven’ championship players in Jordan Hugill and Kieran Dowell .Norwich have been clever in the loan market bringing in Spanish left back Xavi Quintilla who can provide competition for the talented Sam McCalum and tidy defensive midfielder Oliver Skipp from Spurs. Recent loan signing of Ben Gibson from Burnley is a nice low risk signing and Norwich should be a place where he can get back on track and play consistent football should he stay injury free and fit. Norwich’s transfer business so far shows signs that they are prepared to lose some of last seasons top performers but should no offers come in for those players(highly unlikely that this will happen IMO) they’ll have one of the strongest squads in the division.

After watching some of the canaries pre season games young winger Josh Martin has caught my eye and will be a player to keep an eye on next season and could save Daniel Farke a lot of money should he hit form next season. Martin is a skilful winger that likes to drift inside and isn’t afraid to shoot from distance. Another young player that could be next to make an impact at Carrow Road is Irish Striker Adam Idah. Idah burst into the scene with a hat trick against Preston in the FA Cup and has looked promising when coming off the bench. Idah gives Farke a different option to target man Jordan Hugill and poacher Teemu Pukki as Idah likes to play on the shoulder and has great pace to run onto balls which is something Norwich were lacking in games post lockdown I feel. Norwich have a great squad for the championship and the players they’ve signed so far this summer fill gaps that were missing last season especially in attack with Platchetas pace. I think Norwich are in a great position to come straight back up next season, especially if they can keep a hold of some of last seasons key players but I think they’ve had one of the best windows in the league so far.

Derby County

The start of the 2020/21 season will be the first time since 2013 that derby will be starting the season with the same manager as the season prior. Philip Cocu had a good end to last season and put his faith in young players with Defensive midfielder Max Bird and attacking midfielder Louie Sibley impressing. This summer Derby have been relatively restricted in the transfer window as they were under investigation from the EFL, but with that cleared and derby being found innocent they’ve signed experienced goalkeeper David Marshall and resigned impressive centre back Matt Clarke from Brighton. One position that was a huge weakness last season was the goalkeeper position with Ben Hamer and Kelle Roos being inconsistent and making a lot of errors costing derby points. This has now been addressed with the signing of David Marshall who was impressive last season for Wigan and is experienced in the division after his time at Cardiff where he was a key player.

In midfield the rams have a good mixture of youth and experience in Max Bird(19) and Wayne Rooney. Bird is an English defensive midfielder that reads the game excellently and is very good at breaking up opposition attacks and recycling possesion. However in order to take his game to the next level I think that Max Bird has to take more risks in his passing and look to penetrate the opposition from deep and Rooney is perfect to learn from. Louie Sibley also has potential to be a key player for Philip Cocu next season. He’s an attacking midfielder that loves to get into the box and test the keeper. He’s quick and a great dribbler in tight spaces and has a great work rate which helps in Cocus system. But for me Sibley could be a candidate for YPOTS in the Championship. Along with Bird and Sibley Derby also have other promising youngsters that can make an impact next season including Morgan Whittaker and Jason Knight . Whittaker is an exciting winger that likes to take players on but needs to work on his end product but that should come as he gets more experience. Jason Knight is an attacking midfielder that played wide last season and is very intelligent with his positioning and movement as he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Despite losing Max Lowe and Jayden Bogle I think that Derby are in a good place with Philip Cocu and should be pushing for a play off spot.

Hertha BSC

Hertha were another club that were impressive when football returned and Bruno Labbadia lead them to a 10th place finish playing his preferred 4-2-3-1 . Hertha have a very promising young spine with Jordan Torunarigha, Lucas Toussart and Matheus Cunha and all players have room to develop into better players. There’s been a big investment in the club since German entrepreneur Lars Windhorst bought a 37.5% stake in the club. During the 2019/20 the old lady spent big bringing in Matheus Cunha, Santiago Ascacibar and Krzysztof Piatek amongst others. I’m impressed with their business this summer as they’ve addressed a problem area at right back by bringing in Dutch full back Deyovaisio Zeefuik from Groningen. Zeefuik is a great athlete, 1v1 defender but can get forward well and provide a good cross into the box. Another area that Hertha addressed was in goal where they’ve brought in 28 year old German Alexander Schwolow from Freiburg. He’s a great shot stopper and joined the Berlin club after being viewed as Alexander Nubels replacement by Schalke.

Jordan Torunarigha the young German Centre back found form towards the end of last season under Klinsmann and Labbadia and has potential to be a key player for the club next season. He’s great physically and reads the game very well and has great controlled aggression to win the ball back and build from the back. Jordan is also left footed which gives Labbadias side a number of passing options out from the back and Torunarigha is great at playing out from the back. Depending on how Torunarigha performs next season and where Herha finish he could be very much a player in demand due to his great defensive attributes and the fact he’s a left footed centre back. Brazilian Matheus Cunha has been great since signing from RB Leipzig and can play anywhere in the front 4. His pace and trickery has been a huge addition for Hertha and he’s added something different to Bosnian target man Vedad Ibisevic who’s signed for Schalke. Cunha is a very good dribbler and can progress his side up the pitch excellently and hertha fans will be hoping he can form a partnership with Piatek. At the club there are also a lot of promising youngsters that have struggled with injury but can make an impact and in particular midfielder Anre Maier could be one to watch if given game time. I think that Hertha have got a very nice squad and with a few additions can put up a serious challenge for the Europa League next season and bring European football back to the German capital.

Wolfsburg

I was a huge fan of the high intensity football that Oli Glasner has got them playing and was again very impressed with Wolfsburg after lockdown and think they can kick on this season. Wolfsburg played a number of formations last season but performed at their best in a 4-4-2 I felt. This summer Wolfsburg haven’t spent a huge amount of money but have been clever in where they’ve allocated resources and have brought in polish striker Bartosz Bialek and French centre back Maxence Lacroix. Bialek is a big striker with a great first touch, good ball control in the box and a massive aerial threat. I think that Wolfsburg see him as a long term replacement for Wout Weghorst. Lacroix is a very exciting ball playing defender that’s strong, mobile and has good defensive instincts. He is also only 20 and is a bargain at only £4.5m from Ligue 2 side Sochaux.

Wolfsburg have a great squad full of solid Bundesliga players such as attacking midfielder Max Arnold, Josip Brekalo and left back Jerome Roussilon. Last season I was very impressed with former Salzburg Central midfielder Xaver Schlager, the Austrian box to box midfielder was a key player last season and I’d expect him to be one again. He has a great engine and presses very effectively for Glasners side, he’s excellent at turning over possession and recycling the ball for more creative players to create chances. Xaver has a great passing range and his vision helps him find the best options for passes, Schlager likes to play balls through the lines and take out the opponent’s midfield. Another key player is Croatian centre back Marin Pongracic who was signed from Salzburg in January. Marin is a great defender in space with great mobility and is extremely calm on the ball and can bring the ball out from the back well. At only 23 and 20 Pongracic and Lacroix have potential to form a great partnership and improve together which is exciting for Wolfsburg fans. Dutch striker Wout Weghorst should also be a key player next season and is a natural goalscorer, great in the box and Wolfsburgs top scorer last season with 16 in the Bundesliga. Oli Glassner will be looking to build on last seasons 7th place finish and should be looking for a European place for a another season.

Lille

Lille finished 4th in ligue 1 last season and had a number of players that had great seasons, but they found themselves in financial problems where they needed to raise more funds than they were spending. This meant that quick Nigerian striker Victor Oshimen was sold to Napoli for £63m after a great season and Brazilian centre back Gabriel had a lot of interest in him but was sold to Arsenal for around £23m. Lille have replaced the two with Canadian forward Jonathan David from Gent and Dutch centre back Sven Botman from Ajax, both players are still U23 and have a high sell on value in the future which is important to Lille. Lille have also brought in exciting french winger Isaac Lihadji after his Marseille contract expired.

Lille have a very good young squad with a number of players that may be of interest to other clubs. Jonathan Ikone has potential to kick on this season and the french winger will be hoping to impress before Euro 2021. He’s quick, agile and likes to take players on. Ikone has great acceleration which means he can beat his man a lot easier if there’s space in behind, Jonathan Ikone will be looking to improve his final product and if he can do that then he’ll be in for a very productive season. Dutch Centre back Sven Botman is a player that I really like. He’s great physically and has very good defensive instincts. He spent last season on loan at Heerenveen where he impressed Luis Campos and was one of the best defenders in the Eredivise in 2019/20. Botman is an exceptional progressive passer and this is what Lille manager Christophe Galtier values in his defenders and was something that Gabriel was very good at. Another player that has improved a lot since signing for Lille is Portuguese midfielder Renato Sanches. His energy and intelligence have been very useful to Lille and he is great defensively and going forward. Renato has a fantastic passing range and can play clever passes through the lines or be more direct in his passing. I think that Lille have a very good squad that are capable of achieving a finish in a European spot but since they missed out on the champions league spot by a place last season I think that they’ll be looking to finish in a champions league spot should they keep key players and strengthen further

Rennes

Rennes surprised a lot of people with their 3rd place finish last season which secured them a champions league place. They have a great spine of young players with Edouardo Camvaniga at the heart of it, who is looking likely to be at Rennes next season. The 17 year old midfielder had his breakout season and was excellent for the french side. Rennes have used the extra money they’ve received from qualifying for the CL very cleverly in my opinion and have brought in striker Sehrou Guirassy from relegated Aimens. Guirassy is good with his back to goal, great physically and is a great dribbler which allows him to get the ball out of his feet and create a chance for himself. Rennes have also signed french winger Martin Terrier from Lyon who has a lot of talent and may prove to be a great undervalued signing this season. He’s a good creative winger that’s a great crosser and likes to take players on in 1v1 situations, he’s very hard to get off the ball aswell. It’s possible that Rennes will be in the market for a goalkeeper as No1 Edouard Mendy is heavily linked to Chelsea.

Rennes are very good at nurturing and developing young talent and they’ve got a few players that can become top players in my opinion. 17 year old central midfielder Eduardo Camavinga broke onto the scene last season and has recently become the youngest senior player to be capped by France. He’s great physically and very good technically. Edouardo reads the game excellently defensively, is great at breaking up play and is strong in challenges. I think a season at Rennes playing 30+ games and in the champions league will have vast benefits for both the player and club as they’ll be able to demand a higher fee when he inevitably makes the step up. Another player that I’m a huge fan of for Rennes is Brazilian winger Raphinha who replaced Ismalia Sarr when he signed from Sporting. Raphinha can play out wide or as a central striker and is great at running in behind but is also comfortable if he has to beat them 1v1. The Brazilian is a good creator and decent finisher with the signing of Guirassy it’s likely that Raphinha will revert to playing on the wing, he’s a player that I expect to kick on next season and be wanted by some top clubs. 18 year old right back Brandon Soppy could be a player that has a breakout season in the 2020/21 season. He’s a great modern full back that’s very good going forward and is equally as good defensively. He is aggressive defensively and loves to win the ball back quickly and start attacks by carrying the ball out from the back at pace. I’m interested to see how this talented Rennes squad copes with Champions league football and how they deal with potentially losing their first choice goalkeeper but would expect them to qualify for the Europa league at a minimum this season.

Bologna

Bologna finished 12th in the Serie A last season and will be looking to improve on that. Bologna have a very exciting group of players and have good depth across the squad. Ex Nordsjaelland winger Andreas Skov Olsen will be looking to regain the form that earned him a move to Italy and took his time to adapt to Italian football but is a great player none the less. Bologna have signed Ex spurs Centre back Luis Binks from Montreal in the MLS. Binks is a left footed centre back that’s good on the ball, physically sound but sometimes too eager to win the ball back. But has the potential to be a great player. Emanuel Vignato signed from Chievo in January but was loaned back to the serie B side and could be a player to watch for the Italian side this season. The attacking midfielder is great creatively and can create a yard to shoot or cross very well. Young Scottish left back Aaron Hickey looks to be joining the Italians and is an interesting move for the player. Hickey is excellent with both feet and it’s difficult to see which is his strongest foot. Hickey is rapid and his pace could make him a real danger in Italian football.

Ricardo Orsolini the Italian playmaker was very good for Bologna last season and will be disappointed that the euros were postponed. He’s has a very good eye for a pass and is a great creator for Bologna. He predominantly plays as a right attacking midfielder and is left footed so likes to cut in a lot. Bologna did very well to sign Orsolini from Juventus and is probably Bolognas best player. Another player that I like at Bologna is Japanese right back Takehiro Tomiyasu, he’s a great defender which makes sense as he has played centre back and is disciplined positionally when defending. Tomiyasu is very composed on the ball and is a good ball player and I’d expect him to kick on this season and be playing in Europe next season either with or without Bologna. Another interesting player for Bologna is Nicolas Dominguez an Argentine centre mid signed from Velez in August 2019. Hes an aggressive ball winner and is great defensively. He struggled for game time last season and will be looking to solidify a spot this season and Can become a dominant midfielder in the Serie A. I feel that with the side Bologna have they underperformed last season and should be targeting a Europa league spot next season.

Granada

Granada finished 7th last season and secured themselves a Europa league position. This summer they have recruited relatively well bringing in a mixture of youth and experience. They’ve brought in Luis Milla a 25 year old Defensive midfielder from Tenerife who is a bit of a risk but a player that I think is capable of adapting. He’s got a great passing range and can play 40 yard balls over the top or just retain possession by playing it between the centre backs. He’s fairly strong for his size and retains possession well and could be a bargain at £4.5m. They’ve also brought in experienced striker Jorge Molina from Getafe who is a proven goal scorer but wasn’t as prolific last season as he was in 2018/19 wherw he scored 14.

Winger Darwin Machis had a good season for Granada last season. Machis is quick and a great dribbler that likes to take players on when cutting inside from the left wing where he plays. He is also a good finisher and a goal threat. Granada have signed Real Madrid centre back Jesus Vallejo on loan and I think that he’ll be better suited to Spanish football than he was to English football where his loan move to wolves didn’t quite work out. He’s a mobile defender and good on the ball but may struggle against some more physical strikers in the LaLiga. I’m interested to see how Granada cope with playing 2 games most weeks with the Europa league and whether or not they can replicate or improve on their 7th place finish

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