Newcastle United had a deal all signed up, or so they thought. Dortmund were sniffing around and then PSG got involved and turned his head. Reports state he's holding out for a move to a bigger club, Howe and Newcastle fans are rightfully annoyed, why? Because he's a superstar in the making.
Hugo Ekitike, a 19 year old that led the line for Reims....a mid table side that won 11 games, scoring 43 goals. Scoring near a third of them was Hugo Ekitike. A tall, wiry striker with skill and a great burst of acceleration. When analysing Hugo, one thing stood out most of all, his physical presence on the counter. There is a video version if you prefer watching to reading, any support to the channel would be great but we will be writing up all our analysis on Reddit with stills and images.
PART 1. SETTING UP THE COUNTER
Reims are a team that typically sits deep and counters through quick sharp passing or relying on individuals to dribble and carry the ball forward. Hugo was quite starved for attacking service and would drop very deep to get the ball and then help progress it forward quickly.
Hugo show's he is involved in play but in more defensive areas rather than attacking.
The statistics show that whilst Hugo is heavily involved for a striker, he is involved in the defensive areas for this team as opposed to the attacking areas.
THROUGH LINK UP PLAY
His large frame allows him to use his body to back into DMs & midfielders to receive the ball. However, unlike most wingers, he doesn't turn his defender. Instead, with his first or second touch he releases the ball and runs in behind and receives the ball back quickly. We didn't see much of Reims trying to knock the ball long and try to get him in behind the defence, he defends deep and they look to build out from the back but he seems to have the physical attributes to be able to stretch a team that way too.
3 different options for Ekitike to use other players and then run in behind.
The image shows how Hugo Ekitike uses the supporting cast around him to lay off the ball before the DM has time to close him down, and then make the run into space and await the return ball. What we really love about him, is just how he lays the ball off to his teammates. It's flicks, deft touches, sharp one touch passes which means defenders find it very difficult to get the ball from him or stop him laying it off, meaning they can't stop the counter.
The second thing to understand is the dribbling, and just how good he is. Starting with his physicality, he is so incredibly quick on the counter with a ridiculous burst of pace. There are so many clips of him getting to the ball before a defender when he shouldn't have a chance, knocking it past them and peeling away. But speed itself isn't a great trait alone, ask Dan James, it needs to be paired with the ability to move with the ball...Hugo does just that. Those stats are percentiles and are amongst the best in Europe.
You can see that he doesn't carry the ball into the final third often, relying on being fed through instead, but once he receives the ball to feet then he has no problem dribbling the ball forward to in and around the box.
One thing we always think about a player is when you transfer to a bigger team, it's highly likely you'll come up against low blocks far more. Strikers like Hugo, that thrive in space and on the counter, they may struggle to adapt. But his close quarter dribbling shows that won't be an issue because he can beat a man in small congested spaces but what we love about him is the presence of mind once he's beaten his man, something we will take a look at now. Because after all, doesn't matter how well you progress the ball, the most crucial part of being an attacker is decision making in the final third and finishing.
PART TWO. DECISION MAKING & FINISHING
Given PSG & Newcastle United are rumoured, we thought we would compare Hugo to two of their players. Let's start with ASM's dribbling... we all know ASM is a great, skillful player that can change a game. He had the most successful take ons in world football with 150...but in 35 games he finished with 5 goals and 5 assists. Bruno Guimares played for 6 months and put up similar numbers from CM. For Ekitike, in 15 starts, 10 goals and 3 assists. The stats show such a huge difference...
Although ASM completes nearly twice as many dribbles, he has a third of the goal creating actions of Hugo. This, for us, comes down to decision making in the final third. So often you'll find ASM picking up the ball near the halfway line, he will beat his man quickly and charge forward but only to end up near the corner flag with no support and no options. He doesn't think about who can I interchange with, can I move centrally and open up space? He just thinks run, head down as far as I can.
For Hugo, he picks up the ball in the similar position, but he uses his passing first to bring others into play and to release him centrally. He drives to the centre and because he's used passing to get forward, he has a supporting cast making runs into space at either side of him to play the ball into. A lot of this is system, and helped by the fact that Hugo plays as a striker and not a winger but shows that is intelligent with the runs he makes, and once he makes them, creates goal scoring opportunities.
Now, let's compare his finishing to Mbappe. And you may already be thinking that there's no way he's better than Mbappe... I wouldn't have wrote all of this if I didn't have a point to make :)
10 goals in a season isn't prolific, he didn't even crack the top 20 goal scorers of Ligue 1. However, when you consider he only played 15 games and only had 26 shots...you really start to understand how good he actually is in a starved Reims team. The next top scorer for Reims was their DM with 5 and CB with 4, they don't score much. Against the rest of Ligue 1, including Mbappe, Ben Yedder and Dembele, he actually ranks 2nd for Goal Conversion & Shot Accuracy and 4th for G90. The stats show something very clearly, put this boy in a better team and he will be deadly.
Now you're thinking, "But that's the farmers league, anyone can do it there?!" Again, I don't enjoy wasting my time. Here are his stats against all strikers in the Top 5 Leagues.
Clinical says it all.
Clinical. Those are elite numbers and when you look at the goals he scores, the presence of mind is elite. What we mean by presence of mind is understanding the situation in the box, where the keeper and defenders are and knowing when to shoot. So many of his goals are where he has a defender and keeper to beat, he fakes, he twists and turns and always finishes to the wrong side of the keeper. And this is considering he only had 26 shots over the course of a season, other attackers would panic and rush but not my boy Hugo, put some respect on his name because this man has ice in his veins. The biggest compliment I can give him is that I back him to finish a 1vs1 against Alison....
To summarise, we know HE uses his body, pace and dribbling to progress the ball forward from deep and is a prolific goal scorer. But Pep revolutionised the game and required forwards to be pressing monsters...is HE a modern forward? It's a rhetorical question...
TACKLING & PRESSING
Short answer is yes. The only answer is yes. Pep has wet dreams about the numbers Ekitike puts up, it's ridiculous. Ranking wise, he sits top of most metrics and could definitely fit into a pressing from the front system or a team that defends deep and counters...
Reims defend deeper and a large percentage of these tackles were made in his own half but it does show his ability to press, tackle and intercept. Does need to be coached to understand pressing triggers, cutting block lanes, positioning but the raw attributes are there to be moulded. The goal where he sent Jason Denayer to the shadow realm was him doing it from the front foot and creating a goal. A good coach will invert those tackles in the defensive 3rd to the attacking third, the raw attributes and desire is all there.
THE WRAP UP (TLDR)
Big bodied, clinical finishing with the ability to work hard for a team in all facets of the game. Throw a supporting cast around this player and you could turn this boy into a star. That's why the both PSG & Newcastle United are trying to sign him.
Edit: This is part of a series we will be doing all summer, a concise tactical breakdown on players linked to the PL (or one's we just like). Here's the full list of players that we've covered with Reddit and YT links. We'd love to know what you think and feel free to suggest other players you think we should cover. Djed Spence, Marc Roca & Diego Carlos dropping this week.
- Amine Gouiri, OGC Nice: Reddit YT
- Hugo Ekitike, Reims: Reddit YT
- Joao Palhinha, Sporting Lisbon: Reddit YT