With the return of Premier League and Champions League winner, Arjen Robben, there has been a little more attention surrounding Eredivisie club FC Groningen. The club enjoyed a modest 2019/20 campaign, finishing 9th in the league by the time it had been cut short, thanks to COVID-19. However, many closely connected with the club believe they are in a great position to improve on last season’s finish, with Robben’s return playing a part in that. But there’s more: their defensive record last season was impeccable, with the 3 best record in the division, bettered only by Alkmaar and Ajax. However, the issue lied at the other end of the field with the club scoring just 27 goals all season, the second lowest in the division. Without major financial power running through the club, they must look to some of their younger players to step up.
23-year-old attacking midfielder, Ramon Pascal Lundqvist, has potential in him that could benefit Groningen greatly. The Swedish playmaker recorded five goals during 19/20, with just two assists – a record he will look to build on in the coming campaign. The promise he has already displayed indicates that with more and more game time and experience, he will only grow as a footballer. This scout report will provide a technical and tactical analysis of Lundqvist, with a closer analysis on which traits and tactics from 19/20 highlighted his potential.
Position and Role
Lundqvist enjoys his best football in an advanced midfield position where he is able to contribute to build-up play in dangerous areas. As we can see from his heat map, his work rate is impressive, covering a lot of ground. His heat map also shows that he is comfortable playing on the left side of a midfield unit, or as a striker.
Off the Ball Movement
The first part of his game to be analysed is how Lundqvist conducts himself off the ball when a teammate is in possession. As an attacking midfielder, there is arguably more responsibility and expectation that he may find space in a variety of positions across the pitch. This links in with his heat map, which suggests he doesn’t often just stick to one small zone.
In this first image, we see the Swede taking up a promising position in a wide-right area, signalling that he wants the ball so he can attempt to progress the attack. Unmarked and slowly edging into a wider position, Lundqvist should have received the pass from his teammate, who instead opted to go solo, which resulted in a turnover in possession. However, the focus here is on the simple yet (potentially) effective movement from Lundqvist, who simply drifted out wide to provide an extra option in attack, when very little else was on.
The second analysis of his movement is a very different scenario. The Groningen right-back is in possession when Lundqvist recognises the danger he could cause with the open space ahead of him. Applying his high work ethic and decent pace, he bursts forward, scrambling the PSV defence. While the move didn’t materialise due to the quality of the pass, we must again give credit for the movement that shows desire to get into attacking areas.
Both of these instances of Lundqvist’s off the ball movement explains why his heat map covers so much area – he is willing and able to commit to attacks and assist a Groningen attack in the manner seen above. Questions must then be asked of either the attacking desire of his teammates, or the team’s understanding of their attacking system put in place by the manager: if both of these things were to a good standard, they wouldn’t have struggled in front of goal as much as they did during 19/20.
Progressing the Attack
One of the main jobs of a player in Lundqvist’s position is to be the link between midfield and attack, and provide a significant contribution in vital moments. Dribbling with the ball is an important technique for any position in the modern game, and the importance of such a skill cannot be overlooked in Lundqvist’s role as he gives his side an advantage if he is able to beat an opponent midfielder near the box.
This example shows us exactly that. Groningen had just regained possession and looked to attack in transition. Having picked up the ball in a dangerous area, Lundqvist’s only true passing option is to find the wide option – but this move would slow the attack down and allow the opposition to regain their shape. To bypass this issue, as the highlighted opponent approaches the Groningen midfielder, Lundqvist drops his shoulder and side-steps the opponent, beating him all ends up, allowing him to progress into a dangerous area for his team to exploit. This part of his game if possibly his strongest.
Another strong part of his game is vision and passing ability – another vital attribute for any midfielder. The ability to play those difficult and incisive passes is a rare one. If he develops his skill set in the coming years, Lundqvist will have a great passing arsenal at his disposal.
This analysis shows Groningen attacking in a 4v4 situation, with wide players either side of the middle, giving the opposition backline something to think about. Lundqvist realises that the longer he waits to execute the pass, the more unlikely it becomes, and driving towards goal himself will likely result in a ‘spare’ defender stepping out to stop him, leading to his next decision. After taking a couple of final steps with the ball while waiting for the striker to make his run, Lundqvist threads a good pass through the defence, right into the path of his teammate. If the striker had kept his balance, he would’ve been able to fully control the ball and get into a very dangerous shooting opportunity. The vision and execution of his move from Lundqvist is just another reason why he could be one of the club’s most important players for the 2020/21 season.
The playmaker averages 1.06 shot assists per 90, which, while is a number he will look to build on, is still a stat that holds promise – at least once per game on average he plays a pass into a teammate that allows a shot to be taken. He also registered 20 deliveries into the penalty area last season, with 4 of those being key passes, which highlights his ability to find that extra bit of quality in the area.
While it isn’t the most important quality in an attacking midfielder, showing defensive qualities can be of massive benefit to a club. Being able to win the ball back or even just halt the opposition’s attack either gives your team the chance to counterattack, or regain defensive shape and organisation to defend the next oncoming attack.
Lundqvist’s footage shows a player who is determined to help his team at the back as well as going forward. While he isn’t the most physical of players, he is smart, especially when it comes to pressing. In this example, he forces the opponent away from the Groningen goal, passing it back to his centre back. While possession still remained with the opposition, Lundqvist’s actions allowed Groningen to fully set up to deal with the attack. It also worth noting that there are two teammates close by to Lundqvist, which helps in terms of forcing the opposition backwards.
Above we have some data relating to Lundqvist in the recoveries department. Averaging 4.02 recoveries per game again shows his work rate, despite it not being towards the top end of the league average. It is important to notice his map of recoveries – he finds himself in all corners of the pitch applying himself in some defensive capacity, with a good number of interceptions coming in central areas. Stopping the opposition passing through that area is his primary defensive focus as it gives the possession back to his side and allow them to launch an attack of their own.
It is clear that Ramon Pascal Lundqvist is not yet the finished product, but he has the potential to reach the level of a good Europa League outfit in the future. If he is able to become the key man for Groningen in the near future, and subsequently become a regular in the Sweden national team, he will likely flourish as a player. His work rate and desire alone will boost the technical side of his development, but he is reaching a point in his career where the responsibility on him becomes heavier to produce goals and assists.