Tall strikers. There is something mesmerising about them. Watching them tear the field with their runs, jumping over the defence to unleash a powerful header, and having duels with equally tall defenders is a sight to behold. Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, and Cristiano Ronaldo are some of the famous names. And then there’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede has been one of the top players in this century and is still going strong at 40 years. So, when the Swede lavished praise on a certain 17-year-old, the world took notice.
“I have seen him in action, and he is fantastic,” Ibrahimovic had said of that kid. Praise from Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a rare commodity. To live up to that is an even more challenging proposition. Alexander Isak is well on his way to doing it.
The 22-year-old now stakes claim to become his heir for the Sweden national football team. Alexander Isak, dubbed the “new Zlatan Ibrahimovic”, is one of the hottest properties in Europe and his move to a European elite was long time coming. The market is hot for strikers and Alexander Isak followed suit. Newcastle have officially completed the signing of Isak for €70m including add-ons.
✍️ Newcastle United are delighted to announce the signing of Alexander Isak from Real Sociedad.
Welcome, Alex! 🇸🇪⚫️⚪️
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) August 26, 2022
Standing at 1.90 metres tall, Alexander Isak has a lot of similarities with Ibrahimovic. They are both tall, technically gifted, extremely dangerous in the box and love to find the back of the net.
So, what do the numbers say about the brilliant youngster?
Alexander Isak Stats
Isak is a brilliant goalscorer and gets involved in the attacking build-up for the team. Smarterscout, which rates player’s between 0-99 on different attributes, has given him 93 and 97 for dribbling and shooting, respectively.
This is a rare quality for a true centre-forward. He also has a respectable rating of 45 when it comes to defending quality.
An interesting thing to note is that these ratings came in a season where the Swede has struggled with only six goals and two assists to his name.
Even in the Europa League, he was rated 99 for shooting and 82 for dribbling, which is respectable for young prospective talent.
Stats from fbref confirm this too. Isak has made 3.89 dribbles per 90 minutes in the last 365 days, putting him in the top five percentile compared to other forwards. He is equally successful at completing his dribbles. With 1.87 dribbles completed, he again ranks among the top five percentile.
Isak is also quite adept at exploiting the gaps in the opposition’s defence be it between the centre backs and full backs or between the defenders and midfielders.
And all his magic comes in the opposition’s penalty area. Isak has scored 31 goals since 2017-18. Out of these, 19 were inside the penalty area, six from inside the box, and four from outside the box.
Another essential thing to note is that he scored 18 goals from his right foot and 10 from his left foot. And it’s his goals from the left foot where he has shown over performance, scoring 1.73 goals more than he was expected to.
Alexander Isak’s rollercoaster career
To say that Alexander Isak had a bad season last year is an understatement. But it happens to the best players. and if he returns to the form of the 2020-21 season, he will be a menace for the opposition.
During that season, he showed himself to be a complete forward, scoring 17 goals which was 28 per cent of the entire team’s goals.
He was also ranked eleventh when it came to expected goals (xG) in the league, according to Soccerment.
His 0.65 goals per 90 minutes was the tenth best in the league, better than Antoine Griezman, Joao Felix, and Iago Aspas.
His stat was even better when it came to non-penalty goals, where he ranked fourth in the entire league ahead of players such as Luis Suarez, Vinicius Jr, Joselu and Santi Mina.
However, last season, his stats came crashing down like his performances. Compared to the previous season, he was rated lower on non-penalty goals, touches in the box, and his stats dropped when it came to goals per 90 minutes, assists, and accurate passes.
But as a 22-year-old, he can make a comeback. Furthermore, looking at his shot map from last season, we can make important observations. Isak took 28 shots from inside the box and scored three goals.
However, the goalkeeper only missed four shots while the rest were blocked or saved. Of course, it’s still alarming that he can’t find the back of the net, but his shot accuracy is still high, which means that he can reconquer or even pass the highs of the previous season with a bit of luck.
Alexander Isak potential- Toons calling?
It is no secret that many teams have already filled up their centre-forward spot. Bayern Munich got Mane, and Liverpool signed Darwin Nunez to replace him. Rivals Manchester City answered with the signing of Erling Haaland, where Dortmund splashed the cash on Karim Adeyemi as a replacement. Real Madrid aren’t in the market anymore after Benzema’s sterling last season and Mbappe has reaffirmed his commitment to Paris. Therefore, the road is clear for Newcastle United, the new big club on the blocks, to make a run at Alexander Isak.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 21, 2021
And in Alexander Isak, they could have a player who, with the right coaching, can become the next great thing. The Swede is not just a goal-scoring striker but also can be deeply involved in the team’s build-up play. In addition, he is a natural dribbler and thus will offer more flexibility to a team’s frontline.
His heatmap, both from the previous and current seasons, shows that he loves to wander around the pitch, looking to conjure up the perfect attack. In Eddie Howe’s free-flowing system, he can be the perfect focal point of the attack.
For a player his height, Isak is very mobile, which puts him into a scarce breed of tall players blessed with skills usually seen in players of more diminutive stature.
And he is still just 22 years old. He has the potential to be the poster boy of Newcastle United’s rise in the same way as Aguero did during Manchester City’s rise to prominence.
Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are the top superstars to headline the next generation. But several others will be looking to join them as the best of their age, and Alexander Isak should hope that he is one of the first in line to do so.