In this tactical analysis scout report, we will take a look at Paul Onuachu. He is a 26-year-old Nigerian striker, currently plying his trade in the Belgium First Division, for K.R.C. Genk.
He has had a fantastic start to the 2020/21 Belgian season; scoring seven goals in seven appearances, making him the current top scorer in the division. What is even more impressive is the fact that he has only featured in the starting XI 63% of the time, and has only played 70% of the available minutes.
In this analysis, we will take a look into how he operates on the pitch; and just what about his game has allowed him to be so efficient in front of goal so far this season.
His good form so far this season has resulted in him being called up to the Nigeria squad, whom he has already made seven appearances for, scoring once; replacing Victor Osimhen, who is doubtful due to the Napoli and Serie A Covid-19 outbreak.
Where he fits in at Genk
In this piece, we will explore how Onuachu fits into K.R.C Genk’s tactics. As can be seen above, Onuachu has spent all of his time this season playing as a centre-forward. He operates pretty much exclusively within the opponent’s half, with a specific focus on operating within the penalty box.
As previously mentioned, he has been somewhat limited with the number of minutes he has been given this season; only playing 70% of the available minutes. He must be causing his manager a bit of a headache with the performances he has been putting in when given his chance!
As just mentioned, Onuachu spends nearly all of his time in the opponent’s half; and even more specifically within the opponent’s area. In fact, all seven of his goals this season have been from within the penalty box; with only two of these actually being from the penalty spot. The graphic below details the position of each of his shots this season.
As can be seen, Onuachu has had a lot of shots already this season, 19 in total; averaging 3.82 shots per 90 mins. He currently is the 4th highest player in the Jupiler Pro League in terms of shots. He holds a 0.28 xG per shot, meaning we expect him to have an xG of around 1.07 per game; should he keep the number of shots he records at the same level.
In actual fact, we can see that Onuachu’s xG is 5.25. Meaning that, from the positions he has gotten himself into, we would’ve expected him to score 5.25 goals so far this season. We can see that he has been exceeding this expectation of him, having scored seven goals so far this season. This means that he has been scoring goals from positions where we would not expect him to score from. So far this season, Onuachu has averaged 1.21 goals per 90 minutes – by far the highest in the league.
Even before his impressive start, Onuachu has been a bit of a goal machine; ranking near the top players from the Jupiler Pro League for goals per 90, shots per 90, xG per 90 and touches in the penalty box per 90, in the last calendar year, as displayed below.
The Penalty Box is his home
As picked up on earlier, Onuachu has scored all of his goals this season from inside the opponent’s penalty box. And, as shown in the above image, he averages among the highest number of touches in the penalty box of all Pro League players; with an average of 4.61 touches in the penalty box per 90 minutes.
Onuachu is as perfect as they come to operate as a target man for his side. He is a big, physical presence, and this really aids his ability to hold the ball up for his team, and score goals. Standing at an enormous 6’7 (2.01m) tall, he towers over opposition defenders who are tasked with marking him on corners.
He is a right-footed striker but has a clear bias towards using his head. In the graphic below, we can see that he has taken almost double the number of shots with his head this season, as he has with his favoured right foot.
It clearly works for him, as almost half of his goals this season have come from his head. Below is an example of such a goal. Onuachu works hard and makes a late run into the box, where Junya Ito crosses it to the centre of the penalty area. Onuachu leaps up, rising above the two defenders who surround him, and cushions the ball with his head into the bottom left corner, past the keeper.
This head isn’t just for scoring…
His strong physical presence isn’t only useful for him to score goals, he also uses his physicality to win the ball back for his team, and win duels against his opponents.
Onuachu averages the highest number of offensive duels per 90 minutes out of all players in the Pro League, averaging 22.5 offensive duels per 90 minutes. This is paramount to his style of play, pressing the opponents and using his physicality to win the ball off them in the attack.
It is obvious from the statistics that this is the game plan of Genk – send a long ball up to Onuachu, and let him hold it up. It’s pretty typical target man play, but it is clearly having a lot of success for Genk this season. This is displayed through the fact that Onuachu averages the 7th highest number of long passes received per 90 minutes in the league, so far this season.
Onuachu receives, on average, 3.21 long passes per 90 minutes. It is clear from this that this is how Genk like to play. An example of this is displayed below. A long ball has been sent from the goalkeeper up towards Onuachu, who wins the battle against the defender and nods the ball down to his teammate. His teammate subsequently plays the ball out to Ito on the wing, who delivers the cross for Onuachu to head home, which is actually also the goal we used as an example earlier.
Not bad feet for a big man
Whilst there is often the assumption that a big man can’t really do anything other than head the ball and win duels, Onuachu has displayed a level of agility and deftness in his play too.
He has relatively good dribbling statistics for someone who operates mainly as a target man. The big Nigerian has recorded 34 dribbles so far this season, with 58.8% of these being successful, and one leading to a goal. Whilst these stats aren’t overly impressive, it does reinforce the suggestion that Onuachu is not simply just a target man, and has slightly more dimensions to his game than just being “the big man in the box”.
Alongside this, he has shown that he has a decent ability to pass the ball. He currently holds an 81.12% passing accuracy so far this season and averages 21.94 passes per 90 mins. This is slightly towards the lower end when compared to all other outfield players in the Pro League, but is by no means the lowest in the league. Clearly, this isn’t strictly his role within the team – so it is certainly a figure to take with a pinch of salt.
There is one area of his game where he does struggle somewhat – crossing. He doesn’t do it often, and when he does he has mixed success. So far this season Onuachu has attempted only two crosses, with only one of these being successful.
To finish off the analysis I want to leave you with this image of Onuachu scoring a lovely chipped finish with his weaker left foot, to prove once and for all that, yes he might be “the big man in the box”, but he can be just as lethal with his feet as he is with his head.
To conclude, Onucahu has had a ridiculously good start to his 2020/21 season. He has scored at a rate of over a goal every 90 minutes and doesn’t look to be slowing down.
He is a big centre forward who operates, very successfully, as a target man; providing an outlet for goals, and for forward passes to hold the ball up. He does a good job of using his physicality to hold the ball up and play his teammates in; who repay him by playing a killer cross into the box for him to finish with his head.
He does show signs of having more aspects to his game than just purely being a target man, but it doesn’t look as though K.R.C Genk will be changing their playstyle anytime soon, with Onucahu scoring as often as he has been doing so far this season.