In this scout report, we will use tactical analysis to examine Thomas Henry. He is a 25-year-old French striker, currently plying his trade in the 2nd tier in Belgium for OH Leuven, who are in the playoff finals with the chance to be promoted to the top division.
Should he help OH Leuven to the victory in the playoff finals, this would be his first piece of silverware in his career and his first time playing top division football since he played two Ligue 1 games for Nantes in the 2014/15 season.
He has had a very prolific season, scoring 15 league goals in 25 appearances, making him the league top scorer. In this analysis, we will take a look into how he has been utilised in OH Leuven’s tactics; and whether he would still be as effective for them should they get promoted to the Belgian First Division A.
Below is Thomas Henry’s 2019/20 season heat map. As can be seen from his heat map, Henry operates in two very distinct areas on the pitch. He operates mainly in the opponent’s penalty box, or just inside the opponent’s half.
It appears as if he lurks quite deep on the pitch, operating as a pressing forward, pressuring the opposition; once his team regain possession of the ball, he runs straight into the penalty box for his team to feed him.
Alongside this, the first thing you notice about Henry is his physique, he is a big player that towers above his peers. Standing at 6’4 (192cm) Henry is definitely in the upper echelons of height across players on the pitch. He utilises his physicality well, with over a third of his goals coming from a set-piece or a cross.
From this season’s statistics, it is clear that Henry is most prolific when he receives the ball inside the penalty area. He scored 13 of his 15 goals from inside the area, beating his expected number of goals of 12.63. This shows that he scores more goals than he is already expected to, and highlights his danger within the penalty box.
Another indicator of his penchant for playing inside the penalty area is his touches per 90 minutes in the opponent’s box. Henry averages 4.62 touches in the opponent’s penalty box per 90 minutes. This number is up there among the highest in the league, being the eighth highest out of all other players in the Belgium First Division B.
A lot of his goals come from inside the area, however, this doesn’t mean that he cannot finish. As we have mentioned, Henry was the league top goal-scorer in the Belgian First Division B in the 19/20 season, with 15 goals. He exceeded his expected goals figure of 14.54, which shows that he is scoring from positions that he would have a low probability of scoring from. However, it’s not that he’s just had a few good games in which he’s scored a goal, he has been consistently scoring across the whole season. This is proven by the fact that Henry averages 0.59 goals per 90 minutes, against an xG figure of 0.56 per 90 minutes. Both his goals per 90 and xG per 90 are among the highest in the league when compared to other players.
Style of finishing
Henry has recorded the second-highest number of shots in the whole league, for the 19/20 season, with 72 for an average of 2.62 per 90 minutes. His shots are on target 47.9% of the time, finding the net 15 times.
As previously mentioned, Henry uses his physicality in his attacking play, and this is emphasised through his choice of shot. Of his 72 shots taken, 14 have been with his weaker left foot and 28 with his preferred right foot. Most interestingly though, 31 of his shots have been using his head; suggesting that his head is his favoured method of shooting. This is displayed in the image below, where Henry scores using his head, from a corner.
His shots from corners and set pieces have one of his highest goal conversion rates, at 25%, two goals from eight attempts. This is higher than his overall goal conversion rate which is 20.5%.
Link up play
Not only is Henry utilised in the penalty area for his goal-scoring feats; he is also used to help build attacks, and link play through him. This is the reason for his heat map showing a lot of his playing time being much deeper than solely in the final third of the pitch.
It seems as though Henry is often fed passes from his own teams half, and is expected to make something happen. Be that dribbling forward with the ball, or feeding another teammate in; before ending in the box himself, ready to receive a cross to try and put in the back of the net.
This is especially true in the counterattack, Henry has one of the highest attacking contributions per 90 minutes in the league, at 0.68, as shown in the distribution below.
His actions in counterattack can be seen below.
This graphic shows that Henry does come very deep at times, with his starting position in the counterattack being in his own half. He often makes a key pass up the field from this starting position, before following up into the box.
So, he starts counterattacks through his key passes, but how good is he at passing? Sorry for this, but he is passable at passing. He averages 14.61 passes per 90 minutes, which is considered to be on the lower end across the league. He is accurate in his passing 75.87% of the time, which is somewhere in the middle compared to the rest of the league. So, overall, he is fine at passing, reliable enough to find the target when needed, but I wouldn’t expect Xavi-like long flank switches from him.
However, just because he doesn’t excel at passing doesn’t mean that he is not an exceptional creator for his team; he just goes about it in different ways. Henry has recorded four assists this season, the sixth-highest in the league. This vastly exceeds his expected assists figure of 1.05, which shows that he is getting more assists than he should with the way he plays.
He has been finding great success with nodding down balls distributed to him from crosses or set-pieces, as displayed in the image below.
Henry, once again, utilises his physicality to create goalscoring opportunities for his teammates, well above the number that he is expected to create. His support play from set-pieces, combined with his goalscoring threat makes him incredibly dangerous for opposing teams. Especially as they can try to man-mark him, but that would just likely free up space for his teammates; even off the ball, he can cause a problem for defenders, which is an incredibly important trait for a forward of his style to have.
Although previously mentioned, Henry likes to play quite deep and counter-press the opposition, however, is this reflected in his defensive numbers?
He does counter-press the opposition well, however, he does not recover the ball as often as we might like to see. He averages 1.88 recoveries per 90 minutes, with 1.25 of these being from the counter-press.
Henry does, however, rank among the top players for offensive duels, again showing his physicality. He averages 16.41 offensive duels per 90 minutes; although, he doesn’t have a great deal of success with this, being successful only 31.8% of the time.
In conclusion, Henry has been a very strong player in the Belgian First Division B. This has been demonstrated with his ability to score goals; finishing as league top scorer. The season was cut short and so his goal tally of 15 may not be super impressive, but averaging 0.59 goals a game would’ve resulted in a 22 goal season in a regular 38 game season; which is an impressive haul for the season.
We can see that Henry likes to play quite deep to aid the build-up play for his team, and he holds the ball up well; looking to distribute the ball to attacking outlets, before joining the attack himself. Not only is he a goal threat individually, being dangerous in front of goal, he also can create for his teammates, being among the league leaders in assists. As well as this, even if he is not scoring or assisting, he is causing problems for defenders. His physicality and presence will often draw defenders to him, creating space for his teammates.
I don’t think it’s fully clear whether Henry would be able to make the step up into the Belgian First Division A or not. He is a very talented goalscorer, who is a real asset for his team, and a threat to his opponents. I think the important thing for OH Leuven to do if they are promoted is to keep hold of Henry and be sure to play around him.
That seems to be where Henry thrives, with his team feeding him crosses to either nod down for his teammates or put in the back of the net. For him to be successful the team must play around him, and allow him to use his physicality to bag goals himself, or create goals for his teammates.
All in all, it seems as though Henry could be successful in the Belgian top division, or perhaps see a move to a league such as the EFL Championship, as he would likely be a good fit for that level.