PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Callum O'Hare?
While 23-year-old midfielder Gustavo Hamer has grabbed most of the headlines at Coventry City this season, typically playing just in front of him attacking midfielder Callum O’Hare has been equally impressive and important to his side this season.
An academy graduate at Aston Villa, this season has been O’Hare’s first full campaign at Championship level. The 23-year-old had previously made just four cameo appearances at that level for Villa, while last season he was a regular starter during Coventry’s successful promotion campaign from League One.
O’Hare has been a revelation in England’s second tier, quickly finding his feet to put in a number of very impressive displays, helping the Sky Blues to avoid relegation and establish themselves back in the Championship following an eight-season absence.
Callum O'Hare's Style of Play
The first thing you notice when watching O’Hare is the energy that he approaches each and every game with. He is an incredibly mobile and hard-working player who is constantly on the move off the ball, both when his side are in and out of possession.
In possession his only thought appears to be to get on the ball as often as possible and drive into space. A quick glance at his heat map for this season demonstrates how much of the pitch O’Hare covers on a regular basis.
Out of possession, O’Hare is a constant menace to opponents with his incessant pressing and desire to win the ball back. This season in the Championship, no attacking midfielder has attempted more defensive duels per 90 than O’Hare’s 8.9, while only five midfielders in total, all of them primarily defensive midfielders, challenge for the ball more frequently.
With pressing becoming more and more prominent in elite football, O’Hare is perfectly suited for a high pressing system, given his mobility, intelligence and desire to both defend from the front as well as track back. The graph below indicates how active O’Hare is out of possession compared to other attacking midfielders in the Championship.
Furthermore, the sequence below typifies O’Hare’s attitude out of possession. There’s probably no expectation for O’Hare to aggressively track back and attempt to win the ball in this scenario, however he sprints to recover back into his side’s defensive third, twice applying great pressure to the player on the ball. O’Hare’s persistence pays off as he is successful in winning the ball back for his side and immediately looks to transition forwards.
It is this energetic style that makes O’Hare a joy to watch. He plays with the enthusiasm and fearlessness of a child playing in the park with his friends, charging around the pitch in search of the ball and immediately looking to drive towards the opposition goal when he gets on the ball.
O’Hare regularly gets his team up field with his dribbling. We see this in the clips below. First, we see O’Hare make an interception deep in his own half.
O’Hare immediately starts to drive forwards. Skilfully nutmegging the first player who attempts to challenge him before carrying the ball deep into the opposition half and playing a nice through pass.
Indeed, it is his movements both on and off the ball that are O’Hare’s greatest strength. His off-ball movements are impressive. Constantly looking to drop into pockets of space to receive the ball or stretch play by running in-behind at pace.
He attacks space brilliantly, being intelligent in his ability to recognise space, while his runs into these spaces are well timed and explosive. These movements are supplemented by the fact that O’Hare is a fine ball carrier when he receives the ball, who will regularly move his team forward in possession.
O’Hare combines a low centre of gravity, standing just 178cm tall allowing for swift, agile movements with good close control at full speed. The sequence below demonstrates this, with right wing back Julien Da Costa in possession, O’Hare is quick to recognise the opportunity to receive a split pass in space in front of the opposition defence and accelerates into the space to create a passing line.
O’Hare then uses an intelligent and perfectly weighted first touch to glide past the Norwich centre back and get 1v1 with the keeper. Unfortunately, he fires the finish wide.
Not converting chances that his excellent movement allows him to create has been a common feature of O’Hare’s game this season and one we will focus on in more detail in the next section.
It is through O’Hare’s ball carrying that he primarily provides a creative threat for his side. In possession, O’Hare is a direct player who looks to influence the game by creating space for himself and others through his dribbling and pace. When dribbling he is quick across the ground and can quickly move into dangerous positions.
As a result, O’Hare’s creative numbers this season stack up very well compared to other attacking midfielders in the Championship, contributing 0.11 xA and 0.54 key passes p90. However, looking at the graph below we can also see that the success rate of his creative passing actions is relatively low and we will revisit this fact in the section below.
O’Hare’s assist from a game this season against Sheffield Wednesday brilliant captures O’Hare’s creativity. He receives a pass in a tight space with his back to goal. Note in the first image where O’Hare is looking as he receives the ball. He has built a picture of the game around him, recognising where the space is available for him to attack and where pressure is likely to come from. Indeed, O’Hare’s spatial awareness is superb for the level he is playing at.
O’Hare’s awareness of space, agility and close control allows him to wriggle free of pressure applied by two players. He then releases a perfectly weighted through ball with the move culminating in a goal.
O’Hare is a player with clear strengths, however there are perhaps an equal number of areas in which he needs to develop. An obvious area for development is in his passing.
O’Hare has a very limited passing range, rarely attempting or completing long passes. He can also take too many touches before releasing the ball. For these reasons, O’Hare is perhaps not best suited to a high possession-based team as he regularly turns the ball over in his attempts to ‘make things happen’ for his side. He would operate best in a side which thrives in transition.
O’Hare’s final ball can also be poor at times. This is not always the case, as there are numerous examples of O’Hare playing intelligent through passes for teammates. However, O’Hare’s decision making in the final third which must improve and become more consistent if he is to step up to a higher level.
Currently, his mixed decision making in the final third means that he does not offer as much of a threat as his excellent dribbling and movement, which frequently allows him to get into dangerous positions in possession, suggests he should. We see an example of this in the clips below. First, O’Hare collects a loose ball just inside the opposition half.
He then shows great acceleration and tenacity to evade pressure from three defenders and get into a dangerous crossing position. However, having done the hardest part his choice of final pass is poor. O’Hare attempts a difficult cut back through bodies to the player on the edge of the box, with the pass being easily cut out. He fails to notice Da Costa, who is in a great position unmarked at the back post.
To compound this weakness in the final third, O’Hare’s finishing also requires work. O’Hare regularly gets into great positions in front of goal due to his ability to recognise and attack space. However, he is frequently wasteful in front of goal. He does not shoot with power and rarely hits the corner of the net.
This is also apparent in his data from this season, whereby he has scored just two league goals from an xG total of 9.6. The table below further illustrates this point. In it we see how often O’Hare gets himself into the box and into excellent scoring opportunities, but also how rarely he has scored this season compared to other attacking midfielders in the division.
Finally, O’Hare is not the most physical player. Despite competing in an incredible number of defensive duels, a lack of physical strength means that his success rate is relatively low. His height also means that he is ineffective in the air, an area of his game which is unlikely to improve in the future.
Callum O'Hare: Looking Towards the Future
O’Hare has been a revelation in the Championship this season, providing a creative spark and attacking drive to a newly promoted side battling to establish themselves in the division. With survival secured for another season in the second tier, Coventry should do everything possible to hold onto their top young talents such as O’Hare and Hamer and look to build a team capable of competing higher up the table.