PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Lukas Nmecha?
Lukas Nmecha is the latest prospect reeling off the City Football Group conveyor belt, but the road to prosperity at the senior level has been far from trouble-free. Nmecha’s route to (seemingly) the Bundesliga from Manchester has consisted of a few loan intervals sandwiched in between – with varying degrees of success.
Nonetheless, his most recent loan spell with Anderlecht is where Nmecha struck gold and finally acted on the shining potential he showed at youth level – where he was a prolific monster of a striker. He has found a system that boosted his best attributes and limited his worst, and in the coming season, we will see just how much he has progressed in the last year in the Bundesliga. Lots of potential, lots of penalties, lots to discuss.
Lukas Nmecha's Style of Play
First off, let’s begin with his physical profile. He is a six foot tall winger converted into a striker with a strong athletic profile. He only weighs 70kg, but he fills out nicely for that size, and against other strong athletes he doesn’t struggle to battle them physically. It makes him a good mix between being strong enough to hold off defenders, but also nimble enough to produce good 1-v-1 dribbling.
Nmecha leads the line for Vincent Kompany’s Anderlecht in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, but largely the former. In either formation, he fulfils the same lone-striker role, leading the relatively conservative press up front. He has been flanked by a whole host of wingers or midfielders-cum-wingers, but the most frequently chosen options either side of him have been young Belgian Francis Amuzu on the right, and the equally inexperienced Nigerian Paul Makairu on the left.
Off the ball, he has a solid understanding of when and when not to press the ball-carrier. As mentioned, Anderlecht are not an intensive pressing unit, but when a centre-back looks to carry the ball into the midfield, Nmecha does well to act as the metaphorical wall preventing any ball progression down the middle of the pitch. He does well overall to force opposition build-up play down the wide spaces, instead of through the core of the pitch.
When he gets on the ball, his dribbling is serviceable, and sometimes very effective in the final third. He attempts dribbles more than the average Juliper League striker, with 2.5 attempted in the 2020/21 regular campaign, only three other out-and-out strikers in the league attempt more than him. He completes 1.3 at a 52% success rate, which is pretty solid if you consider where most of these dribbles are completed, in the centre of the pitch where it is most difficult to pull 1-v-1 dribbling efforts.
He does not possess exceptionally quick feet, but he can pull off the occasional feint or step-over into half a yard of space to generate a shooting opportunity. Beyond that, he does have a preference to place a purposefully heavy touch on the ball to take it past a defender if he has room behind him, or to the side of him if there is still space to shoot after.
We saw this in the Under-21 European Championship final against Portugal with his match-winning goal – the only goal in the game. He met the end of a neat through pass by taking it around the keeper and calmly finishing it into the open net at the near post. Cool, calm, composed, and a good representation of the type of goal Nmecha scores most frequently, in a tournament final.
When it comes to chance creation, Nmecha is not the most prolific of creative players, but if he does look to find a teammate with a key pass, it is usually a result of one of his runs down the channel. As Anderlecht prefer to build up down the wide areas, Nmecha usually drifts wide coinciding with wherever the ball is laterally on the pitch.
Although, 40% of their attacks come down the left-hand side, and it is a fairly common site to see Nmecha drop into the left half-space to collect the ball just before the final-third, and if there is a willing runner to get in behind the opposition defensive line, Nmecha can clip accurate and curved through balls for them to latch onto.
Taking a brief look at his creative numbers, 1.1 key passes per 90 for a centre-forward is decent, fairly middle of the road stuff, but it does tell us that he is more than just an out-and-out poacher. Three assists across the course of the season is low, but his technique and smart movement does breathe hope into his creative potential. Perhaps at a Bundesliga club like RB Leipzig who are a bit more dynamic in an attacking sense, he could accumulate a higher number of assists.
From a finishing perspective, Nmecha has his strengths and weaknesses. On the bright side, he is a fantastic penalty taker, an arguably underrated attribute, he is capable of sensational finishes, but his movement also makes him a consistently reliable target to aim for inside the penalty area too.
On the flip side, Nmecha can sometimes fail to do the basic stuff right, poor touches can let him down, and with too much time to think inside the penalty area, he can fluff his lines. He is an instinctive striker of the ball at the moment, and moving to the Bundesliga, it is the side of the game he needs to work on the most. The ability to keep calm in front of goal is crucial to the long-term success of a centre-forward.
His 17% conversion rate and underperformance on xG by two goals (he scored 18 but xG had his chances rated at 20.46) shows that he has room to improve on the finishing side of his game.
At 22, he has the time to do just that, and the hope would be that he does not become a player who consistently underperforms xG, with the most prevalent example of this being Gabriel Jesus at Nmecha’s parent club Man City. Rather than speed up his play inside the penalty area, Nmecha needs to learn to slow down with the ball, and when he finds a yard of space, utilise his strong finishing instincts to score the goal.
Aerially, Nmecha has plenty to improve upon. Firstly, a 35% aerial duel success rate is not good enough for a centre-forward who stands at six foot tall. Although not as tall as many of the physically-dominant centre-backs in the Juliper League, it is the timing of his jumps which often lets him down.
He did not score a single goal last season with his head, and this appears to be due to him jumping too soon when directing headed efforts towards goal. With his back towards goal, his aerial ability is serviceable at directing the ball towards a teammate, but when Nmecha looks to shoot, far too often does he get his head underneath the ball, rather over the top of it, which means he gets neither the placement or power necessary to score.
Forecasting Lukas Nmecha's Future Prospects
The reported deal, at the moment, is that a Bundesliga club (first it was Leipzig, now it’s Wolfsburg) will acquire Nmecha from City for a fee in the region of €10 million. 21 goals and three assists across all competitions will naturally catch the eye of a plethora of clubs in Europe’s top five leagues looking for a new goal scoring centre-forward.
A return to Germany might suit Nmecha as a mobile striker in a team like Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt or Stuttgart – teams who he has also been linked to in recent weeks too. Frankfurt, who just lost André Silva to Leipzig, might even be a better move for Nmecha’s career prospects.
Nmecha recently confirmed that a return to Belgium is not on the cards, and with just one year left on his current City deal, a relatively modest fee will be enough to purchase the player. Although Leipzig are the strongest link currently, he would be battling a tough contingency of centre-forwards at the club, especially since the arrival of Silva.
If he were to join Frankfurt, rather than battling four players for one position, he would immediately slot into their starting line-up. A starting line-up who are preparing for Europa League football, more akin to Nmecha’s current level than the prospect of the Champions League – perhaps a step too far.
Lukas Nmecha is a clever striker who thrives through smart runs through the channels and great ball-striking technique.
Nmecha can be inconsistent, seeming to score a lot of goals from the spot and relying on those goals to kickstart his form. He also struggles in the air despite his size.