Noa Lang


Chris Summersell

December 29, 2021

Club Brugge's Noa Lang

This profile was originally published in the tenth edition of the Scouted Football Handbook, available here.

Who is Noa Lang?

February 17, 2022 update: Noa Lang was heavily linked to Leeds United in the summer of 2021, but the big move to England did not eventuate. Still just 22, there is plenty of time for a Premier League move in the future; for now, first team football in Belgium (as well as European experience) will continue to aid in his development. 

He also made his national team debut in October 2021, putting him firmly in contention for an appearance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

There are few things as synonymous in football as the Netherlands and exciting, creative wide players, and 21-year-old Noa Lang only enhances strengthens that relationship.

The young Dutchman of Surinamese descent is currently on loan at Club Brugge KV from AFC Ajax, where his exceptional productivity helped the club finish top of the Pro League in the 2020/21 season, ahead of the top four playoffs which will decide the destination of the league title.

What is somewhat surprising is that Lang will not be returning to Amsterdam at the end of his loan, with Club Brugge having an obligation to make the move permanent in the coming summer for a reported €6 million.

Lang had initially burst on to the scene with Ajax, scoring a hat-trick on his first Eredivisie start against FC Twente, who he subsequently spent a short time on loan with. Whilst he only made 14 first-team appearances for the senior side, they were a fitting reward for a strong, productive youth career with Jong Ajax. 

He made his debut for them as a 17-year-old back in 2017, contributed to 0.6 non-penalty goals and assists per 90 minutes across 47 appearances in the Dutch second division. He also scored notable UEFA Youth League goals against Bayern München and Real Madrid for the club’s stacked under-19 side that included the likes of Gravenberch, Botman and Brobbey.

It was at the beginning of the current 2020/21 season that Lang made the short move south to Belgium, and he has since taken the league by storm. 16 goals plus eight assists in 29 matches and 2,199 minutes on the field is an exceptional return, and indicative of his direct threat. 

He also gained further Champions League experience following a few cameos for Ajax, and scored his first European goal against Zenit St. Petersburg – though Brugge were unable to qualify from the group stage.

Club Brugge's Noa Lang

Noa Lang's style of play

Noa Lang is a gifted, right-footed wide forward most comfortable coming inside off the left wing, though has the versatility to play across the attack. He is a hub of activity and creativity in the final third, where his technical skill and bravery on the ball are obvious signs of his education at Ajax’s exceptional De Toekomst academy.

It is his immense creativity which is his most noticeable trait; he can effortlessly switch from a languid presence moving between the lines to a more dynamic style with rapid changes of tempo. It is this appreciation of time and space, knowing when to stay on the ball, when to delay the pass, when to quickly speed up the play, that gives him such variation.

He is at his best when he moves inside off the wing into the half-spaces, where his ability to create passing lanes allows a high involvement in the play. Here his creativity comes to the fore; he constantly seeks to break the last line of defence in a variety of ways. He can slide runners in using disguised reverse passes, often with minimal backlift and perfect weight. He is not a soloist, but a player who can participate in combination play with team-mates – his signature move is a quick give-and-go around the box to change the tempo of the play and create imbalances in defences. He is also excellent at using improvised chips, scoops and round-the-corner flicks to unpick deep defences.

To contextualise his creative ability in the final third, he is in the upper percentile of expected assists (0.29) and successful passes to the penalty area, both per 90 minutes, and is the league leader in successful through balls and deep completions. Lang has the quality end product to back up his creative, risk-taking style.

He is dangerous when dribbling and carrying the ball too, both in tight spaces to retain and outplay opponents as well as in open spaces moving directly towards goal. His best asset is his ability to shift his balance and accelerate quickly away, which enables him to create and maintain separation from defenders in an instant

He also has a range of cuts, chops and pirouettes to wrong-foot and glide past opponents with ease. He does tend to sacrifice possession quite often with the risk he plays with, but the value he adds when he does break through and create a chance for himself or others means the reward is currently outweighing that risk by quite a distance.

It is not just his creativity in the final third that is impressive, but the goalscoring threat that supplements it is as well. The 21-year-old has an incredibly high shot volume for his position, taking over three shots per 90 this season, a rate that many out-and-out strikers would struggle to hit in a single season across their entire career.

He can generate shots for himself through dribbling and quick shifts with the ball to work an angle, or by making intelligent forward runs beyond the ball and into the penalty area to receive and get a shot away. He generally finishes with powerful driven shots, and in shooting situations he possesses a calm and collected manner that lets him finish ruthlessly and emphatically. Only Paul Onuachu, KRC Genk’s skyscraper of a striker, has scored more non-penalty goals in the Pro League this season than Lang. That highlights just how effective he has been this season.

Forecasting Noa Lang's future

It is fair to say that, on current form, Lang will soon outgrow the Belgian league – if he has not already. And you can be absolutely certain that clubs across the continent already have him as a leading name on their shortlists, despite the fact he is not yet a permanent Club Brugge player.

Spending the 2021/22 season at the Belgian champions would not be a bad thing, though. Lang may see staying for another season as an opportunity to challenge high-level opposition in the Champions League, a chance to catch the eye on the biggest stage, and really cement his status as Club Brugge’s star player. But that depends on how much potential suitors want him this summer.

"It is his immense creativity which is his most noticeable trait; he can effortlessly switch from a languid presence moving between the lines to a more dynamic style with rapid changes of tempo. It is this appreciation of time and space, knowing when to stay on the ball, when to delay the pass, when to quickly speed up the play, that gives him such variation"

His future is in one of Europe’s top-five leagues, but he should be keen to find a team that embrace his high risk, high reward style of play; it is unlikely he will be afforded the freedom he currently has at Club Brugge in a more competitive league. Regardless, the 21-year-old is a very exciting talent that we will hear much more from in the coming years.

Noa Lang is a high-level playmaker capable of attacking the opposition’s penalty areas from all angles and situations. He’s a versatile attacker, capable of creating with passing or destabilising with his dribbling.

Sometimes Noa Lang can try to do too much. He can be a bit single-minded in his decision-making, especially when games aren’t going his way. There are also legitimate question marks about his temperament.

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