Gent enjoyed their 2019/2020 season in the Belgian First Division finishing second behind league winners Club Brugge. They played some very exciting football, focused around Canadian attacking midfielder and striker Jonathan David. Scoring 59 goals – the most in the league, Gent were the team to watch. Following Jonathan David’s best-ever season, scoring 18 times and assisting seven, the 20-year-old earned a €30 million move to Ligue 1 side LOSC Lille. This tactical analysis will show what LOSC Lille fans can expect to see from their new signing.
How does Jonathan David compare amongst other players under 23 in Europe?
Above, we compare Jonathan David to some of Europe’s most exciting young players, and he fits right in. Averaging 1.07 G/A per 90 is impressive at just 20 years old. With both an eye for the goal and an assist, David is just as much a creator as he is a goal-scorer, as this scout report will show. An argument can be made that the Belgian First Division isn’t the pinnacle of European football, but Gent did play in the 2019/2020 Europa League campaign, making it to the round of 32 and losing to Roma, showing that they can play with some of Europe’s better teams.
How good is Jonathan David for the Canadian national team?
The simple answer is “very”. Jonathan David is fortunate to play under an intelligent head coach, John Herdman. He has structured his teams to play in a way that benefits its strongest players in Jonathan David, Bayern Munich‘s Alphonso Davies, and Scott Arfield.
David was the only Canadian player to be named in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup best eleven, as well as winning the competition’s Golden Boot award, scoring six goals.
On top of this, Jonathan David was named the Canadian Player of the Year for 2019, joining other notable players such as Alphonso Davies (Canadian Player of the Year 2018) and Atiba Hutchinson (Canadian Player of the Year 2010, 2012, 2014-17) respectively.
Canada routinely line up in a 4-2-3-1, with David as the lone striker. However, players like Osorio or Arfield will play behind David, acting as a second striker and letting David play in his more natural position on the right side as pictured below in the Canada v Martinique game.
Below is another still from the Canada v Martinique game, where David went on to score twice and pick up the Man of the Match award as well. He is circled in red, on top of the box and out of sight of his marker. Just like for Gent, David often occupies this space and makes late runs into the box either through the middle when playing off a two-forward system, or on the right when playing as a lone forward and with an advanced attacking midfield teammate.
Where will Jonathan David play for LOSC Lille?
With the departure of Victor Osimhen who has moved on to Napoli, David will have some shoes to fill. In the 2019/2020 season, Lille lined up in a 4-4-2 formation on seven occasions, most notably when beating Lyon 1-0, as well as their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation on fifteen occasions. For the most part, Lille enjoy playing systems with either two forwards or starting a more attack-oriented player behind their lone striker. This is very similar to Gent’s tactics and the setup they have played this season, meaning David should fit right in.
Pictured above is David playing in his preferred attacking midfielder spot behind his two forwards.
Against Sint-Truiden, Gent lined up in a 4-1-3-2 formation, with David being deployed as a second striker, pictured above. It’s in this role he is allowed to drop off and make late runs into the final third when the opposition has begun dedicating defenders to his teammates. Often David is forgotten about when he makes these late runs because he and his attacking midfield teammates often switch position during different phases of the game, creating overloads in the middle of the pitch.
The Sint-Truiden player with the unfortunate responsibility of tracking David’s late run was too slow to react, leaving David to receive the ball at the top of the box between his two forward teammates and score. David is at his best when his forward teammates are man-marked, leaving him free to roam in right behind them.
Against Genk, David started behind his two strikers in a 4-1-3-2 formation and was given the freedom to roam. Circled in red is David at the top of Genk’s box, while his two striker teammates, circled in black, are moving towards the right side of the pitch, drawing their markers away from their position, creating space for David to move in to.
David is now clear to have a shot on goal after drifting into the space created by his striker teammates. David operates in the same space as a more traditional playmaker, while also taking advantage of his clinical finishing ability.
Against Genk, David could have scored more than just one goal. David’s best moments are those that rely on his forward players creating space for him to run into.
David has plenty of experience playing as a second striker, starting seventeen times for Gent as a right-sided striker. He is expected to do the same job as his forward players do for him: create space for the attacking midfielder to run into. Pictured above, three Sint-Truiden players are closing down David’s teammate on the ball as David makes an outside run, and two more of his teammates begin their runs into the box.
After being played through, David can now cut it back to one of the four players that followed him into the box, creating a goal-scoring chance. When deployed as a second striker, David aims to create space for his teammates to run into, while also creating goal-scoring opportunities for himself.
Included below are stills from Victor Osimhen playing at LOSC Lille before his big move to Napoli. He operated in nearly the exact way as Jonathan David did, except he used his physicality a bit more.
Victor Osimhen looks to stay in the centre and have a defender mark him, which will create space for his teammates to run into. LOSC Lille also enjoy playing two-striker systems with an attacking midfielder behind them, typically operated by Victor Osimhen. Osimhen has started as a lone striker on a few occasions, but the role remains the same: draw defenders forward and have defenders run behind.
Many of Victor Osimhen’s assists and goals have come from playing this role and should LOSC Lille continue to operate with the same system in Ligue 1, Jonathan David should fit right in. Both players operate in the space between defence and midfield, drawing defenders away from their position and creating space for their teammates to run into.
This analysis has shown that Jonathan David has all the qualities of a great playmaker and finisher. As he enters one of Europe’s top five leagues, we can confidently say that he has all the tools to be successful. LOSC Lille play exciting attacking football in Ligue 1, similar to that of Gent, which will be a breeding ground for assists and goals for a player like Jonathan David who is already so comfortable playing in their system. Couple this with a national team manager who knows how to get the best out of its players, it’s only a matter of time until Jonathan David is playing with Europe’s elite.