Cody Gakpo — Scout report 21/22

A disappointing result for Dutch football last night was when PSV lost their game against Rangers and failed to qualify for the Champions League. Not only will we see PSV in the Europa League, but it has also increased the likelihood that Cody Gakpo might make a move to the Premier League.

In this article, we will look closer to his 2021/2022 Eredivisie season with PSV.

Cody Gakpo has been instrumental for PSV in attacking in the 2021/2022 season and was one of the focal points in the attack. He can be considered as a great finisher, but also a top creator amongst his peer in the Eredivisie. An exciting talent who is ready for that next step.

We will use data and video to illustrate how Gakpo has done in the Eredivisie 2021/2022 and we will focus on the winger position as well as the striker position.

Contents

  1. Biography
  2. Seasonal stats
  3. Positions/roles
  4. Ball progression
  5. Dribbling
  6. Expected threat
  7. Key passing
  8. Shooting
  9. Assisting
  10. Expected goal contribution
  11. Comparison with Antony
  12. Final thoughts

Biography

  • Name: Cody Gakpo
  • Date of birth: 07–05–1999
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Position: Left winger/striker
  • Contract expires: 30–6–2026
  • Current club: PSV
  • Previous clubs: PSV (Y)
  • International: The Netherlands (7 games)

The question is when we look at Gakpo: what profile does he have? He is good at scoring goals and providing assists. He is good in the air and can link up pretty well. These things might suggest he could do a fantastic job as a striker.

But, if we look at the game he played in domestic competition — the 5–3
Supercup win in the Netherlands — he was more winger with playmaking abilities. He collected the ball in the middle third, dribbled, and made a run down the line. and then won the 1v1 against the right full back. After he had done that he would either cut inside or go the line — providing crosses to Guus Til — who scored twice on a good cross from Gakpo.

Then, we could also argue that in the same game he has shown striker’s instinct. After the Ajax goalkeeper couldn’t handle a shot from distance, Gakpo moved quickly to get the rebound and score a goal. If this says anything, it is that we should put him in one or the other box. We should celebrate his diversity and versatility on the pitch.

The big question is, how will he fit in at a team like Manchester United? And do they really need him? With Ten Hag, Manchester United have started to play a different brand of football and there’s something in particular asked from the wingers and the strikers.

He is not a pure winger, but a modern winger with playmaking skills and that can come in handy at Manchester United. He is a whole different player than Antony for example, but both have their qualities. While Antony is more direct in his play and wants to draw defenders to get that 1v1 going, Gakpo will try to involve more teammates and use a passing style of play to get to the optimal positions to great a goalscoring opportunity.

Seasonal stats

If we look at this specific pizza plot, we can say a few things. But before we turn into the meaning, it’s good to stress that this mostly gives us a stylistic idea of the player rather than a definitive performance one.

What we can see is that there are three metrics in which he scores under the 86th percentile: shots on target %, head goals per 90, and successful dribbles %. In all the other metrics he scored in the 86th percentile or higher. In the xA per 90 (96th percentile), assists per 90 (98th percentile), goals per 90 (92nd percentile), and progressive runs per 90 (91st percentile) — he really shows why he is spoken about so much.

In the image above you can see how Gakpo compares to his peers on the data metrics selected. The average is in blue and Gakpo in red. Gakpo is better in all but two metrics. In the metrics of head goals per 90 and shots on target % — he scores under average.

Positions/roles

In the image above you can see the positions in a 4–2–3–1 where Gakpo can play. He is the best suited for the wide midfield/wingers role, where he needs to make runs down the line and in doing so provides passes for the attackers in PSV side or cut inside and shoot himself. He can also play the striker role in this formation with movement to the wide areas.

In the image above you can see a 4–2–3–1, but he can play as a wide midfielder in a 4–4–2, 4–5–1 or 4–1–4–1 too. If you play with three attackers in a 4–3–3, he will play higher up the pitch as a left winger.

Ball progression

The modern winger isn’t only concerned with dribbling and crosses — but he/she also needs to be comfortable on the ball and progress play from it.

In the scatterplot above you can see the progressive metrics of progressive passes per 90 and progressive runs per 90. Gakpo does really well here as he scores above average in the progressive passes metric, and above the progressive runs metric. There are only a few players better in progressing the ball.

Dribbling

Gakpo is excellent at dribbling, but how does he rank to others in this metric?

In the scatterplot above you can see how well the player are scoring in terms of volume of dribbling and the success rate of those dribbles. As you can Gakpo has the most dribbles per 90 of all the attackers, and while he hasn’t the highest percentage of completed dribbles — he is in the top tier for both these metrics.

Expected threat (xT)

The basic idea behind xT is to divide the pitch into a grid, with each cell assigned a probability of an action initiated there to result in a goal in the next actions. This approach allows us to value not only parts of the pitch from which scoring directly is more likely, but also those from which an assist is most likely to happen. Actions that move the ball, such as passes and dribbles (also referred to as ball carries), can then be valued based solely on their start and end points, by taking the difference in xT between the start and end cell. Basically, this term tells us which option a player is most likely to choose when in a certain cell, and how valuable those options are. The latter term is the one that allows xT to credit valuable passes that enable further actions such as key passes and shots. (Soccerment)

So how does Gakpo contribute to attacking threat in the Eredivisie?

If we look at all these actions we can see Gakpo is the second on the list of highest xT generated throughout the season via carries. He has an xT of 2,00. Only Tavsan (2,66) is better.

Key passing

Every player makes passes in a game, but which passes actively contribute to the progression and construction of an attack? You can see some of these metrics in the beeswarm plot below.

As you can see in the graph above, Gakpo scores quite high above average in almost every metric, only not the passes to the final third. He scores excellent in the assists per 90, xA per 90, and passes to the penalty area per 90.

What’s interesting is how he makes key passes. He scores in the high average, but the intent of his through passes does tell a lot about how he can help in an attack.

Shooting

In the scatterplot above you can see the metrics of shots per 90 and expected goals per 90 combined. as you can Gakpo scores above average for both metrics, with only a few player scoring above him.

When we look at the expected goals and the actual goals we see that he averages 0,46 xG per 90 and 0,53 goals per 90 — this means that he is slightly overperforming on his xG.

Gakpo does sometimes come in the position to shoot, but how does he do in the quality of shooting?

In the shot map above you can see from where Gakpo has conducted his shots in the 2021/2022 Eredivisie season. He had 81 shots of which 12 went in goal. 35,8% of his shots were on target and he generated a total xG of 10,52 — the latter meaning that he is overperforming with +1,48.

Apart from shooting in the box, he loves to shoot from the left side inside the penalty box. More than half of his shots come from this area.

Assists

In the scatterplot above you can see shot assists and expected assists combined. A shot assist is a pass that leads to a shot. This can lead to an actual assist but it doesn’t always have to. As you can Gakpo is in the top 3 in both these metrics, with Mahi and Tadic trumping him in one of the metrics.

Not only did he score a lot in the Eredivisie, but he also provided 12 assists during the season.

As you can see he has an expected assists number of 0,37 per 90 and while others do score better on that front, he has an actual assist number of 0,53 per 90 — which means he is overperforming quite significantly per 90 minutes.

Expected goal contributions

If we look at the expected goal contributions per 90 minutes we can see something very interesting. Gakpo is expected to contribute to roughly 0,82 goals per 90 minutes. Which in this case makes him one of the more complete strikers, because he seems to be equally good in finishing as in creating — which makes him a rather unique player.

Comparison with Antony

Frequently spoken about is the comparison between Gakpo and Antony. While they are two very different players and Gakpo likes to engage more in passing and Antony more in 1v1s — it’s interesting to see what their output is. Gakpo scores better in the data on all but two metrics: progressive runs per 90 and shots per 90. In all the other data metrics — Gakpo scores higher.

Final thoughts

Cody Gakpo has had a great season with his PSV, but there is always the question of whether he can show in the top domestic games or in Europe. And, rightfully so. Domestically, however, he has become a very prolific player in both goals and assists. He also poses a great threat to any defence with his pace, 1v1s, and dribbles.

In terms of providing and contributing directly to a goal, he does really well with his goals and assists. Will he be the answer to Manchester United’s woes on the flanks? Probably not, but he will provide squad depth that will absolutely contribute to their attacking play.

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