This post originally featured on our world football analysis sister site, totalfootballanalysis.com.
Bradley Dack is an attacking midfielder who has starred for Blackburn Rovers, with the rovers sitting comfortably in mid-table. The 25-year-old has scored 14 goals and assisted 4 in 26 games in total, a very impressive goal and assist ratio. Dack is a natural and potent finisher, with excellent off-the-ball movement intelligence and strong technical ability.
Starting his career with Gillingham in League 2 back in the 2012/13 season as a teenager, Bradley has worked his way up the leagues by starring throughout every game he has played. In this individual player analysis, we will discover why Dack is so highly rated, and why he is a transfer target for many Premier League clubs.
Off the ball excellence
During a 1-1 draw vs Newcastle in the FA Cup, Dack played as a #10 in a 4-2-3-1 system.
Above is the formation and lineup used by Blackburn Rovers against Newcastle, an opponent situated in the Premier League – a big test for Dack to prove his quality.
In this game, Dack’s movement was a constant thorn for Newcastle’s back-four, as he consistently created space and opened up goal scoring opportunities with his intelligent movement off-the-ball. With two progressive runs in this game, a stat based off movement intended to move the opposition and create space – Dack was active and looking to damage Newcastle, and so he did scoring one goal.
Due to Manquillo (the Newcastle right-back) being so advanced, Lejeune is forced to close down Conway, and due to Schar being occupied with Graham, Dack has acres of space to advance into. This quick decision making and attacking intelligence makes Dack a quality player, a player that would suit many Premier League clubs. Other players such as Dele, Muller, and Iniesta have made a career out of superb off-the-ball intelligence. Whilst all of these named players have other standout traits, Dack certainly has a plethora of ingredients to make him a very impressive and well-rounded player.
With 0.36 goals per-game and 0.21 assists per-game, this means Dack contributes towards a goal every other game. This stat is very impressive, considering he plays for a lesser team in the Championship, it shows his importance to the team – meaning he is the hub of a majority of play.
Dack’s ability to score with either foot and his head makes him a versatile and unpredictable player, even more so unpredictable with his variety of attacking runs he makes. This variety of threats possessed by Dack allows him to be a potent finisher and playmaker, the ingredients of a top player.
The best way to describe Dack is that of a “shadow striker,” in a way similar to Dele Alli. With the majority of Dack’s goals being from the old cliche of being in the right place, at the right time. But this is no fluke or luck, his intelligence off-the-ball allows him to make simple tap-ins. Dack’s tactical intelligence is shown in the image above, Norwich happen to be playing an incredibly high-line. Dack understands in order to beat this system, he needs to make long runs from deep – something he does to an incredibly high standard. It is, in fact, his ability to make runs and remain unmarked that allows him to be such an important player for Blackburn, as many teams play an attacking system with a high defensive line against them
Dack has an impressive xG of 0.29 per-game, a stat very impressive for a number ten. Dack has a higher xG than Eriksen and Mesut Ozil, with the two ranking in with a respectable 0.2 and 0.17. Whilst you can make the argument that Dack is playing against lesser players, but he is also playing with lesser players. Due to this, Dack could have an even higher expected goals stat, and a higher number of goals scored.
Drawing a foul
With an average of 1.55 fouls suffered per-game, Dack is routinely drawing fouls. Dack doesn’t draw fouls in non-threatening positions rather, his ability to draw a foul in a threatening area for a short freekick is excellent. He has that sense and intelligence to draw his marker in too tight and make too much contact.
In the image above, Dack has been absolutely clattered. But, Dack has done this on purpose. Dack began to dribble forward, but there was absolutely nothing on, he is the most advanced player in a Blackburn Rovers shirt. Instead of turning around and playing backwards, Dack dribbled ahead into a position on the pitch occupied by the defensive midfielder, who lunged into Dack in a rather brutish fashion. Because of this, Dack has won a free-kick in a position screaming out for a dead-ball specialist – and he can certainly pick out the top corner from this range.
In the image above, Dack made a run away from goal. As his run was made in-between the lines, Dack would have had that extra second to punish the opposition with his more than impressive passing.
With a pass success rate of 77%, Dack is a potent passer. But Dack’s passes more often than not are forward, as he is a progressive passer. With 7.78 forward passes per-game compared to six back passes per-game, Dack is a player who more often than not looks to progress his side into attacking phases.
Close knit dribbling
The Blackburn Rovers number 23 is very similar to Tottenham Hotspur’s #23, Christian Eriksen. They both share excellent footballing IQ’s, incredible technical ability and top quality dribbling. Dack’s dribbling is one of his highly thought of traits. He has the ability to make the art of dribbling in attacking scenarios look effortless, something the Spurs number 23 does well also. But, this comparison isn’t just for the sake of their shirt-numbers, the two are excellent outlets in the attack, and both have a potent final ball – whether it be a shot or a defence-splitting pass.
As seen in the image above, Dack has the ability to beat the press with one touch. A simple, yet smart touch through the oppositional player’s legs combined with Dack’s impressive acceleration allowed him to sprint away from his marker and transition his side up the pitch incredibly quickly. This ability to manipulate the ball is another reason we likened him to Eriksen, the ability to make the ball do incredible things at such a high pace allows him to consistently dazzle the defence and midfield of the opposition.
With 4.61 successful dribbles per-game, Dack has the ability to move the ball at high speeds. His dribble success ratio of 64% is very impressive and underlines his immaculate control of the ball.
In the image above, we see Dack being aggressively pressed. Dack manages to keep perfect control of the ball, and in doing this, he moved his marker to the byline of the pitch. In doing this, we see an abundance of dangerous space opened up, this space is marked red. The red space is completely open and is an important zone as it is in the centre of the pitch, and therefore the most dangerous. This zone was exploited, the zone was taken up by a Blackburn centre midfielder and allowed them to numerically dominate the centre of the park.
This image and process underlines Dack’s creative mindset. He doesn’t just do things for the sake of it. He completes his actions with the intent of damaging the opposition. Whether that be with a defence-splitting pass or a dribbling action that breaks a team’s high press and allows his side to dominate the pitch with an abundance of possession.
You can’t have such a good season without the press creating a bit of fuss around your future. Dack has always been in the eyesight of clubs back when he was in League 2 and League 1. But now that he has been the main man in such a strong division like Championship, Premier League clubs are now showing major interest.
With West Ham, Crystal Palace and Leicester City thought to be battling for his signature – I can almost guarantee you that you will be watching him in the top-flight next season.
But there is also interest from a top club in the Championship. With West Brom eager to bring in Dack to replace Harvey Barnes who has been recalled from his loan from Leicester. West Brom are in for a task if they are to capture his signature, as a player such as Dack should be playing in the Premier League. Unless West Brom can almost promise him top-flight football next season (which would be a real task), I personally really can’t see this happening if the above clubs really are interested.
According to the Sun, Blackburn turned down an impressive 15 million pound offer for Dack at the end of the summer transfer window. This shows Blackburn Rovers desire to keep their star man, and could also mean that we could see a deal almost twice the initial offer. But is he worth it? With his fellow Championship stars Jack Grealish and Jarrod Bowen all receiving bids of upwards of 20 million pounds. He is definitely worth every penny as arguably the more promising player due to his ability to star in a much lesser side.
Bradley Dack simply put, is a really impressive attacking player. He is a complete player. He can score, assist, dribble, create space and play in a variety of roles in the number ten position. He can act as a second-striker something we see Dele Alli do, or, pull the strings, something we associate with Ozil or Eriksen.
His movement off-the-ball is incredible, he can move even the most compact of sides, or he can break a high-press with a deep run in behind the defence. Dack is the definition of an all-around & versatile number te.
He is a player you & I should be excited to watch. We would even go as far to say, he could be catching Gareth Southgate’s attention if he continues his goal-scoring performances when he gets his chance in the Premier League. But until then, he shall continue to set the Championship alight.
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