Last weekend Preston North End suffered perhaps their worst defeat on an away trip in the Championship. It was not the final score line that made this defeat worse for the Lilywhites’ fans but rather against whom they suffered this defeat, their local rivals Blackpool. Although Preston tried to mount a come back in the second half, by then it was too late as Blackpool doubled their advantage and held on till the end of the game, 2-0 the final score line. As a result, Preston are placed at 19th position in the Championship with three wins, six draws and five losses in their 14 games, six points above the relegation zone. While there are many areas where they can improve their performance significantly, there have been some positives to take away. One of those positives has been the young Danish forward Emil Riis Jakobsen.
Emil Riis Jakobsen signed for Preston last year on a four-year deal. He moved to Danish side Randers as a teenager from his hometown club. Following which he started to display his capability as a forward, showcasing impressive goal-scoring exploits in the Randers’ youth team. As a testament to his performance, he started to gain attention from plenty of scouts in Europe and finally joined Derby County’s youth setup. After few years he made his return to Randers, where he began to see more game time. He made 65 appearances during his time with Randers.
Riis did not get off to a flying start for Preston, as he was used to playing with a striking partner with whom he could link up in the attack. Under Alex Neil’s reign as manager, Riis was used as a lone number nine, a situation he was not accustomed to. After struggling for game time last season, he was unable to make an impact, finishing the season with just three goals in thirty-nine appearances across all competition. Under Frankie McAvoy this season, Riis has started to show vast improvement in his performances and goal scoring as he has been deployed in tandem with Ched Evans up front. The two-forward setup has allowed Riis to score five goals in 14 appearances this season.
Let’s analyse some stats to understand his strengths and areas where he can improve
This season Riis has been impressive in his attacking and creativity as indicated by the above chart. His most notable aspect being goals per 90, xG per 90 and offensive duels per 90. He surpasses the league median value in most of the metrics. Riis has been much more comfortable playing-off of a second striker with whom he can link up. His impressive build provides him with the ability to hold off the defenders, while his agility allows him to change directions quickly and get away from his marker.
His passing map indicates his passing range and the areas where he made those passes. Riis is also capable of delivering threatening crosses into the opposition box. This season so far, he has been impressive on the filed.
Riis’s pass receive location displays the areas where he drops to receive passes. His pace allows him to move in multiple areas of pitch to support his teammates. In the previous season, Riis was criticized for dropping out of the game, although this season he has shown improvement and has been involved in the games more.
His heat map indicates the areas of the pitch where he is most engaged in. The red zones suggest that he has been switching position in the opponent area quite often, while also dropping deep to support his team in the build-up phases of the game. Riis’s work rate is impressive for a striker.
Under McAvoy, Riis has begun to show his abilities as a forward. A change in tactics has allowed him to find his feet and get on the score sheet more often this season. If he continues to improve his performances then Preston can surely hope for a better standing in the Championship.