In the third installment of a look around Sky Bet League Two’s young hotshots, this week focuses on Oldham Athletic’s defender Tom Hamer. The 20-year-old has become a constant figure in the North West side campaign with 37 league appearances. A versatile defender, Hamer can operate at both right-back and central defender with a tall, athletic build his performances have attracted interest from divisions above.
Hamer gained a reputation for his long throw when he caught the attention of suitors since his league debut in 2018. The academy product saw interest in January but stayed put with the mid-table league two side despite their recent problems off the pitch. Now with Dino Maamria in charge, Hamer is expected to surpass 100 appearances for the club before his 21st birthday in November.
The role Hamer plays
Maamria sets up his side in a 4-4-2 with the two forwards looking to move into the channels with width supplied from the full-backs. Hamer operates as a right-back looking to supply width to the attack. The image below shows the setup from Oldham’s 5-0 victory over Newport County in February.
In possession, Oldham looks to get the ball wide to create overloads with their full-back and wide players, as well as a forward making a move into the inside channel. However, with the addition of Danny Rowe in January, this has brought a focal point to combine centrally. The movement of players around him has created the option to occupy higher spaces in between the lines using Rowe as a platform to build. With the system deployed the connections and relationships in wide areas have been in part to Maamria applying this system. As well as combining going forwards the balance of timing in being adventurous, or defensive is was must be considered by players such as Hamer.
Defensively, Oldham has operated in a mid-block. In wide areas, they look to double up to support their full-backs to then transition quickly. Hamer has clearly made an impact defensively with 10.55 recoveries per game putting him 15th highest in the division. Due to his high positioning, he is able to react quickly in transition with counter-pressing recoveries at 5.67 the 18th highest, with 52.6% of all recoveries from a counter-press. In duels, Hamer showcases as one of the highest aerial duel success for an under 23 player with 59.4% as well as 60% success from defensive duels.
These statistics point towards an effective defender. However, now let’s look at Hamer’s role in possession with this tactical analysis.
In order for Hamer to apply the principles mentioned below, he has a role to play for his side when creating space. Hamer picks up a high and wide role to occupy opposition full-backs creating spaces infield. With Hamer’s position, the opponent width narrows allowing more space to go around or widens, which with ineffective shuffling creates gaps in between horizontal lines.
With opposite movements, Hamer will pick up this position when a teammate makes a movement inside or deeper. By being on the highest line this allows the opportunity to combine closer to the goal as well as at a higher tempo. Hamer also positions himself with his back to the edge of the pitch to allow him to play forward or backwards, as well as infield.
In this example, we see Hamer has picked up a wide position on the final defensive line of the opponent. He has an open body to receive but also ready to make movements in behind with the advantage of not having to turn before. He operates on a different line to the winger to receive at an angle, with the winger operating in the inside half-space to have a better connection for a switch.
As the move progressed, the space created infield is occupied by an advancing midfielder. Hamer is able to combine from an advanced position with a pass to his teammates furthest foot from his opponent. The position of the opposition defender allows for a penetrative pass into space behind and as Hamer is facing side on to start with he can make a movement quicker facing moving forward compared to the square defender. His timing of movement in behind is crucial to remain onside as well as move into the assist zone in the inside right space of the box.
As Maamria has stuck with the same system since his arrival it has allowed for relationships to develop especially in the wide areas. Hamer has managed to develop a link with the player directly in front of him Gevaro Nepomuceno. Oldham have looked down the sides for movement to create space in behind and in between by moving the opposition out from their defensive structure.
Hamer is part of an opposite movement deployed by Oldham. As one player drops deeper the other makes a move higher to maintain height. When Nepomuceno drops deeper he does so infield, either bringing a defender with him or picking up space unopposed. Meanwhile, Hamer makes a movement high either in possession, as shown in the first example, or into space to be found from deep.
As shown in this first example Nepomuceno drops deeper to position himself to receive a diagonal progressive pass from Hamer, of which is an area that we will highlight later. Hamer recognises the player who has been removed and can, therefore, attack his opponent one versus one. What is crucial in this movement is the recognition of nonverbal communication to perform said combination.
When in possession you will rarely see these players operate on the same line as one another. However, Hamer isn’t reduced to just making movements in wide areas as this next example highlights.
As you can see, the forward in possession makes a movement along the horizontal defensive line of the opponent. Meanwhile, Hamer makes a movement from deep in between the space between centre-backs to receive in the inside channel of the area. In this instance, it is the timing of movement from Hamer to recognize the trigger from his teammate’s movement inside to create a penetrative passing channel in between lines.
This next example showcases a forward player, in this instance Rowe, dropping into the wide channel to combine. As Rowe makes a movement away Hamer is able to quickly move the ball diagonally inside, before making a move towards the unoccupied half-space. Therefore, Hamer making an opposite movement to Rowe creates space, allowing him to retain possession at a higher offensive line.
As the move progresses below, Hamer receives in a higher position and the space created earlier from Rowe’s movement creates a passing channel for an advanced midfielder. The timing of the pass meets the onrushing player to take into his path and continue the tempo of the attack, adding to Hamer’s impressive progressive passing stats.
Talking of progressive passes, they are defined as a pass that moves the ball considerably forward, for a defender, Hamer boasts stats with 9.47 per game. He also shows the 34th highest average pass length with 23.28m with 17.73 of those passes forward and 6.68 into the final third. This points towards a player who is positive on the ball but also plays his passes from deep positions into higher areas of the pitch while maintaining a 69.88% accuracy.
To put these stats into perspective, consider the graphic below. As Hamer operates in a higher position in possession as mentioned. He tends to make line passes from a deeper right-sided position, however as he picks up a higher position the number of passes he makes in the field towards spaces in between lines rises.
Here Hamer is contributing to playing towards players picking up spaces in between lines created through opposite movements. Hamer looks to make punchy passes at a high tempo off minimal touches breaking a line or stepping in with a dribble in order to play a progressive pass.
In this first example, Hamer receives possession in an inside channel. By receiving at an angle, it allows Hamer to play forward with minimal touches, to maintain tempo, as well as creating an angle for his teammate to move out the shadow of his opponent. As mentioned earlier with the opposite movements, a teammate has stretched the opposition to create a passing channel into the final third which Hamer uses to find his teammates feet in a compact space. Hamer’s teammate receives with his foot furthest from his opponent to touch the ball into a gap between defenders.
Hamer’s willingness to continue to break lines with progressive passes demonstrates his importance to his team and Maamria’s style.
In this second example below, Hamer showcases his versatility, playing as a central defender. Here Hamer breaks a line stepping in with the ball to penetrate from a higher and better penetrative position. With this pass, he is able to break a second line with a forward making a move from out to in. The forward receives in the half-space, created from the full-back operating on a different line as Hamer does himself when in this role.
The tactical ideas Maamria has focused on with Hamer have not been overly complicated but this relative simplicity has been one of Hamer’s greatest strengths in possession. The opportunity for Hamer to get on the ball in higher positions has allowed him to showcase his passing range and justify why his former manager Richie Wellens outed him as a midfielder when in charge.
With the physicality to deal with the challenges in Sky Bet League Two, Hamer just has to add to his technical game. Clearly, from this scout report, he has done this and shown great development while an intelligence around his role.
This makes Hamer certainly a player to watch. With Oldham continuing in mediocrity there is the possibility that interest from above may come calling, an interest which may be too good to turn down.