Who is Taiwo Awoniyi and what will he bring to the Premier League?
Who is Taiwo Awoniyi and what will he bring to the Premier League?

Taiwo Awoniyi: Nottingham Forest transfer target assessed

Taiwo Awoniyi has been announced as a Nottingham Forest player, Ninad Barbadikar explains what he could bring in his return to England.

With his final kick of the ball in the Bundesliga, Taiwo Awoniyi ensured he left a mark on a Union Berlin match once again, this time ensuring that the club from Koepenick returned to European football.

Urs Fischer’s side finished fifth in the league standings, guaranteeing a spot in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League and Awoniyi’s goals were a huge push in the early and late stages of the 21/22 season.

He scored 20 goals in all competitions for the club and 15 in the Bundesliga, so interest was bound to step up for the Nigerian international and it looks as though he is Premier League bound this summer with Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest close to signing him.

But what will Awoniyi bring to Forest and what will his return to the Premier League look like?

Awoniyi is a poacher

The Nigerian striker formed a potent partnership with two players for Union Berlin last season. Before Christmas, it was Max Kruse who blossomed best alongside Awoniyi in a front-two, and then in the business end of the season, it was Sheraldo Becker who thrived alongside Awoniyi.

Both of these forwards complemented Awoniyi’s profile well and took the greater responsibility in possession, meanwhile, Awoniyi was left with one task - to put the ball into the back of the net, which he did 15 times for Union last season.

According to Infogol’s xG data, Awoniyi’s quality of chances throughout the Bundesliga season amounted to 14.31 xG, which shows he finished his chances at an expected rate.

The impressive figure is the consistency with which he was getting on the end of good scoring chances, with his xG per 95 minutes standing at 0.61.

21/22 Bundesliga xG /95 leaders

That number means he ranked fifth best in the Bundesliga last season of players who played more than 800 minutes.

Deploying a direct style in possession of the ball, Awoniyi’s goals came from quality service from his fellow team-mates at Union and no doubt players like Brennan Johnson at Forest will enjoy creating chances for the Nigerian to score.

Creation of space a huge plus

Outside of his goal-scoring talents, Awoniyi brings other valuable assets to the team.

Whilst he isn’t the tallest of strikers, standing at 5”10’, Awoniyi’s ability to win aerial duels is an incredibly useful asset when playing long and direct football to exploit any weaknesses in the opposition backline.

He is physically strong and is able to keep most centre backs occupied with his back to goal, which then creates space for runners off the ball to get into. He is also comfortable receiving long-passes and either bringing the ball down to keep possession or knock it on to a on-rushing team-mate of his.

Taiwo Awoniyi shot map 21/22 Bundesliga

The 24-year-old is especially effective in transition on the counter-attack and whilst he is not pacey, he is a deceptively quick runner in transition and is able to lose defenders with his physique who might try to steal the ball off of him.

Union Berlin produced 57 direct attacks during the course of the Bundesliga season as per the Analyst and a big part of why those attacks were effective was Awoniyi’s ability to get in front of his marker in the box and connect with the crosses delivered by his team-mates.

Control an area of weakness

Where Awoniyi’s weaknesses lie is his limited ability in possession of the ball at his feet, he has never been required to be creative on the ball at Union, however, there are occasions where some of the team’s counter-attacks can break down because Awoniyi failed to find the all-important final pass to one of his team-mates.

Defensively, his numbers are not an impressive read but that is more down to Union’s playing style last season, they had the least intense press in the Bundesliga as per the Analyst, as their PPDA was 15.9, the highest in the league. Higher PPDA (Passes allowed per defensive action) indicates a less intense press and vice versa.

His limited ability in possession needs to be compensated by surrounding him with players who can create and take advantage of the space he creates for them.

Will his numbers translate to the Premier League?

That is the ultimate question for any manager looking to bring him in and naturally, there will be doubts surrounding his ability to scale his output to a more difficult level in the Premier League.

Historically speaking, transfers from the Bundesliga have been a mixed bag and in more recent seasons, the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Jadon Sancho have shown signs of promise but are yet to deliver at the same level they did for their former employers.

With Awoniyi, given the type of player he is and the style of football he has played at Union Berlin, there should be enough cause for optimism given that Forest will head into the 22/23 season as underdogs much like Union have been ever since they got promoted to the Bundesliga back in the 19/20 season.

Reaching the double figures mark in terms of goals will constitute a somewhat successful first season for Awoniyi.

Previously on the books of Liverpool having joined in 2015, Awoniyi’s career was mismanaged to say the least. He was sent on loan to six different clubs before finding a home at the Die Alten Foersterei in Koepenick in the summer of 2019.

Now potentially back to the Premier League, Awoniyi will no doubt look to prove his talents in England after seven long years of waiting.

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