Pressing from the front is an essential tactic in the modern game. Most of the best teams in the world deploy a high press to some degree, attempting to win the ball back in the most dangerous areas of the field. One of the most important players to a team’s ability to press from the front is the centre-forward. The team’s centre-forward, or striker, is responsible for setting the tone, intensity, angle, and first act of pressure. So this Christmas day, we’ve analyzed the best strikers in Europe when it comes to pressing from the front in 2021-22, attempting to identify the very best of the art. If you have a team that loves to press from the front, you should be tweeting your managers tomorrow, telling them to get these men through the door. But before we get into, let’s first establish the criteria for the compilation of our list.
CRITERIAEmbed from Getty Images
While many interesting names came up in our search, our list excludes any player that does not currently play for a team in the top half of their league table, and only includes Europe’s top four leagues (Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A). We’ve taken a few exceptions to that rule, including all sides that competed in the UEFA Champions League this season (i.e. Wolfsburg, Lille, Leipzig) in our search. But we’ve only taken into consideration stats from league play this season, excluding cup or international tournament games. Finally, the list incorporates only players who have played predominantly in the centre-forward or striker role this season. So while the likes of Leandro Trossard, Jarrod Bowen and Mohamed Salah featured prominently in every category, they have been excluded from our results.
Next, we analyzed each of our eligible players within four categories: Pressures applied, pressure success %, tackles per 90 minutes, and pressures applied in the attacking third. We didn’t just want to analyze the most active terrorizes, but also the most successful, the most forceful, and the ones doing it high up the pitch. This often correlates a team’s style of play and principles of play, in addition to the amount of possession a team has, meaning the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea were virtually non-existent in our search.
So with that in mind, let’s look at the ten strikers who lead the line exceptionally well when it comes exclusively to pressing and defending.
THE TOP TEN
10. NEAL MAUPAYEmbed from Getty Images
Leandro Trossard leads the way from a Brighton perspective when it comes to defending from the front, but Neal Maupay has also excelled in Graham Potter’s high pressing system. The French forward ranks inside the top twenty in all four categories, with his highest ranking coming in ‘pressures in the attacking third’, where he ranks 7th. While Brighton fans would love for Maupay to be more clinical in front of goal, there’s no denying his excellent work rate off the ball.
9. KEVIN VOLLANDEmbed from Getty Images
Kevin Volland’s time at Monaco this season has been split between attacking midfield and striker, where he’s played 50% of his matches. Often dovetailing around Wissam Ben Yedder as a second striker in Monaco’s 4-4-2, Volland has put in an excellent defensive shift this season. The German forward ranks sixth in pressures applied, but also has a decent tackles per 90 ratio that any forward would be proud of.
8. WISSAM BEN YEDDEREmbed from Getty Images
Monaco’s high press has achieved much acclaim this season, and Wissam Ben Yedder has been the man leading the charge all season long. No team in Ligue 1 has achieved a higher success rate with their pressures, which is where Ben Yedder ranks his highest, in 4th place among our eligible strikers. Ben Yedder will also be proud to feature as the oldest striker in our top ten, showcasing that he still has the legs to be a key defensive warrior in Monaco’s robust defense.
7. LUCAS HOLEREmbed from Getty Images
Freiburg have excelled this season in all aspects of the game, particularly their defensive solidity. Lucas Holer’s been key to leading that first line of pressure, buzzing around the field with his tireless energy. Holer’s applied the fifth most pressures this season among our eligible strikers, and ranks within the top ten in tackles per 90. Freiburg’s success has been about their collective energy this season, but the key energizer bunny in the team is undoubtedly their big man up top.
6. DIOGO JOTAEmbed from Getty Images
Diogo Jota’s been having a fabulous season from a goal-scoring perspective, but he’s also been instrumental to Liverpool’s successful gegenpress. Ranking second in tackles per 90 and fourth in pressures applied earned Jota a place high up this list, but his success rate was lower than any of the other strikers to feature in our top ten. So while Jota is mobile, active and not afraid to dive into challenges, he’s not quite as successful in helping his team win the ball back as others.
5. MICHAIL ANTONIOEmbed from Getty Images
You might be surprised to see a West Ham striker rank so high up the list, but David Moyes’ men have been pressing more and more, and higher and higher this season. Fornals and Bowen both rank toward the top among attacking midfielders, and so too does Michail Antonio in his position. Showcasing West Ham’s new and improved high press, Michail Antonio’s highest category was ‘pressures applied in the attacking third’.
4. JONATHAN DAVIDEmbed from Getty Images
Canadian forward Jonathan David impressed last season as part of Lille’s title winning year, and has impressed even more this season with his incredible 12 goal tally at the halfway point in the season. Defensively David has also been a key force for Lille, ranking third in pressures applied, pressures in the attacking third, and rounding out the top ten in tackles won per 90. Destined for a move to a European giant soon, David is currently proving himself to be one of the most complete forwards on the planet.
3. RAFAEL BORRÉEmbed from Getty Images
Eintracht Frankfurt scoured the market for an Andre Silva replacement after the Portuguese forward moved to Leipzig, and they found an excellent successor in River Plate’s Rafael Borré. The Colombian has applied pressure more times than any other striker in Europe’s top five leagues this season, in the attacking third and total. His success rate is not the very best but still very decent, while his tackle numbers also rank above most strikers in world football. If he could just find greater form in front of goal, Frankfurt would have a formidable force to be reckoned with up front.
2. WOUT WEGHORSTEmbed from Getty Images
Wolfsburg’s main man up top has long been a nuisance and bully for opposition sides to contend with, and that has only continued into 2021-22. Wout Weghorst ranks second behind Borré in pressures applied and pressures applied in the attacking third, but beats him in tackles per 90 and pressing success rate. Given that Wolfsburg haven’t been brilliant this season, the form of Weghorst from a defensive perspective has been crucial to keeping their heads above water.
1. TAMMY ABRAHAMEmbed from Getty Images
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list, Jose Mourinho’s Roma have been pressing from the front more than you might think, and no one has been more crucial to leading that intent than Tammy Abraham. The British striker boasts the fifth best tackles per 90 ratio of the strikers studied, and also ranks in the top ten in both pressures applied and pressures in the attacking third. While it goes against the grain of what you expect from a Mourinho team, Tammy Abraham might just be one of the best defensive forwards in world football.
ANALYSISEmbed from Getty Images
When looking at the data, it’s clear that the very best sides in Europe are missing completely from our rankings. The clubs that feature in our top ten are, for the most part, sides that place around fourth-tenth in their league position, and ones that keep good possession, without utterly dominating and controlling their matches. While the likes of Gabriel Jesus or Robert Lewandoski might be excellent at pressing from the front, their teams keep possession far too much for them to stake a claim on our list. Our rankings are therefore skewed toward players who haven’t quite reached the critical acclaim they perhaps deserve, and feature a list of names that could easily make the jump up to one of Europe’s elite clubs soon, if they aren’t there already.
So there it is! The ten best forwards in Europe when it comes to pressing from the front, among top ten teams. If you want your club to up their pressing game, one of the names listed here could do wonders to take your team to the next level. Be sure to share your thoughts @mastermindsite on social media, or in the comments below. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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