Name: Patson Daka
Club: RB Salzburg
Goals & Assists: ⚽️ 30 🎯 7
RB Salzburg managed by Jesse Marsch finished first in the regular season & is now part of the playoffs to decide the league champions. Daka has been ever present in the first team this season & contributed greatly to their attack. Salzburg operates with fluidity in either a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 shape as part of the attacking setup. As part of this setup Daka’s flexibility is utilised as he plays across the front 3 or with a partner.
In the defensive setup, Daka operates within the first line of the press pushing onto opponents high in their half. As part of the press Daka will aggressively run at pace towards the ball carrier in an attempt to close the space. A majority of Daka’s recovery attempts come from the opposition half, as he is able to use his speed to close down passing lanes & pressure the ball carrier effectively.
Against SK Sturm Graz he epitomised his pressing style aggressively closing space to slow quick build up or prevent the opposition from creating overloads. In the example below, Strum Graz restart after conceding a goal with Daka immediately pressuring the CM. This leaves the CM with only the option to pass back to his RCB, to which Daka sprints to force the RCB to make a decision. Fortunately for Strum Graz, the RCB was able to pass just before Daka closed his passing lane to the RM.
Whilst Daka was unable to prevent the RCB from finding an out ball his ability to press with intensity left the opposition with limited options. This initiated the press which in turn resulted in the Strum Graz RM being pressed immediately by the Salzburg LW pushing them back & playing long.
Daka’s awareness & tactical understanding in defensive situations ensures that Salzburg is able to regain its shape as they transition from attack to defense. An example where Daka demonstrates his awareness & teamwork can be viewed below as Strum Graz look to counter quickly. As the attack breaks down on the edge of the area the ball is passed into the inside channel with Daka spotting the open attacker. He demonstrates his determination by sprinting back into a covering position with 5 Salzburg players in advance of the ball. Daka’s sprint enables him to close down space very quickly & almost ensures he’s able to block the pass. Whilst the pass wasn’t blocked his run into a covering position prevented the attacker from isolating Salzburg’s RB in a 1v1 duel.
With his positional intelligence & tactical understanding, Daka’s defensive play ensures Salzburg can effectively press opponents high “squeezing” possession. Due to his pace & body positioning Daka in loose ball situations can also cause issues for defenders as he’s able to get ahead then draw contact. Against Strum Graz this also brought about attacking opportunities for Salzburg to burst past defenders & drawing fouls.
Daka provides good variety in attack for Salzburg as comfortable receiving the ball in multiple ways. His passing game is strong which enables Salzburg to build from the front & retain possession as the buildup through the phases. Whilst Daka is only 6’ft he has a great leap & able to rise well for the aerial passes to challenge defenders in the duels. For someone of his size he does well when competing for the ball, as able to pressure the defender by using his leap & body position to restrict how cleanly they can make contact with the ball.
Daka is deceptively strong which enables him to play with his back to goal when needed & hold off his marker. The ability to use his strength & hold of the marker was used to good effect against Strum Graz. Daka was able to drop into his own half leaving his CF partner on the halfway line & take the ball in contact as per the below. In this instance, as he controls the ball the defender is drawn into contact & commits a foul relieving pressure on Salzburg for them to reset their attack.
In another sequence of play, Salzburg played the ball into the wide left channel for Daka to use his pace to sprint onto the ball. As he receives the ball it’s then shielded from the defender before turning & playing into the open space. As the CM advance with the ball continuing the attack, Daka has turned onto the back of the FB moving into his blind spot finding space free of a marker. Unfortunately, the move breaks down with the movement of Daka unnoticed at the back post. A similar situation came down the right hand channel where Daka uses his strength to shield the ball & roll his marker. With the marker unbalanced he advances into the right channel in a 3v3 situation. Rather than trying to compete in the 1v1 his switches the ball across the field demonstrating his vision as he looks to create an overload in the inside left channel.
Daka’s ability to find spaces to receive the ball is highlighted below where he creates an overload in the inside left channel. As Salzburg LW wins the ball in a 50/50 Daka anticipates this & drops into the space in front of the defense. He’s aware of the space behind the FB & plays a first time through ball for the LW to latch onto as the FB is caught unbalanced struggling to get into position.
Where Daka excels is utilising his pace with runs in behind the defensive line as he is able to break the offside trap & create shooting opportunities. As the example demonstrates below Daka once again has great positional sense to drop off the LCB & move into the channel between the CBs. With the LW advancing Daka looks to arc his run & sprint into space behind the LCB dragging the defensive towards their area. Once again Daka demonstrates his awareness & vision as he reviews that the defense has overloaded, but an opportunity for a 1v1 across the field.
Daka’s movement, positional awareness & intelligence in attacking situations is impressive. This was on full display against Strum Graz where his composure ensured the conversion of 3 chances all within an 11 minute spell. Each of his 3 goals demonstrated his attacking & finishing prowess. Daka was unfortunately to end the match with just the 3 goals with a 2nd half penalty being saved & another header ruled out for offside.
In the case of the his 1st goal Daka anticipates that the RCB has misjudged the flight of the ball & starts to sprint into the space behind the defence with them holding a high line. Once Daka starts his sprint the defenders are unable to match him stride for stride & accelerates very quickly onto the loose ball. As he approaches the area he slows the rate of his sprint & aware of the encroaching GK looking to close down the space. His confidence & composure sees him role the ball past the left hand of the GK into the empty net.
His second goal of the game clearly demonstrates his exceptional movement & ability to find space away from his marker. Daka initially is in the LW position as the Salzburg CF wins the ball in the opposition half & plays a pass into space for the RW to run onto. As the ball progresses Daka creates space for himself in the inside left channel & remains in the RBs ‘blind spot”, taking advantage of their attention being on the CF through the centre. As an early ball is delivered into the back post area Daka is free of any marker & has the time to watch the flight of the ball to position himself in the optimal position to strike on goal. His shot selection is perfect as he makes controlled contact with the ball using a diving header across the GK & into the bottom right corner. Not only is the header controlled in the amount of pace generated but also in his placement making it too difficult for the GK to save.
The 3rd highlighted once again the movement & anticipation of Daka as he consistently operates in the “what if?” scenario to place himself in scoring areas. Initially starting his run on the edge of the area at the set piece Daka drifts into the 6 yard area unmarked as his teammate rises to meant the delivery to head on goal.
Unfortunately for the attacker the ball connects with the post with the GK helpless to prevent it, but Daka anticipates where the ball could arrive. As the opposition defence is caught ball watching Daka moves past the defender marking the near post zone, where the ball ricochets off the post back across the face of the goal. Due to Daka’a anticipation & thinking of the “what if?” he finds himself unmarked with an open goal to tap home his 3rd of the afternoon.
The final point on his movement, tactical flexibility & awareness was demonstrated in the below passage of play. As Salzburg move to a 4-3-3 Daka becomes the centre point of the attack to which the front 3 play in a triangle to create overload opportunities & to link with the supporting midfield. With the RW collecting possession in the opposition half drawing the attention of the Strum Graz CDM, he plays the ball into the path of the RCM.
As this play is happening Daka is aware of the developing opportunity to exploit the space in behind the LCB & moves away from his marker. The attention of the CB is drawn towards the potential pass from Salzburg’s to RCM into the infield RW & moves to limit the space. The through ball is played into the space directly behind the LCB who is unaware of the movement of Daka accelerating beyond him. Unfortunately, with Daka clean through on goal his quickly taken shot on the edge of the area narrowly goes wide, but his movement & pace showed his intelligence off the ball.
Daka’s level of movement off the ball, awareness of how to exploit lapses of concentration & spaces in the defence make him a dangerous player in attack. His goal contribution of 30 goals & 7 assists is likely to increase further with 10 games to go of the season too. His level of composure in front of goal has seen him currently as the 3rd best scorer in world football under the age of 23 with only Mbappé & Haaland ahead in less minutes played.
When provided with the goal in sight Daka is very clinical & rarely needs clear chances to score. With his pace & movement his is a consistent threat to defences as he can stretch them out wide running into the channels or behind. Although he has great pace even if a defence isn’t playing a high line he is effective as intelligently operates in tight spaces with great anticipation. This summer there is likely going to be a lot of attention towards the 22 year old Zambian CF, & a wealth of options. Daka has all the attributes to be a great success in the EPL much like fellow Slazburg alumni Sadio Mané. Daka has the finishing ability to play at the top level within any of the top 5 European division & the tactical flexibility to operate in multiple formations or styles.