This tactical analysis will look at former EFL journeyman and Sydney FC striker, Adam Le Fondre. Since moving to Australia from Bolton in summer 2018, the 33-year-old has rediscovered his goal-scoring touch. With 17 goals in 20 A-League appearances, the 2019/20 season has been one of the most fruitful of his career and has already bypassed his tally from last term.
As shown by his heat map, Le Fondre doesn’t get involved too much around the park with a lot of his touches actually being kickoffs. Sydney have exclusively used a narrow 4-4-2 formation this season with Le Fondre usually partnered by Kosta Barbarouses. Both players are fairly short which sees Sydney play very few long balls forward. Therefore, one forward will typically drop off to link with midfield which is shown by his positioning.
Due to Sydney’s narrow midfield, the forwards often split and play in slightly wider areas as shown above. Le Fondre still doesn’t do a great deal of build-up and prefers to rely on his predatory instincts to get into dangerous positions. He makes an average of just 18.72 passes per 90 with just 1.58 of these coming in the final third. He does however, come up short when it comes to assists. His xA sits at 2.96 while he only has one assist. This suggests that he is slightly let down by his teammates in this regard. These figures are dwarfed by other forwards in the league though showing this is a weakness in Le Fondre’s game.
Le Fondre’s goals have been crucial to Sydney this season with him contributing 40% of the team’s goals. As mentioned above, he likes to do most of his work in the box. He takes an average of 5.2 touches in the penalty box per 90, putting him 4th among strikers who have played over 800 minutes.
The vast majority of these touches will be shots. As shown in his shot map below, he mostly shoots in the box with only a few outliers. A good number of these are also within the width of the goalposts. This shows his natural striking ability as he is able to consistently get into dangerous positions to take good quality shots.
Le Fondre demonstrates this game intelligence below. Luke Brattan, once of Man City, played the ball to former Bundesliga midfielder, Alexander Baumjohann on the edge of the area. As this happened Le Fondre saw the opportunity to break into the space in the box.
Baumjohann scooped the ball over the defence but slightly over hit it and the goalkeeper beat Le Fondre to it. Despite not resulting in a goal on this occasion, Le Fondre’s movement could have presented him with a golden opportunity.
However, this isn’t the only part of his game that makes him a threat to the opposition. He is also adept at playing off the shoulder of the last defender. This allows Le Fondre and Barbarouses several opportunities to square the ball to each other. This is shown in the example below.
As Baumjohann carried the ball out of midfield the two strikers split. Barbarouses drifted wide and received the ball over the top of the defence. Le Fondre then burst past his defender and made a jinking run to find a yard of space. Barbarouses’ square ball ended up at the feet of Milos Ninkovic who scored. This was a good example of both his ability to run off defenders and his ability to find space in the box with smart movement. In this case his movement helped to create space for a teammate which is an added benefit.
Due to the strikers splitting Le Fondre can also find himself in wide areas. In the example below he drifted wide to ask for the ball. It was instead played over the top to his striker partner Barbarouses. As soon as this happened Le Fondre got his head up and spotted the space on the edge of the box to drive into. He arrived on the edge of the area right as Bararouses cut the ball back and he finished smartly past the goalkeeper. This movement adds another element to his game as defenders cannot afford to switch off.
Link up play
As mentioned earlier, Sydney’s strikers tend to split wide when they attack with the midfield staying narrow. This is shown below, as Baumjohann sat narrow, Le Fondre moved to the touchline. His strike partner moved inside but couldn’t get onto the end of his cross which was cleared for a corner. Crossing isn’t a strength of Le Fronde’s completing only 1.4 per 90. This makes him slightly less effective in this system however, he does compensate for it with his goals.
Le Fondre also drifts out to the left side of the pitch as shown below. With Le Fondre well out wide, Baumjohann played an excellent through ball which Le Fondre collected in the box. He turned back and held the ball up while Barbarouses caught him up before chipping the ball to the back post. However, Bararouses wasn’t able to get their quick enough. Le Fondre once again showed that there is more than just scoring to his game with a good pass although it didn’t pay off on this occasion.
Despite not being the tallest, Le Fondre has chipped in with a few goals from corners. This can once again be put down to the quality of his movement. As shown below, he was marked by a defender much bigger than him however, he managed to spin and get himself enough space to win the header and score. He doesn’t let his size stop him from challenging for headers, competing in 7.1 aerial duels per 90.
He is also Sydney’s penalty taker. This helps add to his impressive goal tally, scoring three in the league this season. Since joining he has a near-perfect record from the spot. He often opts for power rather than placement. This may be why there is no real pattern to his penalty placement. This penalty-taking ability has also aided him in outscoring his xG of 15.29.
Le Fondre isn’t a very active player in the defensive phase for Sydney. He contributes just 2.86 defensive duels per 90 winning 53%. These figures are significantly lower than other forwards in the league with the average being 4.4 per 90. As shown below, he doesn’t make a lot of recoveries high up the park however, It would be unfair to assume this to be down to Le Fondre himself as it could be a result of the teams tactics. Sydney don’t typically play a high pressing game which would explain his lack of defensive action.
With Sydney’s passive approach Le Fondre is fairly reserved in the defensive phase. In the example below, he covered space in the centre of the park while the ball is on the other side. Barbarouses, Baumjohann and Brattan pressed their men as Brisbane Roar looked to progress over the half-way line. Le Fondre’s positioning blocked Brisbane from switching to the other side and increased Sydney’s chances of turning the ball over and counter-attacking. When forced deeper Le Fondre would become involved in this pressing action when the ball moved to the other side of the park.
Le Fondre is clearly enjoying life in Australia. As second top goalscorer in the league, he has rediscovered his goal-scoring touch from earlier in his career. While he is largely a poacher when it comes to his goal-scoring there are still other aspects of his game which are useful for Sydney. He works well with Kosta Barbaruses to supply each other with chances, while also linking with the midfield. His goals have been crucial for Sydney and have certainly compensated for his lack of defensive work. He’s definitely showing that he still has plenty to offer despite being towards the end of his career.