Jamie Maclaren, playing for Melbourne City FC in A-league, is the top scorer of the league in the 2019/20 season currently with 18 goals in 20 matches. And the position is being challenged by the second-placed Adam Le Fondre with 17 goals. Maclaren is an Australian professional football player and has played for teams such as SV Darmstadt 98, Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar, and Hibernian. He has represented Australia in both youth and senior international level.
Positioning and goal-scoring stat
Maclaren is a traditional striker as observed from his heatmap shown below. Most of his actions are in the final third. He is in the second position on the shots table with 74 shots preceding only Dimitri Petratos who has 76 shots in this season. The interesting factor to note here is the xG/shot, as Maclaren has 0.18 xG/shot compared to Petratos 0.08. Only Adam Le Fondre has a higher xG/shot than Maclaren which is 0.23.
The goal-scoring chart is shown below in ascending order. Maclaren (last) leads with 18 goals, out of these, three goals are scored through penalties.
Attacking tactics of Melbourne City and the role of Maclaren
Melbourne City FC has been enjoying a good position on the table under Erick Mombaerts this season; they are positioned second. The club, owned by the CFG(City Football Group), appointed Mombaerts in June 2019. Under Mombaerts, Melbourne City FC plays with a 4-3-3 formation with Maclaren leading from the front. Like its sister club, Manchester City of EPL, Melbourne City uses the inverted full-back concept while attacking. While defending they look to form a 4-4-2 formation or lopsided 4-3-3, with the wide midfielder stepping out to defend and forming a forward-three line depending on the flank where the ball is. An example shown below clarifies the above-mentioned. The player marked in red is Nathaniel Atkinson is the right full-back and is playing inside with the CDM, Rostyn Griffiths. Maclaren, marked in yellow, is positioned like a traditional striker near the opposition’s centre-backs.
Maclaren is used as a traditional striker in the 4-3-3 formation, making runs between the opposition centre-backs and exploiting space behind the defensive line of opposition. An example is shown below, where Maclaren, marked in red, is making a run between the two opposition centre-backs. He is also signaling the ball carrier, indicating that he is ready for the pass. This overhead pass was defended though by Sydney FC.
In the match against Adelaide United, Maclaren had an interesting pressing role while the opposition had the ball. His pressing movement triggered when the pass was played to one of the centre-backs. He would press in a manner to cover-shadow the other centre-back and press the centre-back who has the ball. Forcing the centre-back to play the ball to the full-back where Melbourne City would set a pressing trap. An example is shown in the image below. Maclaren, marked in red, pressurises the opposition centre-back to play the pass to the full-back. On the right flank, everybody is marked and the full-back is also marked by the winger, Ramy Najjarine, who is waiting to press the full-back. All possible passing options are closed down. Melbourne City won the possession back in this case.
Hence, Maclaren is a traditional striker with his positioning between the opposition centre-backs and can initiate and execute pressing traps.
Astute tactics behind goals scored
In this section, I will try to explain the tactics involved in the fantastic ability of Maclaren to score goals. One of the goals I would like to focus on is the first goal of Maclaren in this season which was scored against Adelaide United. In the image below, we can observe the position of the winger, marked in red. He attracts the fullback to displace from his original position creating a gap in the half-space. The midfielder exploits space and an overhead pass is played to him. Also, observe that Maclaren, marked in yellow, is marked by the two centre-backs.
One of the centre-backs steps out to defend the overhead pass in the half-space gap, hence leaving a 1v1 situation of the other centre-back with Maclaren, circled. After the clash in the gap, the ball fell to the feet of another midfielder, Connor Metcalfe, who ran in to collect it.
After a couple of ricochets, Metcalfe took the shot and, the centre-back, marked in yellow, marking Maclaren went in to defend the ball, freeing Maclaren inside the box. The ball, although defended but in air, fell to the feet of Maclaren, marked in red, who scored easily. Stretching of the opposition defensive line and occupying the half-space gaps and creating chances and Maclaren positioning himself in the gap led to the goal.
Another example in which the tactical mind of Maclaren is signified is the goal scored against Western United. Western United is managed by Mark Rudan who has used the 3-4-3 formation frequently this season, similar to Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga. Against Western United, Maclaren came down the pitch to get on the ball on multiple occasions. This helped in creating gaps in the defensive block as one of the centre-backs would follow him and get out of position. An example is shown below. Maclaren, in red, came down the pitch with the defender closely following him but he made a pass to the winger, in yellow, to continue the attack.
Another example of the above-mentioned movement is shown below. Again, Maclaren, in red, came down the pitch to attract the defender, marked in yellow, out of position, and passed to the winger to continue the attack, though this pass fell right to the opposition full-back.
Now the scenario when the goal was scored is shown below. Maclaren, marked in red, is again found a little down the pitch and the centre-back, marked in yellow, is out of position leaving a gap behind in the defensive line. Maclaren makes a run into the gap and gets an overhead pass in that area by a midfielder and he scores. His movement compelled the centre-back to leave his position and go out to defend him but Maclaren took advantage of the gap and exploited it to score the goal.
Pace and skill in goal-scoring situations
Against Western United, Maclaren has scored twice. Western United used a high defensive line in this match. The pace offered by Maclaren while attacking is observed in the instance shown below. An impeccably timed run to spring the offside trap and get the ball and score to get the most needed lead in the goals tally. He provides pace during the attacking phase.
Another instance of his pace and skill in the goal-scoring situation and astute tactics of Melbourne City is shown below. The winger, Markel Susaeta, marked in yellow, was marked by the opposition full-back and held the ball. While the right full-back, Atkinson, marked in green, made an overlapping run in the half-space which attracted the midfielder back into the defensive line. Susaeta made a cut-in move towards the centre and put a through-ball breaking the defensive line as shown in the image. Again the pace and timing of the run by Maclaren proved vital and he scored the equaliser in this match.
Atkinson, the right full-back making an overlapping run through the half-space is the result of employing the inverted full-backs tactic. Another instance of the same movement was observed in the same match. Again, Maclaren found the back of the net. Here, again Atkinson, marked in yellow, made a run in the half-space. The defenders were busy in the right flank as the winger, no. 14, Susaeta and the attacking midfielder, Adrian Luna, both marked in green, were attacking from the right. This gave ample space for the right full-back to run into and make a cross into the box. The centre-backs of the opposition shifted to the right to defend against the cross and Maclaren, marked in red, made a run from the blind side of the defender into the spot shown in red. He received the cross and scored. All the other defenders are preoccupied with marking the other players inside the box.
Jamie Maclaren is a traditional striker, with astute tactical mind and ability. Under Mombaerts’ tactics, he has flourished and is performing exceptionally well, leading the goal scorers’ charts, and is also positioned second in the shots-taken table. He can improve in the recoveries section as his recoveries in the final third and counter-pressing recoveries statistic are poor. His pace and finishing skills are fantastic and his ability to make timed runs to spring the offside traps have resulted in him leading the goal-scoring table.