Hugo Ekitike Player Analysis
For the next few decades, we will probably continue to hear the same quip over and over. “___ is the next Mbappe!” has become the new “___ is the next Messi/Ronaldo!” especially in France. Hugo Ekitike is the media’s newest victim of this phrase, and a breakout season has warranted interest from teams like Borussia Dortmund, Newcastle United, and loads of others, but how does he stack up in reality?
To start, here are my conclusions for each of part of his game divided up into physical, technical, tactical, and psychological areas of the game. The rest of this article will dive in deeper into each of these ratings (with links to film, if you’re interested in extra material).
Possibly due to his height of nearly 6'3 (190 cm), Ekitike looks particularly skinny compared to those around him. At only 19 years old, he is likely still growing into his body and will fill out much more, putting on muscle weight and changing this appearance. But even now, the wirey striker knows how to use his body well and how to protect the ball.
In terms of jumping and aerial threat, most of it comes from his height rather than being talented at duels. He jumps and challenges balls well as a natural athlete, but his timing and body positioning hurts him at times.
Running is effortless for him, and he is able to hit a top speed quickly without needing to use the powerful strides that other players of his stature use. This speed is remarkable for a tall player in tight spaces and helps to make him an explosive dribbler, and is sustained over long distances.
Injuring his hamstring in February has not slowed him down, but it certainly has made an impact on his overall agility. Although he was relatively tight prior, his hips and hamstrings are a now tighter and it makes for quick turns or cutting difficult, but he compensates for this by often playing the way that he’s facing, rather than trying to turn.
With a lot of his technical attributes, Ekitike demonstrates a lot of inconsistency within his game, often within the same match. One of the places that this is untrue though, is in his first touch. He is excellent at controlling a wide variety of passes, often finding ways to control poor or erratic passes and turn them into something.
Similarly, his dribbling is one of his main strengths as a player. His great first touch is combined with a good awareness of where defenders around him are positioned, making him good at evading pressure through a combination of skillful dribbling or body movement. He also drives at defenders well, and knows how to exploit their own body positioning to beat them. His explosiveness further strengthens just how good he is with the ball at his feet. The combination of these things means that he is good at crafting shooting opportunities for himself in and around the box.
His passing on the other hand is a source of inconsistency, both mentally and technically. Mentally, Ekitike’s decisions tend to land in the extreme ends of the spectrum of being too conservative or far too ambitious, rather than finding a median. This causes him to miss out on better options or to be wasteful with possession. His execution often follows a similar trend, where he can at times make a difficult pass easy and an easy pass difficult.
One of the places that he is particularly good at passing though is in back-to-goal situation with pressure on his back. He defends the ball well and can find a pass backwards with ease, the inconsistency arises again when he tries to play passes to his left or right, or over his shoulders.
Evaluating his finishing is somewhat enigmatic because Reims take the fourth least shots in the league, and Ekitike certainly doesn’t take many himself. Possibly influenced by this lack of opportunities, he often takes shots outside the box, which is where inconsistency appears again. In these moments, it seems like he focuses on striking the ball properly and makes solid contact often. In the box, he focuses more on placement which can make the quality of contact with the ball somewhat poor. The times that he strikes the balance between the two is when he is at his best.
His left foot, his weak foot, is used quite sparingly and he’s quite hesitant to take any sort of touch with it. This is somewhat limiting to his game and does make him easier to defend.
One of the things that impressed me the most about him is his overall confidence in possession, and his willingness to try things. Regardless of whether or not they are the ‘right’ decision or executed well, Ekitike bets on himself more often than not. This is a trait that will carry him well into the future as he plays at higher levels. Equally, losing it could make him a timid player, and I think a lot of his technical strengths comes from this.
Something which he does quite well instinctually, is movement. When teammates are driving forward with the ball, Ekitike is in constant movement looking for opportunities to run in behind or be an option in space somewhere. In the box especially, he does a great job of using the blindside of defenders to search for pockets of space or make a threatening run to the near post. Somewhat contradictory to that, his movement to win crosses and balls in the air could be improved upon.
Reims land right in the middle of the pack in pressing overall, but their pressures in the attacking 1/3 is the third lowest in the league. This can be difficult to truly separate from tactics but it does not appear to be Ekitike’s ‘fault’ that these numbers are so low. He covers ground well, and shows intensity in defending. Particularly in dropping to apply pressure on the back of an opposition midfielder. This has stayed pretty consistent, despite his stamina in recent months being somewhat labored post-injury.
Overall, Ekititke is a really promising player. He’s raw and inconsistent within his game, but still has consistent output and impact for his team. As he develops further, his decision making and execution should improve and he could develop into a strong player. He’s got a creative quality that you don’t often see in strikers and needs a coach who can enhance and develop that further. He’s got great physical potential and is already a good athlete who can score goals and has a good amount of variety to his game.
When considering potential moves, I think I have two primary preferences. The first would be him staying at Reims, where he has more time to iron out his inconsistencies and grow as a player. The second would be a move to a team who gets more consistent attacking chances but without the pressure of high level results. A mid-level Bundesliga club such as Hoffenheim or Gladbach would be perfect for this.
That said, neither of these things seem to be reality so instead are my forecast for his likely transfer to either the Premier League or the top of the Bundesliga. With Newcastle, and pretty much every other Premier League club, he would likely struggle for a laundry list of reasons. Physicality, playing time, chances to score, all of these and others will play a factor in his success and development there. At Dortmund, he would get more than substantial playing time and an opportunity to succeed, his skillset would play well in the Bundesliga, and I anticipate he would be very successful.
If you’d like a random collection of other clips I compiled, you can find them here.