Striker search: How Real Sociedad can go to the next level
Real Sociedad have been one of the surprise packages in La Liga this season as they sit pretty in the final Uefa Champions League qualification place.
The disruption caused by COVID-19 means that Imanol Alguacil’s side will have to wait for a final push towards qualification for Europe’s flagship competition, but there’s every reason to believe they will make it.
Martin Ødegaard has been at the centre of things for the Basque side, but credit is also due elsewhere – starting with the manager.
Alguacil’s use of both the 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 formation has created a familiar system throughout this season. More than anything, it has allowed players to familiarise themselves with the roles they are tasked with.
The use of a regular back four and midfield has created a stable platform for the likes of Willian José and Alexander Isak to provide the goals.
9 apiece this season is a fairly moderate return for a side contending in the Champions League places, but it illustrates how balanced their attacking system is.
The physical presence of José, coupled with the intelligence of Isak, makes for a fine balance in striking options for Alguacil to choose from.
However, it could be argued that contending for Champions League football in future seasons will mean an expansion of having more than just two strikers at their disposal.
The potential of increased income from European qualification means that the Spanish side could be looking towards reinforcements in attack this summer. When you add the fact that José is continually linked with a move away, the Basque side have an important transfer window ahead.
What might Sociedad look for?
To narrow our search down for strikers that Real Sociedad may look at this summer, we considered a number of key elements.
Firstly, the team’s preferred use of a lone striker means that any future recruits will need to have experience in that type of system as well as a proven ability to link up well.
Furthermore, the club’s previous record signing still stands as €15.84 million for Darko Kovačević in 2001. As a result, it is likely that they will not spend considerable amounts of money on any arrivals. Their success to date has been built on astute recruitment so we’ve set a market value cap at €20 million.
The RB Salzburg forward has seen several of his teammates depart already this season – including Erling Braut Håland and Takumi Minamino – and the forward could be the next departure.
With just a year left on his current contract, Hwang’s market value of € 10 million could be a realistic asking price this summer and he poses a number of qualities Sociedad might like.
As a mobile striker, he is able to press well against the opposition and provide chances for his team mates. In Sociedad’s 4-2-3-1 system this could see him play either as the striker or in the supporting midfield three. Rotation will be key in coming seasons with increased game time and Hwang’s versatility could be valuable.
Furthermore, as shown in our Contribution Ratings metric, the forward has registered impressive offensive input in the Austrian Bundesliga this season.
Figure 1. Hwang ranks in the top three of Austrian Bundesliga strikers
As a player who likes to get in behind the defensive line, Hwang could be an interesting addition that offers options to the midfielder creators. His tendency to find space beyond the last line of defence would add further attacking variety alongside José and Isak.
If Sociedad are on the hunt for an in-form goal-scorer this summer, Sörloth should be towards the top of their list.
He’s been touted with a summer move to some big European clubs, but the Spanish side would surely be an attractive proposition right now.
The Norwegian has scored 22 goals and registered a further 6 assists on loan at Trabzonspor this season whilst enjoying a great run of form. Trabzonspor are in a good position to sign the striker from Crystal Palace this summer for a fee in the region of €6m. However, reports suggest that the Turkish side will instantly look to sell Sörloth for around €15m.
It remains to be seen whether the 24-year-old’s current run of form is due to the difficulty of the Turkish league or a sustained development of the striker’s game. Regardless, recruiting Sörloth would add a more direct approach to Sociedad’s attacking style.
Stade Rennes has been a breeding ground for talent in recent years and Niang remains towards the top of that list.
The 25-year-old now cuts a more senior figure for the Ligue 1 side but has a number of qualities that would be well-placed in Sociedad’s system.
His physical attributes lend well to the role as a sole striker given that he is both fast and able to hold the ball up. Such qualities would allow for Niang to bring in more creative players during attacking phases of play.
11 goals in 31 Ligue 1 games this season show that Niang can find the back of the net but perhaps further development in this area would be needed to be considered a future Champions League striker.
Go search yourself
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