Evan Ferguson’s rise to prominence in the Premier League has been nothing short of impressive, as the Brighton & Hove Albion sensation’s been one of the revelations of the season.
Blending athleticism and physicality superbly while also being very competent in possession and astute with his movement, the 18-year-old’s been a joy to watch.
Making exceptional progress and improving all the time under the tactically sophisticated tutelage of Roberto De Zerbi, who’s been so integral towards his development, it’s incredible how little time it’s taken him to look right at home at the elite level.
“He is only 18 but we have to control the age because he seems to not be a normal 18,” insisted the Italian manager. “He is a great player, he is already a great player and I think he will become one of the best players, the best strikers in the Premier League. And I would like it if he can stay with us for a lot of years.”
Ferguson then added this on what key influences De Zerbi and his colleagues have been in his success: “I think it’s just down to the lads, really, they make you feel very comfortable. The gaffer especially, when you are on the pitch you know what you have to do. He makes sure that you know what you have to do.
“When you have all those people working together, that can only bring the rest of us up.”
Boasting basically all the attributes needed in a forward to thrive in the modern game, it’s little wonder why the Irish powerhouse is attracting so much attention and drawing many admirers.
To start with, his instincts in the box and polished finishing have been instrumental towards him scoring 11 goals in all competitions for the high-flying Seagulls. Reading the ball flight quickly to adjust his positioning, reacting efficiently, showing fine execution in his attempts and full of nous to exploit gaps between defenders and on their blindside, these have been key weapons of his.
Although he knows there’s still room for improvement, his aptitude here, that ensures he has a tidy array of finishes and the confidence to match, has already paid off handsomely. The examples below illustrate the two-footed forward’s proficiency here.
Accompanying the aforementioned with his intelligent movement, and this elevates his worth, for he’s equally effective at exposing opponents on either side of their defensive line.
Picking his moments wisely when to drop deep between the lines, Ferguson does a slick job of connecting play and offering his team an outlet to progress upfield through. The fact he’s so powerful and strong duly elevates his influence here, for he can hold up the ball, outmuscle adversaries, spin away and maintain possession while waiting for a viable option.
Then, when it comes to running in behind, his speed, awareness to openings and capacity to shrewdly time and angle his runs have been vital. Handy at using his arms to push off opponents and starting his runs away from opponents to gain momentum to secure a dynamic advantage, plus adept at gaining separation through double movements and zig zags, these are key strings to his bow as well.
With Brighton masters at luring out teams to press, Ferguson has been an ideal man to expose opposition weaknesses with his calculated movement into the acres of space that often get left behind.
A key byproduct of his movement towards the ball and into depth is that it importantly creates space for others by occupying defenders in quality areas all over the final third, as he constantly keeps foes on their toes and in two minds through his variations and multifaceted threat.
Comfortable in possession and good at retaining the ball using his sound touch, crafty footwork, scanning, towering frame and strength, there’s been much to like about his work with the ball at his feet. Able to turn away in tight spaces and stretch out his legs when bursting upfield with space ahead of him or in 1v1s, Ferguson displays nifty control and a neat repertoire of manoeuvres, such as feints, shimmies and shrewd alterations in pace and direction, to outfox foes.
Meanwhile, his considered passing is another notable piece of his armoury, as he especially catches the eye with how he engages wonderfully in confined zones using crisp flicks, back-heels and one and two-touch layoffs.
Such an asset defensively to lead the press, where the hard working hitman hunts down his targets, curves his pressing to close off routes, imposes himself on his prey, isn’t afraid to get stuck into his challenges and knows when to stay in an organised shape, this compartment of his game is another highlight.
By the numbers compared to his Brighton teammates, the fact he ranks second for goals (11), second for goals p90 (0.57), second for shots on target percentage (56.82%), second for conversion rate (25%), third for expected goals p90 (0.39) and third for shots p90 (2.38) underlines his value.
Acting as an outstanding focal point for this sensational Seagulls side and excelling in all phases of the game, Ferguson’s emergence has served as another testament to Brighton’s exceptional recruitment.
“His best quality is to score and that’s a very important quality, but he has the potential to improve in other parts of the pitch, to play with the other players, to do more for the team,” De Zerbi recently asserted.
“My work is to get results, but I have to help players to improve, to progress. But we can achieve our target (European football) with Evan.”
Courtesy of his accomplished performances, Ferguson’s unsurprisingly garnering interest from many top clubs across Europe, with the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, AS Roma and a host of Bundesliga outfits all reportedly extremely keen on acquiring his services.
As has been seen in the past, though, Brighton won’t relinquish their prized assets without a fight. But with him making such tremendous strides within a framework and under a manager that is working wonders, staying put would appear the wisest decision for now.
Although the explosive, physical and technical talent recognises there’s a long way to go until he’s the finished article, if he can keep along his current trajectory, all the signs point to him getting there sooner rather than later.
Destined for greatness, in the perfect environment to succeed and going from strength to strength with every passing week, it’s frightening to think what the future holds for the inordinately gifted Irishman.