Fresh from making his debut for Scotland at international level and in good form for Southampton, which has seen him score three goals in his last four matches, Che Adams looks right on top of his game at present.
Playing with confidence and full of gusto, the powerful striker will be desperately hoping he can keep up his high level, for he’s regularly come in for criticism due to his inconsistency. Coming on in leaps and bounds after a tough first season at Southampton, it’s been positive to see him making tangible progress this time around.
Clearly enjoying playing under the tactically astute Ralph Hasenhuttl, he’s now developed into a vital member of this Saints squad and looking very comfortable in the ultra-competitive confines of the Premier League.
Such an imposing presence who’s extremely strong and quick, this ensures he’s a tough match up for any foe in terms of physicality and athleticism.
While he stands at just 175 cm, he always competes manfully in aerial duels, offering himself as a quality target for long clearances, crosses into the area and when his team can’t beat the press. Even though he only wins roughly half of his headers, his presence has been valuable in terms of the above and when helping his team win second balls.
Very good at holding the ball up, his hulking frame, balance and strength ensure he’s a good outlet when dropping deep to connect attacks. A master at protecting and shielding the ball, this gives him the foundation to maintain possession while waiting for an option, draw fouls and attract pressure to create space in behind or to find a free man nearby. In addition, Southampton’s wingers and other forward are usually within close proximity, meaning he typically has many nearby outlets.
Adams notably helps his cause by scanning behind him so he knows how close his marker is, thus granting him the knowledge he needs to decide what course of action is best upon inheriting possession.
When checking towards the ball, it’s been interesting how this will serve as a cue for a teammate to run in behind and counterbalance his movement, with these opposite movements an effective way to exploit spaces in behind while catching stoppers by surprise.
Adams has proven his threat when running in behind too, for he takes advantage of defenders’ blindside, gaps between them and if an opponent is ball watching or preoccupied with a marking assignment. Timing and directing his runs nicely so teammates can oblige his movement, this, in combination with his searing pace, enables him to gain separation from opponents to latch onto through balls.
He transfers his nous in this regard when running into the box to attack crosses and cutbacks. Whether bursting to the near or far post, cutting across his man in the middle, holding his run as the defence collapses deep and exploiting gaps between opponents, he’s always a threat.
Well versed in Hasenhuttl’s system, the way he rotates and interchanges smoothly with his fellow frontmen adds to his unpredictability and menace. As a result, defenders are forced into dilemmas in regard to who to mark in what area, with Adams and co quick to make the most of any indecision.
Complementing the aforementioned with his competent finishing, he’s shown he can score a wide range of goals, as his striking instincts and reading of the play have served him well. Be it one-touch finishes, long-range screamers, acrobatic efforts, composed 1v1 finishes, neatly placed efforts or headers, he has a finish to accompany most scenarios.
Supplementing his finishing with his ability to create chances for others, this is a hugely valuable string to his bow. Having supplied four assists and generated many more promising openings, he’s averaging 0.14 assists per game, 0.66 shot assists pg and 2.02 progressive passes pg, with the latter an elite number for forwards. Interestingly, his Expected Assists reading is at 0.18 per game, another fantastic figure, which illustrates his teammates have missed some of the chances he’s set them up with. Handy at playing slick one touch passes and flicks to breath life into passages, plus at switching the angle of attack or safely recirculating possession, Adams’ distribution has been a real highlight for the Saints.
A fierce presser who leads from the front with his aggression and intensity, his Austrian manager would be pleased with his work in this compartment. Curving his pressing so he uses his cover shadow to block potential passing lanes behind him to funnel opponents wide or into a pressing trap, his harrying amplifies his worth.
Some additional numbers of note come from his 13.37 pressures pg, 1.13 tackles pg, 1.43 interceptions pg, 3.03 touches inside the box pg and 0.80 progressive runs pg.
Contributing wholeheartedly for his team on both sides of the ball, Adams continual progression and desire to keep improving all aspects of his game is a testament to his determined attitude.
Possessing all the tools to one day become an elite Premier League striker, if he can find consistency over a prolonged period, there’s every reason to suggest the 24-year-old will be destined for a long career littered with upside.