Magnus Kofod Anderson is a central midfielder for Nordsjælland in the Danish Superliga. Having only just turned 21, Andersen has already racked up 100 appearances for the club. He has also been club captain for the previous two seasons. Andersen has represented Denmark 15 times at under 21 level and featured in every one of their games at the UEFA U21 Championship last summer. The highly regarded youngster is currently thought to have a market value of $2.53 million with a contract that runs until 30 June 2022.
Role and positioning
The images above show the formations implemented by Nordsjælland head coach Flemming Pedersen in the previous five games. As you can see his tactics can change game to game with four different formations used- the 3-4-3 formation being the one used most.
Andersen (#8), is asked to play various midfield roles in these formations. He has been utilised as a left central midfielder, a defensive midfielder, and a central attacking midfielder. This suggests he is an adaptable player, with a skill set wide enough to perform different roles within the team.
As the heat map shows, Andersen spends most of his time on the ball on the left side of the middle third. Even when he is playing as a central attacking midfielder, he tends to receive the ball in the left half-space. As we will see later, this may be to allow him to play long diagonals more easily with his preferred right foot. Playing forward, and in particular, longer, passes is one of Andersen’s main attributes. In his previous five games, 31.5% of his passes have been played forward. This is impressive for a midfield player and ranks him among Europe’s best for forward passes attempted.
His forward pass completion rate of 73% also puts him amongst the elite in terms of accuracy. When Andersen’s backwards and lateral passes are combined, he has a ball retention rate of 96.4%. This shows not only does he progress the ball up the pitch well, but he can be depended upon to keep the ball safe. The stats from the defensive side of his game are equally as impressive. Despite playing mostly deeper roles, Andersen has the second most ball recoveries in the final third for his team. He averages 7.7 ball possession recoveries per game and has more ball recoveries anywhere on the pitch than any other midfielder in his team. We will dissect these attacking and defensive attributes in the next sections.
As the stats would suggest, Andersen is confident in his ability to play progressive passes. Even when a simpler option presents itself, Andersen takes responsibility himself and tries to progress the ball quickly and efficiently. He has a range and passing technique that is reminiscent of the Manchester United legend Paul Scholes. In the above image, we see a typical example of Andersen receiving the ball in the left half-space from a wide player. He opens his body up very quickly and takes a touch out of his feet and shapes to deliver a ball with his right foot to the back-post area.
He lifts and curls the ball with the inside of his foot to an onrushing teammate. This cross-field pass takes out every single opposition player. There are at least three teammates (circled) who Andersen could have passed to more comfortably. Instead, without it seems even considering them, he took responsibility and delivered the ball himself. This decisiveness and the speed at which he delivered the ball are vital. The opposition defence was caught by surprise and unable to set themselves. This left space behind them that they could not defend. The quality of Andersen’s pass meant his teammate received the ball without having to break stride.
This image again shows Andersen ignoring safer passing options and going for the most effective one. Out of shot, his teammate is making a run on the blind side of the opposition right-back. Andersen, surrounded by opposition defenders, clips a long diagonal pass over all of them for his teammate to run onto.
Again, it is his decisiveness and the speed of his action that catches the defence out. He can deliver the ball so quickly because as the ball is played into him, he scans the whole field. He has seen his teammates runs so already knows where the ball is going before he receives it. What makes the quality of his delivery even more impressive, in this example, is that it is from a stationary position.
Movement to receive
This section is going to look at the intelligent way Andersen moves to create the space which allows him to play most of those long passes. As the image above shows, Anderson likes to stay close to his marker in the build-up.
This allows him to drag the marker out of the space where he wants to receive the ball. Here he takes his direct opponent towards the player with the ball on the wing.
As his marker is distracted by the ball and takes his eyes off him, Andersen moves quickly into space. This is a sharp movement right before he is about to receive the ball, so it gives the defending player little time to recover.
As mentioned in the above section, he scans as the ball travels to him, so he already knows all his options before he takes his first touch.
Notice the distance that has been created between Andersen and the player who is supposed to be marking him. This gives Andersen plenty of time to play a pass if one is on. In this example, Andersen decides against playing a pass. Instead, he takes the ball past the now pressing defender.
He does this by taking a short first touch to lure the defender close to him. The defender takes the bait and dives in. Andersen’s second touch is a bigger one and takes him and the ball past the defender.
Now the pitch has opened up even more for Andersen and he is in more space. He has also bought his attacking players time to make runs in behind. These runs give him five possible forward passes to play. Andersen again delivers a perfect diagonal pass over the defender’s heads for his teammate to run onto and shoot at goal. The bit of trickery that led to this pass highlights another element of Andersen’s game- dominating in attacking one on one situations.
One vs one attacking
As the previous section explains, Andersen is very good at creating space for himself. However, he is also very adept at receiving the ball in tight areas and in one on one situations. The images above show Andersen in the moments before receiving a throw-in from deep in his own half. What preceded the throw was a clever counter-movement between him and his teammate. His teammate vacated the space (and took the defender with him) where Andersen receives the ball.
Andersen acted as if he was not interested in the ball before sprinting into this space. This gave him just enough time to receive the throw without it being intercepted. As he was about to receive the ball, he positioned his body to protect it. Andersen was fully aware of the pressing defender and the space behind him. Normally, in this situation, the receiving player would lay the ball back to the thrower or bring the ball down to shield it. Anticipating this, the defender tried to steal the ball. Andersen, sensing his direct opponent had got too close to him, ingeniously flicked the ball to one side and ran around the other side of the defender.
Upon receiving the ball on the other side of the defending player, Andersen drives forward with the ball. Dribbling with the ball at his feet deep into the opposition half, he forces the opposition’s defensive midfielder to engage him. This drags the defensive midfielder out of position which opens up Andersen’s teammate in the centre of the field. The image on the right shows the moment Andersen releases a pass for his teammate to run onto behind the opposition defence.
Notice how far ahead Andersen is from the player who pressed him at the throw. This attack perfectly summarises Andersen’s attributes. A sharp movement away from his direct opponent, great awareness, then a piece of skill. Opponents think that they have the situation completely under control but within seconds, Andersen has created an attacking opportunity out of nothing. This example was created single handily from a throw-in deep inside his own half.
As mentioned earlier, his defensive stats in terms of recovering the ball for his team are impressive. This section is an analysis of his technique when defending. In this image, we see Andersen exaggerating his positioning and body shape.
This forces the opposition player on the ball wide where there is also another Nordsjælland defender. As soon as the opposition player dribbles the ball to Andersen’s left side, Andersen’s low body position allows him to accelerate quickly and challenge for the ball.
After his quick acceleration, Andersen inserts himself between the man and the ball. He wins back possession and, with the ball at his feet, immediately looks to play forward.
This image shows the moments after he has won back possession. He immediately drove forward with the ball. By not passing straight away and progressing up the field with the ball himself, he allows his teammates to make forward runs. Here he now has four teammates making positive runs ahead of the ball. Whilst his technique in the initial one on one situation was good, this is not necessarily the most impressive aspect of this part of his game. It is what he does after he has regained possession.
As soon as he wins the ball back, he always looks to do something positive with it. In this instance, he won the ball back via a tackle near his own box. From winning the ball in his own third he created an attack on the oppositions back line within seconds. This is another example where Andersen could have played an easy pass upon initially winning the ball. Instead, he took responsibility for his team and launched another dangerous attack.
Like all good players, Andersen at times looks like he is playing the game in slow motion. His clever movement, awareness and technical ability make it appear as if he has all the time in the world. He can create scoring opportunities out of nothing and the speed at which he does it makes it very hard to defend against. If you add these attributes to his leadership qualities, you have something special.
It is not just the armband he wears that signals his leadership qualities but that he always takes responsibility when he is on the ball. Doing so at such a young age makes the hype around him understandable. He never takes the easy option or devolves responsibility. His tenacity, physique and stamina perhaps make him suited to the English Premier League. The test will come if and when he takes a step up in level, but going by the information we have available just now, Andersen looks like the complete midfield player.