Stromsgodset have been one of the most exciting teams to watch in the 2020 Eliteserien under the coaching of Henrik Pedersen. Their aggressive press and quick attacking transitions mean their games are rarely dull, and their shining light is arguably 20-year-old, Johan Hove. This scout report will aim to show exactly why he’s one of Norway’s top prospects using a combination of tactical analysis and statistics.
Role in the team
Strømsgodset generally use a 4-3-3 system with Hove operating as one of the two advanced members of the midfield trio. Hove is most often deployed on the right side of a fluent three. The youngster tends to be the main attacking threat, though he is very much a box-to-box player. All of this can be seen in the heatmap below.
As mentioned above, Strømsgodset is a team who employs aggressive, front-foot tactics, and Hove’s style typifies this. The rest of this tactical analysis will look at Hove’s contribution to his team’s press and his threat in attack, whilst suggesting some potential areas of improvement.
Hove has drawn lazy comparisons with Real Madrid’s Martin Ødegaard due to their shared nationality but his attacking play more closely resembles that of England legend Frank Lampard. The current Chelsea manager proved a prolific goalscorer throughout his career due mainly to his intelligent attacking runs, and Hove possesses the same trait.
Six of Hove’s seven goals this season have come from shots taken in the space between the six-yard line and the edge of the area which shows how regularly he is able to arrive in the right areas, and at the perfect time. Hove’s deceptive pace plays a part in him often arriving unmarked, though it’s the intelligence of his movements that stand out the most.
The above image shows the attacking intelligence Hove possesses. He has already used his pace to run off the back of his marker and arrive unoccupied in the penalty area. Hove sees that the Strømsgodset right-winger has made a front-post run, drawing the opposition full-back with him, and quickly darts into the space at the back post. The cross is played and Hove is left with a tap-in.
Hove excels at timing his run so as to receive the ball without having to turn or break stride. He is good at simply floating about seemingly posing little threat whilst waiting for the perfect opportunity to make his run.
The above image picks up the play moments before Hove makes his run. The movement is a simple one to make, the space on the penalty spot being left unoccupied, though it’s the timing that’s crucial here. Hove waits on the edge of the box until the perfect moment to dash inside, arriving just as the cross is played and volleying towards goal under little defensive pressure.
The youngster probably should score in the above situation but puts his shot wide. This isn’t typical of his general finishing, however. His seven goals this season have come from an xG of 4.59 and he also slightly overperformed in this metric last season, too. An overperformance of this sort of level is sustainable and suggests simply that Hove is an above-average finisher.
Hove’s clever movement isn’t reserved only for goalscoring opportunities. A key part of Strømsgodset’s tactics in attack is to get the ball quickly into wide areas and create overloads on the flanks. When playing to the left or right side of the midfield trio, Hove is required to link up with his full-backs and wingers in order to create 3v2’s for his team.
Hove also shows great awareness of when to run in behind the opposition defence during build-up play.
On this occasion, one of Hove’s midfield colleagues (Ipalibo Jack) has helped create the overload out wide. This frees up Hove to make a run in behind and into an unoccupied zone in the penalty area. The key to his movement here is a little feint in front of his marker (highlighted by the orange arrow) before arcing his run on the blindside (opposition player’s field of vision is shown). This double movement is simple but an effective way of escaping his marker, and again highlights that Hove possesses an attacking intelligence beyond his years.
Hove plays a key part in his team’s build-up play, not just with his movement, but with his ability to pass the ball too. The youngster ranks sixth amongst Eliteserien attacking players (attacking midfielders, wing-forwards, forwards) this season for passes per 90 with an average of 41.46. His accuracy rate of 78.05% is good but not spectacular.
A more reflective measurement of his passing is that he ranks second amongst the same group of players for progressive passes per 90 with an average of 7.55. Remarkably, his accuracy is this metric is higher than his overall passing accuracy. The below graphic highlights this.
As we can see, Hove is an exemplary medium-range and long-range passer. He is a terrific exponent of the diagonal pass to the flanks which, as already stated, is a key component of Strømsgodset’s tactics. His lower accuracy rate on shorter passes hints at to why he’s only recorded one assist this season from an xA of 1.61. Hove sometimes struggles to play the more clinical passes in behind the opposition defence/into the penalty area and create goalscoring opportunities for his forwards, though recent evidence (shown below) suggests this part of his game can and most likely will improve.
In the image we see Hove playing a through pass to his centre-forward (Lars-Jørgen Salvesen). This kind of pass is a very difficult skill to master as it requires perfect weighting and laser-like precision in order to miss the defenders and avoid it going too close to the goalkeeper. Hove delivers the pass superbly and Salvesen scores the goal.
Hove is capable of passing equally well with both feet and both across his body and away from it. The below image shows another perfectly-weighted through ball at an alternate angle to the previous example.
As mentioned earlier, Strømsgodset uses an aggressive press with their PPDA (passes per defensive action) of 8.29 being the lowest in the Eliteserien. Hove optimises these defensive tactics and boasts extraordinary individual numbers.
Hove is the team’s key presser, pushing on beyond the wide-forwards whose general job it is to block passing lanes to the full-backs. He ranks second amongst attacking players for both recoveries in the final third and counter-pressing recoveries with 2.56 per 90 and 4.58 per 90 respectively.
Further inspection of these numbers shows that 0.37 of his final third recoveries are classed as dangerous (resulting in a shot within 20 seconds) and that the resultant xG of these is 0.85. This shows that Hove’s pressing is not only a key component of his team’s defensive tactics but also an effective attacking tool.
The below image shows a typical Strømsgodset counter-pressing shape.
As we can see, the possessor has his backwards passing lanes blocked by Salvesen and is reluctant to pass to the right full-back due to the pressure that player is about to receive. Hove knows the possessor’s only option to turn and quickly shuts that option down, winning the ball and initiating a counter-attack
The below image shows Strømsgodset in a typical pressing shape against an organised attacking build-up.
Here, Bodø/Glimt have bypassed the first line of the press and played a pass into their anchor – Patrick Berg. Hove shows tremendous acceleration over the 5-10 yards gap and puts immediate pressure on Berg’s first touch, causing a turnover in a dangerous area.
The acceleration and agility Hove possesses is crucial for his team’s press and is the key component of the aggressive tactics used by Strømsgodset. He is equally adept at blocking passing planes when not the closest player to the possessor, displaying fine tactical awareness in rotating with his midfield colleagues when necessary.
Hove is also a very capable defender when having to defend deeper (mid-block or low-block), his acceleration and anticipation being key to his high interception count.
Hove also wins more than his fair share of defensive duels (62%). He is surprisingly strong given his height (177cm) and frame (72kg) and is an aggressive tackler. He occasionally looks a little reckless when diving into slide tackles, though that he has only received one yellow card (against league leaders Bodø/Glimt) is testament to his impeccable timing and tackling technique.
The above image is an example of a Hove slide tackle. See how at first glance this could look a little over-aggressive especially given the speed he often travels at. Though, closer inspection shows his technique to be sublime. He arrives at a 45-degree angle and keeps both feet on the ground, cleanly winning the ball, and in the direction of a teammate.
One area of his defensive game where he is understandably (given his height) a little weak is in aerial duels, winning only 29% of 61 occasions. It is, however, generally easy enough for his team to avoid having him in areas where his aerial duels become key, and this is therefore only a small issue.
A few slight weak areas of Hove’s game have been touched upon earlier in this analysis, that of his lack of height and less-than-exceptional short progressive passing accuracy. We have already seen evidence of the potential for improvement in his short passing game, whereas he is obviously unable to do anything about his lack of height.
One area of his game where there is obvious scope for improvement is in his ball-carrying. He attempts only 1.55 dribbles per 90 with a relatively poor success rate of 34.62%. On top of this, just under half of these (0.77) are classed as being progressive. This ranks him well down amongst his peers (outside the top 60 on both counts).
His speed, acceleration and low centre of gravity should make him an effective dribbler. An improvement in this area would make Hove an even more dangerous threat in attack and during transitions.
In the above image, Hove has shown great anticipation and is about to complete an interception. Upon collecting the ball, the opportunity is there for him to drive at the opposition defence.
Hove instead chooses to slow the play and plays a pass behind a teammate (Moses Mawa) who was prepared to run in behind.
The counter-attack breaks down moments later. However, we can see that had Hove exploded into the space, the opportunity was there to create an overload on the left flank (blue area) with the opposition defender (circled) isolated.
Of course, it may simply be due to Pedersen’s instructions that Hove runs with the ball infrequently, though should he develop his skill in this area it would undoubtedly increase his attacking threat.
Johan Hove is one of many talented youngsters in the Eliteserien and is arguably his team’s most important player in both defence and attack. His intelligent attacking runs allow him to be a vital source of goals, whilst his defensive work rate and tackling technique are crucial to his team’s tactics.
Hove is unlikely to be in the Eliteserien beyond the 2020 season and has the potential to play in the UEFA Champions League within the next few years. Given his age, profile and strong pressing game, he would be a perfect fit at a team such as RB Leipzig.