clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Tracking Luka Jovic’s Off Ball Movement vs Real Valladolid

New, comments

Luka Jovic’s off ball movement was a form of art, and rather than criticize the missed chances, there should be a collective admiration for the opportunities he created.

TOPSHOT-FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-VALLADOLID Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

Jovic’s off the ball movement was heralded during his time at Eintracht Frankfurt. His ability to create space for not only himself, but others, drew parallels to Cristiano Ronaldo's ability inside the box. Managing Madrid’s very own School of Madrid, put together a video detailing exactly how good his movement was while in Germany. Up to this point, Real Madrid fans have hardly had the opportunity to value such an asset. Though, against Real Valladolid, Jovic proved he still has those natural instincts to time his run and create space for goal-scoring opportunities.

Most would agree that Jovic was unlucky to finish the match without a goal. On the surface the narrative may come about that Jovic once again failed on the big stage. But, when diving deeper, one can find the brilliance of Jovic’s ability and the likelihood that a goal will come sooner rather than later. The striker is getting into all the right spots and creating opportunities through his own movement — when that happens, the goals will eventually follow.

Jovic’s first opportunity comes in the 11th minute via a cross from Marcelo on the left flank:

On first glance, Jovic’s run seems like the only dangerous option for Marcelo. Though, it is the space that Jovic and Isco create by attracting defenders with their off ball runs which their teammates should have capitalized on.

Jovic’s run had the ability to create a domino affect. That massive hole in the center of defense would have been perfect for Valverde to run into thus creating space for Benzema to channel his run laterally and to the center. Marcelo would then be set up with greater options and if he ultimately decided to stick with plan A and whip in the cross, more bodies would have been available for any scraps or to prevent the counter attack:

When breaking down each of Jovic’s opportunities, you begin to appreciate the detail behind his movement and his recognition of time and space mechanics. These are details of the game that are so difficult to master.

One of his best opportunities came off a counter attack led by Fede Valverde. The Uruguayan busted down the right flank in the 16th minute and fed a curved pass directly to Jovic who just got under the ball with his finish — a finish that ultimately went slightly wide:

Again, on the surface, this seems like a good opportunity and most in the media would say Jovic should have done better. Maybe the criticism on his strike is fair, but take note of the subtle change of space at around 16:29 in the video above. Jovic, who initially is behind his mark, shifts into another gear and within two seconds has not only beat his trailing defender to the ball but has timed his run into the box to near perfection.

The Serb has an innate ability to sniff out chances. He does not get over eager or anxious, instead he carefully calculates each move in order to create a degree of separation from himself and the defender.

Along with the movement, Jovic is a presence in the final third. He occupies the central defenders and in doing so can create space for his teammates. Benzema usually goes deep or to the left flank in order to aid build up play. In a system where Benzema is the lone striker, that can often leave the opposition’s back four without anyone to mark in the central channel. Jovic’s position forces defenders to make decisions. He attracts the attention of central defenders and in doing so, can free up space for his teammates. He did exactly that in the 34th minute vs Valladolid which then resulted in another opportunity for the striker, but the volley found the side netting:

Modric is able to drift into the large gap between the center back thanks to Jovic’s movement towards the flank, which saw Bruno Gonzalez follow him like a lost puppy.

Once Modric gets the ball inside the box, Jovic’s blood hound instincts go into overdrive. With all three defenders locked in on Modric, the Serbian makes a blind side run in behind where Modric can then feed the beast. A more confident Jovic maybe would have struck the volley with his left foot, but regardless of the missed opportunities, the important factor in Jovic’s game was the ability to create said opportunities.

Playing in a two striker system gives Zidane another look. It gives him another wrench to pull from his tactical toolbox. In Jovic, he has a striker that is very astute in around the box. His nonchalant, almost lackadaisical demeanor may give some the wrong impression, but it is a critical component to his success:

Ramos can launch a ball up the field and Jovic calmly brings it down before setting up a one-two interchange with Odriozola. The key to the above play is after Jovic dishes the ball off. Watch his run. He is not puffing his cheeks out, straining every muscle in his hamstring to get inside the box. No, instead, he allows the opposition defense to get sucked in by the ball while slowing down his run to be available at the top of the box for a cut-back.

For most players, the natural inclination is to rush towards the ball or hurry the run into the box. It’s as if Jovic is not bothered at all, perfectly content in knowing that he will arrive at the top of the box at the perfect time and with the perfect amount of space.

Madrid fans grew eager at the prospect of signing Luka Jovic back in the summer of 2019, in large part due to his cold-blooded instincts in front of goal. This was a man who smashed a 99th minute winning penalty against Schalke. Nerves? Back then, Jovic could never familiarize himself with that feeling. It’s unclear what type of role he will have this season, nor is it clear whether he will continue to get opportunities to start consistently for Real Madrid. But, given the intelligence of his movement, his presence against the oppositions back line, and his ability to create space not just for himself, but for others, means it would be a shame to see a weapon like Luka Jovic continue to be left cold and out of rhythm. The blood in his veins is just starting to solidify to that cold and icy temperature, or in the other words — give the kid some time, the goals will come.