Talking Tactics

All-round skills make Dennis Watford's main man

By Adrian Clarke 4 Feb 2022

Adrian Clarke analyses how the Nigerian striker has hit the ground running in his first season at Vicarage Road

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Adrian Clarke looks at players who could be in contention for the Hublot Young Player of the Season award in 2021/22.

Emmanuel Dennis (WAT)

Playing up front for Watford side, summer signing Dennis has been a revelation this season.

The Nigerian has scored eight goals and made five assists in just 18 Premier League starts.

A threat on either flank or operating as a central striker, Watford will be reliant on Dennis maintaining these lofty standards for the remainder of the campaign.

Most direct goal involvements 2021/22
Player Goal involvements
Mohamed Salah 25
Michail Antonio 14
Emmanuel Dennis 13
Mason Mount 13
Jarrod Bowen 13

Dennis is at his most destructive when running on to the ball within the width of the 18-yard box, but he does not need to play as the lone striker to punish the opposition.

The 24-year-old is excellent at drifting inside from the wing to join in as a second centre-forward because of his smart movement.

With a top speed of 34.3km/h, Dennis uses that acceleration to make darting runs across defenders or to catch them during rapid breakaways.

His footwork inside the box is tremendous, too.

Hublot Young Player contenders

This was evident against Everton and West Ham United, when Dennis's skill unbalanced his markers to open up precious space for him to score fine solo goals.

Dennis also delivered the calmest of finishes in a one-on-one at Leicester City and against Chelsea, where he effectively passed the ball through Antonio Rudiger’s legs.

Scoring a goal once every 183.8 minutes for a side in the relegation zone is an outstanding achievement, let alone a player who is new to English football.

When you study his Expected Goals (xG) tally of 3.6, it highlights how good his finishing has been during the first half of the campaign.

Top PL attacking influences 2021/22
Player xG Goals Difference
Emile Smith Rowe 3.6 8 +4.4
Emmanuel Dennis 3.6 8 +4.4
Maxwel Cornet 1.7 6 +4.4
Kevin De Bruyne 2.2 6 +3.8
Jamie Vardy 5.7 9 +3.3

Standing alongside Emile Smith Rowe and Maxwel Cornet, Dennis is joint-top when it comes to exceeding the xG count.

He has scored 4.4 extra goals, while his shot-conversion rate is an impressive 28.6 per cent.

Dennis has also shown he is happy to provide for his team-mates, with five assists.

When surging forward on the counter-attack, Dennis had the wherewithal to produce perfect through-balls for Ismaila Sarr and Joshua King to score against Aston Villa and Everton respectively.

Dennis also served up a brace of well-crafted assists in the 4-1 home win over Manchester United.

Should he maintain his form, Watford will have a fighting chance of staying up.

Also in this series

Part 1: Smith Rowe driving Arsenal on with surging runs and goals
Part 2: Gallagher already one of the best box-to-box midfielders 
Part 3: Rice evolving from defensive specialist into top all-rounder
Part 5: Ramsey has perfect mentor as he develops his end product

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