Oliver Burke at RB Leipzig: strength, speed and individual technique
19 year-old Oliver Burke, sold by Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig for €15.2 million this summer, became the most expensive Scottish player in history. Burke had spent his career in a Forest jersey from the time he was 8 years old. His rookie season on the first team was 2014/2015, but only last year did he begin to play with consistency (21 matches), earning his first appointment to the national team.
However, it was the incredible start of the 2016/17 Championship that convinced RB Leipzig to invest that amount in him, beating out Bayern Munich’s competition. In his five matches this season with Nottingham Forest, Burke had 1 assist and scored 4 goals.
Burke is an atypical winger with a peculiar mixture of qualities. Besides being 1.88 metres tall, he has significant strength and explosiveness for lightning fast runs and the ability to get past defenders both with his speed and his physicality. He has good individual technique and decent overall vision that also allow him to provide the final pass, but he practically only uses his right foot, preferring to use the outside of it rather than his left.
Burke reads his teammate’s movement well and passes to him with excellent timing, but rather than using his left foot, he passes with the outside of his right foot in an almost unnatural way
He moves well without the ball, making interesting cuts behind the opposing defenders and attacking the depth in counter-attacks. This quality, along with his powerful shooting skills, makes him particularly dangerous in front of the goal, even on indirect set pieces, where he can take advantage of his build.
He can play on both sides of the pitch, but he likes to stay between the lines where he can receive passes and do what he does best: sprint toward the opposing team’s goal with the ball. When he picks up speed, taking long and quick strides, he seems more like a rugby player than a footballer.
Burke comes inside to collect the ball between the lines
Obviously, with so few matches under his belt, Burke needs to improve various aspects of his game, but he has enormous potential. In this sense, RB Leipzig, a team with cutting-edge training methods and structures, is an excellent choice to develop his qualities and perhaps show that, when former teammate Thomas Lam compared him to a right-footed Gareth Bale, he was not all wrong.
Flavio Fusi studies economics and writes about tactics on his blog Trovaspazi. He is an author for l’Ultimo Uomo