Ritsu Doan is a 22-year-old Japanese right winger/attacking midfielder who is currently playing in the Bundesliga for newly promoted Arminia Bielefeld. Doan is on loan from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, having moved to Bielefelder Alm on a season-long loan in September.
Doan was born in Amagasaki, Hyogo, Japan and grew up playing for Gamba Osaka Junior Youth (2011-2013) and Gamba Osaka Youth (2014-2015). In the 2015 season, aged just 16, Doan made his first appearance in the J1 league for Gamba Osaka. Doan stayed at Gamba Osaka for three seasons and in 2017, completed a loan move to Dutch side FC Groningen. FC Groningen brought Doan to the club on a permanent deal in the summer of 2018 where he spent another two seasons before making a move to Eredivisie giants PSV Eindhoven.
Doan spent the first part of the 2019/20 season at PSV before accepting a loan move to Arminia Bielefeld. With three goals and two assists so far this season, Doan has been Arminia’s most dangerous attacking outlet and could well be a decisive player in their chances of staying in the German top-flight come to the end of the season.
Before this analysis looks at Doan’s performance on the pitch, it is important to firstly consider the areas in which his strengths lie. Since joining Arminia, Doan has been their most dangerous attacking threat, especially in the final third. He is a real threat in advanced areas and a deeper look at his attacking stats show just how important he is for his side’s attacking output.
At the time of writing, Doan is the second-highest player in the league to attempt attacking duels and also the second-highest player for winning these attacking duels. He is ranked in the fourth position for dribbles completed, with his most attempted dribbles in one single game was back in the first half of the season away to Wolfsburg, attempting 7 dribbles in the 90 minutes and 5 of which were successful.
Doan is currently ranked tenth for shots attempted so far this season, with the most shots he has attempted per 90 minutes standing at 5 in the away game against TSG Hoffenheim and home game against Hertha Berlin.
Although Doan’s progressive run figure just sits outside the top ten overall, it places him top for progressive runs made for his team and the difference between him in first and second place Marcel Hartel is staggering, as we can see below:
Doan is way out in the lead for his team in the progressive run category, having produced almost triple the amount of Hartel who is currently sitting in second place. It could be argued that, with the number of progressive runs made for his team, Doan is the main source of Arminia’s attack when they are in possession and makes it very clear as to why he is deemed Bielefeld’s most dangerous attacking player.
Creativity in the Final Third
One of the main key strengths of Doan’s game is his creativity on the ball and the unpredictability he causes for opposition defenders. Doan has surpassed his xG tally of 2.6, having already scored 3 goals this season. He has also passed his xA metric that is 1.9, having made 2 assists. Doan currently has a shot total per 90 minutes of 2.12 and has a shot total of 38 completed shots.
Doan is currently Arminia’s joint leading goalscorer of 3 goals, sitting alongside Fabian Klos who has also scored 3 goals so far. Doan’s last goal was in Matchweek 17 at home to VfB Stuttgart, which saw him show his individual creativity on the counter-attack in the last moments of the game.
On the counter-attack, Arminia broke down the left-hand side which saw Doan making a forward run off the ball in support. Once on the ball, Doan isolated himself in a 1v1 situation against the VfB Stuttgart defender. Doan showed his creativity on the ball by executing a fake movement that put the defender off-balance and created space for Doan on the right side for him to take the ball into, providing him with a shooting opportunity.
The clever use of the skill and the successful execution of the skill meant that Doan was able to be successful in the 1v1 situation. The creativity to fake to go one way but in fact, take the ball the other tricked the defender which enabled Doan to shift the ball into the created space to shoot. The speed at which this action was performed also meant that the defender was unable to get himself into the correct body shape to force him away from the goal.
So far this season, Doan has made 48 shots creating actions for his team and produces 2.67 SCA90. Of the 48 he has made, 21 of the shot-creating actions have been from live ball passes which have then directly led to a shot attempt. In the defeat against Augsburg, Doan’s creativity was on show once more, using his strength, speed, and trickery to beat two opposition players on the right side which created a shot action for his teammate Sven Schipplock.
On the far right touchline, Doan was in possession against two defenders. Although he had another teammate in support, he shifted the ball onto his right side and changed his speed in the process which meant he was able to wriggle his way in between both defenders and into the box.
Even though Doan was under pressure from two opposition players, he was still able to carry the ball into the box. During the successful dribble into the box, Doan used his strength to stay on the ball and keep possession. He was aware of his supporting players in the box and played a short pass into Schipplock who was able to perform a shooting action.
Doan has made 72 dribbles during the 19 games at the time of writing, and 50% of these have been successful. He has executed 114 progressive carriers this campaign with 41 of these being carried into the final third.
In the home game against FC Mainz 05, Doan’s creativity on the ball was evident once more, which saw him carry the ball into the final third outnumbered and performed a pin-point shot from outside of the box to score his second goal of the season.
As Doan progressed the ball into the final third, there were four FC Mainz 05 defenders pressuring him from the front, behind, and the side. With no support from his teammates on the right side and minimal support on the left, Doan wriggled his way through the first defender’s pressure and managed to find himself in a little bit of space on the edge of the box.
The space that opened up for Doan after keeping possession against the initial pressure allowed him to take a touch out of his feet and executed an accurate shot at the goal before the second defender could initiate a pressing action towards Doan. In this scenario, Doan showed his creativity to shift the ball onto his right to off-balance the defender once more, then quickly changed the path of the ball to the left side which created space for him to execute a shooting action.
Earlier in the season against current league leaders Bayern Munich, Doan scored his first goal of the season and first for Arminia which was a similar goal so his third against VfB Stuttgart.
Once again Doan was seen to make a forward supporting run off the ball to join the attack which provided teammate on the ball, Klos, with a square passing option. Just like in the game against VfB Stuttgart, Doan gained possession in the right half-space in the opposition’s penalty area.
He was, once more, isolated 1v1 against the Bayern defender and used a step-over action to fake to go left, which off-balanced the defender. After this movement, he quickly shifted the ball onto his right and executed another pinpoint shot across Manuel Neuer which enabled Arminia to ease the deficit slightly.
Doan’s second assist of the season came in the away game against VfL Wolfsburg which saw him produce a perfectly weighted squared pass from the right half-space for striker Schipplock to fire home and got Arminia on the scoresheet.
VfL Wolfsburg’s failure to clear their lines in the defensive third contributed to Doan’s first assist of the season and gave Arminia confidence to get back into the game. Doan collected the ball in the right half-space after a poor clearance from the VfL Wolfsburg defender and showed why he is Arminia’s most dangerous attacking player so far this season.
Doan had two options in this situation. He could have attacked the space behind David Brooks, VfL Wolfsburg’s central defender, who was facing Doan and was the first defender to provide some sort of pressure to the ball. This would have created Doan with a 1v1 situation which we have already analysed as one of the strongest parts of his game.
However, instead of risking losing possession and not capitalising on his successful regain of possession, Doan played a perfectly weighted pass to Schipplock who had made a run to support in the box. Schipplock shot the first time and Arminia found a route back into the game.
Doan’s unpredictability in the right half-space meant Brooks was unaware of what action Doan will make on the ball, and Doan’s awareness of players positions in the area, as well as speed in executing the passing action, meant they were able to capitalise on VfL Wolfsburg’s poor in possession play in their defensive third. Many times this season, Doan has been the target of a pass from teammates when the team are looking to advance into the final third.
In the game against Leverkusen, Arminia had just conceded and needed to find a way back into the game as soon as possible. They played the ball out to Doan who was occupying the right half-space once more and he engaged the Leverkusen defender. Doan performed a quick ‘chop’ action of the ball which wrong-footed the defender.
Although it could be argued that Doan was fouled in the penalty area, it was not given as a penalty. However, Doan’s brilliance in executing the skill at speed to trick the defender gave his team some confidence to find a route back into the game.
Effective Progressive Runs
As briefly analysed earlier in this analysis, another strong part of Doan’s game is his ability to perform clever progressive carries on the ball and advance his team deeper into the opposition’s half and take his team into dangerous shooting situations. So far this season, Doan has made 428 touches in the middle third and 388 touches in the attacking third, with only 102 in the defensive third.
During the game against Augsburg, Doan showed his ability to successfully carry the ball forward to create shooting opportunities for his side when he moved into the central area from the right half-space to strike at the Augsburg goal.
Doan not only can be unpredictable when on the ball but also has an effective change of speed ability which enables him to beat defenders in a 1v1v situation. Against Augsburg, he had the ball in the right half-space in a 1v1 situation, shifted the ball onto his left which triggered him to change speed to attack the space, and off the ball runners took away other defenders enabling Doan to create a shooting opportunity.
His ability to drive the ball forward and attack the spaces in advanced positions is something which Arminia should utilise even more for the rest of this season if they want to have any hope of staying in the German top flight.
In the second half against Augsburg, Doan continued with his positive first-half performance as he kept getting on the ball and making progressive runs into dangerous areas. Shortly after half-time, Doan produced a clever through pass after making a progressive run which opened space for his supporting teammate to enter the Augsburg penalty area with the ball.
When Doan gained possession in the wide area, it drew the opposition’s full-back to the ball and stretched the opposition defensive line, which created space in the half-space as we can see in the 51st minute of the Augsburg game above.
On the ball, Doan had two options. He could have attacked the space behind the full-back as we know he is capable of beating defenders with skill and speed in 1v1 situations which would have seen him in a really dangerous area. The other choice he had was to make a progressive run to the left side into space which Hartel vacated by making a forward run into the half-space.
Doan chose the latter choice and made a progressive run with the ball to the left side. This gave Hartel the opportunity to make an advanced run into the half-space, and the next phase saw Doan play a through pass to Hartel after the progressive run forward. Doan’s progressive run attracted the Augsburg defender, which saw space appear for players in advanced positions to receive in the penalty area.
In the away game against Freiburg, Doan showed his unpredictability in making progressive runs when this time he attacked the space behind the full-back which enabled him to enter the box, in which he performed a crossing action.
In the early stages of the game, the ball was played out to Doan on the far right hand side. Doan vacated the half space which once again stretched the defensive line to create space in forward areas. As he received, Doan created a 1v1v situation and beat the defender using strength and speed to attack the space in behind and threaten the opposition.
Doan chose a different route when performing a progressive run in this example and his unpredictability of direction when on the ball causes major problems for the opposition’s defensive players.
The third and final part of this analysis will analyse Doan’s defensive work and determine what role Doan plays when his side are out of possession. So far this campaign, Doan has successfully completed 27 out of his attempted 29 tackles, meaning his side have been able to regain possession as a result.
The most tackles Doan has produced this season have been in the middle third, with the least amount of tackles produced being in the attacking third. Doan has been dribbled past by an opposing player 23 times in 19 games and has tackled 30.3% of dribbles he has faced. A deeper look at Doan’s defensive statistics below highlight that he is not the key player in Arminia’s defensive setup, but has room for improvement when in a defending situation.
The 22-year-old currently stands in 14th place overall for defensive duels attempted, and we can take a look below at Doan in a defensive duel in trying to dispossess the opposition player to prevent an attack being created on his goal.
Ten minutes after half-time, Andrej Kramarić occupied the half-space with the ball, cut onto his right foot, and managed to perform a shot action at Arminia’s goal. Doan was the closest player to Kramarić at the time and his wrong body shape to prevent Kramarić from cutting inside saw TSG Hoffenheim with a real dangerous chance to get back into the game.
In this position on the pitch, players in a duel, like Doan, should try to force the ball player to the outside, preventing them from cutting inside and creating a better angle to shoot with at goal. The reason why Kramarić was able to cut inside on his favoured right was due to Doan’s wrong body shape.
Doan should have executed a closed body shape to prevent Kramarić from cutting onto the right side, instead, his body shape was open and flat, not side-on, meaning he found it very difficult to force Kramarić away from goal. When Arminia find themselves out of possession, they adopt a structured 4-4-2 shape as we can see below in the first 15 minutes of the Freiburg game.
When Doan is not the instigator of the initial press, he is still effective in his team’s defensive shape to prevent the opposition from progressing the ball into the next phase. As we can see in the example above, Arminia’s out of possession 4-4-2 shape was very compact and narrow, which prevented Freiburg from playing through the centre and in between the lines.
Doan’s role when the ball was in this position was to anticipate the pass being made to Freiburg left centre back Manuel Gulde, and Doan’s body shape, as well as position, was perfect in being able to provide pressure to Gulde if he was the target of the pass.
His position in this instance was also very effective in that it blocked off the passing line for Freiburg left-back Christian Günter who was seen in a very high supporting position just over the halfway line. Doan’s effective out of possession position saw Gulde the target of the pass, meaning Freiburg failed to progress the ball down their left-hand side, which was Doan’s area to defend.
Early in the Leverkusen game, Doan recognised that his duties were needed in the central area of the pitch to try and break down the Leverkusen progression into the final third. Although Doan did not regain possession himself from the initial pressure, his ability to recognise when to press to try to break up the attack should not go unnoticed.
It could be argued that in this pressure situation, Doan committed himself to the ball too early which meant the receiving player was able to pin Doan and turn into the forward central space. However, a bad touch from the receiving player due to Doan’s fast pressure meant Arminia were able to regain possession as a team from the next phase.
This analysis has analysed Doan’s performance this season and has identified the areas of his game that make him a very talented young individual. Doan is a very creative player when on the ball and is very confident in beating defenders and taking his team into dangerous areas in the opposition’s half. This analysis has also looked at the role of Doan in his team’s defensive shape and his clever positioning to prevent the player on the ball to progress further up the pitch.
It will be very interesting to see what happens next for Doan, whether he will decide to move back to PSV Eindhoven and fight to become a regular starter under Roger Schmidt, or whether he will want to stay on a permanent deal at Arminia. This loan move has certainly been worthwhile for him, as he has quickly caught the eye of many footballing fans, with his creativity and confidence on the ball which has seen him be Arminia’s most dangerous attacking outlet so far this season.
By: Samuel Hough
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / TF-Images – DeFodi Images