Taiwo Awoniyi: Union Berlin’s Nigerian Target Man

Thanks to Football Manager, the average football fan can differentiate the many different types of centre forwards and the specific requirement attached to each role. The categories such as ‘Advanced Forward’, ‘Target Man’, ‘Deep Lying Forward’, ‘Poacher’ etc have been used to accurately describe strikers based on the qualities they possess.


However, the popular coaching simulation game does not account for players who fit into more than one category.  One of such strikers who fit multiple descriptions is Taiwo Awoniyi; the Nigerian centre forward making waves in Germany with Union Berlin. 


Standing at just over 6 feet tall and officially listed as weighing 78kg (looks like he weighs more, to be honest), Taiwo Awoniyi looks like a target man and plays like it too. He uses his physique to his advantage a lot, wearing out opposition centre backs and spending time with his back to goal. But unlike most target men, that’s not all he does.


Awoniyi also plays like an advanced forward, full of running and often willing to drift wide and give the fullbacks a torrid time as well. The Nigerian switches effortlessly between both styles of play depending on how Union Berlin are attacking at the time.


If they have possession of the ball, then Awoniyi is more likely to actively engage the centre backs by looking to receive the ball at his feet. If Union Berlin are on the counter, then Awoniyi can be found running at full speed and requesting for the ball to be passed into the space ahead of him.


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Awoniyi also likes to lurk on the shoulder of the last defender and even often drift slightly into offside positions to give his marker a false sense of security. It doesn’t always work though as he gets caught offside a lot but when it does work, Awoniyi is through on goal with a clear cut chance. It’s a style of play best described as the ‘Advanced Target Man’, seamlessly combining the traits of a Target Man and an Advanced Forward.


At 24 years old, Taiwo Awoniyi is finally coming into his own and presently enjoying his most productive season. 13 goals and three assists in 22 total appearances across all competitions so far this season.


Only Erling Haaland (10) and Robert Lewandowski (14) have scored more than Taiwo Awoniyi’s eight Bundesliga goals this season. Union Berlin have scored 20 league goals this season and Awoniyi contributed a whooping 40% of those.


Awoniyi spent the second half of last season on loan at Union Berlin from Liverpool and contributed five goals and four assists in 22 games. It was his seventh loan spell in six years as a Liverpool player but something was different this time.


Union Berlin paid five million Euros to make the move permanent and are now reaping the rewards. Still only 24 years old, Taiwo Awoniyi is showing that he has the ability to mix it with the big boys and can only get better from here on out.


By: Tunde Young / @tunde_young

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Martin Rose – Getty Images