Name: Viktor Gyökeres
Club: Sporting CP
Preferred Foot: Right
Strengths: movement, ball-striking, finishing, weak-foot ability, strength, aerial duels, work-rate, dribbling, flair
Areas for Development: weak-foot usage
From Jude Bellingham’s Pichichi-chasing form at Real Madrid to Marcus Thuram’s sensational start to life at Inter, there are plenty of genuine candidates for the best signing of the summer of 2023, and one of them is Sporting’s Viktor Gyökeres. Having led Coventry City to the verge of a Premier League berth, the Swedish striker has taken no time to adjust since making the move to the Lions for a club-record €20m with €4m in bonuses.
With a contract until 2028 and a release clause of €100 million, it seems all but certain that Gyökeres will end up shattering their club-record sale, when they sold Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United for €55 million plus €25 million in bonuses, although it should be noted that Coventry are entitled to a cut of the sale in the region of 10-15%.
A clinical finisher with great movement, link-up play and physicality, he has been a revelation in Sporting’s attack, scoring in each of his last three matches and taking his tally to 18 goals and 8 assists in 21 appearances. Gyökeres’ ball-striking is top-quality, able to unleash shots with real venom at even the slightest opening on goal with either his left or right foot.
The type of self-sufficient striker who’s capable of creating a shooting opportunity for himself by taking on his man or using a sharp turn or flick to create separation, Gyökeres’ finishing ability is so effective that he can surprise the goalkeeper by taking shots early and time his efforts to perfection, as seen in their recent match against Benfica.
Viktor Gyökeres is a Rolls-Royce of a striker. pic.twitter.com/hQ1ThjrB3V
— Zach Lowy (@ZachLowy) November 12, 2023
Capable of creating chances for himself with his movement, whether he’s running in behind or making last-second adjustments to break way from his marker or bullying the center backs in ground duels and aerial duels, he is also skilled at bringing others into play with his effective hold-up play. The Swede runs the channels to open up spaces in central areas and is also skilled at driving down the line in transition before delivering a cross into the box, whilst he is also skilled at dropping deep to create chances for others, playing the ball out to the flanks before charging into the box.
He is a skilled playmaker, as exemplified by the statistics: according to FBRef, he is in the top 1% amongst forwards when it comes to assists per 90 (0.39), progressive carries (4.34), touches in the attacking penalty area (8.29), progressive passes received (11.49), and he also ranks in the top 2% for shot-creating actions (4.59) and successful take-ons (2.50) over the past year.
Sporting’s number 9 is a very physical striker who is formidable in duels, using his strength to shield the ball and hold it up in order to allow other attackers to come into the game, whilst he is also an aerial monster who has the athleticism to jump high and control long balls. But he isn’t just a physical powerhouse — he’s also skilled with the ball at his feet, boasting a strong first touch and quick feet to enable him to create separation. He is able to improvise through quick flicks and unique shooting methods, boasting the technical flair to breeze past his man and advance into the box.
A no-nonsense striker, Gyökeres is more than capable of putting his laces through the ball and generating ample power to score the winning goal. There are times where it seems like he’s a one-man outlet in attack, skilled at leading the line by himself, harrying the defense and demonstrating his world-class work-rate. With the pace to run in behind and the physicality and aerial prowess to help out defending corner attacks, he is very much a complete forward who has thrived as a lone striker or in a two-striker formation.
Only six teams in Europe’s top eight leagues are undefeated in all competitions:
Today, we’re taking a look at the biggest factors behind Sporting’s impressive start to the season under Rúben Amorim👇🦁💚 pic.twitter.com/XhDt0Sa9w2
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) October 4, 2023
One area for development is his weak-foot usage. Whilst he is skilled at finishing with power and accuracy on his left, he doesn’t drive down the left flank with the same conviction and frequency as he does when he’s on his right. Whilst he is averaging 2.95 shots per 90 over the past year, taking this to around 4 would see him go up another level and become even more of a lethal threat in attack.
Gyökeres thrived last season in Mark Robins’ defence-first set-up, often isolated up top and fighting for scraps, and emerging as a reliable outlet for Coventry who could play the ball towards him with long balls. They were able to execute Route One football with consistency, with Gyökeres capable of bringing it down, bursting towards goal and holding up the ball. With 11.0 progressive passes received per 90 last season, he was their main outlet, well ahead of second-placed Jake Bidwell at 4.86.
Similarly to last season where he thrived alongside a flying wingback duo of Arsenal loanee Brooke Norton-Cuffy and City loanee Josh Wilson-Esbrand or Bidwell, Gyökeres is proving an effective outlet for Sporting’s wingbacks to play off of, the all-action center forward that Rúben Amorim’s side have been crying out for. Having seen Porto and Benfica win the title in the past two years, Sporting enter 2024 in first place, one point above Benfica, three above Porto and five above Braga.
At 25 years of age, Gyökeres has won just one trophy: the Swedish second-tier championship with IF Brommapojkarna in 2017. Since then, he has bounced around from Brighton to St. Pauli to Swansea to Coventry, and today, he is proving unstoppable for a Sporting side that will face Swiss giants Young Boys in the Europa League and that is looking to claim a third Taça da Liga in four years — they will face Braga in the semifinals, and if they can prevail with another victory, they will face Benfica or Estoril Praia in the final.
Sporting will kick off 2024 with a home match against Estoril before hosting second-tier Tondela in the Taça de Portugal Round of 16, and they will be counting on Gyökeres to continue his red-hot form in front of goal as they look to make a genuine push on all fronts and challenge for their 20th Primeira Liga championship.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Mike Egerton – PA Images