Robert Skov is a Danish international who caught the attention of many by breaking goalscoring records in the Danish Superliga aged 22, playing on the right wing. This impressive season earned him a £9m move to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga from Copenhagen.
In the Superliga he scored 29 goals in 34 matches as well as 10 assists from the right wing and won the Danish championship with Copenhagen.
Since joining the German side, he’s been used as a left sided player, usually as a wing back in a 3–1–4–2 or a left back in a 4–2–3–1. He’s got 3 goals and 4 assists this season for Hoffenheim with a few appearances as a right winger and as a 10. But, mainly he is being retrained as a left sided defender.
Hoffenheim are currently 9th in the league, but are two points off of 6th and the last Europa League spot. If/when the league resumes, they’ll be competing with the teams around them for that Europa League place, whereas the top 5 have drawn away from the pack quite a bit.
Robert Skov is 23 and has impressed in the Bundesliga in his new position in Alfred Schreuder’s Hoffenheim. He stands at 6’1″ with a quite lanky, wirey frame. But he’s a good athlete, which has massively helped with his new defensive duties. He’s strong and showed good ability to hold off defenders and was good in to shoulder to shoulder collisions.
He has good changes of pace and impressive bursts of speed. His footwork is quick and his changes of direction and agility are decent. His top speed is good but he rarely uses it. I found that he can lack intensity a bit in his game and didn’t sprint much at all. At times, he could come across as casual and a bit passive, losing concentration when his man passed the ball and it was no longer in his scope of responsibility.
When the ball got to the final third he didn’t offer much support and would ball-watch from a bit deeper. Possibly a tactical decision to prevent counter attacks but he wasn’t called to action much. One time against Borussia Dortmund, his winger cut into the half space, drawing in two defenders and then gave a throughball to his left assuming there was an overlapping run being made. But Skov was 15 metres back.
Of course, he’s adapting to a new team in a very different role which could explain some of these things which hopefully can be sorted as he becomes more familiar and comfortable in the position.
Out of possession
Defensively he is inconsistent but showed some good ability but often looks like a player out of position. He has good defensive body position in 1v1s most of the time and if he gets his footwork right, he defended the wide areas and the box pretty well. He kept up with the opposition well and used bursts of pace well to force them to the byline and did okay to block crosses.
But, his positioning in 1v1s wasn’t always perfect and could have done more to try and show his defender one way and try to dominate the situation. But, he sat off a bit and allowed the attacker control meaning they could go the direction where Skov’s front foot is, usually inside, quite easily. And if he didn’t get his feet right from there, they’d be allowed a good amount of space to cross to shoot.
In terms of marking, he was good at times but inconsistent and could lose concentration. He had pretty good awareness but could be facing too sideways with his man behind him and not have time to react and allow his man to make runs.
His defensive positioning in general can look a little awkward and indecisive but this will improve with experience and coaching.
With the ball
Skov produces a great radar for a full back with high percentile rankings in some metrics. But, as you can see his defensive output numbers are lacking, with just 2.01 tackles and interceptions per 90. He rarely fouls but that’s because he is a passive defender who doesn’t enter many duels.
He has very high crossing and assist numbers but these are skewed by his set piece taking role, which I’ll get onto. He completes a solid 79.6% of his passes but lacks progression massively. He only makes 2.1 passes to the final third which is poor, but didn’t surprise me after watching him in the build up.
Here is his passmap from their match against Borussia Dortmund in December. Hoffenheim are attacking left to right and he’s playing as the left back in a 4–2–3–1. He made four passes into the final third but rarely passes forward. Looking at the top left section, you can see the amount of passes that went back toward goal.
I looked up this pass map to back up the eye test and it did. Hoffenheim average the 5th highest possession figures in the league and build from the back, sometimes using the goalkeeper in line with the centre halves. This was an area of Skov’s game that he really lacked and needs to improve to be an effective modern full back.
Too often he played first time passes back to the centre half who played the pass. Even when he received in space without much pressure, he’s take a touch tight to his body rather than a progressive one and pass back to his teammate. He didn’t attempt to travel into space or pass into his winger or midfielders. The Dane didn’t fight for his positioning to create angles and passing lanes when teammates were under pressure and was quite static. He was often pressed or marked which made it difficult but he had opportunities to do more with the ball.
He has some questionable decision making in possession. Such as shooting from this position you can see above in the same game I mentioned before. He has a lot of passing options but chose to shoot from half way when the keeper was in a good position. It went wide of the post and the keeper had it easily covered.
Skov is a good technical player. He has a good first touch and uses feints well to receive the ball and good passing technique with smooth, fast passing. He can cross pretty well in open play and can use dribbling to get out of tight situations. He’s strong, fast and athletic. He has the tools to be a good player but needs to improve his game intelligence and how he can effect the game, as well as his defensive positioning and decision making.
His main asset is his set piece taking. In the Superliga he scored 8 direct free kicks and 7 penalties, resulting in a huge over-performance of his expected goals. He is a huge threat around the box with a powerful striker and great ability to get the ball over the wall at pace. He put in dangerous whipped crosses from corners and wide free kicks that are a real danger as well.
Hoffenheim may have seen the opportunity to bring in a set piece specialist for a good price. But, may not have thought he’s good enough to get minutes and be impactful in an attacking role such as on the right wing. So, converting him to a role where he can be less influential and important in open play, such as left back, but can get minutes and be on the pitch to make the most of set pieces.
Overall, he has the skillset to be a strong player but right now needs to improve his buildup play, decison making and build consistency. With his set piece specialist role he can excel and be an important player but has areas to improve. He is 23 though and will be 24 at the start of the next season. Having no football at the moment definitely won’t be helping him as he needs to improve his match impact rather than technical skills and athleticism so training from home isn’t much use.