Despite only a handful of appearances in the competition, Justin Ferizaj has earmarked himself as one of the most intriguing talents emerging from the League of Ireland. Still a relatively unknown quantity, this intrigue was partly driven by the then 17-year-old’s decision to turn down contract offers from abroad, instead opting to continue his development at Shamrock Rovers throughout the 2022 season. However, his performances in the Hoops’ UEFA Conference League campaign have generated the kind of interest that may convince the Ireland U19 international to leave the club before the 2023 season commences.
A player with creative instincts, Ferizaj is often utilised as a ‘wide 10’ in a narrow, fluid front 3 that regularly places him in the halfspaces. He’s comfortable receiving on both feet, a significant asset given the variety of positions he picks up, but this ability can be stifled by a tendency to double back on himself after an initially positive reception. Limiting his access to dangerous angles, this habit, in conjunction with a slightly variable first touch, can undermine both the variety and value of Ferizaj’s contributions in possession.
Nevertheless, he has still been able to display a promising technical upside. Trusted with corner taking, Ferizaj consistently hits threatening areas at the front post. If he whips these deliveries more, they’ll be extremely effective. His two-footedness, vision and passing range are also notable: he spots runs beyond the last line particularly well, and regularly looks to clip penetrative passes from both deep and advanced positions. Ferizaj could sometimes be accused of overplaying in these moments, and generally his decision-making needs improvement. His play can be rushed, encouraging rash decisions; he too often attempts a speculative final ball over actions that allow his side to build or sustain pressure.
The moments where his risks are calculated can be his most effective, especially in advanced areas. Ferizaj occasionally uses short, sharp dribbles to draw pressure and find teammates in the pockets of space created around him. His physique suits these dribbles: he stands around 5’9”, with a low centre of gravity, and in addition to a decent burst, he has a sturdy build that enables him to ride contact. Off the dribble he’s currently more suited to simple linking actions; there can be issues with generating power when striking the ball, due to not getting it out of his feet properly.
Ferizaj’s rawness is fairly well characterised by his off-ball movements. Offensively, he will typically orient himself relative to the player in possession, at times forcing an angle that can block other passing options. More consistent scanning habits, as well as the ability to better recognise and access pockets of space will be central to his progression. Dedicated to his role in defensive phases, there’s potential for Ferizaj to be valuable in pressing situations. Although currently missing some of the technical aspects of pressing, his diligent and intense defensive running is suggestive of a player keen to learn and contribute to this part of the game.
Reportedly training with Tottenham Hotspur ahead of a potential transfer, Ferizaj’s talent is evident. However, a move to a club that has struggled to provide pathways for developmental prospects in recent years should be treated with some caution. Assuming he will be playing PL2 for the remainder of the English season, before a loan move in the summer, it’s important that he’s allowed to maintain the momentum built over the 2022 season. Moving into the 23/24 season, Ferizaj will need a loan that affords him both the patience and game-time needed to iron out the tactical and technical inconsistencies currently present in his game – a club near the top of League 2 would be well-placed to provide this. Although slightly precarious, Ferizaj has a potential that could definitely see him compete at international level with either Ireland or Albania, and perhaps further develop into a player of Premier League quality.