23-year-old striker Cedric Itten has joined Rangers on a four-year deal, having previously turned out for St Gallen in the 2019-20 campaign. There he collected an eye-catching 22 goals and six assists in 36 games. Fans will hope he can be part of a side that prevents Celtic winning an unprecedented tenth consecutive SPFL title.
Last season also saw Itten win his first international cap and international goal, sealing a 1-0 win against Georgia in the European Qualifiers. In his second international appearance, the new Rangers number 11 completed the full 90 minutes, scoring twice and assisting once. With the uncertainty that surrounds Switzerland’s best attacking options, Itten’s recent form certainly puts him in the conversation.
However, one would assume the majority of Scottish fans don’t follow the Swiss leagues closely. Therefore, this scout report will better inform the reader of Itten’s strengths and weaknesses. It will provide and make use of his statistics from this season, and, by doing so, we can develop an objective foundation that will allow for an accurate tactical analysis and evaluation of his ability.
Itten began the season playing as a centre forward for St Gallen in late July 2019. However, Boris Babic’s promising performances at youth level saw him promoted into the first-team setup. As a result, manager Peter Zeidler changed his tactics from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 diamond. The change saw Itten play as an attacking midfielder. In December, in form forward Babic would suffer a ligament tear, resulting in him missing the remainder of the season. Therefore, Itten was again asked to play as a centre forward.
As an attacking midfielder, the new Rangers signing showed an ability to play on the ground. He displayed a sound capability to play useful through balls, hold up play, make progressive passes and defensively duel well. As a centre forward, he displayed more abilities, such as aerial duelling, finishing, dribbling and attacking positioning.
Out of possession, Itten’s defensive responsibilities are limited, but include; dictating the opposition’s play, counter-pressing the back line, and competing against centre backs in the air. All of this, done well, enabled St Gallen to have more opportunities from dangerous positions. Let’s examine his specific stats from last season.
Rangers fans will be hoping that Itten can work as hard as their current forward, Alfredo Morelos, but with more discipline on the field. Last season, the Swiss centre forward picked up three yellow cards and zero reds. However, does he do the dirty work at the top of the pitch? The statistics would suggest he does. He made 102 recoveries in total, 45 in the final third, with two goals stemming from them. What’s more, he wins 53.33% of his defensive duels. Therefore, we can make a fair assumption that he will fit into the counter-pressing system that Rangers currently employ. In the air, Itten has proved his target man ability, winning 39% of his aerial duels. Moreover, he is desirable in transitions, winning 31.16% of loose ball duels. In summary, the statistics are rather complementary toward Itten’s defensive ability. He works hard to win the ball back during the transition and in the final third, and has a good chance of winning possession back in duels.
Above, Itten has dropped deep in his own half to win back possession. He notices the chance to press, as his teammates have denied the ball carrier space. Rangers’ new number 11 sprints to close the space, remains on his feet, and uses his dominating physical presence to win back possession. This is only one example of many defensive duels that Itten has won. However, it does display his strong and useful defensive technique, and provides a reason as to why he has such a large defensive duel win percentage.
In possession, his main responsibilities are to create and convert chances. We’ve mentioned previously that he’s capable of playing as an attacking midfielder or as a centre forward; as a result, Itten has an excellent technical ability for a target man. Below, we will examine his chance creation ability, through passing and dribbling, and his chance conversion ability, through his positioning and finishing. Before we analyse the footage, let’s examine the statistics.
In terms of creating chances, we must consider Itten’s passing ability. Last season, he completed 67.54% of passes, relatively high for a forward. Why? They’re more likely to take riskier passes. He completes 60.65% of his passes into the final third and 54.21% of passes into the penalty area. These are often the hardest but most important passes, because they lead to chances. Moreover, he’s completed 13 key passes, 28.12% through balls and 48% of his crosses. As a result, he collected six assists, which meets his expected assist value. Another way of creating chances is by taking on defenders. Itten is good in these situations too. He wins 36.53% of his offensive duels, similar to Morelos’s 37%. On top of that, Itten completed 65.7% of his dribbles, with the most joy coming from the right (83.3%) and central parts (62.3%) of the pitch.
In terms of converting chances let’s examine his expectations and values. To begin with, Itten is predominantly right-footed, completing 71 shots as opposed to 23 with his left. He’s also lethal in the box, scoring 21 of his 22 goals coming from here. Of his 120 shots last season, 56 hit the target, giving a 46.7% shot accuracy percentage. His expected goal stat was 22.81, converting 18.3% of his shots.
In summary, the stats portray a forward that is dangerous in the box. Outside of the box, he favours his chance creation skills. However, he is strongly right-footed and needs technical players that can find him in the box. Below, the report will contextualise the statistics.
The picture above illustrates Itten’s spatial awareness and ability to combine and break lines with movement and passing. As a centre forward, he seldom makes runs in behind. Instead, the Swiss forward drops between the midfield and defensive line. It allows the midfielders to penetrate the forward spaces. Throughout the season, he created opportunities with this move, demonstrating a range of different passing techniques to open up defences.
Above, notice how Itten has drifted out wide. He’ll rarely drift out to the left, but has shown to be productive from the right. Using his strength to hold up the incoming defender, he feints and changes speed as he knocks the ball down the line. Within a split second, he drives a low cross into the box for his teammate to finish. In this example, we get a taste for Itten’s quick change of speed, ball retention and awareness of teammates.
Itten mixes it up when he drifts out wide. The example above displays a decision to dribble inside as opposed to running down the line. The ability to do both with good succession means that the opposition’s defence struggle to dictate his play. Above, we can see how they try to force Itten into the wider areas. However, his ability to deceive his opponent and cut inside enables him to create more chances for himself. The problem here is that his left foot is considerably weaker than his right. Therefore, when he does cut inside, he is currently unlikely to convert.
When it comes to converting chances, Itten does well to get himself into the best positions to finish, getting ball-side. This is shown above. Note how the opposing right-back is not able to get across Itten and defend the cross, and how the right-sided centre back is too far away to challenge the Swiss player. When his teammate’s delivery beats the defender, it’s almost a certainty that Itten will convert it.
The final example displays how Itten can still score when he doesn’t get ball-side in time. His desire to score is matched by his physical presence and awareness of the danger zones in the box. This relentless energy became a real problem for teams in Switzerland, and provides a reason for him achieving the most chances (35) in the closing 15 minutes of games, as the defenders began to suffer from fatigue.
This analysis has shown Itten’s strengths and weaknesses. As a target man, he possesses a sound level of technical skill, as well as the essential physical attributes needed for the role. He boasts an impressive defensive and aerial duel ability off the ball.
Unfortunately, he missed the chance to prove himself against Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, and his time competing in the SPFL has not started as quickly as he may have hoped. However, his quality is undeniable. As is often the case, he needs time to settle and become familiar with his teammates. If he does this, then one would imagine he will fulfil Gerrard’s hopes of offering good competition for Alfredo Morelos.