Scouting Report: Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele
May 27, 2019
A lack of headline-grabbing tournament football may be enough to detract even the fiercest football fan, but there remains a feast of action to sink ones teeth into this summer.
The Women’s World Cup kicks off on June 7th, while the Africa Cup of Nations, and the U21 Euros will also be contested during the domestic hiatus. The latter competition, along with the U20 World Cup, is as good a chance as any to gain a first hand look at the next diamonds in the rough.
For the U21 Euros, France remain one of the favourites (9/2 with Black Type) to secure glory and considering their track record with producing some of the finest talent on the continent, it’s easy to see why. Not all eligible are expected to feature for France U21s this summer, and much to the disappointment of some football fans, one of those who may miss out is the emerging Tanguy NDombele, now a fully-fledged France international.
Along with Lyon teammate and compatriot Houssem Aouar, NDombele has established himself as one of the most sought after midfielders in Europe. The 22-year-old is now a regular fixture in the Lyon starting XI and hefty interest in his signature should come as little shock. The Frenchman ticks all the boxes of the ideal modern-day midfielder and his performances haven’t gone unnoticed with Europe’s heavyweights taking notice.
Able to bombard upfield in possession to break the lines, NDombele has proven time and time again how effective he is on the ball. Opponents find the youngster supremely difficult to stop and a 72.4% dribble success rate this season, as per WhoScored.com, is testament to his exceptional dribbling ability. Teams nowadays often rely on their central midfielders to open up new channels in which to hurt opponents and, in this sense, NDombele excels.
When he gets himself into the final third, too, he isn’t one to fluff his lines, so to speak. Rather, NDombele has the vision to spot a teammate and the quality to execute a defence splitting pass. Seven assists is second only to Memphis Depay (10) of all Lyon players in Ligue 1 this season, all of which have come from open play. Only Nicolas Pepe (9), Depay, Jonathan Ikone and Andrien Thomasson (all 8) have more assists from open play than NDombele in France’s top tier this term, as per WhoScored.com.
With a fine return of 47 key passes from open play, that the 8th best in the league, it’s easy to see why so many teams are keen to lure him away from France this summer, with a notable return made all the more impressive when taking into consideration NDombele’s regular starting position. Bruno Genesio has routinely started NDombele in a reserved role, with the Frenchman nominally a holding midfielder, but that hasn’t limited a willingness to push forward on a whim to great effect. In fact, Genesio has attempted to maximise the offensive side to the former Amien man’s game, at times using him in a three-man midfield with Lucas Tousart tasked with shielding the defence to allow NDombele and Aouar to push on.
What’s more is that NDombele doesn’t allow the attacking thrust to disrupt the defensive side to his game. 2.2 tackles and one interception per 90, as per WhoScored.com, shows he performs the required duties of a deeper lying midfield to an exceptionally high standard, but the attacking side to his game shows he can perform two duties in the same midfield, which is a huge bonus for any interested party.
Of course, with any player in his position, it’s crucial they recycle possession well and, as you might expect, this isn’t a duty NDombele flatters to deceive in. Of all Lyon regulars this season, only Marcelo (74.3) is making more passes per 90 than NDombele (65.5), while an 89.1% pass success rate is second to Jason Denayer (93.8%). That both ahead of him in the two parameters are centre-backs who nominally see more of, and have more time on, the ball, it further brings to light the France international’s ability to pick out a teammate with ease even in the most hectic position in the game.
All in all, NDombele is going to be a person of interest for a number of top teams over the coming weeks. He combines all the best parts of the modern archetypal midfielder and at 22 years of age, there is certainly more to come from the Lyon man. Jean-Michel Aulas will hold out for top dollar for one of his prized assets, but in the inflated market, NDombele will be a bargain buy regardless. Indeed, this is one game changing player you’ll be wanting your team to sign this summer no matter the cost. And if, as reported, he is to leave Lyon this summer, he’ll at least depart with his head held high after netting his first league goal of the campaign in the final game of the season, that an injury time winner in a 3-2 victory at Nimes as Lyon ended a fairly sub-par 2018/19 on a good note.