When Deniz Undav left at the end of the last campaign to join Brighton & Hove Albion, Royale Union Saint-Gilloise had to try to figure out a way of replacing the German’s goals, especially with European football to contend with as well in the 2022/23 season. Dennis Eckert was signed on a free transfer from FC Ingolstadt and Simon Adingra was brought in on loan from Brighton. The other forward that has come in is 21-year-old Nigerian striker, Victor Boniface, from FK Bodø/Glimt.
After winning two straight Eliteserien titles with the side from the far north of Norway and scoring 13 goals in 48 appearances in the process, the forward has now moved to Belgium. This tactical analysis and scout report will take a deeper look at some of the strengths in the Nigerian’s game, as well as profile his fit in the Union Saint-Gilloise squad.
The heat map displayed above shows the typical positions on the pitch that Victor Boniface occupied during his time with Bodø/Glimt. The Norwegian club normally operated out of a 4-3-3 system, with Boniface being the central striker. The Nigerian is very much a penalty box poacher, with most of his activity coming in the central areas of the 18-yard box as well as just outside of it. Boniface is not a striker that will drift wide often, or generally not at all.
The outstanding physical trait of Boniface is undoubtedly his height, with the Nigerian striker standing at 6’4” tall, along with top-level strength to hold off opposition defenders in tight spaces in the penalty box. Boniface is a target man inside the box but has fox-in-the-box tendencies as well — something that this scout report will go over in more detail.
Finishing ability inside the box
During his time in Norway with Bodø/Glimt, Boniface was a large presence inside the penalty box, and his goalscoring record for the back-to-back Norwegian champions emphasizes this point. Boniface scored 23 goals in all competitions during his 66 appearances with Bodø/Glimt, a record of a goal roughly every three matches.
Taking a deeper dive and looking at the underlying stats and metrics also shows how much of a presence Boniface is inside the 18-yard box. Throughout his time in Norway, the Nigerian striker averaged 4.89 touches in the penalty box per 90 minutes, which illustrates his consistent presence in this dangerous area in the attack. He also averaged 4.23 shots per 90 minutes with a 46.9% success rate. The following section will take a more detailed look at the impact that the attacker has inside the penalty box.
The shot map displayed above shows the typical positions that Boniface likes to shoot from. As can be noted from the chart, the vast majority of his shots have taken place inside the penalty box, more proving the point of the Nigerian being a heavy penalty box presence.
The image above shows an example of his fox-in-the-box ability, as well as reaction speed when it comes to loose balls inside the penalty box. In this phase of play, the Bodø/Glimt forward attempted to take a shot at goal, but the defender was able to get a deflection off on the ball, with the ensuing deflection going across the box and into the Nigerian striker’s path. Boniface is quickest to react, with him running past the defender’s back shoulder and getting a free header.
Even though Boniface is a bigger, more physical striker, he still is superb inside the penalty box when closed down by opposition defenders. The image above shows a good example of this close control and finishing ability inside the box. In this phase of play, Boniface receives possession just outside the penalty box before making a driving run into it. As he drives into the box, he is closed down by four opposition defenders, but still is able to fire home a shot with pace into the bottom corner, catching the goalkeeper out and scoring.
This final example also demonstrates some of the new USG signing’s strength and close control, along with his finishing ability. Preceding this shot, Boniface was able to gather possession and dribble to the byline, keeping the ball close to him. He then was able to use his strength to shove the defender out of bounds and away from him to open up the space for a shot. The Nigerian’s ensuing shot is from a really tight angle, but he can make it count, slotting past the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net.
This section has illustrated Boniface’s finishing ability inside the penalty box, as well as his close control and strength in these situations. This, however, is not the only strength that is present in the player’s locker.
For a striker who stands at 6’4” tall, Victor Boniface is, as previously illustrated, very good with the ball at his feet and driving towards opposition defenders. The last section briefly highlighted the dribbling ability and close control of the Nigerian striker, but this next section will go into a little more detail on Boniface’s dribbling ability.
The image above shows an example of Boniface’s close control and dribbling ability, which ends up leading to a goal for Bodø/Glimt. In a rather unique situation, the Nigerian striker found himself positioned on the edge of the penalty box from a wider left position. He is able to drive into the box and glide past the opposition defenders before getting to the byline.
After reaching the byline, Boniface can send a ball back into the six-yard box, where the on-rushing attacker can finish first time into the far corner. This attacking sequence was created and finished all by the dribbling ability of the 6’4” attacker.
The image above shows another example of his dribbling ability in and around the penalty box. Boniface is able to get the first defender to bite with a fake shot on the edge of the box, which allows the Nigerian striker to dribble past him into the box. Another defender then comes over to try and challenge him, but Boniface can dribble past him, winning a penalty as a result as the defender dives in.
This is not to say however that Victor Boniface is perfect when it comes to his dribbling ability. His height does not aid him when it comes to his dribbling, with some improvement still being needed if the Nigerian wants to become a more complete dribbler.
This can be illustrated by his success rate when he dribbles, which is a relatively low 47%. Though not a terribly low number, if he could improve on this percentage, he would then become a more complete dribbler. Boniface also only makes 1.37 progressive runs per 90, which means he does not run at players with the ball at his feet often. While the striker is more of a target-forward type of player, if he could slightly improve these dribbling statistics, then the Nigerian could become a much more rounded forward.
Ability to link play
A final strength that will be discussed in this scout report is the player’s ability to link attacking play together, not just finish attacking moves. While the key to being a good striker is the ability to finish in front of goal, being able to also pass the ball and link attacking play together is another valuable asset for a team.
Strikers like Gabriel Jesus at Arsenal and Kai Havertz at Chelsea are two names that come to mind in that regard. Though not as good a passer as those two, Boniface is still a decent passer of the ball during attacking moments, something this next section will take a more detailed look at.
The image above shows an example of Boniface’s passing ability, more specifically, his one-touch passing ability. The Bodø/Glimt midfielder has just played the ball to Boniface, who is positioned on the edge of the penalty box. The striker is able to spot the midfielder making a run behind the defence and plays a perfect one-touch pass through the opposition’s defensive line and into the space behind.
Unfortunately, the midfielder’s ensuing shot is not a good one, with a good chance gone begging. Still, this demonstrates that it is not just goalscoring where Boniface can contribute to his side.
The image above shows another example of Boniface’s passing range, albeit at not the best angle. In the phase of play above, the attacker has dropped deeper into midfield to get more involved in the build-up play. After receiving possession in the defensive third, the Nigerian can turn and drive into the space before finding his winger with a perfectly weighted through ball in behind the opposition. The Bodø/Glimt winger is able to run onto the ball in behind and drive into the box, scoring as a result.
Above shows another example of the new USG man’s passing ability when he is involved in linking up the play from deeper areas in the midfield. After receiving possession and turning, Boniface spots the run of the player who has occupied his central striker position.
Boniface anticipates the run that the player is going to make and plays a very good ball into that space behind the opposition’s defensive line. Unfortunately, the attacker’s ensuing shot is scuffed wide. However, it still demonstrates the passing range this player possesses.
This however does not mean that Victor Boniface is a perfectly well-rounded passer at all. Looking at some deeper lying metrics shows that there are a couple of things that the Nigerian could work on to make his passing more well-rounded and complete. First is the amount of passes that he is attempting per 90 minutes. These examples have shown that Boniface has the capability to become a striker that is able to link play together on a more consistent basis. That means an improvement should be made on his average of 17.79 passes per 90 minutes. Another passing statistic that could use some improvement is the number of through passes that he attempts. A couple of examples showed the types of through passes he is capable of, but with only 1.24 through passes attempted per 90 and a success rate of 28.9%, improvement is needed.
This final section has taken a look into Boniface’s passing range when he receives to feet with his back to goal or opts to drop into deeper positions and become more involved in the build-up play in the middle and attacking third. Though this is not a super frequent occurrence, when Boniface does opt to drop deeper, he can offer something.
Still not capped at senior international level, there is every chance that if Victor Boniface proves himself in Belgium, he will eventually get a senior international call-up for Nigeria. As this analysis has shown, Boniface is not the finished product, but he has a very high ceiling to continue growing and developing. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the tactics of new USG manager Karel Geraerts.