Transfer windows are always endlessly packed with transfer rumours. This year’s January transfer window has been and will be, no different. One name that will be mentioned frequently over the month is the name of Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumaré. This tactical analysis will examine Soumaré’s role within Lille’s tactical set-up, as well as his best qualities as a player.
Soumaré is a 20-year-old central midfielder. After growing up in Paris and developing as a part of Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy, he moved to Lille in the summer of 2017, where he has been playing his football since. The French national has been capped at every level of international youth football, from under-16 up to under-21 level. He is yet to make his full international debut.
Soumaré has garnered significant interest from top clubs due to his impressive performances with Lille over the past couple of seasons. More often than not, he generally plays on the left side of the double-pivot in Lille’s 4-2-3-1 tactics set-up.
Soumaré is a skilled and very well-rounded footballer. He has shown himself to possess all of the qualities one would typically want in a modern box-to-box midfielder. We will analyse Soumaré’s well-rounded attributes in this scout report. We will look at his impressive passing, dribbling, tackling, interceptions, and aerial ability in this piece.
Calm, intelligent, quality passing ability.
Soumaré has shown to possess a lot of quality on the ball. He exudes coolness on the pitch and has the ability to control a game. Soumaré generally plays with a calmness on the ball. Furthermore, he likes to get on the ball as much as possible. As a result, you typically see him roam around quite a bit when Lille have possession. Much of Lille’s build-up play comes through Soumaré as he is comfortable spraying the ball around the pitch.
On top of that, Soumaré generally plays very calmly under pressure. We can see an example of this in the image above. In this image, we can see Soumaré in possession of the ball. He had just dropped between the centre-backs to receive possession deep and attempt to advance play up the pitch.
We can see him being pressed by both N’Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovačić. However, Soumaré is happy to back his ability on the ball here. He uses his large build to hold off the challenge of Kanté and manages to play past their press. He releases the ball to midfield partner Xeka, and continues his run forward off the ball. This begins an attack for Lille.
The image above shows us another example of Soumaré’s quality on the ball. Soumaré is comfortable with playing the ball into dangerous areas from a deeper position. We can see this in the image above.
In this image, we see Soumaré in possession of the ball in his holding midfield position. He doesn’t have a lot of space to work with, in this image. He is being pressed by the opposition’s centre-forward and their most advanced central midfielder. Meanwhile, both of the opposition’s holding midfielder’s are also sitting quite narrow.
Soumaré possesses excellent vision which he exhibits here, by playing a line-breaking pass into his most advanced attacker. This pass achieves multiple things. Firstly, it gets the ball into a more advanced and more dangerous position for Lille.
Secondly, it disrupts the shape of the opposition, Monaco in this instance, as one of their defenders is dragged out of the backline to deal with the attacker receiving possession. This pass also forces a midfielder to drop deeper to press the receiver. This also disrupts the midfield shape of the opposition.
Soumaré has got line-breaking passes like the one shown in the image above in his arsenal. This makes him a dangerous creative threat from deep.
This image above shows us another example of Soumaré’s impressive vision. This image shows us another example of Soumaré creating from deep, versus Monaco’s narrow midfield trio.
We can see that Lille have got an attacking midfielder positioned between Monaco’s midfield and defensive lines. Soumaré spots this, however he has got a Monaco player, along with a teammate in between him and the attacking midfielder, who is circled in this image.
We can see Soumaré pointing to the left in this image, signalling to his nearer teammate to shift to the left. This is an example of Soumaré’s ability to intelligently dictate play from deep. As the nearer midfielder moves to the left, he drags the Monaco midfielder marking him away with him. This opens up the passing lane to the attacking midfielder, allowing Soumaré to find him between the lines.
In this passage of play, we see a showcase of Soumaré’s ability to dictate play, his intelligence and his impressive vision to spot this pass.
This next image shows us another example of Soumaré’s quality on the ball. Once again Soumaré finds himself on the ball relatively deep, with plenty of teammates ahead of him.
An attacker is dropping away from the Monaco defence in this image, to make themselves available to receive the ball. This player is circled in the image above. Soumaré spots this pass and uses an impressive and intelligent technique to find the player.
Soumaré disguises the pass into this attacker by positioning himself, facing in a different direction to the attacker. While facing his winger, Soumaré quickly plays the ball at pace into the attacker’s feet. The purpose of disguising the pass in this manner is that it helps him to get his pass beyond the Monaco midfielders without one of them simply blocking the passing lane.
It is clear that Soumaré possesses a lot of ability on the ball. He is a creative player and can cause trouble for the opposition from deep if given time and space.
Strong and skilful dribbling ability
Soumaré’s dribbling ability is one of his most effective qualities. He has a lot skill on the ball and he is confident in his dribbling ability. He is not afraid to get himself on the ball in a deep position and attempt to drive up the pitch with it himself. As a result, Soumaré is a dangerous dribbler. When allowed space and given time to face the opposition goal, he can hurt teams.
In the image above, we can see an example of the kind of in-game scenario in which Soumaré thrives. In this image, Soumaré has just received possession of the ball. An opposition midfielder can be seen pressing him from behind. However, as we can see circled in the image, the opposition team, Montpellier, have left a lot of space ahead of Soumaré for him to drive into and exploit.
Soumaré drives into the space allowed to him by the opposition, as we can see in this second image. Soumaré’s dangerous and threatening dribbling ability attracts four Montpellier players towards him. This creates space for Lille’s left-winger and attacking midfielder, both of whom are seen circled in this image.
Soumaré ultimately releases to the attacking midfielder, who subsequently finds the open winger. This passage of play shows us an example of Soumaré’s quality on the ball. His movement created a dangerous scenario for the opposition which quickly attracted defenders towards him. This, in turn, created space for two of his teammates in dangerous positions, which they could then exploit.
Soumaré’s size and strength are other qualities which make him a dangerous and threatening dribbler. Soumaré is 188cm (6 feet, 2 inches) tall. He is also strong both in and out of possession. He knows how to use his size and strength when dribbling to make himself a difficult force for the opposition to stop. We can see an example of Soumaré using his size and strength on the ball in the image above.
This image shows Soumaré attempting to start a counter-attack by dribbling the ball out of the defence. As we can see, he is being aggressively challenged by Chelsea defender, Emerson. Despite Emerson’s attempts at challenging Soumaré, the midfielder manages to hold him off and retain possession of the ball.
This second image shows the results of Soumaré’s dribble. He managed to shrug off the challenge of Emerson, who ultimately ends up on the ground, as seen in the image above. This shows us how Soumaré can use his size and strength on the ball to carry it through opposition challenges.
Soumaré completes the impressive dribble, retaining possession and releasing the ball to a more advanced teammate, positioned on the right-wing. This sets Lille off on a dangerous counter-attack.
It is clear that Soumaré’s dribbling ability is a major asset to his game. At his height and size, he is tough to stop once he gets going. Furthermore, he possesses a lot of technical skill on the ball. If given space ahead of him to run into, Soumaré is more than capable of threatening opponents. His dribbling ability is a useful asset in the transition from defence to attack. If given space, he is capable of picking the ball up deep and carrying it into the opposition’s half dangerously, as seen above.
Imposing tackling ability
As stated previously, Soumaré is a box-to-box threat. His quality on the ball is matched by his quality off the ball. His aggressive and imposing tackling ability presents a threat to opposition attackers. Soumaré is often seen going to ground in order to win back the ball. He is a thorough tackler and he is rarely dribbled past.
We can see Soumaré lining up and moving in for a tackle in this image above. The opposition attacker is attempting to dribble the ball through the centre of the pitch. In order to do so he would have to dribble past Soumaré and his midfield partner. As we see in this image, Soumaré positions himself to the side of the opposition attacker, as he readies himself to set up a tackling opportunity.
In this second image, we can see the aftermath of Soumaré’s tackle attempt. As the opposition attacker attempted to make his way through Lille’s midfield, Soumaré went to ground to nick the ball back. Soumaré is successful in winning back the ball and sends it back up the pitch to kickstart an attacking move for Lille.
Soumaré can frequently be seen utilising this tackling technique as seen in this passage above. He is a quick and agile player. As a result, he is capable of nicking the ball back by going to ground after the opposition attacker has already partially made his way past him.
As we can see in this image, Soumaré lines up the tackle at the side of the attacker. Once the attacker begins to make his way beyond Soumaré, he goes to ground and uses the pace of the ball to swiftly force it away from the attacker back to the other direction.
Soumaré’s sliding tackles tend to have quite a bit of power behind them. We can see another example of one of Soumaré’s powerful and imposing tackles in this image above.
Soumaré and Kanté are circled in this image above. This image shows us the immediate aftermath of another one of Soumaré’s successful sliding tackles. Prior to this image, Soumaré had entered into the challenge at pace. He subsequently went to ground and successfully wins the ball back.
We can see the ball moving at pace away from where the challenge took place in this image. This is another example of the power at which Soumaré performs his tackles. As he makes contact with the ball at pace, he forces it away from the opposition attacker at pace. This is often successful at putting the ball into an advantageous position for Lille, as is the case in this passage of play.
Following this tackle, the ball makes its way onto the right side of midfield. A Lille player picks up possession of the ball and subsequently begins a counter-attack.
Soumaré’s tackling ability is of high quality. He has been very tough to dribble past for opposition attackers. His pace and power combine with his tackling technique to create a very defensively solid player. Furthermore, the power of his tackles can create counter-attacking opportunities for his team, as was the case with both of the tackles discussed here.
Positional intelligence, pace and size help Soumaré to make interceptions
Soumaré’s pace is a useful asset for his tackling. His pace is also useful at helping him to successfully intercept opposition passes. Soumaré combines his pace with his impressive positional intelligence to consistently intercept opposition passes.
This image above shows us an example of how Soumaré combines pace and positional intelligence to make interceptions. In this image, we can see the Montpellier midfielder attempting to play the ball into the feet of the centre-forward. He plays the ball with pace attempting to play through Lille’s double-pivot.
However, as Xeka presses the passer, Soumaré begins to position himself to cut off the passing lane. As the ball is subsequently played into the centre-forward, Soumaré is quick to get in between the ball and the intended receiver. He manages to intercept the pass and win back possession for Lille.
The previous image showed us an example of how Soumaré can help his team win back possession from his deeper holding midfield position. However, Soumaré also presents a threat to the opposition out of possession, higher up the pitch. We can see an example of this in this image above.
In this image, Soumaré can be seen quickly closing down a pass from Montpellier’s right-back, to their central midfielder. As the ball is played into the midfield, Soumaré uses his pace and power to get himself between the intended receiver and the ball. In this passage of play, he successfully wins the ball back in the opposition’s half. This allows Lille to begin their attack from a dangerous position.
This image shows us that Soumaré’s pace, power and positional intelligence can provide Lille with a quality defensive threat from higher up the pitch, as well as from deeper as the first image showed us.
Soumaré is capable of forcing turnovers in either a high press or a deeper block out of possession.
This image above shows us an example of Soumaré preventing an opposition counter-attack before it really starts. Just prior to this image, Lille had been on the attack. This is evident by the number of bodies from both sides situated in Montpellier’s box.
Montpellier had just cleared the ball following a Lille cross. They had hoped to begin a counter-attack by attempting to find the attacker, seen furthest away from the Montpellier box in this image, with a long-ball.
However, Soumaré had stayed back as cover for Lille, in order to prevent the counter-attacking threat. As the ball is cleared by Montpellier, Soumaré quickly runs to intercept the ball before it is received by the Montpellier attacker.
As Soumaré intercepts the ball in this image, he plays it back out to the Lille winger, Renato Sanches. This succeeds in preventing a Montpellier counter-attack as well as maintaining the offensive pressure for Lille.
In this final image, we can see an example of how Soumaré uses his height and jumping ability to win aerial balls. This image is taken immediately following a Montpellier goal-kick.
As the ball is launched into the midfield, Soumaré gets himself in position to win back possession for Lille. He subsequently rises higher than the Montpellier midfielder could have and wins the ball back for Lille in the air.
Soumaré’s height is a useful asset of his game, both for retaining possession as well as winning back possession, as we can see from this image. He provides a constant aerial threat and is a useful asset for his team in midfield aerial battles.
To conclude this scout report and analysis, it is clear that Soumaré is a promising midfielder who possesses a wide range of qualities. His passing and dribbling ability make him a constant creative threat if given time and space on the ball.
Meanwhile, Soumaré also has enough defensive quality to provide a constant threat at the other end of the pitch for opposition attackers to worry about. His tackling technique, defensive positioning, along with his pace and physicality combine with his creative talents to make him a well-rounded central midfielder. Soumaré has enough quality to impact the game at both ends of the pitch.
There aren’t many 20-year-old midfielders who show as much promise as Soumaré is currently showing. A 20-year-old midfielder is never without his faults, and Soumaré is no different. There are areas which the young Frenchman can still improve on his game.
Soumaré at times can be prone to some poor decision making, which is an area that he can improve on with experience. He is occasionally somewhat careless with the ball in his own half, attempting to perform passes or dribbles which ultimately end up putting his team in a dangerous position. Soumaré can also improve on his long-ball accuracy, which, if done, would add another threatening element to his game.
However, he is clearly a well-rounded and promising midfield player. It isn’t by accident that he has been linked with names such as Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal already this month. We expect to see Soumaré’s name continue to be linked with top clubs for the remainder of this window. He will undoubtedly be one to watch for the near future.