Diadie Samassekou 2019/20 – scout report
In what is a fairly vital transfer window for Hoffenheim, they have been pretty active, bringing in the likes of Sebastian Rudy and Robert Skov to strengthen a squad that has been raided throughout the summer. But one signing stands out above all this summer for post-Nagelsmann Hoffenheim, and that is the arrival of Diadie Samassekou from RB Salzburg. Samassékou arrives with an excellent reputation already and has proven himself on a large scale, and as this analysis will show, for just 12 million euros there is not much that can go wrong for Hoffenheim. In this tactical analysis, I’ll look at Samassékou’s biggest strengths and identify why I believe he can be a massive success in Germany.
One of Samassékou’s biggest strengths within his game is his defensive awareness in that he is able to read situations well and assess whether to counter-press, drop deeper, or adjust the direction of his run to make an interception. This ability became particularly prevalent within Marco Rose’s pressing system at Salzburg, and with Samassékou’s role as a defensive midfielder being to somewhat protect the back four from counter-attacks, he was a vital part of the system.
We can see below Samassékou’s ability to recognise when to press and when to cover, which in this case he assesses based on the body position of the opponent. The opponent receives the ball and turns away from the centre of the pitch, and with no options to pass to there, he will be forced to turn again back towards the centre. Samassékou therefore presses, knowing his pressing run is pretty much risk-free as if he uses his body to cover the centre of the pitch and aggressively tries to tackle, the ball can’t progress.
We can see this defensive awareness again below, where Salzburg lose the ball with many players committed high up the pitch. Samassékou holds his ground as the opponent sprints forward and waits for a heavy touch before moving in and winning the ball. Dropping off would see him give up more space for the opposition to counter-attack in, and so although Samassékou takes a risk stepping forward and counter-pressing, he’s in a better position to stop the counter-attack by a foul or by winning the ball.
My final example of this defensive awareness is a subtle interception from Samassékou. Here, the opponent is driving at him, and any forward movement is likely to result in the ball being played either side of him. Samassékou therefore opts to hold his position and does his best to cover two passing lanes by staying between the two passing options. Then when the pass is about to be played, he reads it and intercepts the ball. The image below shows that as the attacker plays the ball, Samassékou is already shifting his weight to move to the right, and he is successful in intercepting the ball.
There are countless examples of him demonstrating this ability, but hopefully, the point should be getting across now.
Samassékou’s stats from last season prove him to be a top-quality player, when we compare him to players of a similar position. I decided to compare him to 2017/18 N’Golo Kanté and to Fabinho last season, and we can see the comparison below. I chose these players due to their similar skill sets and because they are both world-class players, the stats should be top level.
Samassékou holds his own in virtually every stat and is particularly impressive in terms of interceptions and recoveries in the opposition’s half. Rose’s system last year benefits these numbers of course, but even looking at defensive duels, we can see although he wins less per game, his accuracy was pretty much the same as Fabinho. Of course, the Austrian Bundesliga is not the Premier League and so you could argue he should win more defensive duels, but he has also demonstrated his quality in Europe, where his defensive duels won per game increased to 7.52 last season.
Samassékou is also good in possession and has a superb passing range which allows him to progress play up the pitch. A pass he particularly seems to prefer is lofted through balls over the opposition’s defensive line, and long passes in general.
For example, we can see in the image below Samassékou’s excellent passing as he plays a lofted through ball into Dabbur over the opposition’s defensive line. Defensive midfielders who can drop off and pick passes over a deep block are a very valuable asset in breaking teams down, with a similar example being Fabinho’s excellent assist against Manchester United at Anfield last season. Samassékou can drop away unfollowed, and if the opposition become too compact and high, an excellent ball over the top can undo them.
This passage of play highlights Samassékou’s ability on the ball well. Ramalho looks for a pass but Milik does a good job of cutting off the passing lane using his cover shadow, so Samassékou moves out of Milik’s cover shadow and scans both behind him and to his right to assess the space he has.
Upon receiving the ball, Samassékou therefore knows how much space he has, and is able to quickly turn and drive. Samassékou’s awareness allows him to pick out the run of Dominik Szoboszlai, who you may notice in the picture above is already calling for the ball. Samassékou’s quality means the pass is accurate, and Salzburg move up the pitch very quickly, where other defensive midfielders may have opted to play a safer lateral pass or short pass.
One of his signature passes appears to be this one in the image below, where he plays the ball to the overlapping full-back. This is an incredibly difficult pass technically, and Samassékou executed it several times for Salzburg resulting in big chances being created from the resulting cut back from Stefan Lainer.
So, how do his offensive stats compare?
Samassékou’s offensive statistics aren’t as impressive as Fabinho and Kanté’s, but again they are not far off at all. Considering Samassékou is only 23 years of age, it is still impressive that he manages to keep up statistically with the two players. Kanté pulls away statistically as the ball gets further forward it seems, with his passing accuracy in the final third and in the box much better than Samassékou’s, which highlights a potential weakness for him, as he is likely to be under more pressure in these situations and therefore gives the ball away more often.
Fabinho edges Samassékou in long passes, but their accuracy is similar, although Fabinho attempts more.
All in all, the comparison being drawn up statistically in this scout report shows just how much of a bargain this is for Hoffenheim. The abilities all mentioned put him in a good position to succeed in the Bundesliga, and so it will be interesting to see how he fits into Hoffenheim’s tactics this season and how he develops. This could be a very important stepping stone for Samassékou if he impresses again in the next few seasons.