Enock Mwepu 2019/20 – scout report
Red Bull Salzburg work based on one of the best systems in modern football and, as the part of bigger Red Bull conglomerate, circulate capital in the most sustainable ways. Season in season out they bring out to light a new youngster that will blind the world with his talents and then they sell them for a colossal price after getting them only for change. The last example is surely Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Håland, but he was just one of many as there were the kinds of Liverpool’s Sadio Mané, Takumi Minamino, Naby Keïta, Hannes Wolf and so on, coming from their project in recent years.
Even though they “sell to survive and progress”, they keep their main player-structure firm, leaving the respectful amount of quality players in the team almost at all times. That means that even after the big sellings, they still have men to brag with, and one of them is Enock Mwepu – the 22-year-old midfielder who is the player with world-class potential, and could easily become the embodiment of more versatile Yaya Touré in the upcoming years.
This tactical analysis scout report will show you what are the best sides of his game, and why he fits Salzburg’s tactics that well, while also pointing himself out as the next big thing coming from the Austrians.
Off the ball attacking movement – driving wide and deep
Enock Mwepu is the player requited with great physical characteristics and brilliant sense for the game which allows him to be included in all parts of the action around the pitch. His abilities make it possible for him to be a useful two-way midfielder with tasks in both possession-based attacks and transitional ones, as much as in negative runs and covering the depth.
One of his biggest strengths is playing with possession when his team has the ball. He frees a lot of space with his motions and, at the same time, provides his teammates with a vertical-progress option. He plays in a box-to-box position, mostly positioning himself in the higher half-spaces but with a clear intention to pull himself to the flanks and supply his side with wide possibilities.
Most of his runs happen from the central areas and are aimed towards the sidelines in order to empty the room in those zones for others to come for the ball. That is the main idea of his motions, but if that hasn’t happened, Mwepu becomes free to get the ball himself out wide from where he mostly tries to cooperate across the ground with attackers.
His motions have a special body-orientation because he uses a lot of „dummy moves“ to trick the opponent and provide an advantage for himself. He went into the deep runs out of the inner-corridors and at first he runs inside between the full-back and the centre-back, and then when the wide defender takes a bait, drives to the flank and often gets the ball in the outside situation.
Those movements repeat frequently and he has perfected them to get the ball and play face to face against the defender when on the flank. Most of young Zambian’s similar motions have multiple usages for his side, firstly pointing him as the next-pass possibility, and secondly emptying the room for lower teammates to receive the ball and proceed through the centre zones of the field.
That situation is painted in the picture above, where Mwepu repeats his inside-out run and frees the room for the other midfielder at the same time. This way, Red Bull get one „sure“ option to progress, either if it’s the one higher up the pitch or one in the middle.
The 22-year-old mostly operates in the higher half-spaces and tries to endanger goal with his runs out of these positions. He aims his motions towards the free space between the defenders and that opens the transitional game for his side, which will be described later in the analysis. Those runs allow fast-breaks for Salzburg and bring Enock Mwepu as the second-line threat for the goal due to his pace and long legs.
Situations similar to the one shown happen also from the flank positions when he sets himself wide and, depending on the defensive structure of the team out of possession, are often difficult to defend.
Role in transition
Red Bull Salzburg enjoy playing a well-drilled direct football often based on good transitions/transformations. The role of Mwepu is huge in those situations because of the combination of his skills and physicalities, first of two which allow him to feel comfortable when in the possession and the latter ones helping him to conquer the bigger part of the pitch in the optimal time.
This part of his game is divided into two segments – out and in possession. When without the ball, his game relies on the good sense for space and the pace advantage he has over the goal-faced defenders. The Zambian exploits the gaps between the lines and enables his team to move through the defence quickly by getting the ball in the gaps and then forwarding it quickly towards the higher teammates.
As we can see, his „simple“ run breaks down the key pressing line of the opposition, enabling them to have an open position towards the goal only against the set-up defenders. Mwepu tracks actions real well and that is one of his biggest strengths in the game as he provides faster transitions for his side.
When in possession, his inclusion in transitive actions is based mostly on the pass-breaking the lines while being secure under pressure. The youngster doesn’t panic when outnumbered and habitually keeps his cool in difficult situations, finding the empty spot in the defensive block that breaks open due to more men pressing him.
Mwepu’s vision and timing are great as he waits for space to open up and passes the ball through the right angle which enables transitive progress for his team. He often tempts the defenders by keeping the ball longer in his feet and forces them to attack him and then penetrates through the open corridor setting his side in an envious position. Even though most of the time he tends to ask opponents to come at him, he also knows how to play it one-touch and allow his team to move faster while still moving through the lines.
As we can see above, he finds his striker who is lower after the opponents’ corner kick, and after his fast reaction and vertical pass, his side is enabled to move fast forward. His role in the transition, when with the ball, is the key to opening the transformation, but can also be used in higher zones of the pitch where his pass-game allows his team to play more directly and to break opposition’s block.
Breaking the lines in higher zones
As we just hinted earlier in the analysis, Mwepu’s ball-security and decision-making enable him to be as good in breaking the defensive lines of the opponents in higher zones as he is in the opening phase of the attacks. He tends to be forward-thinking, making passes towards his attackers his first option, but not at all times.
His timing and calmness are once again the main catalysts of his actions and the keys to linking up the lines of his side. Direct play of Red Bull is based on both finding the space in-between and penetrating through the opened lanes, both of which the Zambian does in a brilliant manner.
The most important segment of this part of his play are the well-timed passes and his connections with higher players. As we can see above, he manages to find the right angle to break through the structure, leaving his teammate in the opened space with enough time to turn towards the goal without distraction.
Second crucial fact for his through-the-lines game is the security under pressure. Mwepu is one of the players who are calm with the ball in every part of the pitch and who don’t get scared when the opponents outnumber him. He trusts his skills and tries to prolong the execution of his ideas up to the moment space opens up for a forward pass.
The youngster is comfortable in deficit situations, which mostly happen on the flanks, but counts on his combination of dribbling skills and physicalities to keep the ball in possession. He doesn’t necessarily need to pass it forward – if there is no option for him he doesn’t run away from the circling the block and waiting for the right moment, but if the room breaks free, he knows how to utilise it.
The third factor, shyly mentioned in the last paragraph but no less significant is the dribbling. Mwepu quite often likes to win the field with the ball in his feet, trying both to get closer to the goal and to focus defenders’ attention and actions to himself while opening the pitch for his teammates who he’ll supply when the moment is right.
In the picture, we can see the example of this situation where he runs into the crowd on purpose in order to call defenders to come out of positions and attack him, which opens the passing lane to the middle and allows his team to thrive. Those actions from Mwepu are of great importance for Salzburg’s tactics and they manage to play the way they do due to those happening frequently.
Defensive actions – pressing and covering depth
Because of the style his team plays in, Mwepu’s defensive inclusion is mostly seen as the pressing game and he does it at a very high level. His motions enable his side orient the press as he is often the first player pressurising the opposition or one of the first links in that concept.
The Zambian is quite an aggressive player who’s good in the direct 1v1 defensive game against the player with the ball. He closes the options for the player in possession with his body-positioning and right-angle running so the others follow him and complete the pressing picture for their team.
As we can see, Mwepu’s shadow closes down the passing lanes towards the two players while at the same time he forces the player to take the action because he is pretty close to him. Those situations repeat frequently and his body orientation is one of his biggest strengths when attacking without the ball.
The 22-year-old’s defensive characteristics could also be used in the lower areas of the pitch where his aggressiveness helps his side create a numerical advantage over the players getting the ball with their faces turned towards their own goal. In those situations, Mwepu provides the support for higher players, or the closest ones, creating surplus settings which force the opposition to lose the ball or play it backwards in the best scenario.
When it comes to supportive duties, he covers depth really good by repeating patterns of body-positioning he uses while pressing. The Zambian does good negative transition runs and is most often there to secure his teammates’ backs when the ball is on their side, while at the same time covering the possible forward option with his shadow.
In the picture above, we can clearly see how he positions himself in the block and in the setups like the one described, so he can be seen as the responsible player on which teams could rely on when trying to play positionally out of possession.
Enock Mwepu is surely one of the next football midfield stars coming from the fertile ground of Red Bull Salzburg. His mixture of skills points him out as the future successor of Yaya Touré and the player who will probably be one of the hottest prospects in some of the upcoming transfer windows.
This tactical analysis shows what he brings to Jesse Marsch’s tactics and also what are his biggest strengths that could be interesting for other clubs that could be his possible next career steps. He is a versatile two-way midfielder who will, if developed in the right manner, become one of the best in that position and will surely be the man for one of Europe’s biggest clubs.