Jean-Clair Todibo scout report: How the former Barcelona prodigy brought new life to Nice – scout report
Nice will take part in the Europa Conference League qualifiers next season after finishing 5th in the Ligue 1 2021/22 season. The team had a positive campaign, compared to the previous year and some of the players managed to show their potential.
While they were the team with the fewest scored goals in the top eight, which is what took a toll on their performance, their defensive record impresses as they have conceded the fewest goals in the league along with PSG (36).
It was actually their actions out of possession that secured them the final European spot. Jean-Clair Todibo, who is part of their defensive line, had a crucial role in their performance both in and out of possession.
The 22-year-old has a good understanding of the game and has contributed to their build-up-play, without neglecting his defensive responsibilities in the right centre-back position. As a ball-playing defender, he has to use his spatial and positional awareness to support ball progression.
The defender has quite a broad experience for his young age, starting his career at Toulouse and joining Barcelona in 2019. After spending some time on loan with Benfica and Schalke 04, he finally landed in Nice, where he seems to have fitted well.
In possession, Nice rely on high pass frequency and a compact shape. They often move into a more advanced position in order to control the game in the opposition half and to frequently distribute the ball to the final third. The team try to create as many opportunities in front of the goal as possible but the lack of good finishing often throws their efforts to waste. Due to their frequent crossing attempts, many of their efforts on the goal are headers.
Their defence is considerably highly positioned and contributes to the ball progression and building up from the back. Most of the time the full-backs would move into more advanced positions and the central defenders would spread the ball out. That’s where Todibo contributes the most. The team lose the ball rather often due to the players’ unsuccessful dribbling attempts but compensate with a strong defensive movement and precision in direct challenges.
While their press is not too intense, they try to recover the ball all over the pitch and demonstrate their defensive awareness. In most of the situations, the backline manages to drop back in a timely manner and maintain their structure, they are that successful defensively thanks to their ability to re-organise and cover depth. The back-four get the needed support from midfield, which is crucial, especially whenever a defender needs to go out of position.
Todibo’s contribution in possession
Todibo’s ball-playing abilities have resulted in him having a lot of responsibilities in possession. He is responsible for ball progression and tends to constantly move to more advanced positions and seek passing options in order to advance the ball to the final third.
He is among the Ligue 1 central defenders with the highest pass frequency per 90, averaging 62.83 passes per game, which help the team in building up from the back. Most of his passes are directed laterally and aim to help with retaining possession, and he constantly looks for free spaces and tries to bypass the press through forward passing.
While he is good with the ball in his feet, he could improve on his composure as his forward pass completion rate is unsatisfyingly low (77.37%). He often relies on long passing so he can bypass the opposition’s first lines of defence and send the ball directly to the final third, from where his teammates could create chances. His 9.11 passes to the advanced areas per 90 put him second in the league in his position in terms of frequency.
Nice’s defensive line is very highly positioned with Todibo being involved in the most frequent passing links and retaining possession at the back. He is most frequently the connection between defence and midfield as he often combines with his teammates centrally but spreads out to the advanced full-backs as well.
His defensive performance
Nice have surprised defensively throughout the 2021/22 season. While the team have been less efficient in possession, their actions in their own half have been impressive, with the team conceding the same number of goals as the champions PSG.
Todibo’s displays have been very beneficial for the team as his defensive awareness has supported the team’s actions out of possession successfully. The 22-year-old performs solidly in his direct challenges and makes it difficult for the opposing players to pass through the defence.
He has one of the highest defensive duels success rates among the players in the same position in the league. With his 72.34% of duels won, he often contributes to closing out players out on the flank and provides support against teams who play with width.
The Frenchman has the physicality and the height (190cm) needed to gain an advantage in the air as well and while he rarely demonstrates his abilities in the box, his aerial presence proves important in the more advanced areas and he often recovers possession in midfield.
His positional awareness allows him to anticipate the opposition’s movement, which often results in him intercepting passes and gaining back possession for his team. This gives the team the opportunity to move away from danger zones. His precision and correct timing add to his value as he is among the centre-backs with the fewest fouls committed per 90, which is beneficial for the team, considering the high number of fouls they tend to commit.
His defensive positioning and awareness allow the backline to drop as a unit and structure well in order to block the opposition’s efforts on the goal. This, though, often forces their opponents to seek different ways to expose them and shoot from distance, which has turned out as a weak spot for Nice.
The 22-year-old took advantage of his move to Nice and brought new life to the Allianz Riviera. As our analysis shows, Todibo’s abilities on and off the ball are highly valued in the team’s current set-up as he proved his importance with his tactical and positional awareness and his precision in defence. The Frenchman could become a crucial part of this team should he maintain consistency and stay focused on his responsibilities.