Josh Maja 2019/20 – scout report
Josh Maja didn’t enjoy a plethora of opportunities to showcase his ability in Ligue 1 during the 2018/19 campaign, upon joining Girondins de Bordeaux from EFL League One side Sunderland in the 2019 January transfer window. The attacker played just 196 minutes of Ligue 1 action last season.
However, this term, Maja has had the opportunity to feature in 21 of Bordeaux’s Ligue 1 fixtures thus far. Now 21-years-old, Maja has been delivering some noteworthy performances in France’s top tier this season, none more noteworthy than his hat-trick in Les Girondins’ 6-0 win over Nîmes Olympique back in December. It may be fair to say that Maja has truly been taking the opportunity to announce himself in France’s top tier this term.
Bordeaux have utilised formations featuring a sole centre forward in the majority of their games this season. According to Wyscout, they have utilised a 3-4-2-1 shape in 37.4% of their Ligue 1 games this term, while they have lined up in a 4-2-3-1 shape in another 31.3% of their games. These two formations have been, by far, Les Girondins’ most common two formations this season. When he plays, Maja typically occupies the centre forward role in Bordeaux’s system.
In this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, we will provide some insight into how Maja generally fits into Bordeaux’s tactics. Furthermore, we will examine some of the 21-year-old attacker’s key attributes in this tactical analysis, as we will attempt to determine what exactly has stood out about Maja’s performances for Bordeaux during the 2019/20 campaign.
Threatening runs in behind the opposition’s defensive line
The first notable aspect of Maja’s game that typically stands out when watching the 21-year-old striker, is his tendency to look to be played in behind the opposition’s defensive line. When watching Bordeaux, we will often see Maja hang about on the last shoulder of opposition defenders. Maja is effective at causing problems for the opposition’s defence from this position as his pace and intelligent movement helps him to play a pivotal role in the final stages of Bordeaux’s attack.
Bordeaux are one of Ligue 1’s relatively possession-based sides. They have retained an average of 53.9% possession this term, which gives them the third-highest average percentage of possession that has been accumulated by any Ligue 1 side this season. However, despite retaining a lot of possession, Bordeaux don’t typically spend a lot of time playing with the ball within the final third.
Bordeaux’s tactics often allow them to keep plenty of the ball in the first two-thirds of the pitch, however, they generally attack quite aggressively once they progress the ball into the final third. Maja plays an important role in these tactics when he occupies Bordeaux’s centre forward position, as his movement and pace allow him to effectively provide Les Girondins with their offensive outlet inside the final third whom they can use to spring attacks and attempt to break past the opposition’s last line of defence.
This image above provides us with an example of the way that Maja typically fits into Bordeaux’s tactics. As we can see here, Maja is occupying the central striking role in Bordeaux’s 3-4-2-1 shape during this passage of play. At this particular moment, we can see Bordeaux’s left-wing back in possession of the ball, in the process of carrying it into the opposition’s half of the pitch.
Meanwhile, as Bordeaux’s left-wing back is carrying the ball into the opposition’s half of the pitch, this prompts Maja to increase his movement and begin his run in an attempt to get himself into a position where he can pounce onto the end of a through ball and quickly create a 1v1 situation versus the opposition goalkeeper.
We can see in this image, that as Maja is beginning this run from the centre of the pitch out towards the left side of the pitch in an attempt to make himself an easier option for the ball-carrier, he glances back over his right shoulder, checking his run. By doing this,
Maja basically ensures that he is keeping onside, while this also gives him a better idea of his surroundings by allowing him to pinpoint exactly where the opposition defenders are at this moment.
This next image shows us how Maja’s run develops as this passage of play moves on. As we can see when comparing these two images, Maja has managed to successfully increase the distance between himself and the nearest opposition centre-back with this run which saw the attacker peel away off of the defender’s shoulder.
Maja’s movement successfully created a viable passing angle for the left-wing back in possession of the ball, who manages to squeeze a pass in this lane, between two opposition players, to play Maja in on goal, which we can see happening here.
When we look to the far side of the pitch, we can see that the opposition left-back is making a sudden forward stride in an attempt to play Maja offside, however, the forward times his run perfectly on this occasion, likely helped by the glance that he made over his shoulder at the beginning of his run in the previous image. As a result, Maja subsequently manages to break past the opposition defence and get into a 1v1 with the opposition goalkeeper which he comes out on top of, putting his side 1-0 up in this game.
As well as causing problems for the opposition defence through his movement during periods of play in which his team are in possession of the ball, thanks to his intelligent runs, Maja’s positioning on the last line of the opposition defence also allows him to frequently occupy a prime position from which he can potentially capitalise on mistakes in the opposition backline. We can see one example of this type of scenario in action in the image above.
Maja’s alertness and quickness combine with his positioning to make him a threat from these situations.
Just prior to this image being taken, Bordeaux had played a long-ball forward under pressure in a midfield area. Maja generally isn’t fantastic in the air, nor does he provide a particularly dominant physical presence, however, his quickness and his intelligent positioning allow him to pose a threat from a situation like this, should the opposition put a foot wrong.
Maja intelligently doesn’t contest this aerial duel, instead, opting to pick up a position between the opposition’s centre-back and right-back, facing towards the opponent’s goal, in hopes of having the opportunity to get played through on goal here.
As the ball makes its way forward, one of Bordeaux’s two wide forwards, Samuel Kalu, gets involved in the physical contest. Kalu’s movement may have played a role in offsetting the defender here because as the ball drops, he misjudges its bounce, misses the ball with his attempted clearance, subsequently allowing the patient Maja to pounce on the loose ball and carry it towards the goal, where he goes on to slot the ball away, scoring for Bordeaux.
These two examples provide us with evidence of Maja’s effectiveness at playing off of the opposition backline in a couple of different scenarios. Maja has proven himself capable of playing with intelligent movement in the final third, in addition to being capable of making the most of his pace to cause trouble for Ligue 1 defences, this term.
In addition to typically positioning himself on the last line of the opposition’s defence, Maja also often likes to pick up a position in the channels between the opposition’s centre-back and full-back. During Bordeaux’s offensive phase, we will usually see Maja picking up this position, slightly to one side of the opposition’s defence.
We can see an example of Maja occupying this type of position in the image above. This image shows us a passage of play in which one of Bordeaux’s two wide forwards has driven into a central position with the ball. The opposition’s defence is playing quite narrow at this particular moment, however, Maja still finds a position in this pocket of space between the centre-back and full-back.
As the ball-carrier drives forward in-possession, Maja opens his body up slightly in the direction of the playmaker. In doing so, he manages to prepare himself well to receive the ball with the inside of his right boot and set himself up to strike the ball home, across the goalkeeper after his first touch and this run which allowed him to quickly progress beyond the opposition’s last line when his teammate played him through.
Maja’s composure and reliable finishing ability help him to be effective from these types of situations. The 21-year-old forward can often be seen slotting the ball home after having taken just one or maybe two touches prior to striking the ball.
This occurs as a result of his tendency to look for the ball from a position high up the pitch on the shoulder of the opposition’s last line of defence, in addition to his technical finishing prowess and coolness in front of goal to be comfortable with finishing the ball relatively quickly, without needing to compose himself for too long before taking a shot on.
This is an aspect of Maja’s game that has helped him to perform fairly clinically for Bordeaux this season. The 21-year-old currently has the best goals-per-minute ratio in within Les Girondins’ squad in Ligue 1 this term, scoring six Ligue 1 goals from just 725 minutes of game time.
Furthermore, Maja is currently outperforming his ‘xG’ (expected goals) statistic by 2.53 goals, as per Understat.com. This may also give us an indication that Maja has been effective and efficient in front of goal this term for Bordeaux, making the most of the chances that have presented themselves to him.
Movement inside the box
Another one of Maja’s key attributes for Bordeaux this season has been his ability to effectively create space for himself inside the opposition penalty area. This trait has been pivotal in helping Maja to bag goals on multiple occasions this term.
This image above provides us with an example of one such occasion in which Maja managed to effectively utilise his off-the-ball movement inside the opposition’s box in order to create a sufficient amount of space between himself and the defenders in order to slot the ball away.
As we previously touched on earlier on in this tactical analysis piece, Maja is not a particularly dominant presence in the air. As a result, his side will not often swing high balls into him in hopes that he would overcome opposition centre-backs to win an aerial duel. However, his intelligent movement within the opposition penalty area often makes him quite an effective target for low crosses, which is exactly how he and his team score this goal.
Just prior to this image being taken, the Bordeaux wide man carried the ball up the right-wing, driving all the way to the byline before turning to bring the ball into the box from wide, as we can see here.
Maja, who we can see positioned just on the edge of the six-yard box here, had made a darting run into the penalty area as his teammate carried the ball up the right-wing. As we can see, at this particular moment, it may be fair to say that the Bordeaux wide player may struggle to find Maja with the ball, as the forward is positioned behind one opposition defender and in quite close proximity to at least one more here.
However, as this passage of play moves on, we can see that Maja has successfully increased the amount of space between himself and the nearest opposition defender. The forward manages to get out from behind the other defender’s cover shadow in the process, effectively making himself a more viable crossing option for his teammate.
Maja managed to create more space for himself inside the box thanks to a sharp jumping movement that the attacker made outward from the six-yard box. This movement was impossible for the defender in front of him to cover as it was too quick and that defender is not looking in his direction at the time he makes this jump outward from the six-yard box.
Furthermore, the opposition defender nearest to Maja also struggles to close the space that has now been created between him and the striker before the ball is played into him. As a result, Maja increases his goalscoring chances here thanks to some effective and intelligent movement inside the opposition penalty area.
As this passage of play moves on, Maja connects with the low cross, finishing the ball in style, finishing the ball first-time by using the heel of his right boot. This provides us with another example of the forward’s composure and confidence in front of goal.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece, it’s clear that Maja possesses a variety of different attributes which help him to perform effectively in Les Girondins’ attack. Some of Maja’s key attributes, such as his pace and intelligent movement in a variety of different situations off the ball, fit Bordeaux’s attacking tactics well, helping him to operate effectively within his side’s system.
While Maja could improve in some areas, such as his aerial presence, this isn’t generally too significant of an issue within Bordeaux’s tactics, as Les Girondins typically set up optimally to play to Maja’s strengths.