Why the versatile Jules Koundé is one of the best defenders in European football – scout report
Jules Koundé, the 23-year-old, is the newest addition to Xavi’s team. A few English clubs were also eyeing him then but decided on Barcelona trusting Xavi and his vision. He made his dream transfer to the Spanish heavyweights as a result of his outstanding performance at Sevilla. This move is an added boost as his first World Cup approaches.
This tactical analysis will give an outlook on why Barcelona wanted to purchase him. Their inability to handle defence was the reason behind multiple signings of centre-backs. Jules Koundé played consistently for Sevilla in both the UEFA Champions League and La Liga. Sevilla finished in fourth place in the league, only three points behind Barcelona. They were able to acquire the high-profile signing despite their financial woes. Sevilla’s tactics would not come in between to crush Barcelona’s target.
This scout report will provide a tactical overview of the reasons Barcelona will start addressing issues at the back. We will also see what Jules Koundé will offer the national team.
Jules Koundé plays as a centre-back and also a right-back at times. In his time with Sevilla, he was used as a right centre-back in a 4-3-3/4-1-4-1 formation with his preferred foot being right. His pace certainly provides the position with a lot of significance.
This heatmap below is his season with Sevilla. We can very well say his preferred side is right. Well, to be clear on that part, it allows the coach to not be hesitant of playing the player in the position.
During his time in Sevilla, he has mostly played in the centre-back position. However, the national team’s competitiveness and his ability to play two positions earned the fans’ trust. Barcelona’s use of him as a right-back changes the dynamics favourably, giving a defender an attacking outlook.
A fascinating look into Koundé’s awareness will serve a definite purpose in signing a player like him. The defender’s skills are tested while defending Suarez, who frequently tries to create threats in various ways.
Koundé beforehand anticipates the first-time ball to Suarez into space in the image above. His awareness was crucial earlier, preventing Suarez from posing a danger after being isolated in a 1v1 scenario. He very skillfully closed in on him, denying him the space and time to overcome the situation.
Suarez plays the game like he always does, trying to make things unpleasant for the defence. Here is an illustration of Koundé’s positioning as Suarez prepares to attack the depth from considerably high up the pitch. Being one step back and ready to go if he decides to run. His vertical stance offers him the flexibility to defend certain game-scenarios successfully.
Through passes are intended towards the attacker who is targeting the depth. Also, a through ball played from midfield or defence precedes a chance created or a goal scored in world football. Thus, he will often find himself in this scenario as a defender. This ability to detect the risk will also significantly strengthen the team’s defence.
Furthermore, for a team that plays a high line, Koundé will offer the stability needed to defend instances like these.
The midfielder immediately above Koundé is more likely to engage in a duel in the picture above. As the ball is in the air, he slides backwards to adjust his position before the duel starts. With the difficulty to foresee what will happen next, a defender should be mindful of his position. One of the outcomes of this aerial duel could be the ball slipping between either of the heads and into the area of the defence. Now that he is covering the duel, he is ready and in a better position to anticipate what happens next.
Koundé proves he can be the perfect defender capable of acquiring such traits in his play.
Defenders should be able to handle crosses since they have been a factor in approximately 15% of all goals scored. Defenders are often placed in crossing positions, making crossing the most viable option for scoring against a team sitting in a low block.
An early cross from Modric is being defended by Koundé in the above case as a right back. He foresees it deftly and moves backwards to position himself before the cross was played. This doesn’t allow the forward to take advantage of it. This gave him the edge over the forward, reaching the ball first and clearing it after.
All of these instinctive decisions are made as a result of creating the habit of recognizing the pattern, which puts the player one step ahead of the opponents.
As the opponents break the chain of defence, someone must step in to fill the spot left by the beaten defender. Let’s look at the example above. After taking up the right-back position, Koundé is now facing Real Madrid star Vinicius Jr.
When up against elite dribblers in a time like this, it’s essential to not commit yourself. Vinicius was unable to threaten on his stronger left side as Koundé entered a jockey position with the right space in between. He would indeed punish him for getting further close by beating him and threatening to score after. Koundé ultimately won the ball after Vinicius was unable to dribble past him in this situation.
Aggression has always been a significant factor in football games, making the game more passionate but it is also the cause behind conceding fouls. Here is an illustration of when and how to be aggressive.
Koundé collects the opponent who attacks him during transitions as his teammates gather themselves to defend the situation. He had no intention of committing himself forcefully. A terrible touch placed the opponent facing his own goal, as shown in the image above. When it was appropriate, he used caution to swiftly narrow the space while preventing the opponent from turning.
The tables had been turned, and it was Sevilla who began to apply pressure. Koundé’s selective use of aggression—using it only when the situation demanded it—catches the attention. A defender must acquire and perfect the art of venting out aggression sensibly.
The picture above says his defensive actions from his Champions League action with Sevilla. He has covered the pitch quite well playing as a centre-back. Black-coloured spots being interceptions, he has a good record as the major part of it has been inside the box.
Koundé has shown his character by daring to dribble through the lines and making key passes to the front. Furthermore, he can go forward with ease by favouring forward with his first touches. Barcelona effectively advances in a variety of scenarios because of his versatility.
Koundé has appeared in 12 out of 17 games in all competitions for Barcelona. They cultivated the dynamism they had been lacking in previous seasons. He provides stability and offers an attacking option when the ball is in possession.
He slips past the opponent with a fantastic first touch in the top image before opening space for Ansu Fati. This attribute would enable Barcelona to move through the centre with ease. This helps the team to play their tactics without any backend issues. The defender’s determination to step up and take on responsibility is promising with only a few weeks until his first World Cup. This player behaviour will aid the team’s offensive playmaking from the back.
Another example below is his performance as a right-back against Denmark. He outruns his opponent and dismantles their midfield, providing half-spaces for teammates to exploit. Also serves as an additional player in the opponent’s half, overloading the right side to weaken the opposition’s defence.
Finally, a player’s most valuable asset is how he places himself while he does not have the ball. It is hard to see a player possess the ball for more than five seconds on the pitch. Almost all of the time, the players are moving without the ball, positioning themselves to support their teammates. Here is an example of Koundé offering his support in key moments of the game.
During his last game against Barcelona, Koundé is ready to break the pressure from Aubameyang and the midfielders. The large space ahead of him would make it easy for the squad to go forward. Koundé then dribbled into the opposing half in search of a pass, which resulted in a goal attempt. He has the potential to influence the team’s attack by constantly threatening to go forward.
He showed off his ability to make deep runs against Real Madrid on another important occasion. A spectacular tackle wins the ball in his half and chooses to gain ground quickly to spark up an attack. He sprints to the right side of the pitch to give the team a chance to score. Kroos ended himself in a race with the defender, making it simpler for him to run past and deliver a cross.
With just 15 minutes played, a centre-back wins the ball and provides attacking support against the league leaders. This is uncommon in the game, with centre-backs being held accountable at the back.
Overall, as shown in this analysis, Koundé offers solid defensive strength and threatens to attack often. After Barcelona’s defensive struggles, he would be the perfect player for Xavi to attack with greater presence.
Koundé will blend in well as a right-back for France given the competition from more seasoned centre-backs for the spot. His pace allows him to play the position, and his experience as a centre-back adds stability to the squad. France playing with five at the back would see him in the right centre-back position with the freedom to move around the pitch.
If minor setbacks do not derail him in the following weeks, he will flourish at the World Cup.