Coming of age Coman: Bayern’s revitalised star
I’m sure we have all spent some portion of time watching skill compilations on YouTube. The trickery and flair players of the game who rise fans off their seats are what we pay the money for. No better is a goal where a player has taken it past five men, travelled sixty yards and finessed it into the top corner.
Bayern Munich, fortunately for them, have a player whose trademark has become just that. His signature move of jinking his frame one way, before bursting past another, is so elegantly simple and a by-product of Bayern legend Arjen Robben. That player is Kingsley Coman, and in this analysis, we will be breaking down how he has evolved his game to become even more than just this.
The Frenchman has been through it all. He’s won a league title in every season of his professional career at Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and here in Bavaria. Within that, he has contemplated retirement on more than one occasion due to his recurring injury issues. Thankfully, aged 24, Coman has maintained a desire to remain within the game and take his game to new levels.
Coman began his career based in his hometown of Moissy-Cramayel with US Sénart-Moissy. Operating in Championnat National 3, it would not take long, two years in-fact, for Coman to be spotted, and picked up by the PSG youth academy. He would sustain a decade-long association with the Parisians, make just a handful of senior appearances for the club, before being approached by Juventus, whom he would join in 2014.
He would stay 12 months in Turin before signing off a two-year loan deal with Bayern Munich, of whom he would join in 2018. In his career up till this date, Coman has played across the forward line, but his preferred position (and his best) comes out on the left side, where he can dazzle past opponents and cut in on his stronger right boot. This season, he has been primarily used there, in Flick’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Now, he positions himself much higher up the pitch than we have previously seen.
Standing at 5’11” / 180cm, Coman is taller than you might initially believe, but his lean body frame facilitates the wide man’s utterly electrifying pace. You would be hard-pressed to find many – if any – defenders who could beat him in a straight foot race. This season, Coman has evolved in a way that many did not foresee, after several years of promise, but ultimately not quite delivering on his extraordinary talent. In short, he has become far more creative and is dribbling a little less now.
Coman’s player profile, created by the wonderful Sathish Prasad (@SathishPrasadVT on Twitter).
Coman’s dangerous dribbling antics
Coman, this season, has become decidedly less involved in the build-up phase of possession. While he can be an entirely useful method for ball progression via his progressive carries, seldom will the Frenchman drop deeper to collect the ball these days. Rather, he positions himself further up the pitch, in between the lines ready to receive the progressive pass from defence or midfield.
His possession statistics paint a decent picture of the player Coman has become this season. He is completing more carries into the penalty area per 90 than he is into the final-third (2.33 compared with 1.80, as per StatsBomb data), which is definitely uncommon amongst wingers. Suffice to say, he is a direct dribbler, whose confidence has shone brightly on the pitch for many years, but now there is a purpose to these efforts.
Bayern under Flick play out from the back, and this usually begins with David Alaba, who will play splitting passes into the midfield, finding usually either the left-winger or Thomas Müller in the #10 role. Müller is vital in this role, as he will often drag defenders out of position, to create space for Coman to be found in the final third. Otherwise, if the German receives the ball, usually an immediate pass to one of the wingers is followed.
In this scenario, Lucas Hernandez plays the ball out wide to Coman, before making a run down the half-space.
Hernandez has dragged a defender out of position, and Coman can wiggle himself enough room to send a delivery into the box.
In the past, Coman has been victim of receiving the ball in areas deeper than he might need, and then have the lofty aim of taking it past three, four men all at once. While he certainly has the talent to do this, he most likely would not pull that off consistently, plus he is just asking to be fouled in that case. Now, instead of dribbling into a footballing cul-de-sac, Coman is looking inwards, playing one-twos with his teammates to enter the penalty area.
Coman plays the ball out wide to Müller, who draws in opposition attention, creating space for Coman to receive inside the box.
Coman is also exploiting gaps in the opponent’s defensive structure far more often too. As we mentioned before, Müller, but also Lewandowski in the penalty area, will drag opposition defenders out of position, with or without the ball, to create space for Coman to enter. In these moments, Coman will either make the surging run in behind (often down the half-space) to receive the ball, or he will carry the ball into these gaps of space and look for a teammate in the box.
Coman bursts down the half-space, only waiting to be met by Hernandez’s through pass.
He uses his quick feet both in his ball carrying and now in his fast decision-making in the final third. When he approaches the penalty area, he does not fall victim to passing the ball sideways as many an attacking midfielder does, rather he prefers to pass into the feet of a teammate, while simultaneously running beyond his man. He has become a smart player in this regard and has come on leaps and bounds in terms of his match intelligence.
Coman as a creative asset
“At the moment, Coman is the one who is making things happen, scoring goals and creating them.”. These were the words of Flick after Bayern’s 3-3 draw against Leipzig, a game in which Coman contributed three assists to all of Bayern’s goals. He’s now hovered more towards that of a selfless player, opting to pass in the final third, rather than shoot.
As a direct result of his dribbling improvement, he is creating more chances than ever, and high-quality ones at that. His 0.9 Goal-Creating Actions per 90 – the two offensive actions directly leading to a goal, such as passes, dribbles and drawing fouls, per 90 minutes – rank as high as 7th in the Bundesliga, and the same rate as teammate Joshua Kimmich, indicative of just how purposeful his attacking actions are.
Coman’s dribbling causes disruption. He drives at Leipzig, creating space for Müller to run in behind and score.
As we mentioned before, Coman often hangs in wide zones, on the left or right as per Flick’s interchanging winger system, to receive the ball. In previous seasons, he would collect the ball and immediately look to drive vertically up the field. Now, he does do this occasionally when there is no support, but often Coman will wait for the distracting run of another teammate before engaging one-on-one with his opponent.
His movement, as we will analyse further, later on, plays a big part in Coman’s success as well. His pace means that he can delay his run until the latter moments of a pass being played. This often results in Kimmich playing the sprayed pass towards Coman before the Frenchman has even set off in behind the opponent’s defensive structure.
Here, Coman’s interprets the space well and exploits the ill-positioned Atletico full-back.
In typical Atleti fashion, they crowd the penalty area, but Coman still manages to find the wiggle room to pass out to Bayern members in space.
As much as the 24-year-old has made tweaks to his game for the better, his signature move remains. Trap the ball with his cleanly executed first-touch, feinting his body to the right, bending his body over to the right, then using that momentum to spring off to the left, bursting vertically up the wing or half-space. Whenever I have personally seen this move in action, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you a time where it resulted in Coman losing possession of the ball. At worst, Bayern win a corner.
Coman jinks his body rolls the ball over from right to left and enters the penalty area. Unfortunately, his lofted cross is inaccurate on this occasion.
Just under 40% of Bayern’s attacks have come down the left side of the pitch this season and for good reason. Mostly all of these ball-carrying moments result in a shot-creating action for his side. Thanks to his growing tactical nous, these are more frequently high-quality opportunities. Though, it must be said that Coman’s accuracy with his weaker left-foot, which he uses when he cuts back from the byline, can be occasionally wayward, floating over all of its intended targets. Something to work on for sure.
Coman shooting from dangerous positions
Coman has drifted away from shooting in silly situations, where the likelihood of scoring is small, sometimes. Although he is still prone to this as many wingers are, he does not do it as far as often as he used to. He is a competent and instinctive finisher, he will not take his time with his chances on goal, but when inside the penalty area, the Frenchman will most likely score. Composure is not an issue here.
Thanks to the tactical awareness that Coman has now developed, he is now finding himself in more opportunities to shoot on goal. His agility means that he can create half a yard of space for himself in and around the penalty area in a snap. His shooting technique is solid, his most common shot will come from an inside-left angle, where he opens up his body and strikes the ball with the inside of his boot at pace.
Despite options inside and outside the box to players in better areas, Coman takes the shot on goal, but only missing by a small margin.
He has been playing with this team for some time now. He has developed relationships with certain team members, and as such, just instinctively knows when to make his runs. This instinctive nature of his game will help all other areas of his game, as it reduces decision fatigue throughout the ninety. He can focus much more of his efforts on when to dribble, where to dribble, the same with passing and shooting.
On the counter, given that Stuttgart’s defence has shifted to the left, Coman keeps his run wide to create a gap between himself and the opposition.
Coman is typically aiming for the bottom corner when he does strike on goal inside the penalty area. From the left side, he’ll open up his body, and finesse it into the bottom right. As mentioned, he is an instinctive finisher, whenever he gets more time than he needs inside the box, which rarely occurs, of course, the pressure can get to him, and the ball can end up down the throat of the goalie.
Coman is found here from a rangy pass by Kimmich inside the box, where he traps the ball down excellently, and slots it into the bottom right.
Overall, Coman is shooting more than before, but he is scoring at the same rate. His xG has dropped slightly, 0.21 per 90 down from 0.25, but given he is focused more so on creating chances for his teammates than he is scoring goals, this is understandable. Depending on the game state, Coman will shoot more often from outside the area, but generally, when Bayern are winning, he will be reluctant to do so.
Forecast for the future
In terms of the future for Coman, it seems fairly set in stone. He should stay at arguably the best team in the world right now, barring Manchester City of course. His starting position at Bayern is never guaranteed, but he is doing an excellent job at making himself indispensable while injuries ravage some of the winger ranks in Bavaria. For the upcoming European Championships, Coman should most certainly be on the plane. He will do a better job than Antoine Griezmann in the left-wing position, and if Coman keeps up his current form, Didier Deschamps will be hard-pressed to drop him.