Moreto Cassama 2019/20 – scout report
Since featuring in his first Ligue 1 game of the 2019/20 season back on 15 January in Stade de Reims’ 1-1 draw away to Amiens SC, Moreto Cassamá went on to make another six league appearances in the heart of Les Rouge et Blanc’s midfield to take his total of Ligue 1 appearances up to seven for the 2019/20 season, prior to the postponement of the professional game in France.
It may be fair to say that Reims have been one of the more formidable sides in Ligue 1 this term. They managed to get themselves into fifth place on the Ligue 1 table, just nine points away from the UEFA Champions League qualification places, when play came to a halt in France. Furthermore, Reims have got the best defensive record of any Ligue 1 side in the 2019/20 campaign.
With that in mind, it may be a credit to Cassamá that he managed to earn himself a regular place in Reims’ midfield in the second half of the 2019/20 season. In this tactical analysis piece, we will examine some of the key aspects to Cassamá’s game and we will attempt to explain just what he brought to the table for his side on the pitch that may have made Reims boss David Guion stand up and take notice of the 22-year-old Guinea-Bissau international after the turn of the year.
This tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report will attempt to examine how Cassamá has fit into Reims’ tactics since earning himself a place in the side and we will attempt to provide some analysis of his role within Les Rouge et Blanc’s system.
Cassamá’s role in-possession
Cassamá generally plays in a holding midfield role for his side. He has performed this role on both the right and the left of a double-pivot within Reims’ frequently-used 4-2-3-1 shape at times this season. Additionally, he has also played as a lone holding midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 shape, notably in Reims’ recent 1-0 win over Rennes, who currently occupy one of Ligue 1’s Champions League qualification places alongside Olympique de Marseille and PSG.
Regardless of which exact position he is playing in, Cassamá tends to perform a similar role, as he generally acts as the deepest of his team’s midfielders, rarely venturing too far forward. When his team are in possession of the ball, Cassamá often positions himself between Reims’ backline and their other midfielders, attempting to act as a player who can link those two lines together and play an important role in helping his side to build out from the back.
Furthermore, Cassamá often noticeably drops even deeper than normal during the build-up phase to collect the ball from his defenders or goalkeeper to feet and subsequently use his range of passing to progress the play.
In this image above, we can see that the 22-year-old midfielder is in possession of the ball, in the process of playing a pass from this central position out to the full-back who is advancing down the wing.
Earlier on in this particular passage of play, Cassamá had been positioned slightly further up the pitch, closer to Reims’ two more advanced ‘8’s and in between the opponent’s two centre forwards.
At the time, Reims’ defenders and goalkeeper were attempting to play out from the back but they struggled to progress the ball beyond the opposition’s first line of defence, as they deployed a well-organised press which prevented Reims from playing through the lines and essentially forced them to just keep playing the ball across the defensive line, hoping to create a positive progressive passing angle.
This attempt at playing out from the back came to no avail until Cassamá dropped deeper from the position he was originally occupying, which we can see circled here, to this deeper position that we can see him occupying in the image above.
As Cassamá drops deep, he can collect the ball from the centre-backs, all the while creating a 3v2 advantage for them versus their opponent’s two centre-forwards. Cassamá receives possession of the ball well as he drops deep and manages to turn quickly and play the ball out to the right-back who is making a run down the wing. Cassamá’s pass finds the player and Reims can then begin to build into the middle third of the pitch.
This passage of play provides us with a clear example of Cassamá’s positioning and role in his side’s build-up play. The Guinea-Bissau international is intelligent and proactive in his movement to help his side advance play. Furthermore, this diagonal pass from the centre out to the wide areas is a pass that Cassamá frequently makes as Reims often build-up their attacks through him out into the wider areas as play advances from the first third of the pitch.
This next image, which is also taken from Reims’ clash with Rennes back in February in which Cassamá played as a lone holding midfielder, shows us another example of the player dropping from his midfield position into an even deeper position as his side attempt to build out from the back.
On this occasion, however, instead of receiving the ball from a centre-back who had been struggling to progress the play, Cassamá collects possession from the goalkeeper.
During the build-up phase, Reims’ two centre-backs often like to split out wide. As they do this, their full-backs can also advance their position further up the pitch. However, this splitting of the centre-backs varies between an action which sees the goalkeeper step up, in essence acting as a third central defender in possession and an action which sees a midfielder, such as Cassamá, withdraw from the centre of the pitch to allow the two central defenders to push out wide.
Just prior to the image above being taken, Reims’ defenders were in a similar situation to the one which we discussed from the first image in this piece, as they were struggling to play past Rennes’ first line of defence and were essentially just playing the ball across the backline.
As we can see in this image above, Cassamá ultimately drops deep to collect the ball short from the goalkeeper. As he drops his position, he allows the goalkeeper to retreat and offers his side a little bit of extra protection.
As Cassamá receives possession here, he immediately turns towards the right centre-back. This centre-back begins to make a run forward and Cassamá plays the ball in front of him. The centre-back collects the ball around the area which is circled in the image above and this position is a positive one for Reims to progress the ball forward.
This passage of play provides us with yet another example of the important role that Cassamá plays for his side in the build-up. The 22-year-old midfielder is brave in possession of the ball and will often look for the progressive passing options, which makes him an asset for his side when playing out from the back.
This next image is taken from Reims’ clash with Stade Brest and in this game, unlike the Rennes fixture which we had previously been discussing, Cassamá played on the left of a double-pivot, with a holding midfield partner.
However, during the build-up phase, as we have previously touched upon, Cassamá often plays as the deepest midfielder regardless of which specific position he is occupying within his team’s shape. In this image above, we can see that the midfielder has opted to vacate his central midfield position to drop deep and move into a position between the centre-backs, where he can receive the ball and help his team to progress the play.
As Cassamá drops into this deep position, the opponent’s forward who would have previously been marking him in midfield often doesn’t follow him, as was the case in this specific example above. Sometimes teams may not want to press that far into the opposition’s third of the pitch and as a result, when Cassamá moves into these positions, he can free himself up, as he does here. This allows him to enjoy more time on the ball and he can put his range of passing to good use.
The next passage of play that we’re going to analyse is also taken from this clash between Reims and Brest. On this particular occasion, we can see that Cassamá is in possession of the ball in a slightly more advanced stage of play than he had been in previous examples.
Here, we can see how Reims’ attacking shape develops within their base 4-2-3-1 shape as play advances into the final two-thirds of the pitch. Reims’ two centre-backs and their two holding midfielders, one of whom is Cassamá, maintain their position in a deep central zone as their side attempt to break into the oppositions half of the pitch.
With this quartet of players holding their positions, this allows Reims’ two full-backs to advance into the opposition’s half of the pitch and this creates something resembling a 2-2-4-2 shape at this point.
Reims were playing against quite a defensively compact Rennes team, as this image shows us. This gave Les Rouges et Blanc very little chance of playing through the lines and building into the final third via the centre of the pitch. However, as Reims’ full-backs push up into the opposition’s half, they subsequently enjoy a lot of space on the wings due to the opponent’s horizontal compactness.
As the play moves on, Cassamá picks out the left-back’s run and enjoys enough time and space to launch a long-ball into the advancing full-back’s path. This provides us with yet another example of Cassamá playing the ball from his central position out into the wide areas to find more advanced players.
Furthermore, this passage of play also provides us with a good example of Cassamá’s vision, which may be one of his most impressive qualities. The Guinea-Bissau international has displayed an excellent ability to pick out progressive long-balls such as this one and help his side to build their attacks.
Even on occasions when Cassamá is being more tightly marked, he can often be seen dictating play via his movement and via signals to his teammates who he often gives ball-playing orders to. This gives us an example of the 22-year-old’s ability to read the game in possession and another example of his vision.
Cassamá’s role out-of-possession
Cassamá plays a holding midfield role for a side who have managed to keep Ligue 1’s best defensive record during the 2019/20 campaign. Positionally, he generally occupies a fairly similar area of the pitch out-of-possession to the one that he occupies in-possession, which is typically the position just in front of the defensive line.
The 22-year-old doesn’t often get dragged out of position off the ball as he doesn’t tend to venture too far from his base central position within Reims’ shape, whether that be a lone holding midfield position or a position on either the left or right side of central midfield.
However, Cassamá is good at closing players down quickly due to his quickness and his ability to read the game. While he doesn’t often remain to tight to specific players, he does have the ability to get tight to them quickly once they receive possession and as he presses them, his tackling ability comes into play which has also proven to be quite effective at times this season.
Cassamá is good at taking the ball back from the opposition when he does close down players who receive the ball in close proximity to him. He is a persistent player when attempting to win the ball back and he can successfully hassle opposition players into forcing a turnover of possession thanks to his quickness and his persistence in the tackle.
Cassamá has played an important role in preventing his side from being counter-attacked in some of Reims’ more recent fixtures. As we discussed above, Cassamá generally tends to hand back in the offensive phase, allowing the full-backs to push forward and join Reims’ more advanced players in the attack. This can be helpful for Reims when building into wide areas from the centre of the pitch, as we discussed previously.
However, as both full-backs advance forward, this leaves Cassamá with a lot of defensive responsibility, as should his side lose possession of the ball in their attack, the opposition could potentially begin a counterattack against them.
This image above provides us with an example of this type of scenario in action. Just prior to this image being taken, Reims had played a cross into the box which their opponents’ centre-back met and cleared. The ball subsequently dropped just outside of the box and this team’s players began to disperse, with some moving up the pitch in the hopes of hitting Reims on the break.
However, Cassamá pushed up to close down the loose ball and manages to secure possession for his side, preventing the opposition from breaking on them in the process.
Cassamá can often be seen acting in this way and occupying this type of position during his side’s attacks. He often hangs around the centre of the pitch, waiting for a loose ball or an advancing player to pounce on and close down, as we can see him doing in this image above.
His pace helps him to be effective in this role as he managed to advance his position and close down this particular loose ball quickly before the opposition really gained control of the ball. Additionally, this passage of play provides us with yet another example of Cassamá’s ability to read the game, which is also likely to have played a significant role in his efficiency at closing down this particular counterattack.
This next image is taken from Reims’ clash with Amiens back in January. Here, we can see Amiens, wearing the white strip, in possession of the ball attempting to hurt Reims on the counterattack. They had just played a through ball to the player who we can see receiving possession here as they are breaking into Reims’ half of the pitch.
Cassamá, who is circled here, is the Reims player nearest to the ball and this particular passage of play will provide us with an example of how much of an important role his tackling ability plays in the defensive side of his team’s game, especially on the transition to defence and when defending against counterattacks.
Cassamá can be seen using his impressive speed to close down the opposition player from behind here and he quickly manages to make up the ground on this player, as we will see in our next image.
Here, we can see that as the play moves on, Cassamá doesn’t waste much time before he commits to performing a sliding challenge on the ball-carrier who had only just received possession prior to this image being taken. Cassamá goes in strong here and his tackle successfully dispossesses the Amiens player, putting an abrupt stop to this counterattack as it had only really just got going.
Had Cassamá not been successful with this challenge, the ball-carrier may have progressed much farther than he did into Reims’ half of the pitch and as we can see, Les Rouge et Blanc didn’t have many men at the back behind Cassamá, as many of their players were attempting to recover and get back into position at this moment.
This shows us how effective the 22-year-old midfielder can be in his role as a holding midfielder out-of-possession within Reims’ side. He is effective when left as one of the only players in the defence when his side attack because of his speed, ability to read the game, and his tackling ability.
These traits help him to perform effectively to prevent the opposition from getting a counterattack started, as we saw in the first passage of play that we analysed in this section and when the opposition have already built the counterattack to a more advanced stage, as we saw in this most recent image.
Weaknesses and potential areas of improvement
Cassamá has delivered some impressive performances to earn his place in Reims’ side since the turn of the year. However, the midfielder is not without fault and certain weaknesses and areas of improvement do exist within his game.
The first weakness of Cassamá’s that we will discuss is his height and his weakness in aerial duels. The 22-year-old midfielder stands at 165cm (5’5”) tall and he hasn’t displayed a particularly impressive jumping ability to make up for a height that some opposition players have been exposing.
We can see an example of Cassamá’s weakness in the air in this image above, which is taken from Reims’ clash with Saint-Étienne from back in February. As the ball made its way into the air here, it ended up creating an aerial duel between Cassamá and this opposition player.
However, the opposition player had a height advantage over the Reims player and he also outjumps Cassamá, as we can see in this image.
The Reims midfielder is an intense player who displays explosiveness and power in his game, however, he essentially gets dominated in the air by the Saint-Étienne player here. This is an area of Cassamá’s game which has already been targeted by some opposition goal-kicks and throw-ins and such and it may be one of the more glaring negatives to his game.
The second area of improvement for this player that we will discuss is in relation to his passing. We discussed Cassamá’s passing ability and the important role that he plays within his side’s build-up play earlier on in this tactical analysis piece and we also mentioned that he has got excellent vision.
While Cassamá does have excellent vision and does have a positive mindset, always looking to progress play forward, his vision and attack-mindedness on the ball can at times allow the opposition to take back possession as the player’s vision sometimes isn’t met with perfect execution and his ideas ultimately fizzle out.
This image above provides us with an example of an attack in which Cassamá’s vision and idea are positive, however, they are not met with the best execution, resulting in a turnover of possession.
As we can see, one opposition midfielder has vacated his central midfield position to press Cassamá who we can see lining up a lobbed pass out to the wing in this image. Cassamá is aiming to meet the run of the right-back who had vacated his defensive position prior to this image being taken, as he made his way forward. Cassamá does well to spot this run and attempts to take advantage of the opposition’s compact shape to play his teammate through in the wide area.
However, as this next image shows us, Cassamá’s execution of this lobbed through pass wasn’t good enough as he plays the ball too far ahead of the right-back. The full-back gives up on the pass as a result and the ball ultimately flies out of play.
Cassamá’s long-passing ability is a positive to his game, however, his vision and pass selection can, at times, result in him attempting to take on a pass which he is unable to pull off, resulting in a turnover of possession, as was the case in this passage of play above.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece, it may be fair to say that Cassamá has shown plenty of reasons, both in and out of possession, why he has been getting regular game time for Reims since the turn of the year.
The midfielder plays a significant role in his side’s tactics when attempting to play out from the back and both his positioning and his passing ability have been big assets for his side in that regard.
Furthermore, Cassamá’s ability to read the game is a positive for him and his teammates both in and out-of-possession. This scout report has provided an example of the significance of Cassamá’s role when his side isn’t in possession of the ball in acting as one of Reims’ few players who remain back and act as a safety net against the threat of a counterattack. Both his speed and ability to read the game have been important for this role.
Lastly, Cassamá isn’t flawless and his weaknesses include weakness in the air, as well as the ineffective execution of his passing ideas at times. However, the 22-year-old has shown plenty of ability in his performances for Reims in recent months and he may be an exciting player to watch develop.