Wonderkid Wamangituka: Mislintat’s latest unearthed gem taking the Bundesliga by storm
Stuttgart have employed some intriguing recruitment over the last couple years, especially since the introduction of Sven Mislintat at Sporting Director in 2019. One of his first recruits, in the 2. Bundesliga was Silas Wamangituka from Paris FC in Ligue 2. The Congolese had just come off the back of an impressive debut campaign in the French capital, with especially electrifying underlying numbers.
I say electrifying because that is exactly the word, I would use, to sum up, Wamangituka’s game. He carries the ball with such an astonishing pace, and now, in 2021, he has taken this remarkable attribute and applied it in an efficient manner. In this analysis, we will cover how he uses this asset to help progress the play for his side, create chances, and even score directly from one of his mazy runs.
Liverpool and Barcelona are two clubs who reportedly kept tabs on the Stuttgart sensation, before his move to the Swabians, and if he keeps up this form for another season or two, these same super-clubs will find him hard to ignore. He has been used all over the pitch, as part of the forward line, but more recently as an all-action wing-back in Stuttgart’s 5-3-2 system. This scout report will take a deeper dive into his suitability to each role.
In this tactical analysis, we will cover his various roles in Pellegrino Matarazzo’s system, his role in and out of possession, and his room for improvement in the future.
In DR Congo’s capital city Kinshasa, Wamangituka was spotted at 12 years old by Black Mountain Sport academy before making his way to join local side Olympic Matete FC. He would stay at the club for six years, until he made the move to France, joining fifth-tier side Ales in 2017. He would only stay for one year, before finally making his move into the professional game, joining Paris FC in Ligue 2, making his professional debut in 2018. In the French capital, he would be largely used as a centre-forward, scoring 11 times in 32 games.
Now, in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart, Wamangituka has become a good player at this level. Although naturally a forward, he has been used in a multitude of roles since his move to Germany. Deployed across the front line last season, he now plays as a marauding, dynamic, all-action wing-back in Matarazzo’s 5-3-2 system. This being on either side of the pitch, but he is preferred on the right, given his stronger right foot, though he does play as somewhat of an inverted wing-back, making underlapping runs into the box with regularity.
Standing at 6’2” / 188cm, he possesses a uniquely distinctive skillset, with a powerful running stride. and delightful technical abilities. As a wing-back, Wamangituka has been able to demonstrate his smart movement, pace, and danger in behind, but he has also showcased how lethal he can be in attacking areas. He has outperformed his xG this season by 4.1, and this can be attributed to his composure and strong finishing ability. Most of all, however, Wamangituka boasts one key trait: flair. He can be mesmerising to watch.
Wamangituka’s player profile, created by the wonderful Sathish Prasad (@SathishPrasadVT on Twitter).
Wamangituka’s exhilarating ball-carrying ability
The 21-year-old shares strikingly similarities to a couple of players, but perhaps most notably, former Stuttgart man Timo Werner. Especially Werner when he was at Stuttgart, around the same age as the DR Congo player. He is similar in the sense of his direct nature, even as a wing-back. Wamangituka is not a fan of overlapping runs – he would rather get as close to the goal as possible.
Scatter plot of Bundesliga wingers’ progressive runs per 90 compared with dribbles per 90.
We can see that Wamangituka ranks fairly highly both in terms of progressive runs and dribbles per 90. Considering some of the players around him have many more touches of the ball throughout the ninety minutes, such as Leroy Sané at Bayern Munich, who takes 55 touches per 90, compared to Wamangituka’s 38.6, we can understand that the Congolese is efficient with his time on the ball.
As a wing-back this season, we have seen Wamangituka linger on the right-flank in the middle third in counterattacking scenarios – and when the opportunity arises – he will pick up the ball and carry the ball as far up the pitch as he can, looking to enter dangerous positions in the box. A telling statistic for these efforts is though his carries into the penalty area (28) which ranks fifth in the Bundesliga, according to FBref.com.
One of the Stuttgart defenders makes the switch of play to Wamangituka, who was playing as a left wing-back here, and he uses his body wisely to receive the ball with his body turning towards goal.
His direct and long strides have taken him to the penalty area, leaving his marker eating dust, infiltrating a location where can he shoot or lay off for his teammate, which he does in this scenario.
Quite frankly, the 21-year-old also shares some traits of another well-versed footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo. Heard of him? He is a 6’2” winger with pace, likes a dribble, and has an obvious appetite for goals, regardless of his position. Plus, in truth, they both play as strikers, even if their starting positions indicate that or not. For a young player, this has its pros and cons, as it means he can score a plentiful of goals but can leave his side vulnerable.
Wamangituka’s ambitious nature can be depicted here, against Bayern Munich of all teams, where he looks to exploit the gap between the centre-back and left-back.
He gets in behind the Bayern defenders and has the near-post to aim for. On this occasion, he does not slow down his driving run and strikes the ball well off-target.
Overall, he carries the ball rather well on the counter with good pace and long limbs and has a strong ability to chop away from pressure. On occasion, however, he would lose balance in these moments and by proxy, lose the ball for his side. He is a physically well-built winger, but he can go through entire games of losing the ball endlessly. For all of his promising and direct dribbling foundations, he only completes 50.38 % of his attempts.
In Stuttgart’s 5-3-2 system, he does, however, offer a direct route to goal through his direct dribbling, if at times it is not the most effective method. In counterattacking scenarios, it can be invaluable, as he has the potential to carry the ball into the penalty area from his own half, but at times where Stuttgart are in possession, looking to drag the opposition one side of the pitch, Wamangituka can sometimes ruin this.
Wamangituka’s excellent goalscoring output
The 6’2” forward pops up on a lot of data searches since he is usually registered within the full-backs/wing-backs bracket. Although this is true in a traditional sense, in Matarazzo’s system, he is more of a winger than a wing-back. This is not to say he does not contribute defensively, but it is certainly not his focus. As we have been emphasising, Wamangituka’s primary goal is to, well, score goals.
Scatter plot of Bundesliga wingers’ goals per 90 compared with xG per 90.
A typical Wamangituka goal will include him gliding past opponents in transition, carrying the ball from deep, isolating his marker, and beating them with inventive bits of skill. In a game which is accused of lacking pure entertainers, the Congolese is undoubtedly filling this void of talent. That, or he will linger around the right edge of the 18-yard-box, and make a bursting run to take a shot from the through pass inside the box.
The 21-year-old exemplified his danger on the break in his goal against Mainz, and, yes, this is where his goal began, 80 meters away from the opposition net.
He travels with the ball into the opposition penalty area, before hitting the ball with not exactly the cleanest strike, but a powerful one right down the middle to dumbfound the keeper.
Wamangituka has shared penalty-kick responsibilities with teammate Nicolás González this season, which is emblematic of his confidence in front of goal. He is not afraid of any opposition, and in fact, his best performances this term have come against both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. He has taken and converted all three of his penalties this season, opting to shoot with power, aiming towards the left side.
Outside of that, a handful of his goals have come from smart, incisive runs into the penalty area, offering teammates a passing lane in a dangerous area. He is selective with his shots too. At Paris FC, the man scored 11 of his 40 shots which is good going for a 19-year-old at the time. At Stuttgart, in the Bundesliga, he has levelled up once more, scoring 11 again (so far), from 34 efforts.
Sosa drives to the byline, brings his head up, and spots Wamangituka’s surging run into the box, which was not spotted by the Augsburg defence collectively, allowing the Congolese to slot the ball into the bottom right.
There is a sense that the 21-year-old performs better and is more effective when he has less time to think. This goal above, for example, was a one-touch finish that he finessed calmly into the bottom corner, wasting no time in the process. He is a player, like many, who rely upon instinct and reaction, which is not bad so to speak, but something he and his coaches could work on is how to compose and coordinate his body big chance situations.
Against Freiburg in the first game of the season, Wamangituka demonstrated his ability to finish off his weaker left boot.
His confidence on the pitch is represented in his goals. A remarkable moment occurred against Werder Bremen where he was faced with an open goal, for which he stopped on the line, waited for Jiří Pavlenka to wander over, and only then did he thump the ball into the back of the net. This obviously annoyed several Werder players and it got him a booking from the referee for unsporting behaviour. He is a cheeky character for sure.
Wamangituka in the defensive phase
To the naked eye, 1.6 tackles and 1.1 interceptions might seem like an adequate defensive output for such an attacking wing-back, but in truth, Wamangituka can be lackadaisical in the defensive phase of his game. This is the weakest side to his game, which is understandable going from essentially a striker to a wing-back, but at the same time, the 21-year-old makes simple errors in transition.
Scatter plot of Bundesliga wingers’ defensive duels won % compared with defensive duels per 90.
When defending, especially in the final third, he can be quite lethargic and passive. Regularly he needs to get much tighter to his man and press down the opposition ball carrier. When Stuttgart regain possession, he is also sometimes too quick to step up, which leaves him out of position if his team lose the ball soon after winning it. On top of this, he can be slow in tracking back when necessary, and sometimes he does not track back at all.
In this scenario, he needs to track back with far more urgency, but he also needs to mark his man tighter initially, to prevent being spun as he has.
However, he has been adapting to his role as a wing-back and is showing slow signs of improvement over time. In 1v1 situations and in reading the game, Wamangituka is becoming timelier with his tackles and interceptions, which he can use to spring a counter-attack for his side. He is becoming more street-wise with his defensive application, and as long as he continues to keep the work rate high, he can become a competent defender.
Here, Wamangituka nips in with the interception after a heavy touch from the opposing player, for which he then lays it off and bursts forward to receive the ball up the pitch.
Ultimately, it could just be the case that this position will not suit him in the long-term. His preference (and where he brings his most value) is to operate in the final third. To some extent, having all this space to gallop up the field into suits him down a tee, but the reality might be that getting the Congolese closer to the goal will bring a bigger benefit to the side overall.
Forecast for the future
One thing is certain, Wamangituka has a big future in the game. He has bundles of potential just waiting to be unleashed and maintained by a top-level coach who is willing to invest time into him. He is still finding his feet in terms of a certified position, and it is his first season as this level, but it will be fascinating to see how his career develops from here. His talent is irrefutable, it is merely a question of how best to get that out of him consistently.