Tanguy Ndombele: France’s next midfield star
France have just won the World Cup, and yet that simply isn’t enough for Les Bleus. They continue to produce even more world-class talent, the latest being Tanguy Ndombele. The midfielder is incredibly physically mature and has incredible dribbling ability akin to ex-Spurs behemoth Moussa Dembele.
This combination of raw power and direct, yet accurate dribbling is so, so rare. The Frenchman is also a gifted passer of the ball. Simply put, he is a powerhouse who can set the world alight if he chooses the correct move away from his home nation. With Juventus, Spurs, Manchester City and Manchester United all apparently interested, he has some big choices to make.
In this individual player analysis, we’ll discover why the Frenchman is being chased by Europe’s biggest clubs, and what could be next for him.
Dribbling under pressure
Boasting 5.65 dribbles per game with a 81.6% completion rate, Ndombele is a natural and dangerous dribbler. His neat dribbling, combined with his impressive strength allows him to be a serious threat whilst on the ball. Under pressure, nobody excels like Ndombele, due to his impressive balance and upper-body strength.
‘La Croqueta’ is a move made popular by the legendary Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta. However, Frenchman Ndombele has made this skill his own in the past few seasons. The speed with which he completes this simple yet effective move allows him to routinely glide through the opposition’s midfield and allows his team to transition quickly.
Ndombele’s speed, particularly on the ball, is truly incredible. This speed makes him a pivotal pawn in Olympique Lyonnais’s tactical plans.
In comparison with other midfield behemoths like Dembele and Kondogbia, Ndombele has an impressive creative switch in him. His excellent positional and tactical understanding allows him to not only be a threat in transition but to be used higher up the pitch in the attacking phases.
As we can see above, three players are attracted to Ndombele as he is such an impressive player. In doing this, a lot of space is opened for the Lyon left-back to exploit. Ndombele also happens to be an immaculate passer, which allows him to play a smart through-ball whilst under pressure.
In summary, Ndombele is arguably the best central midfielder in the world in terms of dribbling and transitioning his side. He will be seen as a world-class player when he makes his big move to a top European club in the future, if he isn’t already.
With 52.22 passes per game at an impressive 89.1% success rate, Ndombele has the ability to cut open sides and manipulate possession. With 8.66 successful passes into the final third, Ndombele is a progressive passer. This is what makes him different to the ex-Spurs man Dembele.
Although a player of a similar mold to Ndombele, Dembele preferred to play the ball sideways and wasn’t an expansive or a player who sometimes took risks. Ndombele however, likes to move the ball forward in an attempt to transition his side into attacking phases.
Above is an image that underlines how Ndombele is a progressive, forward passer. As we can see, he is attempts a pass that requires a lot of technique, but more importantly, confidence. He is clearly an intelligent midfielder that likes to think multiple steps ahead. He didn’t even take a touch or scan the pitch before attempting such an audacious pass.
Ndombele’s ability to manipulate the ball with his dribbling or skills grants him the space to complete potentially match-changing passes. The pass in the image above was excellent. He hit it with his laces and allowed the ball to zip across the field quickly to give his team time to decide what to do next.
Unfortunately, his teammate made the wrong decision and chose to shoot rather than square the ball across the goal. Had he done so, this pass could have been the game changer, and it deserved to be too.
Interceptions are such a key component to modern football. The game now is faster than ever, meaning midfielders need to be accustomed to defending and attacking at high speeds.
With 4.03 interceptions per game, Ndombele boasts the ability to win the ball back for his side numerous times. Not only that, but his interceptions seem to be completed when they’re most needed. His fantastic work rate allows him to continue to cover the pitch and break up play when needed.
As we can see above, Tanguy Ndombele is a midfielder who contributes to every stage of play, dominating defensive, transitional, and attacking phases.
As we can see above, Ndombele completes interceptions in various zones of the pitch, although predominantly on the right where he mainly plays. His willingness to try and win the ball is a major positive to his game. Alongside all his attacking qualities, he is also comfortable defending – truly the definition of a well-rounded player.
As you can see above, an aerial ball is knocked into the Amiens target-man. Ndombele quickly anticipates this and wins the ball with a quick interception. He quickly turns and used his strength and dribbling to glide past his opponent.
Ndombele has the balance and composure to complete such an accurate and difficult pass whilst basically being wrestled to the ground. His astonishing ability to turn defence into attack in one move is incredibly rare, and the trait of a world-class player.
Above, we see three players press the Amiens player. Due to this press being bypassed, Amiens have an attacker in space between the lines. Ndombele however has the positional sense and anticipation to quickly intercept this dangerous pass. After snatching the ball from the opposition, Ndombele sprints away to transition his side into an attacking phase.
As we can see above, Ndombele has moved the ball into a central area rather quickly. He skips past not one, but two Amiens players. As mentioned before, the ability to turn defence into attack in minimal actions is the trait of a truly world-class player.
The Frenchman is also incredibly neat and tidy with 70.2% of all of his actions being successful. To put this in context, below is a table comparing him to other world-class central midfielders.
Above is a simple comparison of successful defensive and attacking actions per 90 minutes. A remarkable 70.2% of Ndombele’s actions are successful. His defensive contribution is statistically superior in comparison to all the other players, but he’s also not too far behind Pogba and the legendary Iniesta.
With 7.1 total defensive duels won – including 1.5 successful aerial duels – per game while only conceding one foul per game, Ndombele is a fantastic player in the defensive phase. His high interception rate and 33% of slide tackles won demonstrate his accurate decision making.
Perhaps even more impressively – and usefully for a high-pressing system – he wins a staggering 12 attacking duels per game. Judging by those numbers, a lazy assessment would stereotype him simply as a powerful athlete. That would be to do a disservice to his supreme confidence on the ball that produces two progressive runs per 90 minutes and 0.97 shot assists per game.
At 22 years old, Tanguy Ndombele is a world-class player already. As he has not even reached his peak yet, physically and as a footballer, he could become an absolute behemoth in the beautiful game.
The Frenchman only has four caps to his name though. While this might not seem like much, his competition in the world champions’ midfield is intense: Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Steven N’Zonzi, and Corentin Tolisso. Looking at those names, it’s understandable why Ndombele hasn’t dominated Didier Deschamps’ midfield plans.
Despite all this, Ndombele is destined to have a bright future with Les Bleus as he is the youngest on that list, and he’s not too far behind Paul Pogba in terms of ability. A midfield of those two and N’Golo Kante is a terrifying prospect.
Ndombele has some big decisions to make. With Juventus, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham all reported to be seriously interested in his services, he isn’t short of choices. His next one will be pivotal to his future as a player.
Either way, Tanguy Nbombele is a world-class player with a big future ahead of him. If he continues to improve as he is currently, the world will have a truly unique and exciting player to enjoy.
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