Teddy Teuma 2022/23: The Malta international having another great season with Royale Union Saint-Gilloise – scout report
Like a vast majority of the Royale Union Saint-Gilloise squad at the beginning of the 2021/22 season, Teddy Teuma was not well known around the footballing world. The French-born Maltese played in the lower divisions of French football throughout the beginning of his career, with stops at Hyères in the fourth tier of French football and Boulogne in the third tier, before playing half a season with Red Star in Ligue 2 in the 2018/19 season after helping them win promotion the year prior.
Then, in January of 2019, Teuma signed with Belgian First Division B side Union Saint-Gilloise. The midfielder quickly became a fan’s favourite and helped the club win the second division title in the 2020/21 season, bringing the club back to the top flight in Belgium for the first time in 48 years. Fast forward to the present day, and Teuma has had an unbelievable rise. From making his senior international debut for Malta to almost winning the Belgian Pro League in USG’s first season back in the big time, to currently playing European football, it has been a dream last couple of years for the Belgian side’s captain.
This tactical analysis and scout report piece will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of Teuma. This analysis will also look at how the Malta international has picked up where he left off last season under new manager Karel Gerarts.
Naturally, after such a great season in their first campaign back in the top flight in 48 years, other teams took notice. As a result, their manager, Felice Mazzu, was hired by Brussels rivals Anderlecht to replace the departed Vincent Kompany, after the former Manchester City defender left to become manager of Burnley. Under Mazzu, USG set up in a 3-5-2, with Teuma normally being deployed as the left-sided midfielder of the central three.
As matches progressed, however, the Malta international operated in a more free-roaming midfield role, which is shown by his heat map from the 2021/22 season.
This free-roaming role allowed Teuma more flexibility and freedom in the attacking phase, with the midfielder being one of USG’s most consistent attacking contributors as a result. Teuma finished last season with 6 goals and 9 assists, with the Maltese midfielder being the Belgian side’s most creative playmaker in these deeper areas. He also had a solid season defensively as well, with Teuma constantly tracking back and putting in shifts.
Now let’s have a look at Teddy Teuma’s heat map from the current campaign. Under new manager Karel Gerarts, there has been almost no change in Teuma’s starting position. Like his predecessor, Gerarts has stuck with the 3-5-2 system that brought USG so much success last season. The slight difference this season compared to last has been the areas on the field where the midfielder has been operating in. Teuma has still been heavily involved in the attacking half of the field this season, but he has less of a free-roaming role, with him sticking more to his position as the left-sided midfielder of the central three. He also has been more involved in the defensive side of the game this season, with Teuma playing as a “6” at times this season when USG are defending in more of a lower block.
If anything, Teuma’s role this season has more solidified his stance as an all around midfielder for the Belgian side. While he was involved in the defensive side of the game under Mazzu, his defensive work rate has been more prevalent under Karel Gerarts. Also, Teuma’s increased defensive involvement has not hurt the attacking side of his game at all. The Malta international already has 4 goals and 7 assists this season between the Belgian Pro League and the UEFA Europa League, with him looking likely to top both his goal and assist tally from last season.
As this scout report progresses, we will further analyse Teddy Teuma’s game, showing why the Union Saint-Gilloise midfielder has become one of the best all-around midfielders in Belgian football.
Vision on the ball and range of passing
The first strength that we will look at is Teddy Teuma’s vision on the ball, as well as his range of passing, mostly from deeper lying positions. When looking at the numbers, between both this season and last season, the Maltese midfielder has been averaging 52.39 passes per 90 minutes, with a completion rate of 81.2%.
The data viz above shows the midfielder’s pass map from this season, illustrating his heavy involvement in moving the ball forward through midfield, particularly in the left half-spaces. The pass map also shows that Teuma often plays long passes into the final third, with the midfielder averaging 4.39 long passes per 90 minutes, with 60.3% of them being accurate. This shows his playmaking tendency from these deeper positions, with Teuma using his vision to spot teammates making runs in behind the opposition defence to play these long passes.
It isn’t just long passes for Teuma, but his passing in and around the final third has also been good these last couple of seasons with USG. The midfielder has averaged around 8 passes to the final third per 90 minutes, with a completion rate of just above 70%.
The image above shows a great example of both the long passing ability, as well as vision, of Teddy Teuma. In the phase of play above, the midfielder is operating in his usual left-sided midfielder position, with the entire Club Brugge team shifting to try and keep the ball to one side. With no passing options present as a result of Club Brugge’s defensive positioning, Teuma uses his vision to spot the wingback in space on the opposite side of the field. As a result, the Malta international is able to play a terrific cross-field ball into the run of the wingback in behind, bypassing the entire Club Brugge defence as a result.
Though the opposition do well in this example to try and keep the ball to one side of the field and attempt to force an errant pass, Teuma’s ability to scan the entire field for options allowed him to escape the danger. In situations like this, the midfielder has become a reliable escape route for USG when playing against sides that like to press high to try and win back possession in dangerous areas.
As discussed earlier, Teddy Teuma also excels when it comes to passing in and around the final third of the pitch. In the phase of play above, Teuma finds himself in the left half-space just outside the opposition’s penalty box. The Leuven defenders are caught ball-watching, which allows the USG forward the ability to sneak into the box unmarked. Teuma uses his vision to spot the run, and plays a floated pass into the path of the forward, who runs onto the pass and scores.
What is hard to see from this still image is that this pass by Teuma had to be perfect, as the space between the defenders and goalkeeper was minimal. It also demonstrates how even when being closed down by a defender, Teuma is able to put just the right amount of weight on the pass, another reason this assist was spectacular.
Above is another example of the vision and passing range of the Malta international midfielder, along with his ability to play these passes while under pressure. In the phase of play above against Kortrijk, all three of these are demonstrated. As the ball finds its way to the midfielder, once again in this left half-space, he is closed down from behind by a defender, as well as being pressed by the defender in front of him.
However, prior to this image, Teuma looked up and spotted the forward in space before receiving the ball, which allowed him to already determine where he would pass the ball once it was played to him. The ensuing pass by Teuma created a chance for USG, one that looked unlikely just a few seconds prior.
Counter pressing ability
Another strength that we will take a look at is the counterpressing ability of Teddy Teuma. When looking at the pressing statistics of Union Saint-Gilloise this season, one would think they are not that aggressive in this department. In fact, USG’s PPDA ranks below the league average of pressing in the Belgian Pro League, but counterpressing is where they are dangerous. When possession is lost by the Belgian side in an advanced area in midfield, the side will counterpress for a few seconds to try to regain possession. If they do not, then they back off. Teuma is one of the leaders of this counter press, as the data viz below shows of his high regains.
As the data viz above shows, the Malta international midfielder has 21 high regains so far this season in both the league and Europa League, along with 26 counterpressing recoveries in the opposition’s half. While not nearly all of these will lead to goal-scoring chances for Union, it is able to illustrate the tenacity of Teuma, as the following images will also show.
The image above demonstrates an example of the aggressive counterpressing ability that Teddy Teuma possesses. In their recent Europa League match against SC Braga, the USG captain is able to read the pass that the fullback is looking to make, with him closing down the defender as the ball is travelling. This forces the defender to react quickly, and he plays the ball long, with the goalkeeper easily able to claim. Even though this counterpressing action by Teuma does not lead to a direct turnover of possession in an advanced area, it eliminates a possible build-up by Braga which could have resulted in a goal-scoring opportunity by Teuma’s pressure forcing the defender to play it long.
The image above shows another example of Teuma’s anticipation, as well as counter-pressing ability, to try and force the opposition into a turnover. In this phase of play against Leuven, Teuma anticipates the cross-field pass towards the position of the centre-back and starts travelling to close the defender down while the ball is still moving. It again forces the defender into making a quick decision, with the defender just barely able to get the pass off.
Front foot defending in the attacking half
The last thing that this scout report will go over is the defensive side of Teddy Teuma’s game. Naturally, the Malta international does contribute defensively, but about half of that defensive involvement happens in the attacking half of the pitch.
The data viz above shows the areas of the pitch that Teuma covers defensively, with the majority of his range occurring in the attacking half, as just discussed. As the following examples will also illustrate, he is very much a midfielder that likes to defend on the front foot, rather than drop back into the defensive half, though he will at times in certain defensive situations.
The image above shows an example of Teuma being a front-foot defender, looking to win back possession close to the opposition’s penalty box. The Mechelen defender is looking to play the ball to the fullback, who is attempting to move into space. Teuma is able to recognise this and move into the passing lane, intercepting the intended pass as a result. The Malta international midfielder can also play a pass into the path of his teammate, allowing him to send a cross into the box.
When it comes to looking to defend on the front foot, the image above shows a good example of the ground Teuma will cover to accomplish this at times. As the image shows, the Malta international advanced forward from his central midfield position to look to put the defender under pressure, even moving past the forward line. Unfortunately, this defensive involvement resulted in a foul on Teuma, with him getting a bit too aggressive in his ensuing challenge.
This type of defending, while aggressive, is also somewhat risky by Teuma. In a situation like this, which granted does not happen often, if the defender is able to escape the pressure and get past the midfielder, USG are a man down in this area, with Teuma’s position left vacated as a result of his defensive movement.
The image above again illustrates the front foot and aggressive defending that Teddy Teuma attempts to accomplish in the attacking half. In the phase of play above from their Europa League match against Braga, Teuma is able to anticipate the pass from the defender into the feet of the midfielder. This allows Teuma to travel towards the player as the ball is moving, allowing him to get a tackle in and win back possession.
Though Teddy Teuma does not possess the qualities of a world-class defensive midfielder, the defensive side of his game is still rather good. He also prefers to defend in the opposition’s half, allowing him to be on the front foot if he is able to win back possession in a rather dangerous area of the pitch.
As this scout report and tactical analysis has shown, Teddy Teuma has translated perfectly into the tactics of Karel Gerarts compared to his predecessor Felice Mazzu. Currently top of their Europa League group, USG are almost guaranteed a place in the knockout rounds, where they could be matched up against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United. This could be the perfect opportunity for Teuma to show himself to a wider audience, and show off the quality he possesses.