Robson Bambu at Nice 2019/20 – scout report
Former Bayern Munich centre-back Dante featured heavily at the heart of the defence for the former Arsenal and Juventus midfielder’s Nice side throughout the 2019/20 campaign, however, with age catching up with the 36-year-old defender, it may be wise of Nice to invest in this area of the squad. Furthermore, only five Ligue 1 teams had a worse defensive record than Nice last season so securing central defensive reinforcements may have been a priority for Vieira.
He has done so by recruiting 22-year-old Bambu from the Brazilian Serie A and in this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, we will look at how Bambu may fit into Les Aiglons’ tactics next season. We will look at some of the strengths and weaknesses that have appeared in the 22-year-old’s game during his time at Athletico Paranaense, as well as how Vieira used his centre-backs at Nice last season to try and determine how the defender may fare in Ligue 1.
Pace and reading of the game
One of the reasons that Nice may have opted to sign Bambu is his combination of pace and ability to read the game. These two traits of his combine to help him to perform effectively when playing as the deepest of his team’s centre-backs out-of-possession, covering in behind for his teammates, while these traits also help him to cut out opposition passes higher up the pitch and successfully intercept the ball.
In Ligue 1 last season, Nice made an average of just 36.48 interceptions per 90. This placed Les Aiglons in 18th place on the Ligue 1 interceptions table for the 2019/20 season.
This low positioning on Ligue 1’s interceptions table is undoubtedly partially influenced by the fact that Vieira’s side are one of the most possession-based teams in France’s top-flight. Nice retained an average of 53.2% possession in Ligue 1 last season, which is the fifth-highest of any side in Ligue 1.
However, Nice’s defensive record, which was the sixth-lowest in Ligue 1 last season, can do with some improvement next season and improving their ability to make interceptions with the addition of a player who excels in that area, such as Bambu, could go a long way to helping Nice tighten up at the back.
Specifically, Nice struggled to defend against counter-attacks throughout the 2019/20 campaign. They conceded a total of seven goals from counter-attacks last season. Only one Ligue 1 side conceded more goals than that from counter-attacks last season in France’s top-flight.
The image above provides us with one example of Nice falling victim to a well-orchestrated counter-attack from last season. Here, we can see Monaco in possession of the ball just in front of the centre circle. We can also see Nice centre-back Dante rushing out of the defensive line in an attempt to pressure the opponent and win the ball back high up the pitch to try and thwart this counter-attack effort, in the image above.
As well as that, we can see all 10 of Nice’s outfield players in this image, situated inside of the opposition’s half, now that Dante has rushed out of the backline.
This proves to be dangerous as play moves on, as we can see in this next image. The Monaco player who Dante had attempted to apply pressure to, dealt well with the situation and played the ball back to a deeper midfield teammate.
This deeper midfielder enjoyed more space and Dante, at this point, was essentially stuck in no man’s land as a Monaco attacker made a run probing into the space that Dante had vacated in order to apply pressure higher up the pitch to try and retrieve the ball.
This Monaco counter-attack exploits the space that Dante had left open in behind the defensive line and they go on to score from this move.
Dante typically operates at the centre of Nice’s defence during periods of possession. Les Aiglons usually defend with a four-man backline, however, during the build-up, they often switch to a three-man backline, which typically sees Dante drop into the centre of defence, while either one full-back tucks in and the other advances up the pitch, or both full-backs tuck in and Dante’s central defensive partner advances his position into the midfield.
In possession, these tactics can allow Nice to exploit Dante’s range of passing, as he is able to sit deep and play long-balls from a position that many opposition sides will not press aggressively.
Additionally, however, these tactics may help Nice to cover for Dante’s lack of pace. The 36-year-old defender did deliver plenty of positive performances for Nice last season, however, in counter-attacking situations, his pace can be exploited. Nice can attempt to minimize this risk by placing one defender either side of Dante, offering him some support.
However, as we saw in the images above, this does not make Nice immune to conceding on the counter. At times Dante presses high and gets caught out of position, which he then struggles to recover from, furthermore, his lack of pace does make it difficult for him to cover in behind and beat opposition attackers in a foot race if a ball is played through the defensive line or over the top. These are areas that Nice can and have been exposed this season which have undoubtedly resulted in their high number of goals conceded from counter-attacks.
In this image, we can see Bambu operating in a similar position to the one Dante was playing in during the previous passage of play. As well as his positioning being similar to Dante’s here, Bambu also finds himself defending against a counter-attack here.
The defender displays his calmness, composure, and ability to read the game well here, as he bides his time, allowing the opposition to attempt the final through ball before stepping out of the defence quickly and sharply to put an abrupt stop to the attack.
On average, Bambu made 5.29 interceptions per 90 in 2019, which is a higher number of interceptions than any Nice player made per 90 in Ligue 1 last season. This may be encouraging for Nice fans and Bambu’s calmness and ability to read the game from counter-attacking situations is one reason why he has been so successful at making interceptions. In addition to no Nice players, no Athletico Paranaense players made a higher number of interceptions per 90 than Bambu did last year, which further shows that this is a standout area of the 22-year-old’s game.
Another reason for Bambu’s high number of interceptions is his pace. Furthermore, this is an aspect of Bambu’s game that also helps him to shut down opposition counter-attacks effectively. In the image above, we can see Athletico Paranaense defending against an opposition counter-attack, as the opposition wide man attempts to play through an attacker who is attempting to run in behind Paranaense’s defensive line.
Bambu, however, is alert and prepared to deal with the danger. He tracks this run, all the while monitoring the wide playmaker and his attempted through ball. We previously mentioned that competing with pacey opposition attackers on the counter is a big challenge for 36-year-old Nice centre-back Dante, however, it isn’t as big of a challenge for Bambu, who shows that he can cope well in these situations in this passage of play, cutting out the through ball attempt and taking back possession for his side.
Lastly, Bambu is not afraid to step out of the defensive line and defend aggressively and higher up the pitch, as we saw Dante doing earlier on in this tactical analysis piece. In this next image, we can see that Bambu has stepped out of the defensive line to retrieve possession.
Just prior to this image being taken, the opposition launched the ball forward via a long throw-in. The intended recipient of this long throw-in was the attacker who we can see positioned just behind Bambu in this image above. However, as the ball was making its way towards the opposition attacker, Bambu darted forward and dashed in front of the intended recipient of the ball, cutting out this pass and taking back possession from his side.
So, Bambu is not just good at covering in behind as the last defender, he has also shown enough anticipation and ability to read the game to know when the time is right to step out of the defensive line and commit to trying to intercept the ball higher up the pitch.
All of these traits combined to help Bambu to make more interceptions than any other Athletico Paranaense player in 2019, as well as more interceptions than any Nice player did during the 2019/20 campaign. With that in mind, as well as Nice’s low number of interceptions and difficulty with defending against counter-attacks, it may be reasonable to suggest that these qualities played a significant role in convincing Les Aiglons to sign the 22-year-old Brazilian.
Defensive duels and 1v1 Defending
We are going to compare Bambu’s ability to contest defensive duels and defend in 1v1 situations with both Dante and Danilo Barbosa of Nice, both of whom featured frequently in the centre-back positions for Les Aiglons last season.
Nice engaged in the fewest number of defensive duels of any Ligue 1 side last season, with Les Aiglons contesting just 56.92 defensive duels during the 2019/20 campaign with a 61% success rate.
Dante contested 4.06 defensive duels per game for Nice last season, succeeding in 64.2% of those duels, while Danilo contested an impressive 6.69 defensive duels per game last season, though he had a success rate of just 58%.
Bambu contested fewer defensive duels per 90 than either of these two players in 2019. The 22-year-old Athletico Paranaense man contested just 3.62 defensive duels per 90, winning 61.4% of them. So, while Bambu had more success from defensive duels in 2019 than Nice centre-back Danilo had in the 2019/20 campaign, he contested far fewer duels. Meanwhile, Dante contested more duels and had a higher success rate from those defensive duels than Bambu had last season.
With all of this in mind, it may be fair to say that defensive duels don’t appear to be a strong point of Bambu’s game, compared with Nice’s current centre-back options.
Bambu is strong at defending high up the pitch thanks to his strong reading of the game and athleticism. These traits of his help him to intercept opposition passes effectively. However, when the opposition already have the ball, Bambu does struggle with defending high up the pitch at times and on occasion, when he does vacate his central defensive position in order to try and win the ball back from the opposition via a tackle high up the pitch, he can over-commit to a challenge and end up getting beaten in a similar manner to the way that we saw Dante get beaten earlier on in this scout report.
However, Bambu can often be seen to perform particularly weak when defending against good dribblers in deep, central areas.
The image above provides us with an example of one such scenario. Bambu is positioned inside his own box in the right centre-back position in this image above. An opposition attacker can be seen attempting to beat the defender on his own via a dribble here and Bambu struggles to prevent that from happening. The defender is caught flat-footed and while he sticks a foot out in an attempt to stop the attacker, the dribbler doesn’t have too much trouble getting past the defender here.
Bambu can be seen struggling when defending against dribblers 1v1 in these deeper central positions quite often and it does appear to be a weaker part of his game.
One element of Bambu’s 1v1 defending that may have appealed to Nice, however, is his comfortability with defending in wide areas. As stated above, Bambu isn’t incredibly comfortable with defending against dribblers 1v1 in the centre of defence. However, in the wider areas of the pitch, the 22-year-old is able to utilise his athleticism and intelligent reading of the game more and defend somewhat more aggressively as well, which suits him much more.
On occasion, Athletico Paranaense have deployed Bambu as a full-back and this may be due to his comfortability with defending 1v1 in the wider areas of the pitch.
We can see an example of Bambu defending in the right-back position in the image above, however, the 22-year-old was playing as a centre-back in this particular game. Just prior to this image being taken, Bambu had vacated his position on the right side of central defence in an attempt to close down the wide man who was advancing down the wing in possession of the ball.
Bambus is able to utilise his pace and reading of the game when defending in the wider position and this dynamic that sees him chasing down the defender instead of standing in the box while the defender runs at him, suits him better. As the wide man attempts to get around Bambu here, the defender does well to force him wider and eventually makes a successful tackle on the attacker.
This shows us that Bambu is capable of performing well in 1v1 defensive situations in wider areas of the pitch, though it may be fair to say that he struggles to defend 1v1 in more central areas.
Passing ability and press resistance
As we mentioned earlier on in this tactical analysis piece, Nice kept the fifth-highest percentage of possession of any team in Ligue 1 during the 2019/20 campaign. As one might expect with a relatively high possession percentage like that, Nice also played a high number of passes per game in Ligue 1 last season.
Les Aiglons played the third-highest number of passes per game in France’s top tier last season while they also played 88% of their passes accurately in Ligue 1 last season, which gave Nice the second-highest pass success percentage in Ligue 1 last season, trailing only the champions, PSG.
Dante played an average of 66.64 passes per game in Ligue 1 last season, with a pass success percentage of 92.67%. No Nice player played more passes per game than Dante did during the 2019/20 season.
With that in mind, it may be fair to say that a good level of passing ability is an important quality for a Nice centre-back to have and it might also be fair to say that Bambu has demonstrated a good level of passing quality during his time with Athletico Paranaense, which may be another reason why Vieira’s side have opted to sign the 22-year-old, as this is an area that Les Aiglons could potentially improve.
Nice lost the ball 17.63 times per game in their own third in Ligue 1 last season, which equals 21% of their total ball losses per game during the 2019/20 campaign. That is the highest percentage of ball losses inside a team’s own third of any side in Ligue 1 last season.
The image above shows us an example of Dante’s typical positioning during a period of possession for Nice. As we mentioned before in this tactical analysis piece, Dante generally operates as the deepest of his team’s players in possession. This allows his side to exploit his range of passing from a position that he typically won’t be pressed very aggressively.
As this next image shows us, the long-ball that Dante plays here is effective at stretching the play and finding a free man on the opposite end of the pitch. This shows us the effectiveness of Dante’s passing for Nice from the centre-back position.
Dante played an average of 6.66 long-balls per game last season for Nice, with an accuracy of 55.3%. The 36-year-old also played 7.56 passes to the final third last season for Nice, with 63.4% of them reaching their intended destination.
While Dante specialises in these long-balls, Nice actually played the second-lowest number of long-balls in Ligue 1 last season, with an average of just 32.68 long-balls per game. Nice also placed only 13th in passes played to the final third in Ligue1 last season.
This is an area in which Bambu could potentially assist his new side. The 22-year-old played the most passes per 90 of any Athletico Paranaense player in 2019, in addition to having played the fourth-highest number of passes into the final third per game of any Athletico Paranaense player last season.
This indicates that the 22-year-old has shown an ability to progress play from the back which may have appealed to Nice. However, Bambu typically likes to operate higher up the pitch than Dante and may be more comparable to Dante’s fellow Brazilian Nice centre-back Danilo.
As we touched on previously in this tactical analysis piece, one Nice centre-back often advances up into the midfield during a period of possession and when partnered with Dante, Danilo often assumes this role. This allows him to utilise his passing ability from a more advanced position, which allows him to play more accurate passes into the final third than Dante.
Danilo had a pass accuracy of 92.5% in the 2019/20 Ligue 1 campaign. The defender played an average of just 2.36 long-balls per game in Ligue 1 last season, with an accuracy of just 47.6%, however, he also managed to play an average of 6.46 passes to the final third last season with an impressive accuracy of 80.9%.
This highlights the significance of Danilo’s role in helping Nice to progress the ball into the final third from the back during the 2019/20 campaign.
Bambu could potentially operate in a similar role to Danilo within Nice’s tactics, acting as the centre-back who can carry the ball out from the back and drive forward with it in an attempt to get his more dangerous, attacking teammates on the ball in advanced areas of the pitch.
As we can see in the image above, this is a role that he performed previously during his time with Athletico Paranaense. This image shows us Bambu in possession of the ball, in the process of carrying possession into the opposition’s half of the pitch.
As play moves on, we see that Bambu is able to drive further forward with the ball into an advanced midfield position before an opposition player makes a move to try and take the ball off of him. As he is pressed, Bambu plays a long-ball out to the opposite wing, in an attempt to stretch play in a similar manner to how we saw Dante stretch play earlier on in this scout report, but from a far more advanced position.
This is a positive trait of Bambu’s. He is capable of carrying the ball forward and sending it to his more creative teammates in advanced positions. However, it’s important to note that when attempting long-balls from deeper areas of the pitch, Bambu can, at times, be quite wasteful. His long-ball playing ability is not as good as Dante’s and he fares much better from these more advanced positions than he does in the deeper positions.
However, despite not being an incredibly deep-lying playmaker, Bambu is comfortable at carrying the ball out from the back from very deep positions, even when the opposition are deploying an aggressive press.
Nice like to play the ball out from the back, utilising lots of short passes. The image above provides us with an example of Nice’s typical shape while building out from the back.
As the centre-backs drop to the edge of the six-yard box to receive the ball short from goal-kicks, they are required to possess a high level of technical ability to be able to cope with the pressure that the opposition’s first line of defence may apply and Bambu has displayed a good level of press resistance from these types of situations.
In the image above, we can see Bambu in possession of the ball inside his own penalty area and just outside of his six-yard box. This is the kind of position that Nice’s centre-backs found themselves in quite often last season and it is one that can cause problems for defenders when the opposition’s first line of defence presses them particularly aggressively as we can see the opposition players doing here.
However, as play moves on, we can see that Bambu deals very well with the pressure, drawing in the opposition player and getting him to commit to attempting a tackle before the 22-year-old displays his agility and a sudden burst of pace to skip past this challenge and continue to carry the ball out from the back.
Bambu goes on to carry the ball out to the right-back position here, before playing an unsuccessful long-ball forward, however, this passage of play does show us that the 22-year-old Brazilian is comfortable with carrying the ball out under pressure from very deep areas which will be useful for him with Vieira’s side next season.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, Bambu has displayed several traits during his time at Athletico Paranaense that are likely to translate well when he joins up with Nice in Ligue 1 next season.
The defender has shown a good level of ball-carrying ability, even when under pressure, as well as some impressive pace and an impressive level of ability to read the game. While his 1v1 defending and long-ball playing ability can be improved yet, Bambu has plenty of qualities that could make him a good fit for Nice.