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Bordeaux 2022/23: Four standout stars - scout report

Ligue 2’s youngest squad: Four standout stars to watch at beaming Bordeaux in 2022/23 – scout report

Up until this past weekend, at the time of writing, Girondins de Bordeaux sat top of Ligue 2. Their 1-0 loss to Nîmes Olympique last weekend came at the same time as a win for Le Havre which saw the Normandy club leapfrog Bordeaux to the top of France’s second tier. Still, Les Girondins hold onto second place in the league and very much remain firm title contenders.

Their start to life in the second tier under David Guion has been a contrast to fellow second-tier newcomers for 2022/23 — Saint-Étienne — who are enduring another difficult campaign this term, as we recently discussed at Total Football Analysis in another Ligue 2 scout report.

Bordeaux have managed to inject life into their squad following last season’s disappointment; their positive start to the season has been powered by youth, with Les Girondins boasting the youngest average-age squad in Ligue 2 for 2022/23 (24).

Today’s scout report looks at four key players who’ve been pivotal for Guion’s side in 2022/23, two of whom are Bordeaux academy products and three of whom are U23. If you decide to catch some Bordeaux games this term, be sure to keep an eye out for these players who will likely continue to play a big role for Guion’s side if they are to get promoted back to Ligue 1 at the first time of asking.

Dilane Bakwa, 20 years old, 179cm/5’10”, 75kg/165lbs

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Figure 1

Our first Bordeaux player to watch in 2022/23 is Dilane Bakwa — a 20-year-old winger from Les Girondins’ youth academy who was capped 17 times by France’s U17 side. Bakwa is a winger who’s comfortable playing on either side of the pitch. However, the left-footer has played marginally more minutes on the right this term, so we’ve compared him with other right-wingers for the percentile ranks on our pizza chart in figure 1.

Bakwa has been heavily used by Guion’s side in attack this season once they enter the final third. He is primarily a ‘dribbler’ and is at his most dangerous when he’s isolated 1v1 with an opposition full-back out wide thanks to his quick feet, ability to accelerate and technical dribbling quality.

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Figure 2

Figure 2 shows Bakwa’s ‘winger actions’ for 2022/23, and this image further illustrates the player’s general activity around the penalty area; Bakwa comes alive in the final third, particularly in or just on the edge of the penalty box.

The winger is excellent in 1v1 battles in these areas and is great at progressing to the byline from where he can pull the ball back across the face of goal for a teammate in the box to get a shot off from a high-value position — though as figure 2 indicates, many of Bakwa’s crosses like this fail to meet a target and instead get cleared or gobbled up by the opposition goalkeeper. Still, the player is excellent at creating these opportunities and frequently puts the ball into the right areas inside the box.

Bakwa has made the second-most progressive runs (4.25 per 90) of any winger/attacking midfielder in Ligue 2 this season, highlighting his ability to drive the team forward with the ball at his feet.

The left-footer is comfortable crossing off his right foot as well as his left but will favour the left where possible. Many of his right-footed crosses come as low, drilled balls into the box when running down the right wing and unable to cut back onto his left but we have seen him swing balls into the box off his right foot in other ways/from deeper areas too to a decent level of quality.

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Figure 3

In terms of shooting, Bakwa has been efficient this season and gets plenty of shots off from high-quality areas, though he could be a bit more composed in front of goal and do a better job of placing his shots rather than ‘just’ hitting the target, which is obviously great too. The winger often gets pushed wide by defenders before getting his shots off, resulting in some poor shot selection on occasion with the winger shooting from quite tight angles.

One area in which Bakwa has done well this term is his ability to find space inside the box while the ball is with the winger or full-back on the opposite side. He’s done well with creating separation between himself and the nearest defender(s) in these situations to then get onto the end of the cross and get a shot off in space from a dangerous position.

Danylo Ignatenko, 25 years old, 189cm/6’2”, 80kg/176lbs

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Figure 4

At 25, Danylo Ignatenko is the oldest player on our list. The Ukraine international originally joined Bordeaux on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk in January and made a strong impression on fans of the Gironde club despite still being there for their unsuccessful campaign. The Ukrainian was signed on a permanent deal this past summer, joining the Ligue 2 side for a transfer fee of €1m — a fee that is already starting to look like a bargain through his performances and with Transfermarkt currently valuing the midfielder at almost double that (€1.8m).

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Figure 5

Ignatenko is a box-to-box midfielder who typically plays on the right of a midfield trio, in front of Tom Lacoux and beside Fransérgio. The heatmap in figure 5 highlights the areas that the Bordeaux man typically occupies on the pitch.

He’s got a well-rounded skill set but stands out for his defensive attributes a bit more than he does for his offensive attributes. There have been times this season when we’ve seen the Ukrainian receive the ball on the half-turn while occupying a ‘free 8’-type position just behind the forward line before splitting the defensive line with a through pass — and he is capable of producing plays like this but they aren’t super common and it’s not his main role in the squad.

He’s quite an aggressive midfielder both with and without the ball. He’s quite forward-thinking with the ball, while without the ball, he’s quick to close opposition players down and launch into challenges. Often, he can be a bit too quick to dive into tackles, and his timing could be better in that regard. Still, he’s a valuable asset when defending against transitions for how he closes players down quickly and aggressively while maintaining good positioning and threatening with good tackling ability.

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Figure 6

Ignatenko is a solid ball-winner in midfield, as his 23 counterpressing recoveries in 2022/23 indicate — five of those being classed as ‘dangerous recoveries’ (explained on the visual). Indeed, Ignatenko is useful for shutting down opposition attacks before they progress to a truly dangerous point while the well-rounded midfielder is also great at quickly starting attacks for his own side.

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Figure 7

Figure 7 shows an example of Ignatenko quickly and aggressively shutting down an opposition counterattack while maintaining good, intelligent positioning before starting one of his own for Bordeaux all within 10 seconds of the opposition initially regaining the ball in midfield to start their counterattack.

Malcom Bokele, 22 years old, 189cm/6’2”, 78kg/171lbs

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Figure 8

Malcom Bokele has primarily played as a right-back for Bordeaux this season but has plenty of experience playing as a centre-back in his locker too. His future may well lie as a defensive full-back or as a wide centre-back, perhaps in a three-centre-back system that gives him license to push forward into the deep half-space with the ball and defend aggressively with cover behind.

Bokele is a fairly aggressive yet reliable defender. He likes to get tight to attackers and defend in quite a physical manner. While getting quite tight to attackers and engaging them in 1v1s, his pace and agility to turn and react to attackers’ movement comes in very handy, and the Bordeaux man has strong ability in this area. The main strengths he uses here are his size and strength — he knows how to use his body to his advantage in 1v1 duels — and pace, which also helps him to recover balls played in behind the defensive line when played into his zone.

The wide defender is quick to engage attackers just inside Bordeaux’s half of the pitch but it’s also common to see him pushing into the opposition’s half to make a counterpressing recovery or just to close a player down before they turn to play it forward after receiving the ball.

Lastly, with regard to his defensive ability, as the player’s pizza chart indicates, he’s an excellent asset in the air. This can act as a deterrent against the opposition putting a centre-forward out wide to take advantage of the full-back’s aerial ability but can also be an excellent benefit for Guion’s side when defending against crosses to the back post. Bokele’s physicality and excellent positioning have seen him be very reliable for Les Girondins at the back post this season.

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Figure 9

Bokele’s heatmap tells us a lot about the kind of full-back he is. Again, he’s more defensive and reserved than he is offensive; don’t expect to see the 22-year-old flying up the wing with the ball and curling crosses into the box for 90 minutes — that’s not his game. Rather, he’s likely to get on the ball deep during the build-up and look to play the ball forward from the kind of position we see highlighted on what would be the right of the backline in the heatmap.

Bokele plays lots of long balls forward for his offensive teammates to compete for while he’s also often playing the ball forward for teammates to receive to feet before turning and running at the defence. This leads to his decent ranking in progressive passes per 90 on the pizza chart. However, Bokele’s also a pretty reliable passer despite his prominent role in ball progression from deep, as his high ranking in pass accuracy % indicates.

So, while Bokele’s unlikely to be found bombing it forward with the ball at his feet, he still has plenty to offer his side in possession, though he’s likely to be found doing that closer to his own goal than the opposition’s goal. If he does push high and wide to offer his centre-backs an option where necessary, he’s likely to receive, get his head up and look to play a quick pass/cross rather than carry the ball forward.

Junior Mwanga, 19 years old, 184cm/6’0”, 80kg/176lbs

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Figure 10

Our final player on this scout report is 19-year-old Junior Mwanga, who played just one game for Bordeaux last season but has become a first-team regular this term at left centre-back. The right-footer is comfortable enough using his left in build-up play and ball progression. However, he’s better in terms of accuracy and threat off his right foot. He’s a high-volume passer due to his side’s heavy use of him in the early possession phases.

This is probably mostly a result of the player’s quality on the ball. While Mwanga is used a lot on the ball and makes tonnes of passes, with lots of those passes moving a significant distance forward as evident from the player’s high ranking in progressive passes per 90 too, his pass accuracy remains extremely high. Mwanga actually boasts the best progressive pass accuracy percentage (88.24%) of any centre-back in Ligue 2 this season.

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Figure 11

His pass map from 2022/23 highlights the player’s general passing tendencies, it’s common to see him driving the team forward and he’s also partial to long, crossfield balls. These will usually be played to the right-winger but are aimed at right-back Bokele, at times, though as mentioned earlier, Bokele isn’t a flying full-back by any means.

In addition to passing, Mwanga can drive his team forward on the ball via carries too. All in all, we’d describe him as quite a positive, aggressive option on the ball at centre-back.

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Figure 12

Defensively, Mwanga isn’t the most aggressive centre-back around. His defensive territory map from 2022/23 highlights that his average defensive line is fairly close to his box, with many of his interceptions coming in and around the penalty area.

Mwanga is not super aggressive about confronting attackers and closing them down high upfield, nor does he typically dive into challenges. It’s common to see Mwanga standing attackers up, forcing them back, using his body as a barrier and defending in this way rather than launching into tackles, making him a fairly safe defender who rarely commits fouls.

When he does commit to challenges, he tends to be fairly sure about the outcome, as is evident from the centre-back’s high ranking in defensive duel success %.

We’re very high on the teenager and feel he may be the standout among the standouts at Bordeaux this term.

Conclusion

To conclude this tactical analysis and scout report, we hope these four players and their respective roles within Guion’s Bordeaux tactics are clear based on our analysis of the players in this scout report, using a mixture of data and our analysis from watching the players thrive with Les Girondins in 2022/23.

If Bordeaux do earn promotion back to Ligue 1 this term, these players will deserve a lot of credit for that. If the team doesn’t get back to Ligue 1, these players may not have much of a future in Ligue 2 and it wouldn’t surprise us to see them get snapped up by clubs at a higher level before long.