Vitória SC: The negative impact of losing Ibrahima Bamba and André Amaro – scout report
Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been increasing considerably their investment in their own leagues, and it’s already impacting the European transfer market. Such external investment is creating friction among some European dirigents due to the non-regulation of such clubs’ financial balance.
One of the markets that have been a target for these leagues, especially this summer, was the Portuguese, where some teams relied on such income to have a positive financial balance.
The Qatari teams’ have been monitoring players from the Portuguese first league, and last month Al-Duhail signed the 21-year-old Italo-Ivorian Ibrahima Bamba from Vitória SC for around €8m plus €2m in add-ons. Ibra also was linked to Premier League clubs like Mikel Arteta‘s Arsenal and Unai Emery‘s Aston Villa. However, they never agreed to the terms with Vitória SC.
Another name that was being linked to a Qatari side is André Amaro, who has just signed a new contract with Al Rayyan. The Portuguese centre-back was transferred by a value that could reportedly reach €9m, add-ons included.
As things stand, These two young and very promising centre-backs who left Vitória’s roster, on the one hand, helped the club generate around €20m in revenues, but on the other, significantly decreased their defensive line’s level. The Portuguese side will most likely solve this matter internally with some young players either from the academy or the second team, which is a risk.
In this tactical analysis in the form of a scout report, we’ll try to understand what were the roles of these two young centre-backs last season as their qualities and weaknesses. Furthermore, we will also explore the options for Vitória’s centre-backs this season, both internal and external.
Ibra Bamba: Essential in Vitoria’s build-up strategy
Bamba quickly started to draw attention due to his technical quality, which allowed him to stand out, especially in the offensive organisation phase. As we can see above, Bamba ranked in the 51.6th percentile on accurate passes (%) among the centre-backs of the same tier of the First Portuguese League, which is pretty good for his first season playing as a centre-back.
Having that said, let’s initially focus on Ibra’s on-the-ball tactics.
With some previous experiences playing as a defensive midfielder, Bamba consolidated his place in the initial line-up by playing as the middleman in a three-element defensive line.
One of the main reasons the coach insisted on such positioning was his ability to find open teammates in an initial game phase and consequently improve Vitória’s build-up stage significantly.
Typically the centre-back is seen as a physical player who is less developed technically and who has simple and low-risk decision-making. Yet the 21-year-old Italo-Ivorian is the opposite and seemed to handle quite good his tasks last season at Vitória.
When the ball is on, the goalkeeper Bamba uses his previous tactical knowledge and positions himself as a pivot, giving more space to the other two centre-backs to play.
With such positioning, the goalkeeper has one more vertical option to play, and the two midfielders adapted, seeking the space on Bamba’s back.
Having that said, Vitória used to build up in a 2-1-4-3 where the front three stayed deep to create space between the lines to play. The full-backs also liked to play deep, yet they quickly descended on the pitch whenever the centre-back lacked solutions.
Furthermore, Ibra can also be an essential member in a more advanced zone of the pitch, where he can link both his technical and tactical qualities.
For example, we have this play where Ibra changed the flank with his weaker foot, surprising the opposition, who were expecting a pass into a more central zone or the left flank because the Italo-Ivorian is right-footed.
Another common action that we found interesting in the course of our analysis is the ability to find teammates between the lines. Both his unpredictability and technique in such an action allow a fluid ball progression during Vitória’s offensive organisation.
It is essential to have solid and physical centre-backs. Still, as we see it, having a centre-back with Ibra’s attributes is also even more important, allowing the team to have a stable and vertical ball circulation. Moreover, according to Wyscout, the young defender concluded 121 passes into the final third in the last season’s championship, of which 70% of them were accurate.
As we spoke, Ibra has a distinguished relationship with the ball which can be seen in many different game aspects. A typical Bamba’s individual game action is using his good short dribble when necessary to get rid of his opponents. In fact, according to the above radar, Ibra ranked in the 78.2nd percentile in dribbles made per 90 minutes, which verifies our assumptions.
For example, we have this situation where five opponents surround Bamba, and he initially dribbles one of them.
Due to the number of players he attracted, Ibra understands that the other teammate is in a better position, and the pass is made.
On the other hand, even though the physical isn’t Bamba’s greatest strength, perhaps due to his tactical knowledge, he had pretty solid performances while defending.
One of the most significant evidence of his defence success is concerned with his positioning. In fact, according to the radar, he ranked in the 67.75th percentile in positioning, which combines tackles and interceptions made during the game. Moreover, he made 204 interceptions in last season’s league, which translates into an average of seven steals made per game, which is an incredible stat for such a young and inexperienced player.
A vital role for the middle element in a back line of three players is being the foremost leader in controlling their defensive depth, and Bamba seemed to do that quite well. Always active and constantly changing his body shape with the ball movement, he appeared to understand the covered and uncovered ball concepts, translating into positive and cohesive defensive behaviour during those moments.
We also noticed a good connection between the three elements of the defensive line, and whenever one of them moved out of his usual position, Bamba immediately adjusted his positioning. For instance, as we will see further, André feels comfortable leaning against the attacker to disturb his action, even if this means that he will leave a void behind him. Yet, Bamba quickly understands it and covers André, as shown below.
Finally, Bamba ranked in the 71.9th percentile on defensive duels per 90 minutes disputed, yet he ranked in the 31st on defensive duels won. His physic has a clear negative impact in such defensive stats. However, he still shows determination and aggressiveness while disputing that amount of duels.
André Amaro: A 20-year-old mature centre-back
On the 9th of August Al-Rayyan officially signed the Portuguese André Amaro, who completed 32 games for Vitória SC last season.
Although, when Bamba wasn’t playing, he was the player who assumed the centre of the backline, as a general rule, he played as the right-side element in a three-centre-back system.
At such a position, his primary function in possession is to link with the players positioned in the flank and to be a backtracked solution to the attackers and midfielders. Amaro often sought to break lines with a strong low pass into the right-back, who is deep and wide on the pitch.
In contrast with Bamba, André stands out due to his physic and prudence while in possession. He ranked in the 81.5th percentile (%) on accurate passes, revealing such intelligence and maturity when deciding while in custody. Moreover, such a stat is also telling of André’s pass quality.
However, his pass efficiency does not mean a less risky on-the-ball approach. André usually seeks the interior space through a low pass or even the depth by a long ball.
The main downside of André’s game is his technique in specific actions. Even though he meets the technical requirements to play as a centre-back, if we work more in this aspect, it will be a massive benefit to his game. For example, we noticed that André rarely uses his weaker foot (left) while dribbling, making the task much easier for the opponent.
Similarly to Bamba, the 20-year-old Portuguese seems to have a good tactical understanding and awareness while defending. For example, from the moment the right-back jumps in the winger, he immediately repositions right on his back to cover a potential depth attack.
The young centre-back ranks in the 61.5th percentile on defensive duels won (%), a revealing stat to access his efficiency and comfort in 1v1 plays. Yet, we also noticed that André’s physical development has some downsides, such as the lack of agility and explosiveness, especially in defensive actions.
What’s next for Vitória SC
With the departure of two essential elements of Vitória’s initial line-up, the Venezuelan Mikel Villanueva is the protagonist in the defensive line. Apart from Mikel, this Portuguese side has four more centre-backs: Mamadou Tounkara, Jorge Fernandes, Gabriel Rodrigues (Ni) and Tomás Ribeiro, who was signed as a free agent this season from Grasshoppers.
Both Bamba and Amaro’s departures left a void in Vitória’s defensive line, and as we see it, this current roster would hardly maintain such a high standard. That said, we think that Vitória must sign at least a centre-back in this transfer window, if possible.
With our xGold tool, we could look for players similar to Ibra Bamba and André Amaro. Yet, the Italo-Ivorian is a much more difficult player to find on the market due to his rare technical qualities for a centre-back.
On the other hand, to replace Amaro xGold suggested the Danish Thomas Kristensen, who is under contract with Aarhus GF. At just 21 years old, this promising centre-back disputed 21 games for the first team and had five caps for the youth national team. Rated in € 700 k by Transfermarkt, we think that Vitória has an excellent opportunity to use some of the revenues available to bring such a valuable element to their defensive line.
Vitória starts their season on the wrong foot with an early elimination from the European competitions, and without Bamba and André on the roster, the situation can complicate even more.
As we mentioned, it will be challenging to find a player that fits, and that has the same involvement and nearly the same technical quality as Bamba. However, bringing a player like Kristensen can be crucial to cover Amaro’s departure.
Overall, we think that apart from the centre-backs, Vitória is getting good reinforcements to the remaining positions, which can positively impact achieving their goals. Even though Viória has been doing an admirable job in their academy, we still think that access internally to the replacement of two critical players can be, in some way, quite risky approach.