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Over the years, the Ligue 1 has been a source of some fantastic talent, primarily French and African. A number of youngsters, including the likes of Michael Essien, Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord have been schooled in the art of playing the beautiful game on these shores. Cameroon born defender, Samuel Umtiti is another youngster who hopes to make it to the big time.
Born on the 14th of November 1993 in Cameroon, Umtiti has been within Lyon since the age of about 8, and plays club football for them. He is capable of playing as a centre back, and a left back. Umtiti has represented France at the U17, U18, and U19 levels.
He made his debut for Lyon in the 2011-12 season, and this year, he has made himself a first team regular, clocking up 24 appearances (23 starts). Spurs fans are already very familiar with this player, after he scored an excellent volley against them in the Europa League.
Talent Radar Accolades:
Named in 100 to Watch in 2014 feature
Placed 3rd in Talent Radar Defender Rankings in 2016
The first thing that one notices about his game is that Umtiti is a very cautious player, or to put it in a cliche, a ‘no nonsense’ defender. He never takes any unnecessary risks, rarely charges out of the line to tackle or intercept, and if anything, always stays in his zone of the field. This caution is a bit of a double edged sword really. It often means that he is the last man, and results in him making a number of very good last ditch blocks and tackles, but conversely, it also means that he can drag the defensive line backwards, creating space for the opposition, and his no-nonsense attitude on the ball means that he doesn’t play the ball out of defence very well. Indeed, the fact that 68% of his defensive actions are clearances is testament to the fact that Umtiti looks to minimise risks, a quality that should be appreciated for someone who plays in his position.
Umtiti has also shown that he is a very good reader of the game. He doesn’t usually step out of the line to break down an attack, but when he does, he ensures that he wins the ball. This is a very important trait, and very refreshing to see in a player who is so young. Indeed, it points to an old head on very young shoulders, which can only bode well for the player. He makes an average of 2.5 interceptions per game, which is a healthy average. He tends to rely on this method of winning the ball, and it makes up around 27% of his defensive actions.
With a BMI of 22.5, at a height of 181 cm, Umtiti isn’t a giant, but he wont be dominated physically, because there is a certain ruggedness about him. He seems to relish the duels, and wins a lot of them, with 78% of his tackles being successful. Even in the air, his height does not impede him, as he is a very impressive header of the ball. He has won 76% of his headed duels, and that is admirable. His jumping ability, and positioning have a lot to do with such success.
In terms of his positioning, he tends to stay a lot deeper than his partner, playing almost as a sweeper at times. He lets the other defender make the first move and sweeps up after him. Adopting this sort of a position demands that he is very careful of what is happening around him, and tracks opposition forwards carefully. Umtiti displays a sort of acquired awareness in such situations. When he has had time to survey the field, he generally makes very good moves, and ends up with the ball, but when he doesn’t get the time to do so, he sometimes lacks awareness. This is something that can only be remedied by experience. Simple things such as not letting the ball bounce in front of you, are the flaws holding him back, and a bit of experience, along with coaching will take these away from him.
Umtiti’s marking patterns are very good. He generally sticks to the man assigned to him like a magnet. On set pieces, he manages to neutralise his opposition more often than not, and even in general play, his tight marking means that the man in the ‘danger zone’ is generally picked up, and attackin g players have to look for other avenues.
The biggest weakness in Samuel Umtiti’s game is his ability on the ball. In recent times, a defenders ability to play out from the back has grown to be key, with the most successful sides in the world today possessing at least one, if not 2 such defenders. At 80%, Umtiti doesn’t boast of a great pass completion rate at all. In fact for someone who plays with so many options in front of him, this is poor. He tends to play a lot of long balls, and this may be contributory, but even there, he has a poor completion rate, with only 45 out of 113 attempts being successful. Apart from this, he seems a bit ponderous, and slow on the ball, making it easier for the opposition to complete their defensive transition. Even the short passes he does play are the obvious ones, with a majority of them being square or backwards. He simply leaves the play-making duty to other players.
In recent times, the young French man has been linked with the likes of Suprs and Newcastle (don’t be so surprised, he’s French after all) from the premier league, but it seems likely that he will move to Serie A, where Milan, who are looking at a few fresh faces in defence are interested. Inter and Juventus have also been mentioned. There is of course a very strong possibility that he will not move if Lyon succeed in their quest to secure a Champions League spot this season.
Personally, I believe that a move to the Serie A in the future would suit this player. The slower nature of the game, coupled with the coaches who will look to improve the technical aspect of his game would be very beneficial for him. For now though, he would probably do well to stay at Lyon , where he will get a lot of game time, and will feature in high pressure games where he is expected to perform.
All stats via whoscored.com and squawka.com. Featured Image via talksport.co.uk