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Olimpique Marsielle have become the toast of Europe this season, with some thrilling football from their young and talented team taking them to the top of Ligue 1. Stuart Reid has a scout report on one of their starlets, Michy Batshuayi.

Michy Bathshuayi


Who is Michy Batshuayi?

Born in Brussels, Michy Bathshuayi has dual nationality with the Democratic Republic of Congo, joining a long list of footballers who have chosen Belgium over the DRC (along with Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke to name a few).

Batshuayi is the latest young talent to join the ranks of Marseille under Marcelo Bielsa, with prospects such as Florian Thauvin, Giannelli Imbula and Nicolas N’Koulou. Sadly, unlike the others, Batshuayi  hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself since he joined Marseille from Standard Liege over the summer for an estimated €6m.

Since joining Marseille he’s made 6 league appearances from the bench, accumulating just 136 minutes of game time, averaging 23 minutes per game. Obviously this is not ideal, and as such he hasn’t made much of an impact, scoring once and that was in the only game in which he started, the 2-1 loss to Rennes in the Coupe De La Liga.

The reason he hasn’t been given much of a chance to impress is a mix of the formations that Bielsa tends to employ (normally always one up front), but is mostly down to the irresistible form of Andre Pierre Gignac, who is keeping him out the team (10 goals in 12 games).
Despite this, observers are positive that when Batshuayi gets an opportunity in the first team, he’ll take it. He has a great scoring record for Standard Liege, where he first got his chance aged 17. He made 8 appearances (6 starts) in his debut season.

From then on he went from strength to strength, starting more and more games as his career progressed, scoring more goals. In his second season, aged 18, he made 23 appearances (13 starts) with a return of 6 goals. The next season (2012/13) was where he burst onto the season in a big way, with 12 goals in 34 games (26 starts); this was the season where he became a mainstay at Standard Liege, and proved his worth to the team.

Last season is the one where he set the league alight starting in 34 games, scoring an incredible 21 goals and ending as the leagues top scorer. His contribution led to Standard Liege finishing top of the table for the first time since the 2008/2009 season (although due to the complexities of the Belgian league they ended up losing the play-off to Anderlecht, so despite finishing top, they weren’t crowned champions). He topped off his amazing season by winning the Belgian Ebony Shoe award, which is an award given to the best player of African descent playing in the Pro League. He joins a list of players who have mostly gone on to great things – with previous winners including Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini, Mbark Boussoufa and Romelu Lukaku.

Talent Radar Accolades

It wasn’t just his domestic form that attracted Marseille to Batshuayi. He’s also been prolific at international level scoring 7 goals in 13 games for the Belgium U21 team. He represented Belgium at the U21 Euros in Israel in the summer of 2013 where he scored an incredible 3 goals in just 108 minutes of play (a goal every 36 minutes). He was also Belgium’s top scorer with 4 goals in 8 games in the Euro 2015 U21 qualifying round (sadly Belgium didn’t qualify for the finals, losing out on the head-to-head rule).

He’s also highly rated by the senior team set-up, having made the standby list for the Belgian 2014 World Cup team. Unluckily for Batshuayi he’ll have to work even harder to get the call-up with Benteke, Divock Origi, Lukaku and possibly even Yannick Ferreira Carrasco of Monaco currently ahead of him, along with fellow prospect Zakaria Bakkali all vying for a place in a highly talented team that’s certainly going places.


Style Of Play, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Batshuayi’s style of play is a throw-back to a previous era – in the modern game, strikers are expected to contribute creatively as well as defensively, and the one thing I noticed when watching Batshuayi play is how little he looks for his team-mates when he has the ball. This is generally regarded as a bad attribute to have, however he makes up for it by knowing exactly where the goal is.

He generally receives the ball, and using his great strength for someone under 6 foot tall (he’s 5”11), he keeps hold of it. His ability to use both feet means he is great at dribbling, and often beats a player or two before he’s in a position for a shot on goal. He’s a typical target man, with a hint of selfishness: great at holding up the ball and creating chances, but tends to go it alone far too often. Fortunately there’s no better coach on the planet for reinforcing team-work than Marcelo Bielsa, so hopefully he can eliminate this element from his game and become a more rounded player.

His ability to jump much higher than his height would suggest, combined with his previously mentioned strength and fantastic positioning means he’s a threat on both the ground and the air, which gives the team he’s playing for a chance to “mix it up” if their preferred style of play isn’t working.

As well as being a great target-man, one might say that a majority of his goals have been a product of being in the right place at the right time – a more stereotypical, poacher style of never giving up when chasing down the defence or goalkeeper, happy to score tap-ins for the easy option. He is also blessed with a large amount of pace, which he often uses to play off the last defender. Combine the pace with the ability to receive and hold the ball up whilst playing deeper gives him a large amount of unpredictability, which is obviously a huge problem that opposition defenders have to deal with.

As touched upon earlier, he seems equally adept at using both feet and he uses this to great effect, often dazzling defenders with a mixture of quick feet and turns to try to create space for himself to get off a shot, and he can often change a game in an instant, turning a half chance or less into a goal from practically nothing.

Sadly there are no detailed statistics for the Belgian Pro League last season, so it’s hard to find data for this report (bar assists/goals), however so far in Ligue 1, in his 6 substitute appearances he’s contributed a total of 3 key passes (a pass that leads to a shot). This is one of the more favourable stats from the data, as again, the limited time he’s had on the pitch doesn’t leave us with much meaningful data.

During his 136 minutes game-time, he’s only managed to get away 3 shots (all off-target), one of which, came during his longest spell of game-time (45 minutes away to Guingamp). During the same game he only made 8 passes, while Romain Alessandrini made 5 passes despite coming on in the 88th minute! But that stat can be misleading considering the difference in positions.

Defensively he hasn’t contributed as well as you’d expect from someone under the tutelage of Bielsa (a manager renowned for his pressing) with 0 attempted tackles and just 1 interception to his name.

All in all he’s been very underwhelming in Ligue 1 so far and this may be down to him still settling in and finding his feet in a harder league, or he may be someone who needs longer on the pitch to make an impact. As his goals to starts ratio has rocketed over the past few seasons we can guess that he just needs to be on the pitch more often.

The future’s bright for Batshuayi. As mentioned earlier, he’s very selfish when he receives the ball, often choosing to shoot from impossible angles rather than passing to team-mates. This can make him a very frustrating player to watch, however he often finishes the chances, which gives him a slight reprieve, but if he wants to really unlock his potential, then it’s an element of his game which he’ll have to curb. Luckily for him, he’s playing in a league renowned for nurturing young talent, at a club with plenty of talented youngsters, and with a coach who should be able to train that aspect out of his game.


Expert Talk

Here’s what Mohammed Ali, journalist with Goal.com told Outside of the Boot about Michy Bathshuayi. Follow him on Twitter @mohammedali_93

“It’s hard to analyse the career of Michy Batshuayi at Olympique de Marseille at the moment, with the highly-rated Belgian striker seeing such little game time. With Marcelo Bielsa keeping faith with the same 11 that propelled OM to the top of the Ligue 1 table, Batshuayi has so far been unfortunate to have been upstaged by the reborn and in-form Andre Pierre Gignac.
Though that’s not to say that the 21 year old has not impressed in his bit-part role, having started and scored in the shock 2-1 defeat to Rennes two weeks ago. Nevertheless, as fellow signing – the highly-rated Doria can attest to, €8m players weren’t bought to make up the numbers on the bench – even more so for a club like Marseille who cannot afford to splurge every now and then. He will eventually be angling for more, sustained game time. For now, he is distinctly second-choice and has no other competitors other than Gignac – with Jordan Ayew and Saber Khalifa leaving in the summer.
But it is a testament to Batshuayi’s willingness to learn from the legendary Argentine coach, and his popularity within the squad, that he would rather fight for his place and prove himself on the bigger stage. Gignac himself has spoken about the quality of his new team-mate and competitor, and concedes that the young star’s time will come – though he will not make it easier for him by losing his own spot in the time.
For now though, we’ll have to settle for flashes of Michy‘s quality. Time will tell if he can dislodge APG and become the key striker for OM, especially as they’re heading for an unlikely title campaign.” – Mohammed Ali, Goal.com International
Written by Stuart Reid.
Stuart Reid

Stuart Reid

Stuart likes possession football, idolises Guardiola, Bielsa, and all things Watford FC. He takes a great interest in statistics, tactics and all things detailed and is an aspiring football coach (level 2 qualified).

Dislikes - The inevitable but soul-crushing rise of commercialism in Football
Stuart Reid

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