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Kaustubh Pandey writes a detailed scout report about Usman Abbas, Metta’s attacking full-back.
Football in Latvia may not look like a lucrative proposition to most, but it isn’t something to be taken for granted by those who don’t know much about it. Currently ranked at the 110th position in the FIFA Rankings, the 45th spot is the highest that the nation has ever reached. The national side has never qualified for the World Cup since its inception, but managed to qualify for the 2004 European Championships, that saw them get eliminated in the group stages of the competition.
The Latvian football league, which is also known as the Virsliga, isn’t too well known a commodity either. And it’s rare to see a Latvian football club become a mainstay of a European competition, be it the Champions League or the Europa League. While sides like Spartak Jurmala have, in recent times, made a bit of a habit to play in the Europa League, there has been a lack of European representation for Latvian sides.
That, though, doesn’t mean that quality players don’t exist in there. Clubs like FS Metta are pioneering the cause for youth development in a league that is in desperate need for having a dip into grassroot level development. Metta’s young Nigerian starlet Usman Abbas is someone who proves that the work is not going in vain.
Born in Dala, a town in the north of Nigeria, Usman began plying his trade with Nigerian club FC Hart from quite a young age. Someone whose career kick-started from the humble beginnings of the dusty, musty roads of Dala, Usman joined his current club FS Metta last year at the mere age of 18.
Metta is his first European club, but the Nigerian youngster has already represented the national side at the Under-17s level. He was included in the best eleven of the Under-17s AFCON of 2015 and made a mark for the side on an international level too and his performances during that tournament helped him earn a move to Metta.
At club level last season, Abbas made 15 appearances for Metta in the Virsliga and despite being 18, emerged as being one of their best players during the season. Metta finished at second from last season, but Abbas’ standout performances have proved that he could well be one for the future.
A left back by trade, but also someone who can play as a left winger, Abbas is just five feet four inches tall, but it’s his pace and balance on the ball that make him a quality outlet from the left flank. An attack minded full-back, Abbas isn’t someone to be taken for granted by opposition defenders.
Abbas’ low centre of gravity always makes him a tough contender to keep up with in terms of pace and acceleration. He can go past people and due to his small stature, he can catch people off guard with his pace and the undying willingness to zoom past people on the flank.
He may not be someone who has a number of skills and tricks up his sleeve, but his runs are usually direct and allow the team to make progress down the wing. Last season in the Virsliga, Abbas attempted a total of 2.6 dribbles per game, which is very good for a left-back who is just 18-years-old.
In the above instance, Abbas receives the ball in some space around a crowded area down the left flank. After having picked out the space, he exceutes an impressive dribble and goes past two defenders as if they aren’t there. His balance on the ball and his sturdy body posture while running are traits that help him make similar runs throughout a game.
Another quality that stands out in the youngster’s armoury is the hunger and the desire that he has to push forward. He is always an active character and you are never likely to see him stand to take a breather on the pitch. He keeps on marauding up and down the pitch and is not one to stop running.
Apart from being a determined individual, Abbas happens to be a sound tackler too. It’s his small body stature that allows him to be sharp in tackles and interceptions. That allowed him to make 20 challenges and come out with an accuracy of 55 percent in that. In terms of tackling, Abbas made five tackles per game, with an accuracy of 58 percent.
The above instance brings to the fore how well Abbas uses his body, despite being smaller than every player on the pitch. Here, he shrugs off an opposition player who is way taller and stronger than him to protect the ball to perfection and to eventually win a foul. This is enough to prove how sturdy a body posture Abbas has and how important it can be in shaping the player he will develop into.
No matter how many strengths a player has, he is certain to have some weaknesses in his game too. No player is perfect, after all.
Passing and decisiveness around the box is where Usman Abbas seems to lack. He made an average of 44 passes per game last season for Metta, but his passing accuracy stood at just 77 percent. While it clearly is in need of some improvement, Abbas attempts an average of 1.68 crosses per game. It isn’t a bad statistic to judge a player with, but despite being a rather regular crosser, Abbas plays only 0.5 key passes per game which is a bit underwhelming, to be honest.
Abbas’ overall traits are impressive enough for an 18-year-old, but it could well be a case of judging him a bit too early. There could be more surety about how able he is, if he would have been plying his trade at a league with a better player standard than that of the Virsliga. Playing against and with players of lesser quality makes him look like a really good player, but it would be interesting to see how he fares in an environment that pits him up against better players.
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