A scout report on Molde's Ivorian striker linked with Chelsea
Please note: This scout report was first published in July 2022 on our Patreon, part of a Quick Scouting series. All data is accurate as of then.
Who is Datro Fofana?
David Datro Fofana is a 19-year-old striker that has found form in Norway’s Eliteserien in recent months. Signed by Molde FK from his native Côte d’Ivoire in the winter of 2021, he made an immediate impact by scoring an equaliser against Hoffenheim in a Europa League knockout tie that helped the Norwegians advance to the last sixteen.
Molde held Fofana back as an impact option off the bench for the rest of the year. He has made plenty of appearances for one of the strongest sides in Scandinavian football (40 in total, at the time of writing) but it’s only recently that he has started to establish himself, cementing a starting role in the team and duly scoring goals.
Datro Fofana's data profile
It has to be noted that Fofana’s data profile is based on less than 1,000 Eliteserien minutes, many of which have been played as a substitute – that will inevitably have a bloating effect on a data profile made up of per 90 metrics. With that in mind, let’s take a look…
As showcased by the visualisation kindly provided by the excellent Patrick Caskie, which charts Fofana against all other Eliteserien strikers of the past year, the Ivorian rates highly across a range of metrics. Firstly, his shooting statistics are impressive. He has one of the highest non-penalty xG rates in the league, underpinned by being the most prolific shooter too.
His shot map is fairly varied, getting opportunities from different ranges but predominantly within the width of the six-yard box. His goals are fairly clustered around the six-yard box too.
Secondly, he supplements that shot production as a creator. Fofana rates highly – relative to other Eliteserien strikers, and most strikers across every league – for xG Assisted and specific creative metrics like ‘smart passes’, which are essentially passes that penetrate lines and facilitate attacks, and deep completions, which are passes in(to) the box.
Thirdly, he is a high-volume dribbler. Fofana dribbles more regularly than any other striker. Even if his completion rate is below-average by a big chunk, he still completes more than most too. Similarly, he is a frequent ball-carrier from deeper areas, as noted by his high ‘progressive runs’ ranking.
Datro Fofana's athletic profile
The main takeaway from watching Fofana is how rounded (and mature) an athlete he is, especially for his age. There isn’t one outstanding quality to his athleticism – no searing pace, massive leap, hulking strength, nor sharp agility – but he has a bit of all of those, and he coordinates them well into a single skillset.
He isn’t the quickest but he’s quick enough, he isn’t the biggest but he’s big enough, he isn’t the strongest but he’s strong enough; that sums up Fofana as an athlete. It’s the combination and use of those qualities that make him an effective athlete at Eliteserien level.
Datro Fofana's style & skillset
Like his athletic profile, Fofana combines different skills as a forward/striker. His data profile suggested as much, and the stuff he does on the pitch confirms it. Prior to the last couple of months, Fofana was mainly an impact player for Molde. His role in his recent run of starts has been that of a central forward, usually flanked by a couple of supporting attackers.
His primary instinct is to hang off the shoulder of centre-backs. When Molde have secure possession inside the opposition half, especially in the wide areas, Fofana is constantly gesturing for a pass/cross in behind the defensive line.
That tendency is even more prominent in the box. His movement inside the opposition penalty area is pretty simple. Fofana typically splits the centre-back pairing, sitting on their shoulder. He makes little effort to create separation nor lose his marker. Instead, he relies on the movements of others and the quality of deliveries, as well as his own timing, to get shots.
There is something to be said for finding space by standing still, he targets dangerous areas and occupies defenders, but more adaptable penalty box movement is something Fofana should work on to diversify his threat. It should be considered that maybe it’s an instruction, rather than his own deficiency.
His movement is a bit more dynamic in earlier attacking phases. He makes intelligent secondary runs in build-up and transition phases, exploiting gaps/weaknesses that open up when Molde play through the middle in particular. He likes to show to feet, sucking in a defender with him, then spin into the space said defender leaves behind.
He can be the finisher at the end of fast breaks too, arriving into the box to get on the end of long counter-attacks. His above-average change of direction and speed enables him to beat defenders in both situations.
He has good bits, for sure, but off-ball movement and awareness is something Fofana needs to improve before/as he scales up the levels. He lacks awareness of space and bodies around him, leading him to congest certain spaces and fail to make the most of certain situations. Improvement will likely come with more match experience, too, of course.
Drilling down a little deeper, Fofana’s shooting techniques have nothing special about them. He can generate good power off both feet – he uses his weaker left foot quite a lot in general – but is somewhat inconsistent with his ball-striking. His heading technique lacks conviction and relies on the delivery, similar to his movement.
What I really like about Fofana, though, is how he can get decent shots off under pressure. He has the robustness to withstand contact and still follow through with his action, be it a quick snapshot or a back-post header.
One of the most exciting aspects about Fofana is his capacity to create his own shots. He isn’t a striker that solely relies on good service; he can generate shooting opportunities out of little, utilising his skill with the ball at his feet as well as his general instinct and improvisation to do so. Many of his shots, and quite a few of his goals, this season have included him creating the time and/or space to get a shot off.
The clip above is a typical example of what Fofana does to create his own shots. He has that quick burst out of one-v-one situations that can generate the step of time and space to crack a shot off. Defenders at an Eliteserien level have difficulty matching it.
The clip above is a more unique example of his ability to create something out of nothing, improvising a couple of touches to generate a good shooting opportunity.
To build on that theme of skill with the ball at his feet, Fofana is a high-volume dribbler relative to any role and position. It helps him generate shots, as detailed above, and it is a disruptive threat in general.
His dribble map (above) makes for interesting viewing. A lot of his dribbles are in or around the box, which is partly why his dribble completion rate is below-par; he attempts a lot of dribbles in crowded areas rather than, say, one-v-one situations out wide.
Dribbling in those areas is inherently more dangerous though, and it destabilises defenders. If you beat a defender in the box, you’re likely accessing a threatening area of the pitch. And that’s exactly what Fofana does.
Above are just a few examples of Fofana’s dribbling in and around the box. Not only does it scare defences, it commits/eliminates defenders creating space and time for himself and team-mates to exploit. It also showcases how his mutli-faceted athleticism shape his game; he uses a well-coordinated combination of robust strength, shifty agility, sharp burst, and skilful ball control to beat defenders.
Fofana is an effective outlet as well, an aspect of his game which makes use of his well-rounded skillset. He drifts into wider channels to present a more accessible option and can adapt to the situation in hand. He is an efficient carrier of possession up the pitch if given time and space to turn, and he is pretty good at pinning defenders on his back if they shadow him to hold up play.
The most interesting bit about Fofana in this regard is the composure and touch he shows in his actions. He looks after the ball pretty well, which provides a platform, and has quite a lot of promise in finding the next pass, which is a bonus. He makes logical decisions, showing nice control and composure when holding and executing. Not only that, he has an aye for/awareness of the killer ball too – see this example below:
Between his space-oriented movement, direct ball-carrying, penalty box dribbling and promising hold-up and link play, Fofana has a pretty stacked arsenal of weapons which he makes full use of to hurt Eliteserien defences.
Datro Fofana's next step
The talent-developing clubs in the stepping stone leagues will be keenly aware of Fofana, not least after his recent run of starts and goals. The stronger Belgian clubs, for instance, have a rich history of being the bridge between Scandinavian divisions and the top-five leagues. Eredivisie clubs are attentive to the Nordic leagues too; Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers have their eyes on this market; Brighton & Hove Albion and Red Bull Salzburg are ones to watch as they continually replenish their talent stocks. Fofana will feature highly on their shortlists, and his form may force them into making their moves as soon as this summer.
Top-five league clubs themselves are increasingly keen to pick talent out of Scandinavia themselves, missing out the middle men that generate significant profits by being the quality control. I think Fofana needs that intermediary step before making the big leap, though.
A year or two at a club like KRC Genk, a team at the higher end of their mid-level league with European football that have a strong track record of developing talent and moving them on to bigger things, would be the perfect next step for Fofana.
Datro Fofana's potential
There is quite a lot to get excited about with Fofana. His multi-pronged threat as a forward and roundedness as an athlete is impressive for a player of his age. There are a couple of reasons to temper that excitement, though, beyond the issue of sample size.
I have concerns about how his athleticism will translate to higher level leagues. Will his first step be as impactful, for example? Can his off-ball movement generate the same type of scoring opportunities? Is his ability to hold up able to hold up against bigger, better defenders? The answer right now is probably not, definitely not to the same level, but he still has plenty of time and opportunity to develop. That’s why a move to a stepping stone league would be beneficial for all.
He can make significant improvements in Norway, still, too. He’s only started eight Eliteserien games in his career to date, six of which have been strung together in the last couple of months. The optimal decision for Fofana would be to (at the very least) see the remainder of this season out at Molde, adding to his tally of starts and goals, before taking the next step.
Whether he will depends on his form over the next couple of weeks and how bullish clubs are about his potential. And there’s plenty to be bullish about.
Update: Datro Fofana is now set for a transfer to Chelsea, according to Fabrizio Romano, having been linked with Brighton & Hove Albion recently. He ended the Eliteserien season as Molde’s top scorer in their title-winning season.