PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Evan N'Dicka?
Having made his professional debut in Ligue 2 at just 17 years of age, Evan N’Dicka was earmarked as a prodigy from a young age and appeared frequently in France’s youth setup. Following six years at Auxerre’s famed youth academy, N’Dicka followed the well-trodden path of transitioning from France to Germany as a youngster as he sought to advance his career by signing a five-year deal at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Thrown immediately into the deep end at the tender age of 19, N’Dicka swiftly illustrated why the German club forked out a mooted fee of €5.5 millionfor his services as he started 17 of the club’s first 18 games of the 2018/19 season.
Now enveloped by persistent rumours linking him with a move away from the Walstadion, N’Dicka is a cornerstone of Eintracht Frankfurt’s rearguard as they seek to challenge for the Europa League while prioritising qualification for next season’s Champions League.
Evan N'Dicka's style of play
Versatile and comfortable with his feet, N’Dicka is the epitome of a modern central defender. However, he is by no means a player that won’t get his hands dirty if need be.
Standing at an imposing 1.92m tall, N’Dicka tends to use his physical traits to overpower opposition attackers aerially as is evident in the fact that he wins 3.93 aerial duels per 90 (according to fbref.com), a figure that places him in the 92nd percentile of centre-backs. In this respect, he is reminiscent of old-school centre-halves that prioritise a ‘no-nonsense’ way of defending.
From the outside looking in, the Frenchman can often be perceived as rash due to deficiencies lying within his positional awareness and propensity to commit unnecessary fouls.
This has caused N’Dicka to experience a wave of troubles with an accumulation of yellow cards, none more obvious than last season where the left-footed centre-back received 10 cautions in just 23 starts. This perhaps explains why new manager Oliver Glasner has settled on Martin Hinteregger as the 22-year-old’s defensive partner given that he is stronger and more aggressive in the tackle than the Frenchman.
This weakness appears to be derived from a technical deficiency in his defensive positioning where he is often caught too upright while jockeying and fails to lower his centre of gravity, often resorting to the Frenchman relying on his speed rather than his tackling ability to dispossess opponents. Despite his tackling deficiencies, N’Dicka excels in sensing the perfect moment to step out of his defensive line and aggressively intercept passes to launch attacks from deep.
What sets the Eintracht Frankfurt man apart from other defenders is his coalescence of physical traits and footballing ability. The Auxerre academy product’s footballing ability is categorised by his unique composure on the ball. N’Dicka is often unphased when met with lines of pressure – a valuable trait to possess in the Bundesliga where teams disproportionately prioritise high-pressing systems when compared to other leagues.
N’Dicka uses his gifted left foot to his advantage, often feinting to his right before easing off incoming pressure to play simple short passes. Confidence in his ability on the ball has led to the Frenchman increasing his volume of progressive passes as he often looks to find teammate Daichi Kamada between the lines to launch attacking sequences.
However, this trait is often tempered in tight spaces where he remains susceptible to losing the ball when the ball is forced to his weaker right foot where he lacks the confidence to consistently play passes. Whilst N’Dicka should seek to improve this facet of his game, his capacity to consistently play accurate vertical passes is an asset to Glasner’s side.
Despite his capacity to facilitate ball progression, N’Dicka is obviously tentative to play long balls. He averages just 7.97 long passes attempted per 90, a figure less than half that of his partner Hinteregger that places him in the 7th percentile amongst centre-backs.
This uncertainty is largely derived from his over-reliance on playing passes with the inside of his foot rather than with his laces, a deficiency which limits his ability to play diagonal long passes, particularly when stationed to the right of Hinteregger in a back 4 as has been common this season.
The 22-year-old’s developing football IQ has also ensured that he is tactically flexible, having featured in a range of systems and having been deployed in multiple contrasting roles under Glasner and former manager Adi Hütter. Early in his reign at Frankfurt, Hütter was renowned for deploying a 3-4-1-2 system which aimed to get the best out of his two dynamic centre-forwards Luka Jović and Sebastien Haller.
Morphing into a 3-2-5 in possession, Hütter gave license for wing-backs Filip Kostić and Danny da Costa to overlap high and wide in order to draw defenders away from the channel where versatile Croatian Ante Rebić and the aforementioned Jović and Haller would clinically finish opportunities.
In this system, N’Dicka was primarily used on the left of the back 3 for his vision and ability to quickly progress the ball. When coming against teams that pressed with a front two, Frankfurt would often circulate the ball to the right, drawing the opposition’s pressers towards the right-side before quickly shifting it to N’Dicka on the left who would pick out the likes of Rebić, Jović and Haller between the lines.
The attacking principles promoted by Hütter also brought to light N’Dicka’s eye-watering recovery pace as he easily swept up through balls from the opposition aimed at playing over the Frankfurt press. In a similar vein to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, the youngster prefers to calmly cut out dangerous situations in an elegant fashion.
When Eintracht Frankfurt lost their two prolific marksmen Haller and Jović for a collective €100m in the summer of 2019, Hütter flirted with alternative shapes as N’Dicka was often forced to do a job at left full-back. It is unlikely that the Frenchman’s future lies in this role due to his traits being better served in the middle of the defence.
As aforementioned, N’Dicka now finds himself playing in a back 4 next to fellow left-footer Hinteregger after manager Glasner changed from a back 3 after conceding five goals against Borussia Dortmund in the season opener.
Stationed as a right centre-back, N’Dicka has adapted superbly, again demonstrating his unique tactical flexibility. Glasner appears to have found the right balance in defence given that this new partnership has conceded just two goals in the last three matches.
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Forecasting Evan N'Dicka's future
Despite his weaknesses, N’Dicka remains one of the most promising young centre-backs on the planet. He has deservedly been linked with a move to the Premier League with Arsenal and Tottenham both rumoured to be interesting in the 22-year-old who would likely command a fee of around £25 million. It is easy to see why Premier League clubs are interested in the Frenchman given that his stature, physicality and speed would likely transfer well in the English game.
Despite these persisting rumours, N’Dicka’s primary focus will be to maintain his consistency at Eintracht Frankfurt as he aims to earn a maiden call-up to the French national team before the World Cup in November of next year.
As he enters the prime of his career, N’Dicka will look to iron out his imperfections as he seeks to transition from being a top player at a good Bundesliga club to a excellent player at an elite club.
Fans of Eintracht Frankfurt will hope that any move for N’Dicka works out better than former teammates Jović and Haller who have struggled to hit the heights of their time at the Walstadion since departing. Ultimately, however, should N’Dicka show a willingness to remedy his deficiencies, he could allow his strengths to shine and thus assist in him being perceived as an elite central defender.
N’Dicka is a monstrous defensive presence who reads the play very well and is keen to intercept passes high up the pitch. He is tactically flexible, great in the air and like the prototypical modern centre-back, comfortable on the ball.
N’Dicka’s biggest weakness is his tackling ability where technical deficiencies prohibit him from excelling in this department. Aside from this, he must work on his ability to play passes with his weaker foot while also demonstrating a clearer desire to play long passes.