Jérémie Boga

PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR

Stephen Ganavas

December 23, 2021

This profile was originally published in the sixth edition of the Scouted Football Handbook, available here.

Who is Jérémie Boga?

Once upon a time at Chelsea, there was an aversion to playing academy graduates – youngsters were instead conscripted into the notorious loan army. 

Jérémie Boga was one of the many that slipped through the cracks, playing just 18 professional minutes with the senior side between three loan spells with Granada, Stade Rennais and Birmingham City. Despite being a journeyman throughout the early stages of his career, he has now played over 8,000 senior minutes.

The most fruitful of his seasons to date have been the most recent: his brief yet promising time at US Sassuolo. The Serie A club signed the Ivorian for a cut-price €3 million fee two summers ago and have since moulded him into one of the league’s most exciting wingers, while increasing his output in the final third. 

Boga’s own attitude has been a key asset too, as at Chelsea he pushed for loan moves to destinations where he would get opportunities, understanding his position in his parent club’s pecking order fell behind the likes of Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro.

Having never scored more than three goals in four consecutive league seasons spanning La Liga, the Championship, Ligue 1 and Serie A, Boga has increased his output to eight already this season. Perhaps the best example of his development was the exquisite finish he executed in a Serie A match against Juventus last December. The glorious chipped finish left Gianluigi Buffon on his backside and stunned looks on many of Juventus’ defensive players.

He topped it in January, though, with a 30-yard screamer to equalise for Sassuolo in a comeback win over Torino following a delectable nutmeg on a hapless Tomás Rincón. Now 23, Boga has paired all his tricks with efficient wide play and is a key cog in a functioning system.

Jérémie Boga's style of play

It does not take a lot of time watching Boga to under­stand his key qualities. The Ivorian is one of football’s most prolific dribblers, completing over five dribbles per 90 minutes in Serie A this season.

His style is very reminiscent of Mohamed Salah; light on his feet, he carefully caresses the ball almost exclusively with his dominant foot, although he lacks the strength and clever body positioning of the Egyptian. While Boga can deploy a range of drib­bling moves to beat his marker, his primary weapon is a deft hesitation combined with an explosive change of pace.

Not only is this an effective move, but it also has a relatively low degree of difficulty for him, which translates into a fairly efficient dribble comple­tion rate of almost 64 percent – ranking him in the 81st percentile of wingers and attacking midfielders in Eu­rope’s top-five leagues. Additionally, he also carries the ball the third-furthest per attempt in Serie A, with 6.4 yards gained on average.

Boga likes to sit very wide on the left, stretching the field, opening up space for him to dribble inside and allowing the full-back to overlap. When Sassuolo are in a particularly attacking mood, he will hover central­ly more often and look to receive the ball and dribble into a shooting position.

He rarely takes the ball to the by-line to cross; he loves to dribble too much for that. According to StatsBomb data, he has completed just one cross this entire league season. Instead, he aims to get past his marker to move into better positions to assist others or, primarily, move into a shooting po­sition himself. When able to isolate a defender in an attacking position out wide, he is lethal. He leads Se­rie A in total shot-creating and goal-creating dribbles, with 24 and five respectively.

While undoubtedly an outstanding dribbler, Boga struggles to turn this into a consistent creative threat in the final third. He is heavily reliant on his dribbling to penetrate defences, but lacks the confidence in his passing to break them down with progressive combinations.

In fact, he ranks 339th of 354 players in Serie A for progressive yards – forward minus backward – per completed pass. Similarly, he completes just one pass into the penalty area per 90. This limits him as an attacking threat and makes him more predictable for defensive players to prepare for. He will need to improve this facet of his game immensely to become an elite player, but he has shown in recent years that he can, given time.

His ability to finish moves he creates for himself since his arrival at Sassuolo is obvious. While cutting inside from the left and finishing into the top-right corner has always been his preferred move, his chipped fin­ish against Juve and newfound timing when arriving at the back post has morphed him into a more dan­gerous penalty box threat.

Amongst wingers and at­tacking midfielders in Europe’s elite leagues, he ranks in the 61st percentile for non-penalty expected goals at 0.2 per 90, over-performing that tally with 0.38 non-penalty goals per 90.

Defensively, Boga is a committed presser. Interest­ingly, he rates strongly for pressures in his defensive third. Additionally, his pressure regain rate of 33.7 percent ranks him 19th in Serie A, largely attributable to his rapid closing speed.

"It does not take a lot of time watching Boga to under­stand his key qualities. The Ivorian is one of football’s most prolific dribblers, completing over five dribbles per 90 minutes in Serie A this season."

Stephen Ganavas, in Volume VI

Forecasting Jérémie Boga's future

Much of Boga’s future will hinge on his ability to be­come a more rounded creative threat. Without that, he will probably plateau as an upper-mid-table player: effective, but without the dynamism required to func­tion efficiently in the attacking system of an elite club.

With a potential return to Chelsea on the cards, the Ivorian could be reunited with Frank Lampard’s assis­tant manager Jody Morris, who managed him during his time as a youth player at the club. Chelsea report­edly retained a £12.8 million buy-back option in the deal that sent him to Sassuolo in 2018, and the play­er himself seems very open to the idea of a return to Stamford Bridge. But a return to Chelsea very probably means a return to the bench, fighting for places with Christian Puli­sic and Callum Hudson-Odoi. 

However, the expected imminent departures of Pedro and Willian at the end of their contracts will present opportunities for Boga, depending on Chelsea’s willingness to spend to re­place the two departing veterans. Conversely, another year of development at Sassuolo in Serie A would not do him any harm.

Boga is a brilliant dribbler and ball-carrier, and also a good final third contributor from out wide.

Boga is a weak progressive passer and also lacks on the defensive side.