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From the Handbook: Boubacar Kamara

This profile was originally published in the Scouted Football Handbook: Volume III, our third printed Handbook, released in August 2019. The print version has now sold out, but you can find the digital edition avaialble for £3 here.

Credit: Alexandre Dimou / Getty Images

STATS


CAREER IN REVIEW


Boubacar Bernard Kamara is very much a local boy in Marseille. The 19-year-old has spent his entire youth career in the south of France, playing for Olympique de Marseille’s youth setup from ages five through 17.


This included a one-season spell in the second team, where he made 32 appearances. This, along with his consistent involvements in various French youth national teams, ensured he was fit enough to wear the shirt of the senior team heading into the 2017/18 season.

Initially being given run-outs in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League, the Frenchman steadily worked his way into the side after recovering from two disruptive ankle injuries. Such issues were not at play in the most recent season, where he rose from a rotational player to a regular starter.


The defender started and finished 25 Ligue 1 matches in Marseille’s 2018/19 league campaign, ammassing just over 2,400 minutes in a season which saw them salvage a topfive finish following a rollercoaster season.

Get to know some more French centre-backs: Axel Disasi, Tanguy Kouassi, and Dayot Upamecano

In his time playing under head coach Rudi García, Kamara has been trialled in just about every possible defensive position. Before finding his home on the right of a central defensive pairing, he was featured as a defensive midfielder, a left-back, a left-sided centre-back and a right-sided centre-back – in both a back-three and back-four.


This would no doubt have played a part in the inconsistency of his performances. Until recently, the Marseille youngster had struggled for consistency in form but will look to make the most of a fresh start under Olympique’s new head coach, André Villas-Boas.


STYLE OF PLAY


STRENGTHS

  • Approach to tackling

  • Timing of last-ditch challenges

  • Defending one-on-one out wide

  • Good first touch underpins press resistance

WEAKNESSES

  • Struggles to deal with quicker opponents

  • Patrolling spaces

One of Kamara’s most notable struggles is his inability to operate in big spaces, both in and out of possession. When defending central areas, he positions himself too square to the ball and becomes stranded in space in the middle of the pitch.


Remove the ambiguity of his role, however, and suddenly you start to see the best of the youngster. This is most evident when pressing up from the back, where he uses a low and crouched body stance that keeps a side-on perspective, blocking progression anywhere on the pitch.


His split-second side-to-side shifting, balanced risk and aggression approach, physicality, the use of his long legs to get in-between and around opponents, and even his surprising dominant aerial ability, all combine to make him an excellent defensive destroyer.


Additionally, his awareness and reading of situations due to his frequent scanning – which could still improve – enables him to deduce whether he should step onto an opponent or lay off them.

Maintaining the same body stance has also helped him defend wide one-on-one duels. The Marseille man can defend seamlessly on either side, getting across his man well using his weaker side to block off opponents.


It is against the better, trickier wide players he struggles; those players just have the edge in reaction speed to escape his clutches. Were it not for his knack of making clean challenges from behind, even in the riskiest areas, he might find himself in trouble more often.


Kamara also struggles when rushing to retreat. He does not assume his ideal body stance soon enough to prevent an easy turn in the opposite direction, so is often left stuck in the mud.


In possession, Kamara is even more conscious of his surroundings, as he scans numerous times before and after receiving. His close control ensures he can evade pressure in almost any situation, allowing him to thrive in high pressure environments.


This is compounded by his immaculate first touch, use of shielding and, specifically, his drag-backs that help him to resist pressure. Even more impressive is his intelligence in knowing where to play the pass following these evasions of pressure.

Kamara begins to struggle when handed too much responsibility. In these situations, he feels the need to continue gradually moving the ball forwards. Whilst this shows positive intent, it can massively hinder progression.


His first move forward eliminates playing across to his defensive partner, whilst his continued dribbling encourages the opposition to become more compact around the ball. The issue then is that he does not relieve the pressure, but instead lays it off short for a player whose angles are limited.


The centre-back does have the capacity to execute very precise long balls, but his occasionally skewed vision means he often only plays straight long balls, which is a much harder pass to execute.


One only sees the best of his decision-making when he is under duress. And even Kamara realises this disparity in ability as he will always play it short if there is a team-mate nearby.


FORECAST FOR THE FUTURE


Kamara undoubtedly has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. The fact that his best performances have come at a time when Marseille have struggled puts into perspective just how strong an asset he could be.


New manager André Villas-Boas will almost certainly rely upon the talents of the 19-year-old: the only questions that remain are where he will play and how consistent he can be.

His best run of form came on the right of a two-man centre-back pairing but that is not to say he is limited to that position, or that system.


Playing on the side of a back-three could unlock some of his ball-playing potential, given the freedom that position provides. Kamara would also be less obligated to defend central spaces. With the right coaching, he might yet become a holding midfielder.


For now, he remains a technical destroyer, with skills such as his decision-making needing to be improved. He also tends to receive with a closed body stance and with his back-to-goal, which is less than optimal when playing in a position, such as holding midfield, that requires complete, 360 degree awareness.


Still, the consistency of his performances will be key as to whether Villas-Boas will favour him in the long run. If he can find form and put together his strongest season yet, a move to a bigger club will seem like an inevitability as opposed to a dream.

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