Scouted: Silas Wamangituka
by Llew Davies
When searching for under-appreciated talent – and, subsequently, under-the-radar transfers – always scour Ligue 2. Every season, standout young players emerge from a league that boasts an incredibly deep and diverse pool of talent. One of the most recent prospects to propel from the second division of French football is 19-year-old, Silas Wamangituka.
His time in Ligue 2 was short-lived, as was his time in France. Born and raised in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Wamangituka moved to Europe aged 17 years old, joining Olympique Alès in the French fifth division. A season there alerted Paris FC, who picked him up for a nominal fee a year later. After his first and only season at the capital club – in which he scored 11 goals, assisted another two, and spearheaded an attack that reached the brink of promotion to Ligue 1 – the forward has joined VfB Stuttgart in the 2. Bundesliga for an €8 million fee. Germany has become a popular next step for French-based talent, and no recruitment director has a greater knowledge of the market than Stuttgart’s Sven Mislintat.
This move caught the eye for a plethora of reasons, not least because his distinctive skillset literally puts him head and shoulders above others. Wamangituka is a dynamic forward, a multi-faceted attacker who combines extraordinary athletic capacity with adequate technical qualities. His ability in transition and attacking phases was a key feature of the season he spent in Paris and has been prominent in his early appearances in Germany. He can compete against big defenders in the air, link play and carry the ball from deep to kickstart counter-attacks, square up defenders and shift the ball quickly to create separations or draw a foul, and attack depth with stretching movements. His basic skillset – for all of its rough edges, which need substantial smoothing – is capable of making an impact in a myriad of match situations.
In Ligue 2, his attributes were utilised in a central role which principally involved him sliding across the defensive line, searching for spaces to attack, and making rangy movements into deep and wide positions. His primary functions were to occupy (multiple) defenders, dart into spaces, get into the box, and not much else. He played 15 passes, took just over 1.5 shots and completed 1.3 dribbles per 90 minutes last season, relatively low numbers which reflect his limited attacking role.
That said, he – and Paris – utilised his athleticism and technical skill to potent effect, exploiting the combination to create shots from low percentage passes over the top of defences – balls with little intention beyond relieving pressure, and putting Wamangituka into play – or unlikely situations that required a second of individual skill. His ability to create his own shots in such scenarios are exhibited in the following clips:
Scoring 11 goals from a total of 40 shots is good going; he converted over a quarter of the shooting opportunities he worked himself into. Those figures suggest the 19-year-old is an accomplished finisher, a statement which is neither totally accurate nor demonstrably untrue – the truth lies, I think, somewhere in the middle. Whilst his goals were varied – ranging from headers and one-touch finishes, to more complex techniques and sequences – there was an underlying pattern to his shots: he performed better with little time to think and often fell flat when presented with a clear-cut opportunity. He missed eight goalscoring chances which Opta defined as big chances, shots with which it was reasonable to expect him to score. This is by no means a game-breaking flaw, but merely highlights that Wamangituka is a finisher who relies on instinct and reaction. With some coaching, he should be able to compose and coordinate himself better when he finds himself in such situations.
At Stuttgart, Wamangituka has so far been utilised in a different role to the one he fulfilled in Paris. Tim Walter, appointed at VfB this past summer, is a progressive coach who seeks to expand the pitch, create numerical advantages and isolate players in favourable match-ups, and he’s isolated Wamangituka in high and wide positions against smaller, slower, weaker full-backs. As of now, the 19-year-old has managed the transition and embraced the adaptation to a different role.
Playing wider means Wamangituka is more involved in general play than ever. He’s attempting more passes, completing more dribbles, winning more fouls than last season, as well as taking and creating more shots too. His 4.3 dribbles completed per 90 – almost four times what he was managing in
Ligue 2 – is only trumped by a team-mate, Orel Mangala, in the 2. Bundesliga so far. His ability to square up opponents and quickly shift the ball from out of his feet has produced tangible reward, enabling him to create separations or win a foul. Such significant upturns in statistical output can be attributed to a small sample size of four games and the fact that he plays for one of the strongest teams in the league, but still reflects the more prominent role he fulfils in Baden-Württemberg.
One way in which Stuttgart make the most of Wamangituka’s dynamism is when they transition from deep areas. Paris did it with longer passes into the channels, but VfB use him as a link between a deep defence and a springing attack, a conduit for counter-attacking. These clips exemplify that well, showcasing how his size is of extraordinary benefit when occupying defenders and ability to play good link passes.
A more involved role requires a broader skillset. Whilst his hold-up and link play demonstrate a competent passing ability, his passing and vision in open spaces is below average. He doesn’t yet know how to receive the ball in wider positions – he takes it with closed shoulders, tight to the touchline, which makes him easier to contain and press – therefore he, more often than not, passes the way he faces. Nevertheless, he has shown promising signs of diversifying his skillset, like becoming a more aggressive at moving into depth from wide positions. There have been a number of instances in early games where he’s displayed a noticeable determination to dribble at defenders, beating them or winning a foul, as well as constantly re-adjusting to make secondary attacking movements.
When you incorporate all of the above into a single skillset, Wamangituka’s potential becomes easier to project. Various aspects of his game need to be refined, but he already offers a very useful attacking profile which has impacted games in Ligue 2 and is now doing the same for a strong team in the 2. Bundesliga. Stuttgart will likely bounce back to the Bundesliga this season with Wamangituka in their ranks, and he’s a player who can be a difference-maker in a league predicated on organised chaos.
I’m really looking forward to watching how Wamangituka develops over the coming seasons, whether it be at Stuttgart or elsewhere. It mustn’t be forgotten that this is only his second season as a professional footballer. There’s still so much upside to be fulfilled.
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