When Patrice Bernier hung up his boots in 2017, it left the Montreal Impact with a gaping hole in the middle of the park. Following brief spells in Danish football, Bernier returned to Montreal in 2012, and established himself as the heartbeat of the side and an equally crucial part to the locker room.
Determined to lessen the blow of his retirement, the Impact were proactive and recruited two promising Canadian midfielders, FC Edmonton academy product Shamit Shome and Canadian international Samuel Piette. While Piette is naturally seen as Bernier’s heir given their similar styles of play, Shome’s development this season has been nothing short of a revelation for the Montreal Impact.
Since being selected in the second round of the 2017 MLS Superdraft, the 21-year-old has gone from strength to strength and is currently vying for starting minutes in Remi Garde’s side. Now, let’s delve deeper into the young midfielder’s game with this tactical analysis and look at what his progression could mean for the Montreal Impact.
Style of play
Shome is your classic box-to-box midfielder and is capable of playing on either side of a midfield three. While he prefers being deployed from right-centre midfield — a role he’s made his own this season —- the Impact man has proven he is versatile enough to fulfil other roles, if need be.
Due to injury problems, Shome has also featured at right midfield in a 2-1 win against the Seattle Sounders, where he was spectacular, and regularly starts alongside Piette in a double pivot in Garde’s 3-4-3. Shome, however, is at his best when he’s given license to roam between enemy lines in support of his winger, and infiltrate the opposition’s half-spaces. This was on display in the Impact’s nil-nil stalemate against the New England Revolution.
Despite not finding the back of the net, Shome was a constant nuisance down the right-hand side and was the source of the Impact’s most creative play in the final third. As illustrated in the heat-map below, the 21-year-old was instructed to get forward and often found himself alongside the right winger Orji Okwonkwo. This is where Shome thrives using his best asset; spatial awareness.
Operating in the half-space between the Revolution’s centre-defensive midfielder Luis Caicedo and left-centre back Jalil Anibaba, Shome went to work and registered three key passes on the night. Had it not been for wasteful finishing, his vision would have been rewarded.
While his impressive performance wasn’t reflected on the scoresheet, his accomplished display was the first clear-cut sign of his progression. Since joining the Impact, the former FC Edmonton midfielder had been in and out of the side, struggling for regular minutes. This season, however, has been a different story altogether and he has since emerged as a consistent fixture in Garde’s eleven. In fact, Shome has played the full 90 minutes in 10 of the 15 games he’s started, highlighting his engine and newfound consistency.
However, Shome’s impact cannot simply be reduced to his contributions in the final third. Despite his relatively small 5’8 frame, the midfielder regularly lends a hand defensively and is among the Impact’s most tenacious tacklers. Travelling away to Major League Soccer’s best team, LAFC, Garde deployed Shome as a classic six, a role he’s rarely played.
Rather than buckling under the pressure, the midfielder stepped up and put in an all-action display, registering six tackles and three interceptions. This was yet another test the 21-year-old passed with flying colours, demonstrating his versatility and ability to lock down when needed.
Offensively, Shome has come a long way this season. In the past, the midfielder struggled to impact proceedings and largely remained on the periphery of games. This season, on the other hand, the midfielder has seen his involvement in the final third grow and is getting far more touches in the Impact’s buildup play. Compared to last season, Shome is averaging nearly double the amount of passes completed per game —- 25.9 to 13.6 —- and is finally introducing end-product to his game, notching his first goal and assist this season.
While some may attribute this to an increase in confidence, his increased involvement largely stems from his own detail-oriented nature. Shome regularly does analysis of his own and watches game footage as he is always trying to get into better areas for himself and his teammates.
Below, you can see him calling for the ball in the Impact’s most recent defeat against the Columbus Crew.
Between the Crew’s left and centre midfielder, Shome is right at home in acres of space. It wouldn’t take long for Saphir Taider to take notice and promptly feed him. Sticking his touch, Shome quickly pivoted and spread play to an onrushing Bacary Sagna, which eventually lead to a dangerous cross. Creating space for his teammates, Shome has seen himself become a facilitator of sorts in the final third. This is the type of play the Impact and Garde have come to expect from the slowly improving 21-year-old.
However, if Shome wants to take the next step offensively, he will need to become more direct in possession. Currently, his passes, on average, go forward 1.8 yards, a number that could be easily bettered with more playing time under his belt. Moreover, while his dribbling numbers have gone up this season compared to years past, they are still far too low at 0.6 dribbles per game, especially for a midfielder of his technical calibre. The former FC Edmonton man has to learn to take it to the opposition, at times.
Yet, Shome has still demonstrated glimpses of progression in this respect. Against Minnesota United, the 21-year-old completed 94.9 of his passes, a majority of which came in the opposition’s half. With Piette tasked with shielding the back four, Shome took the responsibility of dictating tempo. Moving forward, the Impact are going to need to see more of this initiative from the young midfielder.
Despite his lack of directness on the ball, Shome is still getting himself into dangerous shooting areas. Shome’s eight shots of the season, on average, are 16.7 yards from the centre of the goal, highlighting his knack to be at the right place at the right time. With a bit of finishing practice (See: Crossbar miss v CLB Crew), the midfielder could easily increase his xG output, as he’s currently sitting on a lowly 2.15 xG on the season. If he’s able to add goals to his game, he will simply become undroppable for Garde and will establish himself as a crucial part of his tactics.
On the other side of the ball, Shome has evolved into a defensive jack-of-all-trades. Whether he’s playing as the out-and-out defensive midfielder, in a double pivot or on either side of a midfield three, the 21-year-old has become an asset for Garde. Currently, he’s averaging the most tackles per game on the Montreal Impact with 1.7 and has a modest 1.1 interceptions to go with it.
His defensive numbers are regularly improving, yet, it’s his understanding of spacing and pressing that sticks out the most for the Impact man. Despite his relative inexperience, Shome is aware of different pressing triggers and is quick to hassle an opponent when the situation calls for it without completely abandoning his position. At times, he’s too eager on the tackle and gives away cheap fouls, 1.2 per game to be exact, but at the very least, Shome is currently showing the right instincts. This scout report highlights Shome is trending in the right direction.
Here he is, below, getting tight to the ball carrier, whereas just seconds ago he was occupying the open space next to the referee. His high press on Crew midfielder Artur eventually forces a turnover out of the Brazilian and sends the Impact on the counter-attack.
The only thing Shome must be wary about his forrays forward is the space he leaves behind him when he takes off. In a three-man midfield, the two other players could form a double pivot, offering solidity in the process. In this instance, Shome has nothing to worry about.
However, if he takes off and there’s only one Impact midfielder in the middle of the park, as it’s been the case on various occasions, it’s possible he leaves his defence exposed. As a result, timing is everything and a balance needs to be struck between when he goes and when he stays.
It’s clear that Shome has all the necessary tools to push on and become an Impact regular for the remainder of the season and arguably beyond. Other than Taider, Montreal lacks a midfielder with his diverse skill-set and versatility. As a result, as he grows in confidence, expect Shome to play a key role in the Impact’s postseason hunt. The next step for the midfielder, naturally, would be to represent his country.
While aspects of his game are still raw, such as his end-product, the 21-year-old has already demonstrated a willingness to improve and a desire to put the team above himself. If Shome is able to do this and progress his game steadily like he did this season, it’s only a matter of time before John Herdman is rewarding him with his first call-up. It’s now up to Shome to grab the opportunity by the horns and show the Canadian faithful they have yet another young talent to be excited about. The ball’s in his court.