There are many exciting prospects leaving the Belgian First Division A to join the big five European leagues. Premier League acquisitions in the summer transfer window include Moussa Djenepo to Southampton, Wesley Moraes to Aston Villa and Leandro Trossard to Brighton. Fashion Sakala is another bright prospect who will wish to intice European teams of large reputation to acquire his services.
In this tactical analysis scout report, the Oostende striker will be evaluated by analysing his background, strengths, weaknesses and statistical comparisons to recent exports and fellow young forwards in Belgium.
Throughout his career, Fashion Sakala has played predominantly as a centre-forward, but his pace, technique, lean build and height of 5ft 10in have also made the player competent on either wing.
Sakala’s earliest team record suggests he played for professional Zambian clubs Nchanga Rangers and Zanaco, in his native land, from 2016 until 2017. His goal record suggests he was a dangerous player for both clubs, with which he scored 34 goals in 63 matches, an average of a goal every 1.85 matches.
From Zanaco, he made the move into Europe at Spartak Moscow for £135,000. The Zambian played for their 2nd team throughout the 17/18 season, scoring 10 goals and two assists in 31 matches, a slightly less impressive scoring record with a ratio of 1 goal every 3.1 games. When converted to goals per 90 minutes played, Sakala produces a rate of 0.35. However, for a young player adapting to a more difficult league when compared to the Zambian leagues, this output is still productive.
Alongside his club football, Sakala’s promise has seen him feature for Zambia’s under-20 team and the senior team. He scored seven in 10 for the youth team, although he is yet to score for the senior side.
Fashion Sakala’s productivity at a young age, for multiple teams, led Oostende scouts to recommend the striker for the club. A deal that the club did not take lightly as they had to pay over £500,000 for the player. Since then, Sakala has played in the league, cup and league playoff competitions, scoring a total of six goals, one assist and 0.29 goals per 90, a slight decrease in comparison to his record at Spartak Moscow. Again, the Belgian First Division A is a step up in quality in comparison to the Russian Football National League so Sakala’s stats have regressed slightly.
Having settled at Oostende throughout the 18/19 season, Sakala will be hoping to push on in the 19/20 season. So far, he has made a promising start, coming off the bench and scoring the winner against Vincent Kompany’s Anderlecht side.
18/19 season at Oostende
Due to Sakala’s flexibility, he has been played in both centre-forward and wide positions as Oostende alternated tactics. He played 894 minutes upfront and 973 out wide, predominantly on the left-wing. As stated, Sakala produced 0.29 goals per 90, although, excluding penalties, his goals per 90 sat at 0.22. Both stats reinforce the difficult step up for Sakala. Goals per 90, non-penalty goals per 90 and other per 90 statistics will be predominantly used in this article. This is because Sakala has played fewer minutes compared to the 3000+ of other offensive players. Therefore, if the absolute output was appraised, many would appear more impressive than Sakala due to more playing time and more opportunities to produce.
Whilst the forward was recorded as playing different positions, his heat maps highlight his tendency to pull off and operate from a left-wing position, even when defined as the centre-forward. This suggests that Sakala feels most comfortable drifting out and attacking the spaces in between the right centre-back and right-back when playing up front, such spaces he would cut inside to attack as a right-footed left-winger.
In a subjective sense, Sakala has shown flashes of real quality. His strengths are based on his experience as a winger and a striker as his movement, pace, timing and effective finishing are all evident in player clips.
As you can see in the diagrams above, Sakala is competent at using his instincts from a left-wing position to sense when he can impose himself on the opposition defence, time his run and utilise his physical and technical ability to make his move and score. The player is able to ghost in behind the centre-back, stay onside and in an effective position to receive the ball. A movement such as the one above is aided by teammates making un-selfish runs, such teammates may not receive the ball themselves but by occupying a defender, partially or fully, they can provide an attacker with enough space to complete an effective team move.
After showing his attacking ability from a left-wing position, the above diagrams highlight how Sakala utilises his physical, psychological and technical ability to attack spaces between opposition defenders when playing as a centre-forward.
Once again, the Zambian forward’s elusive movement is illustrated. In the build-up to an attack, he shows the defender a run towards the ball and the near post, as the defender is following the play, Sakala drifts off to the back post. Unknown to the defender, as the cross is about to be played, Sakala has time to react and dart in front of the defender to get his head to the ball and score.
The key benefit to a movement of this kind is the intelligence of the play. Sakala is able to use his game and personal intelligence to acknowledge that he is not going to beat the 6ft plus centre-back in the air. In order to gain an advantage, he must utilise his pace, movement and timing in order to meet a low cross at the perfect time, ahead of an aggressive centre-back.
As a forward who is trusted in central and wide positions, Sakala often finds himself in one v one situations on the flank. In the instances above, Sakala utilises his skill to deceive his opponent and provide him with no clear information on his next move. As a result, the defender decides to hold his ground instead of over-committing. In this situation, doing nothing might seem like the best option, however, the defender should have closed the space before containing, in order to hold Sakala as far away from the goal as possible.
Although once Sakala arrives in the box, it does not look like there are many options to continue the attack or even recycle the ball. However, the attacker remains calm and utilises his vision and technical ability to play a pass to the edge of the box and create a chance for his team. The passage of play did not result in a goal, however, it is a good example of Sakala’s ability, and a passage of play which would have contributed to the Zambian’s expected assists data, a key statistic utilised in recruitment analysis at present.
An example of Fashion Sakala’s energetic nature can be seen in a defensive sense as opposed to an offensive sense above. The Zambian forward appears keen to press from the front in an attempt to win the ball back high. Winning the ball back in the opposition half or defensive third has well-known benefits. There is less distance to cover to reach the goal and an increased chance of catching the opponent unorganised, with no low block in place.
It appears that Sakala is performing such pressing duties as an individual rather than as part of a team ethos. Looking at the total passes per defensive action (PPDA) for Belgian First Division A teams last season, Oostende were ranked 17th out of 19 teams, 14th out of the 16 regulation season teams. This suggests Oostende’s ball regaining strategy is based on players getting behind the ball and enhancing defensive solidity rather than intense pressing when the ball is lost. Whether Sakala has been instructed to press more frequently and intensely than the team as a whole, or whether he is displaying individual tendencies is unknown. Overall, it appears that Sakala has a desire to win the ball back quickly and is able to use his physicality to do so.
The statistical comparison of Fashion Sakala and other forwards will provide more context on how much Sakala produces defensive actions per game, as opposed to a small sample of video examples.
Comparison of under-23 centre-forwards and wingers in Belgium
Given we have conducted analysis to look at Sakala in a subjective sense, to gather an overall picture of the players current level, we can use objective statistics. We have analysed what Sakala is capable of, but the statistics will provide the context of how consistently he is able to produce such successful performance actions.
Below are comparisons of all centre-forwards and left or right-wingers under the age of 23 from the Belgian First Division A. A comparison of the young talent, which Sakala fits into at 22, will be useful to assess how the player ranks amongst similar players.
|Player||Non-penalty goals per 90||xG per 90||Assists||Shots per 90||Shots on target %||Goal conversion %|
|D. Lamkel Zé||0.18||0.24||3||2.08||40||8.889|
Fashion Sakala is ranked 14th for non-penalty goals per 90 in Wyscouts top-ranking central and lateral forwards under 23 in the Belgian First Division A. This correlates well with Oostende’s finishing position in the regular season in 18/19 as the team also finished 14th. As the league table rank decreases, the quality of each team increases, therefore, it cannot be assumed that Sakala’s data can compete with the leaders in the table, who have better players around them to supply the ball in dangerous areas more effectively and more frequently than Oostende’s creators can.
In order to appraise Sakala against the chances he is provided, xG per 90 should be compared to non-penalty goals per 90. It is evident that Sakala is underperforming against his xG and should look to improve his finishing to take chances at the average rate. No player below Sakala in the rankings outperform their xG. This provides support for the xG model given individual performance against xG appears to improve as the quality of teams and a predicted increased quality of player occurs. It would be interesting to see how Sakala performed in a top-ranked league team, however, at present, his consistency of finishing needs to improve if he is to progress to such a team.
|Player||Dribbles per 90||Dribbles success %||Crosses per 90||Crosses success %|
|D. Lamkel Zé||5.26||54.39||2.44||39.62|
By taking a look at the statistics which relate more to wingers than central strikers, we can see that Sakala ranks eighth for dribbles per 90. However, in the context of success, he is ranked 18th. To be placed as the 18th best wide forward at dribbling is still relatively successful, but Sakala could be looking to improve his in-game success and therefore his data to help his reputation rise.
In terms of crossing, the Oostende forward is mid-ranked for both crosses per 90 and cross success %, suggesting that Sakala’s delivery ability is at a good level in comparison to other young forwards.
|Player||Successful defensive actions per 90||Aerial duels per 90||Aerial duels won %||Tackles per 90||Tackle success %||Interceptions per 90|
|D. Lamkel Zé||5.21||4.8||42.31||0.37||25||3.41|
Defensively, Sakala is successfully ranked seventh for successful defensive actions per game, highlighting overall that the player is willing to commit to the less glamorous side of the game for forwards. The player is also ranked seventh for aerial duels and aerial duel success. Despite only being 5ft 10in, Fashion Sakala is strong and committed in the air in comparison to many other forwards. Multiple players above him in the rankings are target man strikers, including Frantzdy Perriot who is 6ft 4in.
Sakala is ranked top for tackles per 90, but finds the middle ground for tackle success and interceptions. Overall, it appears that Sakala is an adept defender in an offensive position. The player can be trusted to lead a pressing line and harry defenders, defend aerial set pieces and hold a work and tackle rate high enough protect a full back when playing as a winger. It would be interesting to see how Sakala’s numbers would change if transferred to a pressing team, as opposed to the pressing averse Oostende.
Comparison of Premier League imports
The Zambian will now be compared specifically to exports from the Belgian league who have joined Premier League clubs this summer. A transfer to a top-five European league is likely a goal for the player, therefore, we can examine the numbers which are tempting recruitment analysts to recommend young talent in Belgium to their respective English clubs.
|Player||Non-penalty goals per 90||xG per 90||Assists||Assists per 90||Shots per 90||Shots on target %||Goal conversion %|
When we start to compare Fashion Sakala to the recent Belgian league exports and consequent Premier Leauge imports, we see a similar picture as the comparisons to young forwards. Regarding non-penalty goals per 90, Sakala is ranked bottom and underperforms against his xG. Sakala will be looking to improve that stat, either specifically or generally in order to improve his performance. Interestingly, Djénépo and Sakala both have the same xG per 90. However, where Sakala underperforms, Djénépo outperforms his xG. A performance stat which would have helped his cause when Southampton were looking at the player.
In this comparison, Sakala is also ranked bottom for shots on target % and goal conversion rate, again highlighting the need for improvement in shooting and finishing.
|Player||Dribbles per 90||Dribble success %||Crosses per 90||Cross success %|
When looking at traditional winger statistics, Sakala fairs more favourably when compared to his finishing stats. He is ranked third for dribbles per 90, although his success is the lowest. His crossing frequency is fourth and his cross success is third. Such stats suggest that Sakala can match or produce similar data to players who have earned big moves.
|Player||Successful defensive actions per 90||Aerial duels per 90||Aerial duels won %||Tackles per 90||Tackle success %||Interceptions per 90|
In a defensive comparison between Sakala and Belgian league exports, we can once again see that Sakala contributes well defensively. He ranks second for overall defensive actions, second for aerial duels, first for aerial duel success, first for tackles per 90, third for tackle success % and second for interceptions per 90.
Such statistics are very good for an offensive player to have in their armoury. While aerial duels can be offensive and defensive in nature, highlighting a well rounded and contributive playing style is likely to earn a player more admirers, as opposed to being a one-dimensional offensive player.
Overall, Fashion Sakala is an interesting prospect in the Belgian First Division A. He has risen from relatively unknown Zambian leagues to become a regular starter in an ever-developing league such as Belgium, where many top players have recently been produced.
Sakala shows all of the necessary traits to become a successful player in Europe. If he can secure a starting position in his favoured left-wing or centre-forward role, improve his finishing and consistency of performance in all areas, he may be another example of a rising star leaving Belgium in years to come.
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