Despite his young age, the 18-year-old has turned into a fan favourite but more importantly a vital part of Bristol city’s tactics. And after only one season in the Championship, there is already rumoured interest from Arsenal as well as Borussia Dortmund. This scout report will provide an in-depth tactical analysis of Han-Noah Massengo in his role for Bristol City.
Defensive positioning and responsibilities
This analysis will begin by looking at the awareness of his surroundings Massengo demonstrates consistently throughout games. Massengo is very active in the defensive phase and displays some relatively aggressive traits.
One of Massengo’s traits is he is very aggressive when defending the space on the edge of the box and actively will close down and get tight to any opposition player in that vicinity. In this example, Massengo successfully stops the ball from entering into this area by following the opposition player run as he tries to provide his teammate with an option as is able to read the pass and intercept the ball of which he makes 3.39 per 90.
Massengo urgently closes down the opposition high up the pitch, making 42.3% of his 5.77 recoveries per 90 in the opposition half. And in this case, he is able to stop the opposition clearing the danger by blocking the pass. Although is unable to win the loose ball that resulted from this block, Massengo only wins 32.4% of his loose ball duels which is relatively underwhelming and an area that needs improving as it would provide a massive benefit to recovering the ball high up the pitch.
Although Massengo often pressed high even on some occasions forming a three with the two strikers as the first line in the press, Massengo also tracks back often and in this scenario covers for the fullback and prevent the opposition delivery. Massengo averages 7.78 defensive duels per 90, which is a higher amount than 63% of the other central midfielders in the league.
One noticeable trait Massengo demonstrates is his preference to go to ground rather than stay standing when making tackles, making 0.25 sliding tackles per 90 while only 0.2 per 90 standing. While this may extend the reach of his tackle which allowed him to win the ball in this case, he often fails to retain the ball after the tackle using this technique. Massengo currently only wins the ball in 25% of his sliding tackles. While in context this statistic does not account if he is able to retain the ball after the tackle which suggests this is an even less effective technique and could be a contributing factor for why Massengo is in the bottom 38% of midfielders in the division in regards to tackling success rates.
Role in Transitions
Massengo has rotated across all the positions in a midfield three this season playing a vital role in quickly transitioning the team from defence into attack with his teammates constantly looking for him to get them on the front foot as he receives 21.89 passes per game.
Massengo receives the ball in a difficult situation with an opposition player tightly marking him but does very well to shield the ball with his body and dribble into space, Massengo is an accomplished dribbler winning 8.06 offensive duels per 90, a rate which ranks in the top 27% for midfielders in the Championship this season. Massengo is then able to produce a good through ball into a dangerous space but his teammate is not able to lock on to it. Massengo is yet to produce an assist this season his expected assists is relatively low at 0.54 for the season which places him in the bottom 10% for this metric in comparison to over central midfielders in the division who have played over 900 minutes.
In this example, Massengo shapes his body in a way that suggests he is going to play the ball laterally to his teammate which would pose no threat and little concern for the opposition. This is a disguise that allows him to play a more penetrative forward pass into the space that was not closed down as the opposition were lured into a sense of security and unaware of the threat.
In this situation, Bristol City is presented with a good opportunity to counter with two players making runs either side off the pitch. Massengo has two defenders in front of him blocking the areas which he can pass into. Massengo chooses to try and thread the ball between the two opposition players but the angle is far too tight and the covering player is able to intercept the ball and a very good opportunity is wasted.
Despite a relatively small frame standing at only 5′ 9″ Massengo uses his frame well to position himself in between the opposition player and the ball. This is key to his ability to regularly win fouls and relieve pressure for his team and prevent a team counter-pressing after Bristol city has just won the ball back, using this technique amongst others Massengo has been to draw his opponents into fouling him 1.87 times per 90.
Massengo often drops deep to provide an option but takes a poor first touch which allows him to be easily dispossessed. Due to the nature of his position turnovers in this area can be very costly and a cheap opportunity for the opponent which fortunately for Massengo they did not convert on this occasion. Massengo loses the ball 8.79 times per 90 of which 45.8% happen in his own half which can result in scenarios like this.
One of Massengo’s strengths is his intent to be involved in progressing the ball forwards while he is always looking to find an opportunity to play a penetrative pass or carry the ball forward.
Massengo can provide an attacking threat in the final third, this example is a testament to his drive and desire to get the ball forward. He starts his participation in this move by making a driving run down the wing into the vacant space to provide an option for his teammate while also stretching the defence. Massengo does well to cut the ball back behind the deepest defender and into space which two of his teammates are occupying, unfortunately neither is able to capitalise and eventually the keeper is able to make a save from a tame shot.
This is another good example of Massengo’s ability to progress the ball forward, he initiates the attack by playing a ball over the top into the space opened by the full-back being dragged out of position. Massengo then continues to drive forward to attack the resulting cross and wins the header but unfortunately puts the ball wide.
This time Massengo tries to find the run of the striker between the two central defenders, the ball is weighted well and forces the opposition into making a desperate sliding clearance. Massengo is constantly looking to catch the opposition on the back foot and in many cases like this forces the opponent to make a last-ditch attempt to stop the pass.
Naturally, due to Massengo style, he is going to often turn over the ball trying to attempt higher risk passes. On occasions like this though the pass is simply poorly executed and if it was better would have provided a good opportunity to play a teammate in behind. While Massengo has a respectable pass accuracy of 85.9%, which puts him into the top 35% of midfielders in the league for this metric, although the majority of his successful passes are made up of lateral or backwards passes.
Massengo does need to look at the to improve the accuracy of his passing as although he produces a respectable output of 0.6 successful through balls per 90 this would be significantly higher if he improved on his accuracy of only 26.3% in respect through balls.
Massengo does perform above average compared to other central midfielders in the Championship according to the Wyscout metric ‘Smart Passes’ which is defined by a pass that breaks more than one line of the opposition which Massengo averages at 0.56 per 90.
The high-risk passes do have high rewards like in this instance where Massengo was able to break through multiple defensive lines finding his teammate down the line in space presenting a crossing opportunity.
Whilst Massengo shouldn’t be discouraged from attempting such creative passes a real emphasis needs to be given to insuring he increasing the accuracy in which he attempts them to balance the risk and reward, otherwise, he will continue to give up possession to cheaply.
In the diagram below displays some of the key metrics that are used to analysis players in midfield positions. The diagram measures Massengo’s percentile rank in a sample which includes all central and defensive midfielders who have players over 600 minutes in the championship, the red circle is the 50th percentile which represents the average value while each grey circle represents the intervals for each 10th percentile.
The diagram does not paint a favourable picture of Massengo’s ability as he performs below average in most of the metrics. The diagram does portray the style in which Massengo plays with his best attributes being dribbles per 90 and smart passes per 90 which illustrates his desire to move the ball forward at any opportunity he is afforded.
The image above shows how Massengo uses the ball by breaking down the types of his passes, the darker the blue arrow the more accurate Massengo is at that type of pass. It’s clear that Massengo style is very direct as of the 33% of his passes that are directed forwards almost half are also into the final third while just over 10% are into the penalty box. By looking at the shade of the arrow it is visible that these passes are not accurate and would be a significant contributing factor in why a number of Massengo’s passing statistics are lower than perhaps expected.
Massengo is relatively wasteful even in the context that these passes would be expected to be completed less than in other areas, once he is able to increase his accuracy in this scenarios his output of successfully advanced passes will rocket due to the fact he already the confidence and creativity to see such opportunities and attempt to capitalise on them.
It’s important to recognise the context which is this is Massengo’s is only 18-year-old in his first season in the Championship there are plenty of indications that these metrics will all improve in the near future.
It is clear from this analysis that Massengo is not yet playing consistently at a high standard but there is a reason why some of Europe’s top clubs are interested in his future. Massengo demonstrates serious determination to help his team in every aspect of the game while has the natural intent to be creative that once his decision making is refined will serve as a substantial benefit to a team’s attacking output in the future.