KV Mechelen enjoyed a successful return to the Pro League in the 2019/20 season. They currently sit in sixth place ahead of the likes of 2017/18 Champions League group stage qualifiers RSC Anderlecht. Alongside experienced heads like 36-year-old former Bundesliga striker Igor de Camargo, Mechelen also boast some impressive young talent. One of these is 18-year-old Burkina Faso right-back Issa Kabore.
Kabore was part of the Rahimo FC side who won their first Burkinabe title in the 2018/19 season. Rahimo were created by former FC Twente defender Rahim Ouédraogo, a teammate of former West Ham and Stoke City striker Marko Arnautovic.
Kabore, like Ouédraogo who was 16 when he went to the Netherlands, has made the move to Europe at a young age. Having only made his debut for Mechelen in February, the young right-back has instantly become one of the most exciting prospects in the Belgian Pro League. It is only a matter of time before bigger clubs in Belgium and Europe begin to take an interest in the Burkinabe defender.
This tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, will provide analysis on Kabore’s key strengths defensively, as well as in attack. While the sample size of only five games is small, the stats are certainly impressive and suggest a player who would excel as a right-back in a flat back four, or an attacking wing-back in three or five at the back formations.
Following his five leagues starts this season, Kabore currently sits in the top 10 when it comes to defensive duels. On average the Mechelen right-back is involved in 10.85 duels per 90 minutes with a 55.17% success rate. For an 18-year-old in his first few matches in Belgium these are impressive stats.
For Mechelen, they know that they can rely on Kabore to win the ball back and spring attacks or to put an end to dangerous opposition attacks. When it comes to interceptions, he is averaging 7.44 possession adjusting interceptions per match. Rather than winning the ball and then either giving it away through a lack of composure or putting it out of play, he is keeping the ball and putting Mechelen on the front foot.
Kabore possesses great pace, which allows him to make up lost ground. For an inexperienced player this is vital as it allows him to make mistakes and, in most instances, he is quick enough to get back and rectify it. Furthermore, Mechelen ensure he remains outside of the penalty area when they have corners in order to stop counter-attacks.
For example, in this game against Sporting Charleroi, Mechelen have a corner that is cleared by the hosts and there is the chance to counter after the ball is given away by Kabore. This is a prime example of how he uses his pace to rectify his own mistakes and stop counter-attacks.
As the first image shows, Kabore is deep inside the opposition half when the Charleroi player intercepts his weak pass. There is a counterattack opportunity as an attacker has drifted out to the left-hand side and is looking to break. Despite starting off behind the pacey attacker when he makes his run, Kabore can easily make up the distance, beating the opponent to the ball. In such a situation, a slower full-back would not have been able to make up the space in time and it would have led to a two-on-one situation in the middle with the centre-back and other striker, while allowing the ball carrier a free path to the box.
Kabore averages 1.79 slide tackles per 90, one of which he uses to clear the ball in the above clip. That is the highest average of all right-backs in the Pro League. This suggests that he is engaging in more desperate challenges, perhaps due to being caught out of position and having to make up the ground as he does here. At a 57.14% success rate he is at least more successful than not when he decides to attempt a slide tackle.
Acceleration to cross
Mechelen’s attack is focused on crossing and Kabore fits the mould perfectly. As his heat map suggests, he is given license to roam up and down the wing. With Hairemans playing ahead of him as the right-winger in the 4-1-4-1 formation, Kabore is allowed to overlap at will. Hairemans is utilised as the attacking midfielder and sometimes second striker in 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 formations that the side sometimes deploy. Even as a right-winger he drifts inside to support the lone striker, giving Kabore space to push on. With the acceleration Kabore possesses, he can get into dangerous crossing positions.
Kabore currently sits third in average crosses per match at 5.99, with an accuracy rating of 34.38%. This is the fourth-highest accuracy rating out of the top 10 crossers in the Pro League. The stats suggest that as Kabore has featured more in the first team, his confidence to cross has increased. In his debut against Charleroi he only attempted three crosses. In his second game this was the same, but the next three games he attempted five, nine and then 12 against KAS Eupen. As he gains more experience, he is getting in more crossing positions.
In the game against Eupen only 30% of these crosses were accurate. Below we see how, when in attack, Kabore pushes high up the field while the right winger Hairemans has tucked inside. This forces the defenders to communicate, especially the centre-back, left-back and left-winger as to who will take Kabore and who will track Hairemans. For Mechelen, the attacking nature of Kabore allows them to stretch the defenders to their advantage, as well as force the opposing wingers back inside their own half.
Kabore is able to exploit the defending winger’s lack of willingness to track his run, or even to keep up with his pace. Hairemans’ clever movement drags the Eupen left-back out of the way, giving space for Kabore to burst through with his pace. This passage of play explains how Kabore is able to get into so many crossing positions. He can exploit attack-minded wingers with the space opened up by Hairemans. This move could work if it was inverted, with Kabore going on the outside rather than the inside as he does here.
Furthermore, this has also dragged the centre-back away from de Camargo, the lone striker. Mechelen midfielders like to push forward in support, especially Aster Vranckx in the 4-1-4-1 formation. The movement of Kabore and Hairemans has created an advantage in the box, which a willing crosser in Kabore is more than happy to exploit. This was the Burkinabe’s first assist of the season, and it is likely to not be his last judging by how well executed this move was.
Alongside his speed and desire to cross, Kabore is also comfortable on the ball and is a confident dribbler. This is backed up by the statistics. He sits fifth overall in average dribbles per 90 minutes with 6.17, alongside a success rate of 48.48%. While this is the second-lowest percentage out of the top eight league-wide, it may be down to inexperience, whereby he attempts to dribble in situations instead of looking to pass.
For example, in his first game against Charleroi, Kabore attempted 11 dribbles, seven of which were successful. When the ball comes out to him here the defender has closed the gap considerably and has denied him space. Therefore, he must rely on his technical ability rather than his pace to beat his man.
His quick feet allow him to get the ball under control and shift it past the oncoming defender, taking him out of the game. Now faced with a couple of options we see the inexperienced decision making of Kabore. One option is the simple pass to his teammate in the area. Another option would’ve been to shift it back out right and allow for a cross into the area. Instead, perhaps overconfident after beating the first man, Kabore attempts to beat the next man and loses the ball.
This sort of decision making is something that coaches will certainly look to ensure he improves upon in the future. At 18 years of age, he has plenty of time to learn from these mistakes and make better decisions in the future. He is certainly a talented dribbler of the ball, as he showcased in beating the initial defender. Deciding when and where to attempt to dribble past opponents will help make him a better attacking player.
His dribbling stats also back up how he likes to get forward, in that he has attempted more dribbles against left-backs than any other player position on the field. When it comes to opposing left-backs, he has a 66.7% success rate. This also highlights how he is used to putting pressure on defenders, as he pushes so far forwards onto the opposition left-back, freeing up the right-winger to operate on the inside. He is clearly part of the tactical approach of Mechelen as they have given him freedom to push forward as often as possible to create the situations analysed above.
Issa Kabore is certainly a talented youngster with plenty of potential. He has already shown tons of ability and has not looked out of place in the Belgian Pro League since his move from Burkina Faso. Mechelen will hope that they can keep hold of him as long as possible. For his own development, it may be best to spend two or three years with Mechelen to work on his game and improve his decision making.
Furthermore, he fits their tactics perfectly and would be wise to take advantage of the game time he is being afforded at such a young age, rather than moving to a bigger club and not getting the minutes. If he continues to perform at the level he has over his first five games, it will not be long before bigger teams come calling.