Senegal have produced plenty of talented players over the years. The current squad is one of the deepest and strongest on the African continent, with the likes of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and one of the best defenders in Serie A, Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. While these players are certainly in their prime, another young Senegalese talent has begun to emerge in Belgium. Club Brugge’s 21-year-old winger, Krepin Diatta.
Diatta has featured as either a winger or a wing-back for Brugge on their way to the Pro League title, contributing six goals and three assists. He appeared in the UEFA Champions’ League group stages, as well as in various qualifiers for the Senegalese national side. Brugge have become known for developing young talent and Diatta looks like the next in a long line of players who will go on to bigger European clubs.
This tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, will analyse the strengths of Diatta’s game, and look at how he features in the tactics of Brugge. This analysis will do this by comparing his outputs as a winger or a wing-back and see if there is a position he is more effective in.
Despite playing half of his games as a wing-back, Diatta has still managed to contribute six goals, almost double his 3.53 xG. In terms of assists, if the season had continued it is likely that the Senegalese would have surpassed his xA of 3.62 as he was already on three assists for the season.
Data would suggest that the main strength of Diatta is his dribbling. Diatta sits second overall in average dribbles per 90 compared to those in similar positions to himself, with 7.38 at a success rate of 60.27%. Furthermore, he sits third in comparison to players in his position for progressive runs with 3.64 per 90. When it comes to this, Diatta is also averaging 90.35 metres per run. These stats suggest that Diatta is a strong and willing runner with the ball. He gains an advantage by his first step. Combining a great burst of acceleration with quick feet allows him to easily shift the ball past a defender, before the burst of acceleration takes him away from them.
Dribbling statistics only tell half the story. In order to assess Diatta we need to know about the end product. Data would suggest that Diatta is looking to shoot more than he is looking to cross. For those in a similar position to himself, he sits top in shots for the season by a long way. This is unsurprising for a player from a strong side such as Club Brugge, yet the numbers are still impressive. He averages 2.12 shots per 90 and has taken 42 in the league this season.
For example, in this match against Waasland-Beveren we see Diatta with the ball in an attacking position. He has three options here; take the man on the outside and cross, play a pass to the other Brugge player making a forward run, or dribble inside and shoot. Despite the space outside, Diatta opts for the third option, going past the defender on the inside and looking for to shoot rather than cross.
The below graph also highlights how often Diatta looks to shoot after dribbling, with the black dots indicating when he has taken a shot after beating his man. He has scored some fantastic goals with his left foot this season and is definitely a two-footed striker of the ball. Deciding when to cut in and shoot and when to get to the byline and cross will help him progress into the higher leagues.
When we compare this to his crossing, we see that Diatta is not looking to cross as much. He averages around three crosses per 90, with a success rate of 25.71%, far lower than those who average similar crossing attempts per match. While dribbling is certainly a strong point of Diatta, it’s clear that his crossing needs some working on if it is going to become a viable option for him. As a team, Brugge average 18.13 crosses per 90 at a success rate of 32%. Therefore, an improvement in Diatta as a crosser will help increase that percentage for the side.
Judging the defensive ability of Diatta is more difficult due to the dominance of Club Brugge. The club average the most possession in the league at 59.5%. He only averages 5.41 defensive duels per 90, with a success rate of 62.62%. Despite the low average per 90, the percentage of success is impressive and suggests that Diatta is a good defender.
Diatta has played around 1084 minutes in 16 games in all competitions as a winger for Brugge. He has two goals and two assists in these matches. As a winger, the Senegalese averages 48.75 total actions per 90 with a success rate of around 58%. In terms of end product, Diatta has around 1.3 shots per match as a winger with 38% accuracy, leading to an xG of 0.1. Crossing wise, the average is 2.6 at 23%. These stats will be revisited when we analyse his output as a wing-back to determine whether or not his output is more effective in this position.
When operating further forward, Diatta is averaging five dribbles per match, of which he is successful 57% of the time. One of his traits as a dribbler is to cut inside as he is comfortable on his left foot. We have already seen above how he likes to shoot or at least give himself the option to shoot. This is evident when he is further forward, as he is often in and around the box.
For example, in the clip below Diatta has got in behind the defence and has a great opportunity to cross to the oncoming striker. Most wingers would be expected to cross in this position with their first touch.
However, Diatta decides to take it to the byline and then cut back inside, giving himself the option to shoot in his left foot. As the clip highlights, this was a poor decision as it allowed the Standard defence to get back into position and the chance is wasted. Perhaps the 23% accuracy of his crossing plays on his mind and he looks instead to dribble more and create shooting opportunities.
With more experience, the decision making of Diatta would be expected to improve. In future situations, such as the one above, he would be expected to make the first time cross, rather than look to dribble. This would probably help increase his assists from just the two this season as a winger.
As a wing-back
When lining up as a wing-back, usually on the right-hand side, Diatta has played 1426 minutes in 16 matches. Therefore, when analysing outputs we must factor in that Diatta has played 400 more minutes as a wing-back than as a winger. In terms of total actions, we see that Diatta is far more involved in the game as a wing-back than as a winger, with 74 total actions averaged per 90. His success rate is 59%, very similar to his success percentage as a winger. The similarity in accuracy suggests there is not much difference in where he is taking his shots as a winger than as a wing-back.
He has as many assists in all competitions as wing-back, but has contributed more goals with five. This increase in goals may be down to the fact that Diatta is averaging 0.5 more shots per 90 as a wing-back than as a winger, with around 39% accuracy. His xG is slightly higher as a wing-back, around 0.13. Therefore, when it comes to shooting, there is a marginal difference in how effective he is as a wing-back compared to as a winger. If we also account for an increase in minutes in this position, we can say it is reasonably similar.
We do witness an increase in crossing for Diatta when he is a wing-back, with an average of 3.2 per 90. The accuracy also increases to 31%, which is a reasonably large improvement. This suggests that Diatta may prefer to cross from deeper, or even that he is afforded more space to deliver when he operates as a wing-back.
However, even as a wing-back Diatta pushes high into the opposition half. Here, in the derby against Cercle Brugge, when the home side win the ball back Diatta is already on the edge of the box following the break down of a previous attack. His pace, alongside the dominance of Brugge, means he can afford to push up as he knows he has the ability to get back. Diatta has a choice, either cut inside on to his left or go on the outside where there is more space.
Again, the decision making is the same as before. Instead of going on the outside, where there is greater space, the Senegalese cuts inside and unleashes a powerful strike into the corner. Defenders may well become wise to Diatta’s preference to cut inside and begin to force him on the outside. In order to counter this, being able to effectively cut inside and go on the outside will keep the defenders guessing.
What is clear; the Diatta that operates as a wing-back for Brugge is just as effective as the Diatta playing as a winger. There is no dramatic drop off in effectiveness in either position, especially when you factor in the number of minutes played with the slight increase in certain statistics as a wing-back.
Teams looking to sign Diatta should be comfortable knowing that they can put him either in a more advanced winger role or as a wing-back and still get the same attacking effectiveness out of the Senegalese. As a player, Diatta has shown that perhaps he needs to improve his decision making, especially when it comes to deciding to cross or shoot after dribbling. This could be helped by working on his crossing accuracy, as this may well encourage him to cross more.
He is certainly an exciting prospect, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few clubs interested in him as one of the many Brugge players who will be the subject of transfer speculation from major European clubs.