Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa arrived at Fulham from Marseille in 2018 and never really settled at the club. From being played out of position to never having a decent run of games, Anguissa was purported as ‘not being enough’ and not worth the 25 million Euros Fulham paid for him.
However, at Villarreal, Anguissa has settled nicely into the La Liga and warmed the hearts of the Villarreal fans. Anguissa, unlike his days at Fulham, has been given a specific role which has brought out good performances in him. The 24-year old Cameroonian has been a starter which has given the energetic midfielder a much-needed boost in confidence coming from an underwhelming spell in England.
In this tactical analysis, I will take a look at Anguissa’s attributes and how he fits into Villarreal’s tactics.
Player overview and role
Anguissa is an energetic midfielder who is described by some as a pressing machine. With his physique, he’s able to carry out his defensive duties with greater ease.
Apart from his defensive abilities, Anguissa is also good on the ball as he has the ability to retain possession using his standout dribbling ability and his body size in shielding the ball. Also, he’s able to carry to the ball through certain distances.
Calleja mostly employs a 4-1-4-1 system which at times switches to a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. Anguissa plays the position of a right-sided central midfielder in the 4-1-4-1 system, or in the double pivot of the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Anguissa is tasked with the job of a box-to-box midfielder in Calleja’s team. He’s allowed to move forward and join in the attacks, either counterattacks or settled shape attacks while also being tasked with defensive responsibilities most around the right-sided zones of the pitch.
Technicality and attacking ability
Ball retention and ball progression are the main strengths of the 24-year-old’s on-the-ball ability. Anguissa combines his quick feet, dribbling skills, and physicality which allows him to retain possession in tight spaces or move out of tight spaces. Coupled with his athleticism, this gives him the ability to move the ball and glide past opposition players.
In the build-up, Anguissa is able to receive the ball as he is comfortable in retaining possession and beating his marker in any advent of pressure. In high-pressure games, he can help his team soak in pressure as he can retain possession under pressure.
Here, Anguissa receives the ball in the right half-space from the goalkeeper. Due to the previous scan of his environment, he’s able to know the distance between himself and the marker which allows him to turn with the ball without much fear of pressure.
Anguissa scans and notices no real viable option and decides the take the player on his own. The 24-year-old is able to beat his marker with a sidestep move and drive the ball away from his marker while using his enormous size to protect the ball.
In progressions, he can be used as a route as he’s able to carry the ball for long distances and sometimes affect play in the final third. In this image above, he maintains possession with a piece of fine trickery after receiving a poor pass from an off-balance teammate. He then progresses play by carrying the ball upfield.
In settled shape attacks, due to his technicality, he can be positioned between the lines as he can receive the ball to feet in a fairly comfortable manner. Apart from this, Anguissa agility gives him a decent turn radius which makes it easy to receive the ball on the half-turn.
In this image above, he receives a pass on the half-turn in between the lines. As the play progresses, he dribbles away from the tight situation.
Apart from this, Anguissa also offers offensive movements during settled shapes and transitions. In certain scenarios, Anguissa makes runs in behind along the opposition channels. Other times, they could be counterattacking runs and deep runs into the box which allows him to be at the end of crosses.
Here, Villarreal is on a counterattack with the ball-carrier having one passing option in a congested space. Anguissa reads the situation and accelerates to attack the space in behind in order to have another passing option to the ball-carrier. As the play progresses, he receives a through pass from the ball-carrier and shows his finishing ability as he dribbles the backtracking opponent and places a bottom-corner finish.
Defensive roles and attributes
As an energetic and often referred to as a pressing machine, Anguissa is able to be utilised defensively. He has the ability to recover possession from all kinds of pressures. Anguissa averages a 5.5 counter-pressing recoveries per 90. 203 recoveries are counter presses from a total of 302 recoveries which is roughly about 53% of Anguissa’s recoveries.
Apart from this Anguissa is also able to win duels, make tackles due to his physique, and ultimately position himself in order to block passing lanes and space.
In a settled defensive shape, Villarreal’s aim is to block progression route by sitting in their mid-block. Firstly, they aim to central lanes by remaining compact in central areas. In wide areas, they shuttle their block across the ball-near areas to protect the half-spaces and wide areas. This is where Anguissa comes in. The 24-year-old Cameroonian aims to block the half-spaces and wide zone, this is why his heatmap is concentrated around the right half-space and right-wing as it is shown earlier in this scout report.
Here, Anguissa stays on Modrić as he prevents the ball-carrier from making a pass to Modric. Due to Villarreal’s compact shape, Carvajal has no proper passing options and concedes the position for Real Madrid as he tries to make a risky pass.
Anguissa blocks the spaces around the half-spaces and passes to the between-the-lines player who positions himself in the half-space. In protecting the wide areas and half-spaces, Anguissa likes to close down players who position themselves on the touchline. This makes it easier for him to stop an attack or recover possession as the ball-carrier has a limited field-of-view, space, time, and decision-making options.
Here, Anguissa blocks the half-space passing lane to Hazard as he firstly looks over his shoulder to check for Hazard’s positioning. This allows him to position well in order to intercept any pass towards Hazard. The Real Madrid captain, Ramos, sees the difficult situation and hesitates to make a pass at first. But he then proceeds to make a risky progressive pass which Anguissa intercepts with great ease.
In inhibiting teams from playing out the back, he recovers possession as he seeks to engage in the high press as the second line of pressure. Anguissa recovers or stops the opponent playing out from the back either to pressure regains, aerial duels, second balls, or defensive duels. Also, he shows his ability to read the game which gives him good positioning and subsequently aids him in recovering the ball effectively.
Here, Anguissa shows his spatial awareness: Villarreal engages in a narrow press with the aim of impeding central progression. Anguissa positioned in the half-space anticipates a pass towards the opposition #6. As the pass comes in, he initiates his press and recovers the ball from the Eibar player.
In defending transitions, for ball-near transitions, Anguissa prefers to protect the central areas/half-spaces as he counter-presses and guides the transition towards the flank where he makes a more timely press as the ball-carrier has limited time and space.
Here, he tracks down the ball-carrier as he moves towards the wing zone. Anguissa tracks back to defend the central areas/half-spaces and add more numbers in defence in order to counter the potential numerical advantage in the half-space zone.
For ball-far transitions, Anguissa tracks back to protect the central zone 14 area. This allows him to add himself as an extra body in defence. In certain occasions, it allows Anguissa to deal with crosses as he uses his height advantage.
All in all, Anguissa utilises his engine-like abilities and intensity to delay transitions and ultimately win back possession using counter presses. He uses his positional awareness, spatial awareness, and athleticism to block passing lane and spaces.
Issues and areas of improvements
In this scout report, we have been able to show Anguissa’s dribbling ability as uses it to retain the ball. However, in this course of doing things, Anguissa tends to take heavy touches which make him susceptible to losing possession. Although he’s able to recover using his long legs and ball skills, more often than not it would lead to loss of possession that could also lead to dangerous transitions.
Here, he makes a poor touch which goes behind his body. He scrambles back to recover the ball and he does it due to his athleticism.
Another way he loses possession is the decisions he tends to make while trying to retain the ball or during his ball-carrying moments. Anguissa tends to do too much as he overly-dribbles rather than make a simple pass or try to make that extra yard during a ball carry when a simple combination play would have helped.
Here, after successfully carrying the ball and attacking the space, he finally loses it. Anguissa tries to make one more dribble which is highly unlikely as he’s closed down from almost every angle. However, there’s a passing route to Gerard Moreno and Santi Carzola which Anguissa ignores.
Although his passing is decent, improving on the final ball could give him an edge against other midfielders. His final ball could give him another dynamic to his creativity other than ball-carrying and trickery.
This analysis highlights the Cameroonian’s abilities and the role he thrives in during his loan spell at Villareal. The doubts about his ability and impact are now diminished as he puts up exemplary performances which could raise money for the club if they decided to sell.
Irrespective of the transfer circumstance next season, I believe Anguissa should choose a manager that can help him continue his development by putting him in a position and system that fits his attributes.