Alassane Plea is a 27-year-old French attacking midfielder/striker who currently plays for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga. He joined Gladbach in the summer of 2018 from Ligue 1 side OGC Nice. Since joining Gladbach, he has played 56 matches and has started 48 of these games.
Having impressed at his four-year spell at OGC Nice, as well as being a fan-favourite since arriving at Gladbach, there is no surprise that big clubs are battling to sign the Frenchman. Manchester United and Leicester City are the two main clubs who are looking to bolster their attacking options to advance into the UEFA Champions League places. They believe Pléa is the right man for them to make this happen.
This scout report will analyse Pléa’s role within the team’s tactics during the game against FC Köln through an in-depth tactical analysis. The analysis will then progress to depicting Pléa’s individual performance traits and deliver a verdict on why he is continuing to make a name for himself at Borussia Park.
Receiving in-between the lines to create space
Pléa is a very mobile striker who likes the opportunity to roam free when his team is in possession. During the game against FC Köln, we saw him on many occasions drop deep into the midfield third from his advanced forward position. Throughout this season, Pléa has been a target of a teammate’s pass 987 times, and successfully received the ball from these passes 64.2% of the time.
Although Pléa holds strong technical traits when receiving the ball, his movement deep to receive is very effective and is allowing his teammates to exploit space further in the attacking half.
In this first example, very early on in the game, we see Pléa receiving a forward pass in between the lines. As the Gladbach central midfielder looks to progress the ball forward, Pléa drops in centrally in-between the opposition’s midfield and defensive line to receive. His deep backwards movement has encouraged the FC Köln’s two central defenders to become narrow and compact, gifting Pléa with the opportunity to exploit the vacated half-spaces.
Although Pléa does like to receive in-between the lines, his body position could be a factor which deters his team from capitalising on the opposition’s poor defensive structure. When he receives, his body position should be more side-on to enable him to continue to transition the ball forward. With his body position closed, as seen in the image above, he will need to take more touches to orientate himself forward, giving the opposition defenders a chance to get back into position.
Not only did Pléa drop deep in-between the defensive and midfield line, but he also dropped back even further to receive a pass from his teammates. This movement created space in advanced positions on the pitch for his teammates or himself to carry the ball forwards.
In the second half, Pléa vacated his striker’s position to drop deep to receive deep in the midfield third, in-between the opposition’s midfield and forward line. This movement created space for him to either dribble the ball forwards, or opportunities for him to produce split passes into the space that he vacated.
Not only did this movement provide him with more than one option when gaining possession, but it also gave him the choice to play a ball over the top of the opposition’s defensive line. As Gladbach are a team who like to retain the ball to build, Pléa’s role allows the ball to be progressed into the space he creates.
This season, Pléa has made 390 touches in the midfield third and 437 in the attacking third respectively. He has only made 55 touches in the defensive third this season, which suggests his main passages of play are in more advanced positions.
As Gladbach look to progress the ball into the opposition’s half, Pléa becomes a very important part of this transition. Not only does he look to receive in-between the lines, but his deep position in the centre of the pitch creates space for Gladbach’s wide players to drop in and receive.
As Gladbach’s left-back Wednt dribbles the ball forwards, looking to advance into the oppositions half, this is Pléa’s trigger to then drop deep to receive. As we see above, Gladbach advance into the final third by producing an ‘Up, Back, Through’ passage of play that Pléa is the instigator of.
As Oscar Wendt plays the ball up to Pléa, he receives and plays a pass back to the waiting Gladbach midfielder Tobias Strobl. Once Strobl receives the ball, he then plays a through ball into the space that Pléa has created by his deep movement. This allows Breel Embolo to run onto the ball and exploit the space in the attacking third created by Pléa’s movement.
Pléa is also involved in the build-up from set-pieces. When Gladbach have a throw-in, Pléa finds himself dropping in the pocket of space to receive. This movement gives him many different choices to create attacking overloads.
In the image above, Gladbach have a throw-in on the left-hand side and Pléa is seen to drop into the space to receive. Upon receiving, he has the option to play the ball back from where it came from, or turn and advance the ball into the space he has created. Pléa is a driver of Gladbach’s in-possession tactics when they are trying to advance into the final third.
When he does drop to receive, he entices the opposition defender to make a decision to follow him or to stay in his position. If the defender follows Pléa, he leaves a large space for Gladbach to exploit. If the defender stays in his position and doesn’t follow Pléa, then he has the freedom to turn with the ball and carry the ball forward.
As Pléa drops in to receive, he drags the FC Köln central defender, Toni Leistner, with him, opening up a large space for Embolo and Marcus Thuram to enter to receive. This is Pléa’s role within the Gladbach side when they are in possession of the ball.
Since Pléa has only attempted 71 dribbles this season with 45 being successful, there is a stronger argument to suggest that his role within the team is to try and create space in advanced areas before gaining the ball to allow other Gladbach players to exploit it.
Gladbach were successful in scoring their second goal in the game against FC Köln and Pléa was heavily involved in the build-up. The move started when Pléa dropped deep and picked up a forward pass from the midfield third. Leistner, the FC Köln central defender, decided to follow Pléa, but then decided quickly that this was the wrong decision.
As Leistner tried to retract his run by running backwards, Pléa had already turned and created a 2v1 situation in the right half-space. His movement to draw the opposition defender out of position to create the space to play the forward pass gifted Gladbach with a goal scoring chance which led to them scoring their second goal.
This season, Pléa has a 70.5% pass completion rate, having made 388 successful passes out of a total of 550. He has attempted 401 medium passes, with 311 of these being successful, gaining a 77.6% medium pass completion rate.
He has shown how he fits into the attacking tactics of the team and how their main passage of play in the advanced areas of the pitch heavily involves him. With his ability to pass accurately in key areas of the pitch, it is no wonder that Gladbach are currently sitting 4th in the Bundesliga.
Clever off the ball movements
Pléa has started 20 out of the 22 games Gladbach have played this season. One could argue that he is one of the most important players within the side and that he has contributed massively to their current form this season. When Gladbach are in the final third, Pléa is one of the few players who perform clever movements along the opposition’s defensive line to get behind the last line of defence.
In this example, Thuram has the ball in the central part of the attacking third. We can see Pléa is the furthest forward player for Gladbach and is starting to make a run across the FC Köln defender into the box. This run in-between the two opposition central defenders will enable Thuram to play the ball over the top into the box.
Pléa’s movement in-between the two defenders means that once the ball is played over, he has the advantage due to the defenders’ starting point and body positions. Even though Pléa is seen to be on the wrong side of the defender, his fast pace over the first five yards will allow him to gain the advantage over the opposition’s defenders.
Pléa also shows that he can identify the space to run into when his teammates are looking to progress the ball into the opposition’s penalty area. Gladbach are a team who work the ball up the pitch by forcing opposition players out of position to create the space in-behind. Pléa is a player who takes full advantage of this space when his team are in the final third.
Shortly after half-time, Gladbach’s Kramer had the ball in the FC Köln half and was looking at ways to create a goal-scoring opportunity. We again see Pléa moving diagonally past the last opposition defender to get into the space in behind.
Once Gladbach are in these positions, the player with the ball waits for the run of Pléa into the box. By waiting, this drags the opposition’s defender out of position, as they are attracted towards the ball. Once the defender makes this movement, this is Pléa’s trigger to start his forward run, and the trigger for the Gladbach player with the ball to execute the next pass.
As well as making clever runs across the defenders, Pléa also times his run when a through ball is made, which gives him chances to perform a shot at goal.
In this example, we see Thuram advancing forward with the ball. The opposition’s backline is compact and narrow, which means Gladbach need to find a way to advance through this line. Although Thuram has lots of space in front of him to advance with the ball, the focus should be on Pléa and his clever off the ball movement.
Pléa can be seen to be in a fantastic position in-between the two central FC Köln defenders. This makes it very hard for them to track his run and decide whether to follow him or to stay compact and in their structured defensive line.
When Thuram is about to pass the ball forward, the timing of the run from Pléa enables him to receive the ball in the advanced half-space. His timing of the run is so important that it allows him to advance Gladbach into the opposition’s penalty area.
If Pléa was too close to the opposition defender, then they could block his forward run and Gladbach would lose possession. The timing of his run and clever forward movement across the backline shows us what a clever off the ball striker he can be.
Bravery in-possession to create shooting opportunities
A by-product of Pléa’s clever off the ball movement is his ability to create shooting opportunities and his bravery when doing so. There were many occasions during the game against FC Köln where he managed to receive the ball in dangerous areas due to his clever movements in behind.
This season, Pléa has performed 60 shots, 27 of which have been on target, meaning his overall shooting accuracy is 45%. However, although he could massively improve in this area, his bravery beforehand to create the opportunity to deploy a shot is what makes him stand out.
Early in the first half Pléa’s bravery when in-possession to create a shooting opportunity was clearly visible. He picked the ball up in the left half-space and turned, which allowed him to exploit the space in front of him. As this action was taking place, the recovering defender put pressure on him from behind.
In front of him was the opposition’s right-back and right centre-back, obtaining a very narrow position to force Pléa to play the ball out wide. The recovering defender tried to block Pléa from cutting to the right to exploit the central space.
Pléa highlighted his bravery to stay on the ball and carry out a shot at goal, as he decided to shoot even with pressure from behind as well as in front.
In the second half, Pléa again received the ball in the final third left half-space and showed his bravery to create a shooting opportunity.
Pléa has pressure from behind, the side and in front when trying to enter the box. It takes a brave and skilful player to break out of this pressure and to still perform a shot action at goal. As he looks to break into the box, he draws the defender across who is pressing from the front. This creates space for him in the central areas of the box, as well as to the left.
His clever runs to receive in-behind means the defenders will then be out of position which allows him the space to take the ball to perform a shooting action.
When Pléa does enter the box, he shows how skilful he can be when in a 1v1 situation to create space to shoot. When Gladbach were searching for their second to try and progress further into the lead, he can be seen manipulating the defender by quickly changing direction.
His change of direction puts the defender off balance, which then creates space for him to change speed towards the left or right side. As he is 1v1, once he changes his speed to get past his defender, he has the chance to shoot unopposed.
Pléa’s movement, as analysed before, enables him to get in behind the opposition’s defence and enter the box and is one of the many clever traits he possesses. Although his shot total per 90 minutes is 3.13, he is seen to be a clever player who is very successful at linking up with his teammates and creates space in dangerous areas to advance his team into the final third.
Alassane Pléa is a clever attacking player who would be a perfect fit for top English sides. Not only does he show bravery in the attacking third with the ball, but his movement to create space for himself and teammates, as well as clever movements to receive, are the key strengths of his game.
This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report has delved into how Pléa carries out the Gladbach game plan when in-possession of the ball. His work rate off the ball to create chances for his team in advanced areas of the pitch is one of the main reasons why Gladbach are very successful going forwards.