In this scout report, we look at the 19-year-old Amadou Onana. Onana currently plays his first career at a senior level at Hamburger SV as a central midfielder. Hamburg are seen by many as the most likely team to be promoted from 2. Bundesliga. The Belgium U19 national player who can also play at centre-back is also two-footed. In this tactical analysis, we provide you with the strengths and weakness of the former Hoffenheim man. We also go into detail about Onana’s tactics as a deep pivot in this analysis. Furthermore, we concentrated on his defensive behaviour as a major aspect of his play.
Amadou Onana’s build-up play
Onana has risen to prominence in an unorthodox manner. Instead of hoping to play a few minutes in the Bundesliga against Dortmund or Bayern, he stepped back into the 2. Bundesliga. In the second division, he was able to gain more experience as he played five out of six games this season and developed into the deciding pivot in Hamburg.
His coach Daniel Thioune started with various formations, switching between four different systems regularly. But in all tactics, Onana was set as the build-up player in the centre. Onana demonstrated coolness and composure as the Belgium youngster is the most accurate passer of Hamburg’s midfielders (87.5% accuracy) in their own third. This value demonstrates his statement in the team- only the centre-back Stephan Ambrosius passes more accurately (92%). However, Onana plays more vertical and diagonal passes than Ambrosius.
Moreover, Onana accepted more responsibility. He played 40.89 passes per game, which is the 15th most in the league. The central midfielder is accurate in his passing (87.5% accuracy), which indicates good technique and superb overview. The image below shows Hamburg’s build-up through Onana when played against the relegated SC Paderborn. Paderborn plays an aggressive high pressing so Onana needed to be quick and accurate in his actions.
In this game, Hamburg played with three defenders while Paderborn pressed with three strikers so there was a clear numerical advantage for Hamburg. Paderborn’s central midfielder pushed up high to close the distance to the first line. Onana moved into the triangle between the two strikers and the central midfielder, and offered a passing option to Ambrosius.
As Onana got the pass, Paderborn pressed him intensively within the triangle. Hamburg’s second central midfielder, Klaus Gjasula, was already marked. Onana showed in this situation his sensible understanding of spaces and tactics. At first, he got an overview of the situation, before he received the ball. He anticipated that he did not have much time to open his body position – a dribble would have been very risky against three opponents. Besides, passes to Ambrosius or Gjasula would have set both enormously under pressure. So Onana instead opened quickly and shifted the ball to the right wing.
In the still above, Hamburg played against the promoted Würzburg where the underdogs played with a very deep formation. This gave Hamburg time and room to organise their build-up. Onana offered a passing option as he ran into the passing alley between the two opponents where the angle of his body was parallel to the sideline. Now he was able to control the ball with his left foot as he switched his body position towards the opponent goal and could then play vertically.
If you play against deep standing teams, you have to accelerate your build-up play. Onana did not dribble in this situation – instead, he played a diagonal long ball onto the left wing. You can see there is no danger proceeding from Würzburg because Onana played this pass so quick and accurate as he must have noticed this opportunity before he received the pass. This is indicative of his overview.
In the situation above, Hamburg played against FC Sankt Pauli. Pauli employed a similar approach to Paderborn – they pressed against Hamburg and compressed the central areas. Onana was the only pivot in this build-up. He moved again into the room between four opponents. If Hamburg could generate passes from the centre, they could exploit Pauli’s numerical disadvantage in the wings afterwards so Onana’s positional play was key to crack Pauli’s defensive block.
In this situation, Onana did not have any vertical passing options, so he dribbled a few metres instead whereby he tied among others as well as Pauli’s striker, buying some time for his centre-back. Onana passed him the ball afterwards.
Carrying the ball into the final third
Onana is the constructor in Hamburg’s build-up. But Onana is also pacey and likes to dribble deep into the opponent’s half and does it if someone is backing him in the central midfield.
In the situation below, Würzburg was with seven players behind the ball. Hamburg attacked with four players and Onana. Onana anticipated the distance between Würzburg’s lines as Würzburg’s midfield line did not have any tiering.
He feinted one and created therefore a numerical advantage. Onana is strong in dribbles, with a success rate of 88.5%. This is an astonishing figure, especially for such a big player. Looking at the image above, the midfield line was outnumbered. Onana played a one-two, which let a centre-back push out of his line. Space behind this centre-back was created and after Onana got the ball back, he could play a trough ball to Simon Terodde into the penalty area.
The next image shows a similar situation. Würzburg’s midfield was not tiered again. Also, the distance between the lines was too big. Onana came for the ball in his half and after he opened, Onana realised that Würzburg were unorganised again. He overran the midfield line thanks to his pace.
Now he was in the centre and attacked the last line. Terodde crossed Onana’s route so he exploited the space that Terodde created. Besides, Onana crossed the route of his opponent. The Belgian talent waited until Terodde was between the centre-backs, and he then passed a through ball again.
Sometimes Onana bridged the transition between defence and offence. The two-footed midfielder can play long balls. Onana demonstrated an accuracy of 93.3% in 30–40 metre balls and 83.3% for 40m+ balls. So his variability makes him difficult to defend as he is the puppet master in Hamburg’s transition play. He also had 1.37 deep completions per game, which is the 16th most in the league.
In the match against Sankt Pauli, Hamburg pushed up high in the last minutes where they wanted to score the equaliser. Onana acted as the only pivot. He received a pass to build-up the attack and then swung with the ball with his body and did not control it. Therefore, he accelerated the game. Afterwards, he feinted the pass to the other wing, where his teammate was clearly open. But he chipped the ball into the centre, which was an element of surprise. Pauli shifted a bit to Hamburg’s right wing. Onana’s pass was well-timed and ended up as a pre-assist.
Amadou Onana’s defensive behaviour
We pointed out that Onana is a comfortable passer but it’s worth noting that he is also a solid defensive player. He is convincing with great positional play and defending technique. Onana won 63.33% of his defensive duels and jousted 6.85 duels per game (25). He benefited especially from his positional play. The young central midfielder got possession after 11.19 recoveries per game (10) and had 7.77 counter-pressing recoveries (8.). In the match against Sankt Pauli, Onana showed an example of how he can exploit his intelligence for defensive constructions. Hamburg’s opponent just won possession and wanted to bridge the midfield.
The ball was in the left half-space, while Onana played in the centre. Pauli’s midfielder was not attacked as Hamburg were in the backwards motion. Onana left his position to run a route in a curved form to the left half-space. He covered two opponents with this route, as you can see in the tactical analysis above. Moreover, Onana closed the distance to the carrying opponent. Onana slowed down Pauli’s attack, which gave some time to his teammates to organise. Furthermore, Onana could press the opponent.
A few minutes earlier, there was a similar situation. Hamburg played here in a 4-1-4-1 formation where Onana again acted as the pivot. He left his position in the centre to compress spaces on the left wing, where the ball was. Onana proceeded cautiously because behind his back, he created a hole. Therefore, he needed to run intelligently to cover as much room as possible in his back in zone 14. He covered an opponent in this zone thanks to his curved run. Furthermore, Onana cut off the run route of the ball-carrying opponent and stole the ball.
Another strength of Onana’s is his body. He is very tall so he can do big sliding tackles. But a sliding tackle is the last straw to grasp for. If you did not win a defensive duel through a sliding tackle, you are outplayed. Staying on your feet allows for follow-up actions. Onana won 27 duels in the own third, but made only four sliding tackles. They were all outside of the penalty area, which is indicative of Onana’s intelligence.
In the image above, you can see how Onana was feinted out. He is a few steps behind his opponent but the ball was not in a dangerous situation for a set-piece. As a consequence, Onana did a sliding tackle. Thanks to his height, he won this duel and could toe-poke the ball to his teammate Khaled Narey.
Accuracy at headers
You can imagine that the 1.92 metre-man is strong in the air. He made 5.94 header-duels per game (10) and won 89.5% (!) in his own third. But he also has some room for improvements here. His coordination seems not so perfectly tuned at times. In the match against Pauli, Onana shows his deficits well.
The ball was up in the air. As a result, Onana had enough time to position himself for the header. He was at closest to the ball, so it was clear that he would have the header. His opponent needed to switch his direction before going into the header. This should also advantage Onana. It was clear that Onana should have been able to head it to one of his teammates but instead, he headed it with his shoulder randomly to an opponent.
In the picture above, Onana had also the best position for the header. This time, the ball was in Hamburg’s penalty area. His opponent went indeed into the aerial duel, but his goal was preferably to stress Onana. Onana coordinated his move again poorly which is why he did not clean the ball into touch, but to a corner. This was an unnecessary danger to his team.
We provided you this scout report on the young Belgium talent Amadou Onana. The 19-year-old has played a remarkable first season so far. He radiates a sense of calm, his basics store hope for a bright future. Onana is big, fast in the legs and the head, intelligent, and has a good technique. The two-footed youngster understands tactics and has a natural feeling for spaces.
On the other hand, he needs to improve his headers. Onana must exploit his height more often. Moreover, Onana should gain experience, experience, and experience. So far, his move to 2. Bundesliga seems to be the right move for the central midfielder.