In this scout report, we had an eye on the freshly-minted German national player Ridle Baku. We show in this analysis, why the 22-years-old right full-back convinces at his new club VFL Wolfsburg. The actual central midfielder fits in Wolfsburg’s tactics thanks to his variability. The right-footed player is present in the last third and stabilises the defence, too. We provide you in this tactical analysis with his strengths and where he can improve.
The former Mainz player caught attention from international and Bundesliga top clubs last season. PSG and Bayern contacted Mainz for the youngster, but he decided to go to the wolves. He cost Wolfsburg EUR 10 million. Due to the injuries of his colleagues Kevin Mbabu and William, Baku had to help out as a right full-back. He says about himself, that he prefers to play as a box-to-box midfielder.
Filling the role of the right full-back
Baku is 176cm tall and weighs 72kg. Since he arrived at VFL Wolfsburg, he played 89% of all possible minutes. Last season, he stood on the pitch for Mainz over 2400 minutes. So, he already gained some experience in Bundesliga.
His new coach Oliver Glasner backs on a back-four in all of his formations. Most likely, Wolfsburg appears with a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation. They are in sixth place. Wolfsburg haven’t lost a match in this season so far. While they scored seven times in seven matches, the defence conceded just five goals. They are the second-best defence in Bundesliga.
Glasner wants his full-backs to do a run-heavy job. They should always be behind the ball after the possession switched. Moreover, they should resuscitate the offence with pacey runs down the sideline. The tactical analysis below shows Baku`s heat map.
Baku is present at the whole sideline. He made deep runs in both directions. Besides, he plays in the half-spaces between the boxes to translate the game between defence and offence. Moreover, he fulfilled Glasner’s run-heavy demans. The youngster had 8.06 (66.67% success, 14. in Bundesliga) defensive duels and 5.97 (52.5% success, 26.) offensive duels per match. These numbers speak for his workload. It is notable, that he wins more than the half of his duels overall.
The situation above shows Baku’s tactical behaviour as a right full-back. Wolfsburg played against Hoffenheim. Munas Dabbur, who had possession, uses the ball well. He is right-footed. You can see how Baku looked for the closed distance to Dabbur’s strong foot. Also, the German closed the space to the centre. He offered the alley down the sideline to Dabbur. Therefore Baku reduced the speed of Dabbur, so his teammate could help him to double up on Dabbour. Baku demonstrated that he has the basics to play as a right full-back.
Furthermore, Baku scored once and assisted one goal. A short reminder: Wolfsburg scored just seven goals so far. He likes to introduce himself to the offence play. Below is a map which shows Baku’s progressive passes and runs.
The closer Baku had an action to the opponent goal, the more he played passes into the centre. Both full-backs of Wolfsburg played 21 crosses this season. This is more than twice as that of the next player. A piece of evidence for Baku’s role in the offence. Baku played 3.88 (13.) crosses per 90 minutes. He demonstrated thereby accuracy of 15.38%. Good crossers have values in the area of 30%. On the other hand, his progressive runs stood more vertical to tie out the opponent defences. So he does not insert into the penalty area if the ball is at the other wing.
Thanks to his strength in passing, Baku is heavily involved in Wolfsburg’s offensive tactics. Generally, the traditional playmaker, the number 10, is dying out, as more attractive the build-up from the half-spaces get. These are more difficult to defend. More and more, full-backs take part in the organised build-up in an attack.
In Wolfsburg build-up from their third, Baku passed at most to their target man Wout Weghorst. In total, the German passes 41.34 per 90 minutes the ball. He had an accuracy of 71.12%. This value is comparable to playmakers’ values. Below is a situation against Hertha BSC depicted. Baku kept the ball at his feet in the right half-space. He introduced the attack.
At first glance, the pass to the wing seems to be the better option than through the middle. Baku had to pass between two defenders. The pass to the side would just pass one opponent. Additionally, the distance was long for both passes. This made the pass more difficult. But Baku is confident in playing such progressive passes. His average passing length is 21.09 metres, which is quite long. Besides, Baku passed 12.09 times per 90 minutes progressively. This is the seventh most value in Bundesliga. Also, the youngster had 1.34 deep completions per match (6.).
Thanks to Baku’s pass into the centre, Hertha’s left full-back had to insert and attack the receiving player. This movement increased the space on the right-wing for Wolfsburg’s winger. Baku made a deep run behind the back of the winger. The winger inserted after he received the ball. The ball went back to Baku, who played a cross afterwards. This action was an indirect one-two, as Baku introduced the attack and played the cross at the end.
Moreover, Baku is talented with the ball at his feet. He dribbled 2.99 (21.) per match and is successful in 65% of these duels. Against centre-backs, Baku is especially effective. With his 176cm, his is quick and agile against the big centre-backs. Paired with his touch, Baku won 88.9% of his dribbles in the last third against centre-backs! This is something, he should gain more from.
The next tactical analysis shows another situation against Hertha BSC. Baku was on the right-wing in the middle of Hertha’s half.
As said before, Weghorst is the absolute target man in Wolfsburg’s offensive tactics. They aim to set Weghorst in action in and around the penalty area. Baku demonstrated his ability, as he recognised the gap between Hertha’s lines. Hertha’s defensive midfield was unorganised. As a consequence, zone 14 was unmarked. Baku anticipated Weghorst’s route correctly and passed the ball not before the goal, but into zone 14. Baku passed it so that Weghorst could control it better. He finished it afterwards.
This picture above shows Wolfsburg playing against Bielefeld. Baku was set as the right full-back again. This time, the attack rolled over the left side. Baku moved into the centre to compress it against counter-attacks. Then he anticipated his opportunity as Bielefeld stood very deep. Baku read their tactics and moved into the left half-space to offer another passing option. Baku created a numerical advantage on the left-wing. After he received the ball, he flanked it into the penalty box.
Tactical analysis of his pressing
Wolfsburg lives on quick ball wins. Then the opponent is unorganised, and they can exploit spaces. Therefore, you need physical players on the wing. Alphonso Davies from Bayern Munich is the prime example. He had 6.03 counter-pressing recoveries per match. Baku had already 4.18 counter-pressing recoveries this season. All in all, Baku had 8.96 recoveries, Davies had 11.6 per 90 minutes. This comparison shows Baku’s ability to counter-press. In the situation below, Baku failed a cross. Bielefeld won the possession and built-up.
Baku was already on his way back to the last line. He ran diagonally into the centre to compress the centre first. Then Bielefeld passed the ball back to the wing, where it came from. A typical pressing signal. Wolfsburg should not be in a numerical disadvantage here. And they were not in a numerical disadvantage. Baku turned around and pressed the receiving opponent instantly.
In the match against Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg played a midfield-pressing system. Hoffenheim had possession on the left-wing. You can see that Baku covered an opponent. The rest of the team shifted towards the side, where the ball has been. Hoffenheim tried to play a crossfield pass. As the ball was in the air, Baku left his marked opponent and pressed the receiving opponent. He was quick enough to disturb the Hoffenheim man that he had to rebuild their game over the centre-backs. Baku proved his sense for pressing signals.
In the situation above against Hertha, Wolfsburg had possession. They played a long ball to Weghorst, who should control the ball. But the Dutch player lost the header. The ball jumped into free space. Baku inserted into the centre before the long ball, to suppress a counter-attack. This time, Baku pressed on the second ball. His direct opponent had a smaller distance to bridge, but Baku accelerated faster. Furthermore, he anticipated that ball and had a mental advantage. Baku won the ball and played a through ball.
Over-motivated in speculations
Baku is a very quick player. Also, he has the background of a box-to-box midfielder. So, he is normally used to have the back four behind him. Besides, he is motivated to cement his permanent place in Glasner’s starting XI. Glasner set on pressing situations. These could all be reasons, why Baku is sometimes over-motivated in pressing. Sometimes, he gives a hostage to fortune too much. An example shows the analysis below.
Hoffenheim created some passes around the halfway-line. They passed into the left half-space. The player was attacked by two Wolfsburg players. As a consequence, he did not have much time to play the next pass. So, Baku speculated on a pass to the left-winger. He covered him and ran therefore out of the centre. A mistake, as Dabbur started into this space and got a through ball. Baku was simply outplayed due to his wrong movement.
Here is another situation were Baku speculated too much. Wolfsburg pressed Hertha faltering in Hertha’s third. It came to a long, flat ball to the strikers. Baku anticipated this pass and tried to intercept it. He banked on his pace as he revolved his opponent. Unfortunately, he misestimated and did not intercept the ball. He outplayed himself again and Wolfsburg ran into a counter. Baku should learn to temper his greed for the ball a bit. He should control the risk more.
Ridle Baku is a rising star in Bundesliga. He made the first step and became a regular starter- also after his trade to Wolfsburg. The 22-years-old convinces with pace, agility, ball control and variability. He understands how to play as a midfielder and as a full-back. This is the kind of players, Jogi Löw highly rates. Baku acts as a physical player, who can play a solid counter-pressing. Moreover, he can structure an attack for his team.
This scout report shows you that he has to assess situations better. Not every “can” is a “must”. Lastly, he is a good dribbler. So, Baku can be more presentive in the opponent penalty area like Philipp Max or Achraf Hakimi.