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Two to Tango: Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche at Mumbai City FC – How Would They Work?

Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche at Mumbai City FC
Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche

The impending arrival of forwards Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche to the City of Dreams has sparked wholesale discussion around the two – whether it be playing styles, suitability in new manager Sergio Lobera’s system or simply put – how would they work together? 

Pretext time. Let’s take a look at their roles in their former clubs.

ROLE AT FORMER CLUBS


Adam Le Fondre


Ninkovic (L), Le Fondre (M) and Barbarouses (R) celebrate Sydney’s opener against Glory | Photo Credit: A-League, Getty |

Adam Le Fondre was mostly played in a two-man strike partnership at Sydney FC.

Almost always setting up in a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-2-2, he was often the striker playing on the left of the strike partnership alongside Kosta Barbarouses.

Although both had their predefined roles, they were also good at doing a multitude of roles. The pair were very involved in build-up play and most of their attacking play came through quick combination plays through the centre or low crosses from half-spaces.

Hence, they weren’t expected to score a lot of headed goals – an important point of discussion later on.

Le Fondre finished as the second highest goalscorer in the 2019-20 A-League with 21 goals coming from 28 matches.


Bartholomew Ogbeche


Bartholomew Ogbeche and Raphaël Messi Bouli | Picture: ISL Media |

Bart Ogbeche is a name that’s very popular on the Indian football circuit. And rightfully so.

A consistent goalscorer for both Northeast United and Kerala Blasters, Bart has scored 27 goals in 34 matches in two league seasons. It’s hard to argue against his quality and contribution to the ISL sides he featured for.

Like Fondre, last season, Bart was a part of a two-man strike partnership with Messi Bouli. Messi was tasked with the duty of being the target man due to his height and aerial prowess while Ogbeche played as a second striker.

This is very different to how he was used in Northeast United. He was the main man there and was more than capable of holding his own in terms of aerial strength, which shows his flexibility and the ability to play any sort of role asked of him.

PLAYING STYLE

Lobera had two strikers at FC Goa – Ferrán Corominas and Manvir Singh. The two had very distinct responsibilities and usually played as part of plan A or plan B.

Coro was the primary striker, using his excellent off the ball movement and link-up play to score goals. Manvir was often called off the bench when they failed to create chances from regular pass combination plays and low crosses.

Manvir was tasked to be the target man and also score with headers. Not surprisingly, the two goals he scored in the 2019-20 season were both headers. We’ll call this the Manvir role for reference. So, having created a baseline for the “Lobera striker” moulds, let us take a look at our two main men in question. 

First off, to figure out in which areas these strikers are similar or differ, it is essential to look at their playing style. The criteria taken for this are their playing styles/roles in the team and their involvement in build-up play. It’s also essential to create a baseline for the measure.

The first point of differentiation are their playing styles or roles. The parameters taken for classification are Dribbles p90 and Aerial Duels Won p90. This allows us to understand their roles at their respective clubs. [p90 = per 90 minutes]

For the sake of co-relation, Ogbeche (2018-19 and 2019-20) has been measured up against ISL strikers playing during the last two seasons and Adam Le Fondre has been stacked up against A-League forwards to draw a fairer comparison.


Playing Styles: A-League & ISL [2019-20] | parameters: Dribbles p90 and Aerial Duels Won p90 |
For more context on how and why strikers are classified the way they are, read this piece explaining the quadrants.

Adam Le Fondre


First, let’s take a look at Adam Le Fondre. A prolific goalscorer over the past two years at Sydney FC, he is currently one of the best strikers in Asia.

Coming to his playing style, he doesn’t dribble a lot which is very reminiscent of Coro. Like Coro, he uses off the ball movement to gain a yard on his defenders. However, he has made almost twice the number of dribbles compared to Coro.

  • Coro in 2019-20: 0.87 dribbles p90
  • Le Fondre in 2019-20: 1.43 dribbles p90
  • Manvir in 2019-20: 1.20 dribbles p90

Although a lot like Coro in terms of movement, Le Fondre does make a lot more aerial challenges than the Spaniard.

  • Coro in 2019-20: 0.4 aerial duels won p90
  • Le Fondre in 2019-20: 2.0 aerial duels won p90
  • Manvir in 2019-20: 0.9 aerial duels won p90

Bartholomew Ogbeche


Now onto Ogbeche.

Last year, Ogbeche dribbled 52% more than in the 2018-19 season.

  • 2018-19: 1.5 dribbles p90 | 2019-20: 2.29 dribbles p90

In contrast, he has won 30% less aerial duels this season than in 2018-19.

  • 2018-19: 3.1 Aerial Duels won p90 | 2019-20: 2.2 Aerial Duels won p90.

This is largely because of the role he was asked to play in the 2019-20 season. Being the “second striker” of the team behind Messi Bouli, it’s a testament to his flexibility and the ability to be a perfect striker for his manager. No wonder Lobera reportedly is a fan – any manager would be.

INVOLVEMENT IN BUILD-UP PLAY

A key aspect of Lobera’s strikers is their involvement in build-up play.

At FC Goa, when Coro dropped back to feed the ball into the feet of Hugo, Jackichand and Brandon, Manvir was instructed to get into good goal scoring positions while Coro set himself for a latent run into the box. The Spanish forward often involved his teammates in goal scoring areas and it was not distribution of the ball just to recycle possession.

The parameters taken to study “involvement in build-up play” are accurate passes in the opposition half and key passes (the final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal without scoring) plus assists.

Looking at the graphic below, you can see the absolute contrasts in Coro’s and Manvir’s game. The sheer difference in their involvement shows their roles under Lobera. Now, let’s take a look at our two main men again.

Involvement in build-up play: A-League & ISL [2019-20]
| parameters: Key passes + assists p90 and Accurate Passing in opposition half p90 |

Adam Le Fondre


Not surprisingly, Adam Le Fondre falls in the same quadrant as Coro does in the ISL. He is highly involved in build-up play just like his strike partner Kosta Barbarouses.

Comparing Coro and Le Fondre, you can see that Coro has edged past Le Fondre by a small margin.

Coro: Key Passes+Assists: 1.77 p90 | Accurate passes in opposition half: 15.5 p90

Le Fondre: Key Passes+Assists: 1.21 p90 | Accurate passes in opposition half: 10.2 p90

Although a lot of arguments can be made about the superiority of A-League over ISL, the takeaway here is that they are both highly involved in build-up play.


Bartholomew Ogbeche


Ogbeche presents us with a rather curious case.

His last years’ performances place him in the third quadrant with his strike partner Messi B and former Goa man Manvir indicating he wasn’t too involved in build-up play. This was partly because of Kerala’s poor performances last season and partly because of the role he was asked to play.

But if we take a look at his 2018-19 season, his involvement is almost right up there with Coro this season – showing a healthy amount of involvement in build-up play.

This ties into the fact that he is capable of playing any sort of role that’s asked of him. Almost making the same number of key passes+assists and accurate passes in the 2018-19 season as Coro this season.

parameterOgbeche 2018-19Coro 2019-20
Key Passes+Assists p901.461.77
Accurate Passing in Opposition Half p9013.215.5
5.

This makes it evident that Ogbeche has what it takes to play under Lobera. He’s capable of playing the “Manvir” role, but can also play the “Coro.”

HOW WOULD THEY WORK?

To answer the question, “How would Le Fondre and Ogbeche work?”, the first thing to keep in mind is that these are two absolutely class players who are surprisingly similar in what they bring to the table.

Unlike Coro and Manvir where there was a plan A/plan B, with Le Fondre and Ogbeche, Mumbai would be getting two players capable of playing both roles. In essence, Mumbai would be getting strikers who are strong aerially and are good with the ball at their feet. This allows Lobera to have more outlets of attack to capitalise on and create a dynamic offence by using more channels of chance creation.

Sergio Lobera in his new managerial role at MCFC is getting an upgrade in virtually every aspect. By getting the pair, he’s effectively not putting all his eggs in one basket. If Le Fondre doesn’t adapt to Indian conditions, the Spanish coach would have a proven goalscorer in Ogbeche waiting in the wings.

The signing of both these forwards is a direct sign of ambition that he’s definitely not leaving anything to chance. With the probability of 2019-20 ISL Player of the Year Hugo Boumous joining the ranks from FC Goa, the Mumbai City FC frontline could very well be the most potent attack in the league in the new season.

While the likelihood of both Le Fondre and Ogbeche getting on the pitch together might not be a common sight, a visible Plan B for Mumbai would be to stick both the strikers up front while the rest of the team hurtles down Hail Mary passes in search of them.

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