At 21 years of age, Boubacar Kamara has established himself as the holding midfielder in the Olympique de Marseille midfield, making 36 appearances in all competitions under the previous coach André Villas-Boas and current coach Jorge Sampaoli.
Since joining the Marseille youth set-up in 2015, his development at centre-back and now at defensive midfield has come on leaps and bounds. His performances in the latter position have attracted attention from major clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC.
Marseille’s season has not panned as out hoped for after finishing 2nd last season to the champions Paris Saint-Germain in a season stopped prematurely by the COVID-19 pandemic. This season they have been battling for 5th position wuth Lens, Rennes and Montpellier. If Les Phocéens do fail to clinch a European spot, Kamara could be available for a knock-off price
Boubacar Kamara: The eye test
- Approach to tackling
- Timing of last-ditch challenges
- Defending one-on-one out wide
- Good first touch underpins press resistance
- Struggles to deal with quicker opponents
- Patrolling spaces
One of Kamara’s most notable struggles is his inability to operate in big spaces, both in and out of possession. When defending central areas, he positions himself too square to the ball and becomes stranded in space in the middle of the pitch.
Remove the ambiguity of his role, however, and suddenly you start to see the best of the youngster. This is most evident when pressing up from the back, where he uses a low and crouched body stance that keeps a side-on perspective, blocking progression anywhere on the pitch.
His split-second side-to-side shifting, balanced risk and aggression approach, physicality, the use of his long legs to get in-between and around opponents, and even his surprising dominant aerial ability, all combine to make him an excellent defensive destroyer.
Additionally, his awareness and reading of situations due to his frequent scanning – which could still improve – enables him to deduce whether he should step onto an opponent or lay off them.
Maintaining the same body stance has also helped him defend wide one-on-one duels. The Marseille man can defend seamlessly on either side, getting across his man well using his weaker side to block off opponents.
How Chelsea can improve Kamara
It is against the better, trickier wide players he struggles; those players just have the edge in reaction speed to escape his clutches. Were it not for his knack of making clean challenges from behind, even in the riskiest areas, he might find himself in trouble more often.
Kamara also struggles when rushing to retreat. He does not assume his ideal body stance soon enough to prevent an easy turn in the opposite direction, so is often left stuck in the mud.
In possession, Kamara is even more conscious of his surroundings, as he scans numerous times before and after receiving. His close control ensures he can evade pressure in almost any situation, allowing him to thrive in high pressure environments.
This is compounded by his immaculate first touch, use of shielding and, specifically, his drag-backs that help him to resist pressure. Even more impressive is his intelligence in knowing where to play the pass following these evasions of pressure.
Kamara begins to struggle when handed too much responsibility. In these situations, he feels the need to continue gradually moving the ball forwards. Whilst this shows positive intent, it can massively hinder progression.
His first move forward eliminates playing across to his defensive partner, whilst his continued dribbling encourages the opposition to become more compact around the ball. The issue then is that he does not relieve the pressure, but instead lays it off short for a player whose angles are limited.
The centre-back does have the capacity to execute very precise long balls, but his occasionally skewed vision means he often only plays straight long balls, which is a much harder pass to execute.
One only sees the best of his decision-making when he is under duress. And even Kamara realises this disparity in ability as he will always play it short if there is a team-mate nearby.
Kamara has been on the radar of Chelsea FC, with the club linked with the young Frenchman. There is clear evidence of the vast amounts of talent Kamara has, but the main question will be whether he has what it takes to make the step up to play in the Premier League.
His aerial prowess at defensive midfield mixed in with his passing and dribbling ability with the ball alongside his defensive skill out of possession makes him one of the most well-rounded players in Ligue 1 this season.
With his current contract running until 2022, there will be no shortage of interest in the 21-year-old come this summer. There are evidently areas to his game where improvements will be seen over the remaining games of the season and in the forthcoming years, whether it be at Marseille or elsewhere.
Written by Enoch Eicher (@enoch_eicher)
Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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