Kingsley Coman – A career defining season
At the end of the 2015 summer transfer window, Bayern brought in the young French winger Kingsley Coman on a two-year loan deal from Juventus. Many fans were a bit surprised because Bayern had just bought Douglas Costa to play on the wing. Some fans argue that Coman is the newest foreign starlet blocking a talent from the youth academy. But Bayern were right, especially Michael Reschke who wanted to bring Coman to Bayern.
In his first matches he played well and was an added threat on the wing as a replacement for Robbery, and although in this time Douglas Costa was the big attraction, Coman showed his qualities and skills. At the end of the Hinrunde 2015 he was the only winger who was not injured. During this time he carried the wing-oriented Bayern play or, rather, he had to. At times he was strong and helped the team a lot, but most of the time you could see that he was young and lacked energy.
After a little injury and the comebacks of Robben and Ribery, the Rückrunde started a bit slowly for Coman. However, he came back and had an extraordinary game against Werder Bremen where he got three assists, and later he scored the incredible last goal at the 4-2 win against Juventus.
For the rest of the season he couldn’t maintain his form and for example had a poor game against Atlético. He was ultimately, however, part of the French squad that lost the final in the European Championship in France against Portugal.
After the Euros Karl-Heinz Rummenigge made clear that Bayern want to buy Kingsley Coman at the end of his loan, and Coman also said he wants to stay in Munich. However the current season hasn’t worked out perfectly for Coman so far. He got injured in training at the beginning and then turned in some poor performances against Hamburg and Frankfurt. Rumours abound that Carlo Ancelotti is not happy with Coman and doesn’t think he needs the winger in the squad in the long term.
Last year Coman was one of the first players to be turned to from the bench, yet this year he plays much less, sometimes not being given any minutes at all by Ancelotti. He was of course injured, and the Italian coach does have a lot of options, but nevertheless it seems Coman is not his favourite player.
But where are Coman’s strengths? And how does he fit into Carlo’s system?
You don’t need to be an expert to see Coman’s qualities in the game. He is lightning quick, a good dribbler and gets dangerous if he beats a man and can cross the ball in. Last year Guardiola used Coman’s qualities perfectly because the Catalan got him in 1v1 situations with the opposing full-back. Often he just needed a body feint to fool the defender and then he used his speed to get behind his man. At this point it was hard to defend him, because he was already on the way into the box and only could be stopped by a tackle which often led to a Bayern free-kick.
Under Carlo Ancelotti the wingers are often positioned in the half-space between the opponent’s lines. Under the Italian, Coman normally plays on the left flank, in contrast to where Guardiola fielded him. This season he plays in the left halfspace. Playing on this side means that Coman could dribble diagonally and maybe shoot from distance or play a key pass, but herein lies the problem. Coman, unlike Robben, is not really dangerous if he has to shoot. He rarely dribbles diagonally between the lines. Nor is he a perfect shooter. Coman is more the player who wants to dribble on the touchline, because of his different style.
Kingsley Coman does not really have the ability to keep the ball under pressure or beat to defenders in tight spaces. Though he has good ball control and can run fast in the first meters, he is not that quick in realising the situation and the positioning of the defenders. Furthermore, the situations in the middle are more complex than on the wing because of the many possible directions to go and the amount of players.
On the wing Coman can dribble a bit towards the defender then quickly explode and beat the opponent. There he does not need a high football IQ and an extraordinary vision of the field because the defender just stays facing the goal diagonally to prevent being attacked from all directions.
The problem is, he is a right footer who wants to dribble on the wing. That means if he gets the ball in the left half-space then he’ll take the ball and focus on the wing instead of the middle, which brings him away from the goal, making the attack easier to defend. Furthermore, Coman stands with his back to goal, so defenders can easily attack Coman when he tries to take the ball. With the defender at his back he can’t accelerate quickly so he needs to anticipate the movement of the defender before he touches the ball to make a body feint or a good first touch to beat the defender. If you follow Coman in half-spaces you can see that he tries to check his positioning by looking around but often misses the movement or the position of the defender. This means he can’t exploit the mistakes of the defenders because he either can’t see them or needs too much time for orientation with the ball on his feet.
Despite the fact that Ancelotti hasn’t found the right position for Coman to make the most of his strengths so far, there is also the problem that Coman is not in form. He often makes the wrong decisions or tries to beat a defender in a 1v1. Actually because of his lack of confidence he often tries to do something great like a 1v1 to show everybody that he is a great player, rather than playing simple and make the right choices.
All in all nowadays we’re seeing Coman’s weaknesses. Last year Guardiola created a role for Coman where he could exploit his strengths and nullify his weaknesses, like the poor decision-making under pressure in tight spaces or the poor vision of passing options and free spaces. This year you can see that Coman is a really strong player in isolated 1v1 and with his speed he can beat a lot of defenders, but he needs a very simple offensive role because he is clearly not the player to cope in tight spaces, which is where he finds himself now between the lines.
If we take a look at Coman’s stats from last year, we see high numbers in dribbling, assists and key passes. But he also lost the ball quite often. His assists and key passes mostly came after a successful dribble on the wing and then a pass into the box.
This year his passing lacks a lot because he does not get the 1v1 situations on the wing. Furthermore his passing abilities in tight situations as already frequently mentioned so far are not that great. But given his injury and his recovery after a lengthy involvement in the Euros, he hasn’t played quite so much, meaning we can only see these stats as tendencies, rather than fully representative.
For Coman this season is vital because his loan will end next summer. Last year he was really productive in a simple role, but this year has shown so far that he is not that flexible. If Coman wants to play a big role in the Bayern Munich squad he needs to improve his abilities under pressure, his decision-making and his vision.
We will see if Ancelotti can develop him or not and how Coman changes his game. If he is unable to adapt to the new role, it will be hard for him to provide reasons for a long-term contract at Bayern.