The promising development of Kingsley Coman
As we all know, the first few weeks and months of the season Bayern was struggling to get easy wins and the team played some terrible football regarding the performances they showed in the past. However, even in the poorly structured tactical shape of Carlo Ancelotti the young French winger was one of the better players and showed that he developed his game over the last year.
With the arrival of Jupp Heynckes Coman finally can play in a system which helps him show his strengths. Jupp Heynckes trusts Coman even though Heynckes admits that Coman still has a lot to learn, especially on the tactical level. The trust and teaching skills of Heynckes help Coman in every game, and now he performs on a high level, not only in the Bundesliga against weaker defenders but also against world-class defenders like Dani Alves.
What has changed over the last year? In which areas did he improve, and what is Heynckes referring to when he talks about the tactical stuff Coman has to learn?
Under Heynckes Coman´s role as a winger didn´t change a lot compared to the time under Ancelotti. Still the wingers often push in the halfspace while the full-backs stay wider. However, this construct is more flexible. Sometimes Coman can also receive the ball in a wider position to isolate against one defender. Furthermore, Bayern’s possession game is more structured since the arrival of Heynckes.
This means Coman has slightly more passing options while Bayern’s build-up works better and therefore the attackers receive more passes in situations in which they can use their abilities to hurt the opponents defense.
As we all can see every week, Coman´s biggest strength is the 1v1. Because of his speed, he often surpasses players by quickly dribbling in open spaces without any skill moves before. If we look at his skill arsenal it gets obvious that his skills are only needed for getting the defenders unbalanced and therefore giving Coman the space to attack with his speed while the opponent can only react and will probably be too late to stop Coman.
Normally, Coman dribbles on to a defender to reduce the distance between him and the defender. With simple body feints he tries to unbalance the opponent. Preferably, the defender will keep his weight on his left foot which opens the way for Coman to attack in the direction of the goal line, if he plays as a left winger as he does most of the time under Heynckes.
Still Coman isn´t a goal oriented winger like Arjen Robben, Coman prefers to cross the ball in and therefore he gets a lot assists. The way he uses isolated 1v1 situations like the one described above, has improved a lot.
One year ago, Coman often got into dribbling situations which were strategically bad, for example he was far away from the box. As a dribbler it is important to get in the box, because defenders have to be more careful when the attacker is in the box to deny a penalty.
Furthermore, Coman tried to beat his defender even when the defender got help by teammates which created 1v2 or 1v3 situations. Last year Coman didn´t pass the ball in those situations or did so too late and his teammates couldn´t get an advantage out of the double-teams on Coman.
Nowadays Coman is quicker at realizing situations in which a dribbling does not make sense and passes the ball to a teammate. Moreover, if he knows his positioning on the pitch is not good enough for his dangerous dribbling´s, he doesn´t force a 1v1 situation as often as before.
One of my criticisms last year was Coman´s problems in tight spaces. With the inverted role of the wingers under Ancelotti it seemed like the new position underlined Coman´s weaknesses and not his strengths. Still Coman has problems under pressure.
Regularly you can observe that Coman´s first touch is not ideal. Quite often he doesn´t touch the ball the right way which forces him to follow the ball because he couldn´t control it properly. Those technical mistakes give defenders time to settle and force Coman in uncomfortable spaces for him.
However, Coman has shown signs of improvement. First of all, he is comfortable enough to position between the lines and actually want the ball, furthermore he now helps his teammates by relocating his position precisely after the ball is passed to another teammate. Still, this is not on the highest level and he has to improve in the future to be an effective winger.
Additionally, his first touch improved slightly, especially when defenders are overplaying him. This means they shift out of position too fast and therefore don´t position correctly to defend Coman.
Coman realizes those situations quickly and uses that overplaying by letting the ball bypass him, afterwards he uses his speed to get the ball while the defender is out of position and now has to sprint back and try to catch Coman which is normally impossible.
Furthermore, Coman´s intelligence in passing situations has improved a bit. One year ago, he often didn´t know where the opponent or his teammates were. This resulted in some situations where he held the ball too long in tight spaces instead of playing the ball with the first touch to a teammate.
Now he understands these situations better and simply passes the ball with the first touch to a teammate. Those passes not only help the team, it is also good for himself because after those quick layoff-passes he receives more space from the opponent and therefore can be more dangerous.
Besides the awareness of passing the ball to continue the attacking play, Coman also has an advantage in situations in which he plays a quick lay-off pass instead of using a dribbling. Because a lot of teams in the Bundesliga play man-oriented defense, Coman has a major advantage with his speed.
Also, with his more flexible role, his better awareness for teammates, and spaces created in the defense while shifting, he offers a better positioned passing option and therefore helps to build a connected shape in possession.
Nevertheless, quite often Coman still holds the ball too long and tries to dribble his way out of the pressure instead of passing the ball quickly. Too often he tries to force a 1v1 and then passes the ball to a teammate which makes Bayern´s game slower and therefore easier to defend. His overall decision-making has to improve in the future. But a player like Franck Ribery also had moments in the past in which he tried to force something by holding the ball too long. Still Ribery could be very effective.
Over the last year Coman has improved consistently and as a result he is now one of the most important parts of Bayern´s offense. With his speed and his abilities in 1v1 situations, Coman can challenge the opponent’s defense and create mismatches and advantage situations for his teammates.
There have been many questions over the last few years about the replacement of Robben and Ribery. With Coman, Bayern has the first replacement for Robbery already on board. Franck Ribery for instance, isn´t part of the first eleven and maybe has to live with the fact that in the important games, Coman could start over him.