Scouting report double header: Dayot Upamecano and Omar Richards
Admittedly, Dayot Upamecano does not need much of an introduction any more. The Frenchman has not only caught the eye in the French national team, where competition for places is huge, but he also did his utmost to put himself on Bayern’s radar in the encounters with Leipzig in the league with his usually impeccable defending against Robert Lewandowski.
Now the perfect time has come for both sides to join forces. At the record champions, a major transition in defense is on the cards. David Alaba’s departure is certain after the press conference on Tuesday, and the futures of Jérôme Boateng and Javi Martínez are still unclear. Therefore, despite major investments in recent years with Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Pavard, there is once again a call to action regarding central defense.
Upamecano is only 22 years old, but he has nevertheless already managed to establish himself as an indispensable fixture in Leipzig’s starting eleven as a vital part of the team’s backbone. In recent years, he has developed into one of the best center-backs in his age group. In principle, the Frenchman has everything FC Bayern needs in this position.
Upamecano embodies the classic attributes of a centre-back: tackling strength, robustness, acceleration and top speed, shooting, heading, positional play, as well as anticipation are already at a top level or close to it. Beyond that, however, he is also strong in areas that make the difference between a good and a very good center-back in modern football. These include his passing, his reading of the game, especially in build-up, and the ability to make smart decisions under pressure. Upamecano has made huge steps forward under Julian Nagelsmann in that respect.
The statistical comparison with Alaba is interesting. To put it in perspective, it is important to note that RB Leipzig and FC Bayern have different playing styles. While both are similar in many areas, Leipzig play a bit calmer and with more patience in possession, especially against inferior teams. Bayern, on the other hand, try to minimize the time to a shot at goal through quick long balls over the top or incisive vertical passes into the opponent’s third.
Upamecano will have to adapt to this style. Compared to Alaba, he currently has far fewer actions per game in which he carries the ball into the next third – be it with passes or dribbles carrying the ball at his feet. And yet his stats here are very good in international comparison already. Upamecano tends to be underestimated in terms of the technical aspects of his game because of his stature. He is a strong dribbler and capable of breaking the opponent’s first pressing line.
Thus, as a complete package on paper, Upamecano fulfils all the requirements that are needed at FC Bayern. With him, Hernández and Niklas Süle, Bayern will have three center-backs in the squad competing for two positions. In addition, there is the great talent Tanguy Nianzou, whose ultimate fate at Bayern is not yet entirely clear. Nianzou has the potential to establish himself at Bayern, but will need to remain injury-free over a longer period to do so.
It remains to be seen how Bayern plan to proceed with Boateng in light of the injuries to Süle and Nianzou. With his experience and class, he would definitely be an asset to the squad. The question is whether he can scale back his demands. A discussion about a sale of Süle, which so far the club seems not to have seriously considered yet, could also suddenly gain momentum, however, should Boateng actually stay. This would free up financial resources for other areas and also improve the prospects for Nianzou.
All in all, Bayern have landed a top signing in Upamecano, whose reported price tag of €42.5m even is somewhat below the going rate for central defenders of his class in recent years. He is in the pole position for the top signing of the coming summer.
The plans in central defense also influence those for the left-back position. If Alaba leaves, Bayern will have one fewer player in the squad who can play at center-back. Hernández would probably have to move permanently into central defense and only help out at left-back when absolutely necessary.
This means that Bayern need another left-back. With Omar Richards, they now seem to have found just such a player, as reported by various media outlets. However, an evaluation of the 23-year-old is not as easy as one of Upamecano. The left-back currently plays for Championship side Reading FC in England.
Richards is not considered a great talent who would have attracted the attention of many top clubs. His performances in the Championship did not make him stand out especially. Although the Englishman is always reliable and one of his strengths is undoubtedly his ability to deliver consistent performances, it is still unclear to some who have been watching the player for years why a club like FC Bayern would develop an interest.
Besides his potential and consistency in performances, there are other factors that suggest that Richards may fit in well in Bayern’s defense. He is fast, very athletic, and tries to involve himself in his team’s attack. He is an often successful dribbler (Whoscored: 68.2 %; Wyscout: 71.4 % successful dribbles).
The comparison with Davies is somewhat flawed because the differences in level between the Championship and the Bundesliga are too great, but also because the playing styles of both teams are substantially different. Nevertheless, it is clear that both are quite similar player types – with the caveat that the newcomer does not have as much offensive impact in terms of shots, goals or assists. This is partly due to the fact that Reading score far fewer goals per game (10.7) than Bayern (16.3), but his decision-making in the final third is still capable of improvement.
However, Richards rarely gives away possession. The fact that his passing rate is fairly low is also due to his teammates and his style of play. Richards is a reliable player in terms of positioning and hold-up play. His duel strength is also good. He forced to play many duels at Reading and acquits himself well most of the time.
The true predictive value of such statistics remains to be seen. The biggest unknown about Richards is how he will be able to adapt to the much higher level at Säbener Straße. Physically and athletically the adjustment should not be too difficult. The leap from the Championship to the currently most successful team in the world is nevertheless huge – especially in terms of speed, opponent pressure, and the ability to act within a few fractions of a second.
It is even conceivable that Richards will shuttle between the first and second team during his initial period at the club, even though media reports currently indicate that he is meant as a permanent addition to the first team. Nevertheless, the expectation should not be that he will immediately take off. Compared to this season, it would probably be a big downgrade should Bayern actually plan to use Richards as Davies’s first backup.
As the Kicker reported, however, the scouting department of FC Bayern is very convinced of the player’s ability to adapt and improve. It would not be the first time that a newcomer has surprised. For a recent positive example, just take a look at the current first choice player in the left-back position. But caution seems advisable. Especially as Davies’s rise was different and his talent more immediately apparent than that of Richards.
Since the German record champions will not be paying a transfer fee, the transfer is practically risk-free. Sport1 reports that Richards could help out in central defence, too, although he has not played in this position for a long time. He therefore not only represents the club’s current policy of integrating young and versatile players, but the financials of the deal are COVID-19 appropriate, too. Bayern’s plans with Richards are something to look forward to. Will he immediately get game time in the first team although he has not yet been able to prove his qualities at this level? In any case, it could be a risk if no player comes in who can handle the left-back position at least in a supporting role.
Twitter user @Pep_Fiction has also done an analysis on Richards based on data from the scouting platform Wyscout: