RC Lens’ Loïc Badé,has helped his side become one of the most inspiring performers in Ligue 1 this season. After their 2nd place finish and promotion from Ligue 2 at the end of 2019/20, “Les Sang et Or” currently find themselves in contention for a Europa League spot heading into Matchweek 29. They’ve been one of the better defensive teams in the league this year, but who could this success really be attributed to?
The 20-year-old centre-back has brought serious quality and stature to the heart of their defence this year. Having graduated from the famed Le Havre academy, he’d only played six months in Ligue 2 before Lens snatched him up on a free transfer at the start of this campaign. He’s gone largely under the radar with football fans because of Lens’s low publicity, but the potential and quality that he possesses are truly outstanding.
As he continues to make a name for himself, Badé is showing the promising signs of a top centre-back. To further analyze what makes him so impactful, here’s a breakdown of some of this player’s strongest qualities.
What Makes Loïc Badé So Important?
Marking and Tackling
Badé is a tall and strong defender that makes his presence known in Lens’s back-three system. The Frenchman is 5th in the league for pressure success percentage (39.5%), 5th for tackles in the defensive third (45), 7th amongst defenders in loose balls recovered (262), and 10th amongst defenders in interceptions (36).
His defensive positioning is strong, intimidating attackers with his physicality and forcing them off the ball. His pressure and covering are intense, but he’s prone to giving away fouls when marking. He has good reactions and quickness in one-on-one situations, being able to poke balls away and keep up with agile forwards. The young French international usually finds himself in good positions to intercept passes and has good awareness when tracking runs. Badé is also one of the best defenders in pouncing on loose balls, reacting quickly to initiate his team’s transitions.
A very instinctive defender is what makes him so interesting to watch. With his combination of size, strength, and defensive awareness, he adds an imposing element that Lens lacked before. Although he does commit a lot of fouls, this can be improved upon over time.
Distribution and Forward Play
One of the most underrated attributes that a defender can have is the capacity to be reliable in possession. Badé has shown that he can be comfortable with the ball at his feet, as he’s currently 9th in long passes completed (281), 8th amongst defenders in switch passes (54), 14th in reception percentage amongst outfield players (98.2%), and 18th amongst defenders in long passing percentage (77.4%).
Lined up as a middle centre-back, Badé’s role when playing out of defence is to be the focal point in ball distribution. His accuracy and range make him an integral part of the way Lens progresses the ball up the field, linking defence to attack with long-driven passes. When Badé has possession, the opposition has to constantly worry about the threat of a pass over the top, adding value to this skill.
A quality that really jumps out when you watch him is how effective he is while dribbling. He looks calm and confident when in possession, surprising many with his tidy technique for someone of his size. He’s very progressive on the ball and looks to take space if he’s given the option. An impressive statistic to consider is that he’s 3rd in progressive dribbling yards (4,581), showing that he isn’t afraid to drive forward.
Aerial Ability and Clearances
Badé’s height of 191 centimetres is effective when defending crosses into the box. He has a knack for getting on the end of those passes and safely sending it away from the goal. His no-nonsense defending ranks him 3rd in aerial duels won (99) and first in clearances (156).
He has good leaping ability and his headers are hard and accurate. He has a good understanding of where to position himself to cut out through passes and crosses in the area. His quick reactions and anticipation of the ball’s flight path seem instinctive, allowing him to protect his goal and give his teammates confidence when defending.
Being an aerial threat is arguably the most important aspect of Loïc Badé’s game. Because of his superiority in the box, teams find it a little more difficult to take shots against Lens. The team has allowed the 4th fewest shots in the league (280), breaking up chances and contesting opportunities frequently.
Teams who’ll be looking for promising centre backs in the coming years will certainly have Loïc Badé on their list. Many scouts across Europe will be watching him closely as he continues to earn minutes and fulfil his potential. With the right guidance and coaching, he could become a world-class defender.
In January there were rumours that Liverpool, AC Milan, and Leeds United were possible suitors for the player. Although these are high-profile clubs, a move to a better team in France would make more sense. Clubs like Monaco, Marseille, and Lyon are winning environments where he can grow and advance his game.
However, the best option for him right now would be to continue playing for Lens until his game’s matured enough. Moving to higher competitions too soon can hinder a player’s progression, especially for someone this young. If he learns how to be a leader and discipline himself, he’ll be someone that no team could pass up.
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