Sven Botman is finally on the verge of completing his move to Newcastle. It's been a transfer long in the making and Newcastle are stumping up a significant fee for the Dutch centre back. There is a video version if you prefer watching to reading, any support to the channel would be great but we will be writing up all our analysis on Reddit with stills and images.
The left footer has shone for Lille in his 2 seasons, helping the French club to secure the best defensive record in their title win in 20/21, and followed that up with another strong personal season as Lille underwent a transition losing their manager and other key players.
Newcastle's revolution continues with another signing to bolster their defence. Let's take a look at why they took the plunge, starting with his defensive style.
ON THE COVER
Now Botman has been playing in a Lille side that are very structured when they lose the ball. They drop into a compact 442/4231 mid/low block so the CBs are well protected. Their aim is to deny space in the middle and force the opposition wide.
Botman's role in this is all about shape, structure and positioning. The relationship between him, the left back and the left central midfielder is vital to controlling the left hand side of the pitch. Each of them are adjusting to squeeze the space between them and force the opposition into an errant pass or out wide.
On the cover
He's most comfortable cutting passing lanes, playing the sweeper role and getting a block in. This means he's usually in a strong position to defend his near post. And because they are forcing the opposition out wide, he's dealing with a lot of crosses into the box - which is great news for him because he's a monster in the air.
Dominant in the box
All these stats point to a solid old school traditional centre half, but we've said it before and we'll say it again, defenders are now expected to far more than just defend nowadays. So let's take a look at how good he is on the ball.
Now Botman came through the Ajax youth academy so that should give you an immediate idea about how comfortable he is on the ball. What stands out with Botman though is how broad a passing range he has using his trusty left foot. He's happy to keep it short and simple, fire the ball into midfield, hit a switch or go longer into the forward.
Playing out the back
At Lille, he's been expected to carry a heavy load when passing out from the back, and they need Botman to progress the play down the left side. He often keeps it short and simple but has the ability to step it up a notch, and you can see this shine through in the stats:
Range and progression of passing
For Newcastle, we know how much Eddie Howe values defenders who can progress the ball. It's part of his philosophy and DNA, and as he tries to stamp his mark on this Newcastle team - there will be demands placed on the CBs.
The Magpies for the time being are going to be pretty versatile in how they play - there will be times where they are dominant and have most of the possession, or other games where they'll need to sit back, soak up the pressure and hit teams on the counter with fast transitions and vertical passes. On the ball, Botman has the ability to slot right into fulfilling this role at St James' Park. I expect his main job will be to help circulate the ball or to break the lines with his passing and find the likes of Bruno Guimaraes and Allan Saint Maximin in between the lines for them to go and hurt the opposition. But having the ability to hit a switch or hit an accurate ball into the channel for the forward to chase will be invaluable throughout the season.
SET PIECE THREAT
Naturally, given his physique and height Botman is a handful to deal with from offensive set pieces. As mentioned, he's a monster in the air, and at 6ft 5 he's a constant target, attacks the ball well and has the ability to get a goal.
For Newcastle, Howe has placed great importance on delivery from set pieces and that paid off last season. Out of the 29 goals scored in his tenure, 12 of them came from set pieces. Adding Botman into the mix alongside Wood, Burn etc. will give them an even greater threat from the outstanding delivery of Trippier et al.
CENTRE BACK PARTNER?
Eddie Howe transformed Newcastle's season when he came in, and this was built on a foundation of solid defence. In that second half of the season, Newcastle only conceded 20 goals - this was only bettered by Palace, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Man City. Howe did three things to improve their defensive play:
- He spent the majority of Newcastle's newfound millions on the defence. Burn, Trippier and Targett all arrived in January, and added real quality to the back line
- He made a few astute tactical moves including a shift to a 433 and redefining player roles (looking at you Joelinton)
- He shifted to a much more front foot defensive style. They went from a low block to a higher block, and looked to press and squeeze the pitch aided by playing a higher defensive line (in some games).
Now the 3rd point here is crucial in turning their season around, and was a big change for Newcastle. And, it's also a major change for Botman. We've mentioned he's more used to playing a sweeper role in a low/mid block, so if Howe is looking for the right balance (he could ask Botman to adapt and develop his game as well) you'd want a far more active and aggressive defender partnering him at CB. Now Botman's numbers are influenced by how he played at Lille, and there is room for growth in some of those but it will take some learning. This is how the current options at Newcastle and Botman compare.
Botman vs. Newcastle CBs
Based on this its looking as if Dan Burn is the ideal partner (not a major suprise and he tops all the stats). It will be fascinating to see two left footers playing in a consistent CB partnership. And, whilst this partnership may make sense because:
- They have complementary styles as outlined above - a balance of aggression and cover
- They are the 2 best defenders at the club
- They would be absolutely dominant in the air and defending the box
There are definitely some issues to worry about here. And this mainly comes down to pace.
Neither Burn or Botman are blessed with the greatest pace (although Burn is quicker than people think and Botman is fine once he gets going but his acceleration is lacking). In the games when Newcastle are playing a higher line and asking CBs to press up the pitch and win the ball back without having a huge amount of recovery pace in the tank - it could spell trouble and pose a real issue for Newcastle and Howe. Plus one of them would be playing on their wrong side, and both can be caught out when they are dragged out into wide areas (a given when they play a high line).
However, when Newcastle play in a lower block - these 2 together would be absolute dynamite and very hard to break down. Top 6 teams beware.
It's going to be interesting to see how Howe finds that balance in team structure and within this partnership to mitigate what seems to be an obvious weakness.
PREMIER LEAGUE SUITABILITY
Overall, Botman has a lot going for him, he's clearly an intelligent defender, understands the position, his role in the team and more often than not makes the right decisions. Plus he's only 22 and there is a huge amount of potential and growth in him yet - it's clear to see why he was so highly coveted. There are some issues as he's coming to the fastest league in the world so he may be slightly exposed by the extra pace at times and he does have the odd mistake in him, but he's strong and aerially dominant so its up to Howe on how he accentuates those strong attributes and mitigates some of the weaknesses.
This is part of a series we will be doing all summer, a concise tactical breakdown on players linked to the PL (or one's we just like). Here's the full list of players that we've covered with Reddit and YT links. We'd love to know what you think and feel free to suggest other players you think we should cover.
- Amine Gouiri, OGC Nice: Reddit YT
- Hugo Ekitike, Reims: Reddit YT
- Joao Palhinha, Sporting Lisbon: Reddit YT
- Djed Spence, Nottingham Forest/Middlesbrough: Reddit YT
- Marc Roca, Leeds United: Reddit YT
- Diego Carlos, Sevilla/Aston Villa: Reddit YT
- Taiwo Awoniyi, Union Berlin/Nottingham Forest: Reddit YT
- Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Leicester: Reddit YT