Chelsea’s budding defender – or midfielder – Ethan Ampadu has already been on people’s lips since last year due to his strong potential to play for the club’s first team. The young Welshman hasn’t appeared for the Blues this season yet, but his recent performance with his national team against the Republic of Ireland in UEFA Nations League Group B further validates this talk. Here is a tactical analysis of Ampadu’s performance for Wales and how he is the right candidate to earn a consistent spot in Chelsea’s team.
Ampadu played as a defensive midfielder for Wales contributing as a buffer in front of the backline. Being comfortable with both feet, Ampadu fits nicely as a defensive midfielder or a holding midfielder who would execute play from the back. The 17-year-old often played as a centre-back for Chelsea last season showing his remarkable defensive promptness coupled with one-touch and flick passes. He was quick to break into midfield to connect with ongoing play. Now playing as a defensive midfielder against the Republic of Ireland shows how versatile the Welshman is. His positional adaptability is vital to not only his career growth but also to Chelsea’s boss Sarri who would need back-ups like Ampadu ready in his talent pool as the season gets more intense.
Passing and Dribbling
Ampadu is very much into passing, short dribbling and forward thinking. His display as a Blue showed that already just as his displays for Wales have, especially the recent one against the Republic of Ireland with 67 per cent accuracy in forward passes and 82 per cent accuracy in overall passes played, as per Wyscout.com.
What’s added to Ampadu’s passing talent is his ability to control the ball while moving. For that, he uses spaces around him to maintain control of the ball while moving. He also uses flick passes quickly which keeps the game flowing. Against Ireland too, he often slowed down his dribbling, but still kept it going, just to look for passing options and take the decision accordingly. In short, he is keen to keep the ball moving. In the pictures below, Ampadu receives a pass from his teammate and before he gets closed down by the presser, he passes it right away to his open teammate to keep the ball moving in a more favourable area.
If the young Welshman further refines these on and off-the-ball movements with time, he would give a hard time to his opponent pressers in planning their defensive tactics and moves against him.
Ampadu’s passing ability and dedication to keep the ball moving in Wales’ fixture allowed him to transition into the offensive midfield frequently, which kept him connected to the offensive moves high up the pitch. This aspect is very crucial to Chelsea’s build up too as Sarri wants his midfielders and advanced players to remain cross-connected in the attacking phase to form offensive patterns in a coherent way. Below is the map of Ampadu’s received passes in the Wales vs Ireland fixture which shows how connected he was across the flanks. He received 23 passes during his 69 minutes played, which means one pass every three minutes, with his passing position stretched across the two flanks.
Ampadu’s passing and build up game and off-the-ball movements often highlight the offensive presence of the defensive midfielder. During his 69 minutes played in the UEFA Nations League fixture, the Welsh defensive midfielder won 75 per cent of his offensive duels played, as per Wyscout.com. His offensive contribution is also backed up by the 64 per cent completion of passes to the final third.
Ampadu also played long passes with 50 per cent accuracy in the fixture. Although he is not as much into long passing as he is into moving around his teammates to receive a pass from or to play a pass to them, his movements are sometimes still likely to end up with long, defence-breaking passes. His pass map above signifies the range of his passing – which seems to be good enough to break or shuffle the opposition lines.
Here in the picture, Ampadu dribbled past his defenders and played an intricate pass to his teammate from far outside the box which led to Wales’ second goal.
Ampadu’s statistics so far are highly optimistic for his career progress but being in the defensive half of the pitch, either as a defender or a midfielder, evaluating his defensive attributes is highly important. In the fixture against Ireland, the midfielder made 4 clearances and 4 interceptions in his 69 minutes, each of which translates into 0.06 per minute. These are more than his overall average of 0.046 clearances and close to his overall average of 0.07 interceptions. That looks promising. The statistics exceed even the overall average of 0.032 clearances and 0.05 interceptions per minute of Chelsea’s David Luiz, as per Wyscout.com.
The quick feet of Ampadu to make clearances and interceptions as well as his pitch coverage in the defensive half defines him as a decent defensive midfielder, indeed. However, the Chelsea man still lacks in some other individual defensive characteristics – tackling and aerial ability. The midfielder won only 50 per cent of his aerial duels in Wales’ fixture, less than his overall average of 58 per cent – and much less than that of David Luiz’s 61.3 per cent. The same goes for tackles. The Welshman didn’t win a single tackle he made during the match whilst overall he wins 26.5 per cent of his tackles – though still less than that of his club counterpart Luiz’s 53.6 per cent. Besides, compared to 75 per cent offensive duels won, Ampadu won only 27 per cent of his defensive duels in the fixture, thus averaging down his overall duels won to 41 per cent. This signifies that these are clearly the areas the young Chelsea midfielder/defender needs to work on.
On the other hand, as stated, Ampadu’s remaining statistics are encouraging. In fact, it was a duel won by Ampadu that led to the young midfielder dribbling past the opposing defenders and playing the assist for the second goal, as mentioned above. He is very quick in releasing the ball out of the press while putting it back into play due to his consistent off-the-ball movements and one-touch passes to his open teammates who are in relatively more favourable positions. Thus, Ampadu is very reactive to loose balls.
Take-ups for Chelsea
Ampadu’s performance for his national team is worth considering by Chelsea. Despite being Welsh, Ampadu’s style of playing with possession and control fits the Premier League. His pitch coverage across the widths, both on and off-the-ball, and quick reaction to the loose balls were impressive. Although his primary concern to quickly release the ball out of the press sometimes makes him pass sideways or backwards, as shown by his passing map for Wales’ fixture, he is overall a forward thinker when it comes to connecting the build-up from the back to the offensive options available in higher areas of the outfield. He is certainly Sarriball material. As I have emphasised before, he is a young defender who is gifted with the ball at his feet, what else does Sarri want?