|NAME: LOIC BADE|
HEIGHT: 191CM/6FT 3″
WEIGHT: 89KG/14 STONE
PLACE OF BIRTH: SEVRES, FRANCE
D.O.B: 11/04/2000 – 20 YEARS OLD/21 AT THE END OF THE SEASON
POSITION: CENTRE BACK
CONTRACT EXPIRATION: JUNE 30 2023
CLUBS LINKED: AC MILAN, LIVERPOOL, LEEDS
As youth football goes, the players who do not stand out or the players who face rejection, find an extra 25% of effort and manage to usurp the gap between them and those who are comfortable. Loic Bade was rejected at youth level by PSG, Nice, Sochaux, and Rennes before the famed Le Havre academy took a chance. Just 8 games in to his senior career came links to a host of Ligue 1 clubs who spotted the evident talent they once missed.
A move to Lens was completed in 2020, thus inevitably drawing comparisons to another former Lens-developed centre-back, currently at Real Madrid in Raphael Varane. At the end of the season, Bade will have just 2 years left on his contract with the big clubs swirling like vultures.
AN ASSET AT GOING FORWARD
At 6ft 3, with a wide frame, long limbed and relatively quick , Loic Bade is an archetypal modern day centre-back. One thing that stands out when watching him though, is that the athleticism and strength is supplemented by nimbleness and quick feet when its needed, helping in both attacking and defensive phases. Bade appears to be very light on his feet and nimble, allowing for small quick touches when on the ball which are take predominantly with his right foot almost in the fashion of a winger. He shifts the ball to his stronger right side with a turn or touch.
The player often to Bade’s right, Jonathon Gradit can often be Lens first line of offense, being a keen dribbler and progressive passer of the ball, ranking well in each category. But Bade is more than capable of starting the attack himself. Playing at the centre of back 3, but drifting in to the base of midfield, combining his control and athleticism, he can, at times, be tasked with starting the Lens offense from deep which he achieves successfully. According to Fbref.com Bade has successfully completed all of his 12 dribbles this season, albeit from a small sample size, while ranking 3rd in Ligue 1 for progressive carrying distance (3961m). Bade’s athleticism, upper body strength, long legs and acceleration all make him a useful attacking asset if needed, in a similar vain to Joel Matip at Liverpool. This can be used not only add an extra attacking avenue, but relieve pressure when teams are pressing high or during a sustained period of opposition pressure, being able to keep the ball and progess to an outlet is vital.
Driving with the ball from the centre of the pitch may change slightly as he moves to team that plays a back 4 becoming more of an angled run as opposed to through the centre of the pitch. This may vary depending on how the the teams set up, depending on if the teams build in with a 3 or a 2 but Bade did play in a back 4 for Le Havre so the only issues bedding in may be a tiny, tiny, period of reacquaintance, adapting to less time allowed on the ball, a higher intensity and tougher tacklers.
Bade has a good range of passing being able to pick out anyone on the pitch. Being in the centre of the pitch, he has good access to diagonal balls out to wide players and hard ground passes between the lines. Bade doesn’t often try to play the final pass, in the way Joel Matip would, what we can often see is the aforementioned dribbling ability followed by a simple short pass to an attacking team mate, mainly out to the wing to build an attack or a long diagonal. What I like about his diagonal balls, are more often than not, these balls are hit with good pace and arrowed, rather than lofted making for a more intense period of play, and harder to defend against with less chance for a defender to set himself. When access out wide is blocked, Bade will not hesitate to drive a ball through tight space in the centre of the pitch, from the position where we would normally expect to see a defensive midfielder. Bade rarely loses the ball, and is smart in his pass selection as to not over play and see his team caught in transition.
There is often second thought about defenders who are not used to seeing the ball a lot in their teams due to the importance of possession but this is something that cannot be used against Bade who often ranks high for the most passes in his team. Again, extremely nitpicky but for such a talented player, who is destined for a higher level, you have to be, but if Bade could shave half a second with more disguise on his body shape when picking out long passes, he would become an even bigger asset. Also, the majority of his passes are with his right foot. Improvement with the left will add more variety to another avenue of attack coated in unpredictability. For the majority, this isn’t a problem though. Bade’s passing numbers rank okay, with an overall pass completion of 87.2% which is modest among centre backs, although Bade attempts and completes more long passes and switches of the ball than most, highlighting his attacking acumen. Loic Bade’s passing is very good.
Real interest in Bade lies with his defensive attributes which are considered to be beyond his years. Standing at 6ft 3″, blessed with strength and athleticism, one would naturally expect Bade to be good in the air. And they would be correct. Bade is able to stand up well to the biggest attackers in Ligue 1 and contest well for the ball, with a decent leap to add to his physique and strength. Impressively, Bade is able to win headers well when running towards his own goal, keeping an eye on runners. While Bade is astute in his own penalty box, he does not confine his aerial duels to this area, showing defensive awareness, judging the flight of the ball well to win the ball higher up in the middle of the pitch. Bade ranks in the 96th percentile for aerial duels won in Ligue 1 winning 4.56 per 90, resulting in a success rate of 70.1%. For a centre back, this ranks very well. To give an idea, a defender who is renowned for his aerial prowess like Harry Maguire has 75% while Ruben Dias has 69.2% this season for Manchester City. Perhaps Bade could begin to show more of an aerial threat going forward, yet to score a goal in senior football. Defensively, the young Frenchman is, however, aerially exceptional.
As previously alluded to the wide centre backs of Lens can be responsible for ball progression in the first phase of possession when Bade is not conducting play. Occasionally they will move wide to make a progressive pass, or, the aforementioned Gradit or LCB Facundo Medina will carry the ball through the pitch.
In such situations one can highlight Bade’s maturity. Bade’s responsibility to cover in these situations has bred defensive awareness in to his game. Bade constantly needs to assess his surroundings in case of a turnover meaning he has to choose whether to stand off and delay and move up the pitch aggressively and win the ball on the front foot. Bade is usually well measured in his approach, scanning for any runners in behind and assessing when to step up. Bade’s defensive awareness and athleticism means he can quickly identify runners in behind and quickly fix his body shape to the best possible angle to give him a run on attackers and diffuse the situation. Alternatively, Bade uses the touchline as an extra defender in 1v1 situations where is long limbs give him the advantage most of the time either winning the ball after engaging with his right foot or forcing the opponent to recycle. Impressively, Loic ranks in the 97th percentile of centre-backs when it comes to tackles won in his own defensive third for a team that is one of the better sides when it comes to retaining the ball, with Lens ranking 6th out of 20 Ligue 1 teams for possession with 53.7 and play a relatively high line. Bade is certainly a safety first defender, and if he can channel a few tackles, clearances and defensive headers in to team mates feet and actually retain possession, he will become an even greater asset for teams where possession is all the more important in both starting attacks and sustaining pressure. Bade has shown that there is no reason why he cannot play in a high line, aggressively, and on the front foot.
Being nowhere near the most fluent speaker, listener or partaker of the French language, he could be saying anything. But it is clear that Loic Bade is a vocal presence on the pitch. Here are a few glowing reccomendations from teammates.
“He started playing professional last season, and now you watch him and he plays like he’s got 150 games” – Massidio Haidara
He’s what? 20? And when you see him on the pitch, he’s so confident and reassuring that you think he’s 26 or 27!” – Ignatuis Ganago
“He’s not scared of taking responsibility when it comes to playing out from the back” – Coach, Frank Haise.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND AREAS TO IMPROVE
A few areas of improvement, but nothing major. Straight from the coaches mouth, he can improve his level of concentration to last minute of the game. While Bade uses his his awareness to sniff out danger, it can switch of in momentary splices. Furthermore, he is perhaps guilty of dribbling in to a redundant area of the pitch now and then. It is not so much a lack of quality with his left foot, just a tendency to not use it. Once Loic Bade improves a little case of one footedness, adapts to a higher intensity of play and works out the small nuances of playing in a back 4 rather than a 3, he can improve to another level further.
Another young French centre back who really has no right in being as well rounded as he, who I believe could play in a multitude of systems to a good level. Pre the turn of the year, middling clubs such as Wolves and Leeds were interested. More recently, however, we have seen the likes of AC Milan, and Liverpool linked to the young Frenchmen. It is only a matter of time before Lens turn a huge profit on the once rejected talented who arrived on a free transfer. With French clubs seemingly in financial crisis, Loic Bade will not be short of suitors this Summer and is destined for big things.
All stats obtained via http://www.Fbref.com