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PLAYER ANALYSIS: Jerome Roussillon and Wolfsburg’s Recovery

‘The Bundesliga dropoff’ is a term I like to associate to a consistent pattern that occurs in the German top flight. Whenever a team (that isn’t Bayern Munich) has a very good season, there will be a massive drop off in the following season. It usually goes down to sales of players, with the Bundesliga being a league that consistently sells its biggest players. The most recent example of this would be Schalke. They’ve gone from the runners up last season, to barely withstanding a relegation scare. This dropoff has also transpired at the other big clubs, with Dortmund, Monchengladbach, Leverkusen and Koln all suffering after having outstanding seasons. The Bundesliga does not possess the same finances as seen in La Liga and especially the Premier League. It means that the big clubs (again, that aren’t Bayern Munich) fail to consistently secure the top spots. Whenever they have a good season, with electric players adding magic and goals to a side, it doesn’t take long for a bigger club to take that magic away.

Wolfsburg is my favourite example when discussing the dropoff. They had a brilliant 2014/15 season, which saw them finish runners up to Bayern Munich, amassing an impressive 69 points. While xG predicted they massively overperformed in attack, so did the rest of the top sides that season. So many players had arguably the best season in their careers. Kevin De Bruyne scored 10 and assisted 20, which was the record for most assists in a single season (until Emil Forsberg broke that record for Leipzig). It was that fantastic season that saw him earn his mega-money move to Manchester City. Bas Dost scoring a goal for every game he started, Naldo had one of his best seasons, in a career that seemed to improve the older he got. Ivan Perisic, Ricardo Rodriguez, Daniel Caligiuri and Luis Gustavo all shined for a side that would eventually face that dreaded dropoff. After the huge sales of De Bruyne and Perisic, they attempted to replace them with the additions of Max Kruse and Julien Draxler, while hoping the other players in the squad would continue their good form. While a good run to the Champions League quarter-final stage and an 8th place finish isn’t a poor season, it would get a lot worse. They ended the 2016/17 in 16th, only surviving through the 3rd place playoff. Draxler left in a cloud to Paris, Andre Schurrle joining Borussia Dortmund, Caligiuri moving to Schalke, Max Kruse returning to Werder Bremen and Dante moving to Nice. It highlights how poor they were in the transfer market after their 2nd place finish back in 2015. They wasted a lot of money on players who weren’t improvements over what they had, which ended with a squad poorly put together. They were put back on track this season. They began selling the players who didn’t work out and focus on the players they had while bringing in 5 players for a combined £36 million. It helped add some extra depth in some areas while fixing their goal problem. They only managed to score 36 goals last season, half of what they managed in the 14/15 season. The signings of Weghorst and Ginczek added the goals needed. Their 62 goals was one of the main reasons why they will be playing in the Europa League next season. However, it is another signing from last summer’s window that needs the spotlight, that being the £4.5 million signing of Jerome Roussillon from Montpellier.

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Ricardo Rodriguez was one of the many players to leave the club and fail to be adequately replaced. While it did take a year to find an able replacement, it was worth the wait. Roussillon had 3 solid seasons at Montpellier, playing over 30 games in each of his 3 seasons. He was putting up solid defensive numbers while also showing himself to be a very good dribbler. The Frenchman is fast, very fast. it’s by far his best attribute. His ability to bomb up and down the wing has given his side another direction in attack. Whether it’s tracking back to help his teammates or giving an extra option in the attack. Roussillon constantly tries to make himself available.

As a youth player, Roussillon primarily played as a winger, and it shows. He dribbles with such confidence and drive, facing opposition defenders with force and using his superior pace. It has made him the side’s best dribbler, completing 1.8 dribbles per game. Combine that with a solid success rate of 62% and it is easy to understand why Wolfsburg have improved so much after his arrival. While 40% of their attacks have come down the right side (compared to 36% down the left), Roussillon still takes advantage. He will cut inside and help overload the central areas when his side is attacking down the right. He helps give another option and ensures that if Wolfsburg loses the ball, they are able to quickly retrieve it. It displays his past as a winger, with the Frenchman looking comfortable in this role.

One would expect a player who was formally an attacker to struggle defensively, but as Wan-Bissaka shows, this isn’t the case. Roussillon has been putting in a solid 2.6 tackles and interceptions per game. A respectable number for a player who is so focused on the offensive end. The most impressive side of his game would be how often he is beaten in one on ones. He is only dribbled past 0.4 times a game, better than Jordi Alba and Andy Robertson, arguably two of the best left backs in the world. It’s the lowest amount in his career, showing a continual improvement in his defensive displays. Having the physical advantages, as well as the ability to deal with opposition wingers has made him one of the best left backs in the league.

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His creativity is another part of his game that is very impressive. The Frenchman creates 1.1 chances a game, while also completing 1.1 crosses. His accurate balls into the box have been perfect for his teammates, and especially Weghorst, a player who uses his height to easily win those key aerial battles. Roussillon has scored 3 and assisted 4 goals this season, meaning he has contributed to a goal every 4 games, a great return for a defender.

For only £4.5 million, he has to be considered as one of the bargains of 2018 summer transfer window. At 26, he has established himself as an important part of the team and could be vital for what Wolfsburg will be planning for. While Bayern, Dortmund and RB Leipzig seem to be improving, there could be a place opening up in that top four. Gladbach have lost their best player in Thorgan Hazard, Leverkusen will always be defensively vulnerable, Hoffenheim are losing their coach and Frankfurt are losing Jovic. This could be a chance for Wolfsburg to creep back into that Champions League spot, with a left back who deserves to be playing there.

 

 

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