For two seasons in a row now at Eintracht Frankfurt, Obite Evan Ndicka has been one of the best centre-backs in the Bundesliga. A massive factor behind Frankfurt’s fifth place finish in 2020-21 under Adi Hütter, followed by a stunning UEFA Europa League final charge in 2021-22, Obite Evan Ndicka is starting to now receive deserved attention as one of the most promising defenders in world football. With an eye for a goal, fantastic timing of decisions at the back, phenomenal dueling ability, and pace to sweep in behind defensive mistakes, all top European clubs should be tracking Ndicka’s progress at Frankfurt this season. But mysteriously, very few seem to be circling around the 22-year-old, and most clubs in need of a centre-back appear to have their eyes set on other targets. So with that, we attempt to find Obite Evan Ndicka’s next club, if a move were to be made ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
OBITE EVAN NDICKA’S STYLE OF PLAYEmbed from Getty Images
Having been eased into the Frankfurt team over the years from a young age, Obite Evan Ndicka has now developed into one of the best left-footed centre-backs in the world. He excels in a back-three where he can push on with the attack and underlap his wing-back down the left side, but has all the necessary defensive tools to play in a back-four. 2.27 blocks and 4.60 aerial duels won per 90 puts him right up there with the top 10% of centre-backs in world football, and he stands out in all defensive categories. Possessing not only a monstrous ability in 1v1 duels but exceptional pace in behind, Ndicka would be one of the most useful defenders for any club to have. Even a club like Manchester United would be lucky to have a player of his quality, with a simultaneous ability to both “sweep” and “stop”.Embed from Getty Images
With his exceptional aerial ability, physical aptitude, and eye for a goal, Ndicka has contributed to 8 of Frankfurt’s goals in the league this season (4 goals + 4 assists). In many ways, he possesses similar strengths to Nico Schlotterbeck – who just signed for Borussia Dortmund. While the Freiburg man possesses slightly greater progressiveness and proactiveness, Ndicka certainly boasts more pace in behind, which is why we had him ahead of Schlotterbeck in our future Dortmund centre-back rankings back in February. Again, as a left-footed centre-back, he also offers certain advantages in possession that other right-footed players deployed on the left-side can’t quite offer. There’s an excellent article in The Athletic about why left-footed centre-backs offer so many advantages in build-up phases worth checking out, and Evan Ndicka ticks all those boxes. An incredibly smart player who possesses masterful decision making processes when it comes to timing of challenges, runs, and moments to contribute at either end, it’s a mystery why more clubs aren’t clamouring for his signature.Embed from Getty Images
So with that, let’s jump into the clubs that could best suit Ndicka’s rampant style of play, and best support his development as a footballer moving forward. We’ve already spoken at length about Ndicka’s fit for Borussia Dortmund, but since the Black & Yellows just signed a very similar player in Nico Schlotterbeck, we’ve excluded them from our search. Marco Rose’s men may well be in for another centre-back if Manuel Akanji leaves, but at that point a right-footed centre-back would feel most appropriate and likely. Besides, Evan Ndicka can realistically aspire for even higher aspirations at this time – after two tremendously successful campaigns. We believe Obite Evan Ndicka’s physical presence would best suit Premier League clubs, particularly ones who have shown a willingness or desire to play in a back-three.
CHELSEAEmbed from Getty Images
With so many Chelsea centre-backs out of contract or holding out for a move, the Blues are certainly in the market for a defender this summer. When looking for an Antonio Rudiger replica, there are few who can match up in style and strength. But Obite Evan Ndicka certainly fits the billing. Others have linked the younger Josko Gvardiol to the role, while I suggested Manuel Akanji back in January. Nevertheless, Ndicka perfectly exemplifies what would be required of a left-sided-centre-back for Tuchel’s team.Embed from Getty Images
He joins the attack at random but coordinated moments just like Antonio Rudiger, scores goals from set-pieces with his tremendous aerial strength, and times his challenges well in 1v1 situations. He’d have the pace and power to handle the physicality of the Premier League, and also the perfect understanding of how to support important facets of Tuchel’s style of play, like quick transitions and positional play. The 22-year-old’s ability on the ball would need to improve for the Blues, particularly in creating long switches of play – which are a rarity in his game. This is where the likes of Akanji and Gvardiol stand out in ways that Ndicka lacks. But the Frenchman provides certain strengths in the attack – such as his goal contribution, that vastly outperform just about any centre-back around. Most importantly, having played in a back-three for a few seasons now at Eintracht Frankfurt, there is no reason to suggest that Obite Evan Ndicka wouldn’t fit like a glove at Tuchel’s Chelsea.
Tottenham HotspurEmbed from Getty Images
When searching for top sides deploying a back-three, it’s hard to look past Antonio Conte’s Spurs, who have deployed three central defenders in all of their matches under the Italian except for a single match against Chelsea. Under Antonio Conte, Ndicka would have less pressure to excel in possession, whilst simultaneously being given attacking freedom to utilize his natural knack for timing his adventures forward. Antonio Conte has deployed some elements of “overlapping” or “underlapping” centre-backs since his arrival in North London, and that certainly suits the Frankfurt defender’s style of play.Embed from Getty Images
In the process, he’d provide a useful upgrade out of possession on Ben Davies, with greater strength in 1v1 duels and preeminent positional sense than the converted left-back. For Tottenham, he’s also an incredibly realistic target. The young Frenchman would benefit from a move to one of Europe’s second tier of elite clubs, and could easily help them re-enter the echelon of Europe’s elite in the process. Perhaps most importantly, Ndicka’s pace around slightly slower defenders like Eric Dier would be a massive benefit, and the 22-year-old has had years of experience supporting one of the best high-flying wing-backs in the world in Filip Kostic. If the marriage between Conte and Spurs comes to an end anytime soon, this may no longer be the perfect fit. But for now, Ndicka in a Conte system seems like a match made in heaven.
Manchester UnitedEmbed from Getty Images
While Ndicka would add evident quality and even flexibility in formation to clubs like PSG and AC Milan, both have all the pieces in place to continue with their centre-back partnerships for years to come. The Frankfurt man has even been loosely linked to Newcastle United in the past few weeks, but the Magpies just signed a very competent left-footed centre-back in the form of Dan Burn – who is equally combative in the air and equally sound with the ball at his feet.Embed from Getty Images
On the other hand, you have a club like Manchester United, who desperately need a centre-back heading into 2022-23, and a left-footed sweeper would be a particularly welcomed addition. Although we would have loved to include Ndicka when we assessed Manchester United’s future centre-back options last month, we felt as though the Red Devils should have their eyes set on more established targets more accustomed to a back four – again like Manuel Akanji, or AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori. But that doesn’t mean that Evan Ndicka wouldn’t add tremendous quality to United’s back-line, and a sense of assuredness in defensive phases. He’s strong and combative in the air like Maguire and Lindelof; but also well disciplined, and extremely capable of handling defensive transitions. Similar to the Chelsea conversation, Ndicka just needs to step up his passing that 5-10% if a move were to be made to Manchester. But his ability to read the game and adequately assess moments to step out of line would be an evident upgrade on Maguire, and he’d be able to handle his own from defensive set-pieces in a similar manner to the big man.Embed from Getty Images
Relatively untested in a back-four, Ndicka at the very least offers Erik Ten Hag greater flexibility in changing shape. But his role in playing almost exclusively over the past few years in a back-three formation was one of the key reasons why we excluded him from the final list of candidates in ‘Assessing Manchester United’s future centre-back options‘, and likely why Dortmund also turned up their noses in favour of Nico Schlotterbeck.
In short, while Ndicka would add quality to any club, very few top tier clubs correctly compliment his style of play, particularly among clubs in need of a new centre-back. This raises another potential option for the 22-year-old, one that all Frankfurt fans would love to see happen.
THE CASE FOR FRANKFURTEmbed from Getty Images
Obite Evan Ndicka is one of the most highly regarded defenders in the world at the moment. As a result, it’s easy to get caught up in the rumours and hypothesize about his potential fit to some of Europe’s elite. But Frankfurt have now had two successful seasons with Ndicka at the heart of their defense, and are only growing in European poll under Oliver Glasner. If the 22-year-old Frenchman were to stay at his current club, he’d only continue to grow as a leader for his team, and help them push for European football each and every season.Embed from Getty Images
Ndicka has now had years to become accustomed to Frankfurt’s style of play, and develop chemistry with the players around him. He’s formed a formidable partnership down the left with the likes of Djibril Sow and Filip Kostic, not to mention a great understanding with his defensive partners like Martin Hinterregger and the young Tuta. If he moves to another club, the Frankfurt man may need time to adjust to his new surroundings, despite being an incredibly confident and competent footballer. The physicality of the Premier League or quick-transition-based nature of Tuchel’s Chelsea would come naturally to him, but he still needs time to develop some of those in-possession qualities, like switching play, and long passing percentage. Staying at Frankfurt one more season could give him a safe space to develop the parts of his game still in need of time and dedication, without the pressure of the Premier League careening down his neck. That said, I’d personally love to see Obite Evan Ndicka move to one of Europe’s elite this summer, particularly in the Premier League where his physical defending could take centre stage.
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Finding Obite Evan Ndicka’s next club has proven to be a more difficult task than it appeared on first glance, due to the lack of top tier teams in true need of another top tier centre-back. Chelsea, Spurs and United all seem like logical options for the Frenchman, but staying at Frankfurt for another year could ultimately be a great decision for the 22-year-old as he develops his game. We’ve settled on Antonio Conte’s Spurs as the perfect destination for Evan Ndicka this summer, but he would make for an excellent Antonio Rudiger replacement at Chelsea as an additional option. The Frenchman shouldn’t settle for anything less if he pursues a move, otherwise he might as well stay at Frankfurt and continue to build upon the momentum and relationships that are clearly working so well in 2021-22.
So there it is! Finding Obite Evan Ndicka’s next club. Be sure to check out more of our Bundesliga articles, Scouting & Recruitment pieces, and don’t forget to follow on social media @mastermindsite and @desmondrhys. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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The term ‘Sweeper’ has existed within the game for decades. The traditional usage encourages the contrasting relationship between one centre-back who steps out (the ‘Stopper’), and one that sweeps in behind. The modern game has evolved in such a way where centre-backs typically perform both roles simultaneously, and it’s rare to find clear-cut examples of ‘Sweeper-Stopper’ partnerships. In fact, I’d go as far to suggest that they typically exist more in back-threes in the modern game, with one clear-cut ‘Stopper’ angling higher than an obvious ‘Sweeper’ cleaning up the messes in behind. This Player Role Analysis is all about the modern day ‘Sweepers’, as we break down the tasks, functions and over-arching role of a ‘Sweeper’ in 2022.
Over the past few decades, centre-backs have only grown in importance to attacking phases and playing out from the back, becoming some of the preeminent quarterbacks for their clubs. But the ‘Stopper’ is still alive and well, providing an ‘old-school’, throwback approach to defending that relishes the physical side of the game. Every team must find the balance in their defensive unit, and sometimes that may mean deploying a rock-solid, proactive defender that can win possession higher up the pitch. It’s not the prettiest of roles, but when played correctly, ‘Stoppers’ can be absolutely imperative to a team’s success.
As the name suggests, a ‘Ball-Playing-Centre-Half’ is a centre-back that excels in possession of the ball, from passing to long passing to carrying to dribbling. They can simultaneously exist as ‘Sweepers’ or ‘Stoppers’, providing another interesting asterisk to the role not found in many other positions. Unlike say a fullback or goalkeeper where we have created clearly defined separations and almost polarizations on a style scale, ‘Ball-Playing-Centre-Halves’ can also be ‘Stoppers’ or ‘Sweepers’.