Two Ligue 1 midfielders Borussia Dortmund should target: A statistical analysis

Youssouf Fofana (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)
Youssouf Fofana (Photo by ANP via Getty Images) /
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Youssouf Fofana in action against Achraf Hakimi at the FIFA World Cup
Youssouf Fofana in action against Achraf Hakimi at the FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images) /

Comparing Youssouf Fofana and Dion Lopy to the Borussia Dortmund midfielders

Both Youssouf Fofana and Dion Lopy receive and play an above average number of progressive passes. Ball progression is a particularly strong point for both, with Fofana ranking in the 86th percentile for progressive passes and progressive carries. Lopy, playing in a deeper role for a worse side, understandably managed less progressive carries last season. But he had only .34 less progressive passes per game compared to Fofana who is three years his senior.

Of Borussia Dortmund’s midfielders last season, only Jude Bellingham ranks higher for progressive passes played per 90. Additionally, in terms of their pass completion percentage, both Fofana and Lopy come out ahead, with the former still having decent creative output.

The pass completion percentages of both Özcan and Can are considerably higher than Fofana and Lopy. However, when looking at Özcan’s 6% jump after leaving Köln for a dominant Dortmund side, it can be assumed this will improve for most midfielders playing in the double pivot.

For instance, a 6% jump (albeit unlikely to happen) puts Felix Nmecha level with Bellingham and would put Fofana at a level just below the less decisive defensive midfielders. While Lopy would rank a clear first in this comparison. There is every chance that two players who are already effective in possession would be able to make the step up and fit in well with BVB’s style of play.

Both Fofana and Lopy also currently do more to progress play and retain possession compared to Özcan at Köln or Nmecha for Wolfsburg. While Nmecha’s ability to play in a more pass heavy side is a gamble, Lopy and Fofanna appear much more capable of taking the step up.

Lopy, while not yet as accomplished, has a number of incredible attributes. He attempted more long passes per 90 than all of BVB’s midfielders last year except Bellingham (by .08). He also completed an unbelievable 82.2% of these passes, 5% more than Can and astonishingly 2% higher than Nmecha’s short pass completion percentage.

It is very easy to envision Dion Lopy unleashing diagonal balls into space for wingers, finding Karim Adeyemi or Donyell Malen in space. The 21 year old has shown an ability to make just that pass off the dribble too.

Despite not attempting many challenges in the air, Lopy excels in this area and won 68% of his aerial duels last season – significantly more than Nmecha and slightly more than Can. At 6’ 1” and at the age of 21, this seems like an untapped aspect of his game. Fofana attempts even fewer aerial duels than Lopy, so this could be partially down to the league they play in, with Fofana at 6’ tall as well, which is a trait BVB have clearly valued in signing Nmecha and Bensabaini.

As both Fofana and Lopy would have to play in a double pivot alongside Can or Nmecha, both would need to be able to provide the defensive solidity Borussia Dortmund lacked last season.

Though Nmecha is no slouch defensively – and his numbers could go up by playing in a midfield two – both Lopy and Fofana are brilliant without the ball. Lopy put up 4.38 tackles and interceptions per 90, while Fofana put up 3.99. This leaves no doubt that both players are defensively solid enough to play in a double pivot.