Club: Lille OSC
Goals & Assists: ⚽️ 0 🎯 1
Sven Botman left Ajax in the summer of 2020, moving onto Lille OSC for approximately £7.2m after a solid season on loan at Heerenveen. This season he has been an ever present in the Lille OSC starting eleven missing only a single game in the league & forming a strong partnership with Jose Fonte. The partnership was a key part in ensuring Lille OSC had the best defence in the league conceding only 23 goals as they went on to register 83 points & become champions of France. As part of the title winning side Botman played as the left sided Centre Back (LCB) in a back four within a 4-4-2 formation. Unfortunately for Lille OSC, the collapse of the French TV & Covid-19 deal has severely impacted their finances which has lead them needing to sell off players this summer. With significant departures already in Jose Fonte, Boubakary Soumare, Mike Maignan Lille OSC could be depleted further with moves likely for Sven Botman & Renato Sanches.
Botman is an assured, confident young CB who is comfortable in possession with a wide range of passing & good defensive attributes. With his composure in possession, Lille OSC utilises Botman to build through the back recycling the ball before feeding into a deep lying Central Midfielder (CM). Whilst Botman will play a conservative passing style to retain possession & utilise the midfield to progress play, he has the ability to do so himself. Botman’s passing range is effective in switching the play to opposing flanks, exploiting space behind the defence & passing between the lines. He has strong ability in the air which is enhanced by his 6”5 height ensuring he is rarely beaten in aerial challenges & provides a presence in either box at set pieces. Botman despite his size has good pace & quickness of feet to turn quickly in defensive situations to pressure or remove the danger.
Defensive Set Pieces
During defensive set pieces Botman demonstrates his tactical & positional awareness in his ability to successfully defend his zone within a zonal system as well as strongly man mark an opponent too. When man marking at set pieces Botman prefers to be “tough tight” to the opponent so he can control their movements & remain goal side in the event of needing to challenge. With his upper body strength & positional sense, he is very difficult to lose as a marked player in the area. Where Botman also excels is in his ability to read the game to ensure he positions himself in the optimal position to challenge for the ball. He has an impressive presence in the area too that provides him with the ability to dominate in aerial challenges from deliveries into the area. A prime example of this can be found in the below with Botman man marking Angers SCO #4 Pavlović. With the opposition players clustering together they are making it difficult to remain tight & break into different directions as the out swinging corner is about to be delivered. Botman remains composed & has good concentration as to remain close to his marked opponent as those around move towards the near & far post areas. As the delivery reaches the area Botman uses his strength to leverage #4 away from the ball ensuring he remains goal side before attacking the cross. He anticipates where the ball shall arrive to time his move ahead of #4 leaping strongly attacking the delivery. His ability to head firmly under pressure ensures he clears the area providing Lille with the opportunity to push out & reset the defence.
Zonally Botman is very strong at set pieces with his height & leap proving an asset in a standing jump against an advancing attacker. Where he does well is in his concentration & positional awareness in additional phases of play during a set piece situation. As per the example below against ASSE (St. Etienne), Botman is zonally marking the near post area on the out swinging corner from the right hand side. The initial delivery is cleared at the near post as far as an ASSE attacker who recycles the ball into the right hand channel. In the meantime, Botman is continually surveying the area for potential threats looking over his shoulder making small positional adjustments in the event of a delivery to his zone. Once the delivery is whipped into the near post area he drops into the 6 yard area to clear the immediate danger with a stooping header. Botman remains focused following out the clearance which is instinctively struck 1st time by the ASSE attacker towards the goal. Botman blocks the shot attacking the ball with his head making good contact to clear the area to once again bringing the LOSC defence out & allowing them to regain shape.
Botman not only provides a physical presence at defensive set pieces his ability to operate in both a zonal & man marking style gives tactical flexibility depending on the opposition threats.
Attacking Set Pieces
Whilst Botman provides a good option at attacking set pieces he struggles to impact as positively as he does defensively for LOSC. That being said he does provide a threat with his height & physicality when challenging the opposition for the ball but needs to be more consistent to threaten regularly.
When Botman is able to assert himself at attacking set pieces he can provide a genuine threat to goal as per the example below against RC Lens. With RC Lens lining up in a zonal system Botman takes an unmarked position up towards the edge of the area so that he may attack the delivery unopposed when gathering momentum. As the out swinging corner from the right is taken Botman darts to the penalty spot before reading the flight of the ball & alters his direction to match the delivery. Due to his smart movement, he is able to leap towards the ball unmarked with the defender’s leap impended by LOSC #6 (Jose Fonte). Whilst he fails to make the cleanest of contact he is able to direct towards goal with a looping & dipping header which the RC Lens GK does well to tip over the bar.
Another example where Botman positioning provides himself with an opportunity to attack the delivery was evident against OGC Nice. As LOSC prepare for the in swinging free kick from the right Botman positions himself in the centre of the 18 yard “D”. LOSC #7 (Jonathon Bamba) delivers to the left of the penalty spot with Botman able to not only hold his position but to hold off a marker using his upper body strength. Due to this he is able to leap & head the ball strongly but is unable to direct his header on target failing to trouble the Goalkeeper for OGC Nice. Botman recognised this & exploited the space in the defence to attack the delivery into the area.
Botman has the ability to read the delivery which provides him with the opportunities to pose a threat in the area at set pieces & create spaces for others by drawing attention to himself. He has good aggression to impose his physical strength on the opposition fending off markers or pressuring the defender as they attempt to clear the danger. His height & ability to leap well would provide a clear target at set pieces for any team looking to utilise these attacking situations, although would require improvement in his striking/heading technique at goal.
Build Up Play
Lille looks to build patiently through the defence requiring the CBs to be comfortable in possession to travel into space with the ball & proficient passing ability. Botman ability is very much suited to this style of play & comfortable tactically to receive the ball under pressure or simply to control possession. He more commonly uses his passing to progress play but due to him being technically strong is comfortable bringing the ball out of defence into the midfield area. Botman uses this to create overloads centrally & to open up additional passing options. His passing style is typically short interchanges between his CB partner, LB & deep lying CM but has the vision & ability to be more expansive. An added benefit of playing through Botman is his ability to play penetrative passes through the lines plus a good range which ensures he can play accurately behind the defence. His composure & control in possession make him very press resistant as has the strength to hold off the press plus the calmness to force a rash pass.
Against ASSE, Botman’s pacing range was used to good effect stretching the opposition out of their compact shape & turning the defence with passes in behind the defensive line. In the sequence below, ASSE is holding a compact 4-4-2 with a low intensity press. This provides space to travel into for Botman as the ASSE midfield & attack favour remaining in shape before dropping towards the halfway line. As he progresses to the halfway line he has a safe pass into the LOSC LB #28 (Reinildo) who has pushed high in the left hand channel behind the midfield line. Botman demonstrates his confidence & his vision spotting #17 (Yilmaz) movement between the ASSE CB’s as he starts to run behind. The pass is put into space behind the defence driving LOSC upfield into an advantageous position. #17 has options available in attack with #7 (Bamba) coming central taking up space between the lines & #28 with space in the flank with ASSE RB looking to press #17. Unfortunately, the LOSC attack breaks down due to a poor pass into #7 which is intercepted by the ASSE covering defence to remove the threat. Although the move broke down the pass created a dangerous opportunity to overload ASSE in the left channel & expose the space between the lines. In turn, the opposition lack of pressure was exposed demonstrating the requirement to press Botman to encourage a more conservative passing.
ASSE remained rigid in their defensive approach to remain compact & to hold their shape with a low intensity press throughout the game. This tactical rigidity ensured Botman’s passing range was utilised to great effect to create spaces & switch the orientation of play throughout. When in possession he has the range & technique to switch flanks as per the below example. As before ASSE drop to the halfway line this time in a 4-1-4-1 formation & shifting to the left hand side of the pitch. LOSC hold width with the RB #2 (Celik) pushed high & as Botman moves into the half space on the left LOSC’s front 3 occupy 3 ASSE defenders pulling them infield to create space on the right. He recognises the movement of the front 3 & switches the ball into #2. The switch of play allowed LOSC to stretch the compact ASSE team & create spaces centrally for the attack as they recycled the possession. He has the bravery, vision plus ability to not simply take the option of the safe pass into the LB or CB & recycle possession, but willing to develop play with progressive passes.
His ability to travel with the ball & resist the press was evident as Botman moved into the left hand channel vacated by the LOSC LB who has pushed high. ASSE CF #9 (Abi) moves across to press Botman in the channel where he demonstrates his pace to accelerate into space & progress into the ASSE half. Under pressure from #9, Botman has the option to play a safe pass into #18 Renato Sanches in the LW position to relieve the pressure on himself but has the strength to hold off the pressure from #9. He is also aware of the pressure coming towards Sanches should he pass & uses the press to play into space centrally for #10 (Ikone). Botman’s ability to carry the ball into space in this sequence created an additional passing avenue & broke 1st line of the ASSE defence travelling with the ball & then passing through the 2nd line.
Botman’s ability to retain possession & accuracy when passing is an asset to a team looking to dominate the opposition. His ability from defence to play penetrative & progressive passes ensure that he can break the defensive lines of the opposition creating attacking opportunities. Additionally, his technical ability provides the team with an effective ball carrier out of defence into midfield where overloads can be created to open space for teammates.
Botman is a composed, strong & pacey CB who looks to remain on his feet rather than being overly aggressive when tackling. He has the ability to read the game well with good anticipation which enables him to position himself well for interceptions. His upper body strength allows him to control the marked player by being able to exert himself physically to apply pressure or ease off the ball in his duels. Botman has good positioning & reactions which are important to LOSC as he is able to quickly counter threats as they occur. His physical attributes are key to his game with his pace & strength vital in defensive duels & has a strong leap to triumph aerially. His composure & ability to remain on his feet ensures that he gives away few free kicks to the opposition, also that he doesn’t over commit & pulled out of position.
Against Anger SCO (below), Botman takes a good position in the area keep close to his CB partner & is focused on the #10 (Fulgini) as he takes a shot from range. As the shot is made Angers SCO #9 (Diony) makes a good run behind Botman into an area where he can react to any potential rebound off the GK. As the shot reaches the GK #16 (Maignan) he makes a strong save but fails to clear the ball around the posts but forces the ball into the air & clear of the 6 yard area. #9 is in an advantageous position as they ran on the blindside of Botman who has turned quickly after the shot & reacts to the impending danger. He anticipates where the ball is going to fall as he sprints back into position & uses his body to shield the ball from #9. He remains calm under the pressure from the attacker waiting for the ball to fall to his feet & demonstrates his strength as he holds off the attention of #9 when shielding. Botman is calmly able to place a lofted pass with his weaker foot into the feet of LOSC #17 allowing LOSC to reorganise & retain possession.
The ability to ability to read the game is a key skill of Botman’s which enables him to step across to intercept any loose passes or engage quickly to regain possession. An example of his awareness to read the game was evident as Angers SCO regain possession & attempt to through the right hand channel. Angers SCO #9 makes a good move into the right hand channel drawing across Botman & providing a pass into the flank. The pass is made to exploit the space vacated by LOSC LB #28 allowing Angers SCO #9 to drive forward. As the pass is made & enters the LOSC half Botman reads the pace of the ball anticipating he has the opportunity to intercept. He immediately changes his stride & direction to move towards the ball putting himself in front of the attacker who is unable to react quick enough to Botman’s move. He successfully cuts out the pass with #28 able to move back into position & recycle possession for LOSC. The ability to intercept demonstrated Botman’s decision making & reading ability as a mistake in this position would’ve provided #9 a clear path towards the byline 3 vs. 3 situation for LOSC to defend against. He as this sequence demonstrates is willing to take calculated risks in order to regain possession quickly without resorting to tacking & trusting his reading of the game to position himself to stifle attacks. This can be at times a high risk – high reward strategy as it regains possession quickly & allows for quick transitions into attack or recycling possession. The risk is should his decision making lead to a mistake or issues positionally he could be exposed, but largely he has strong decision making.
Botman works well within a partnership & holds good positional distances which provides him with the opportunity to cover his partner should they require help defensively. An example of this could be found against RC Lens, where LOSC #6 struggles in his duel against #9 (Ganago) with the CF outmuscling the defender. With his forward momentum, #9 bursts into the area & is pushed wider by Botman who manages to turn quickly to pursue the attacker. As the #9 fires across a shot Botman demonstrates his desire to protect the goal by throwing himself into an attempted block, but unable to get back quick enough. This is due to #9 ability to set themselves quickly & shot early providing very little reaction time for the Dutchman to influence the shot on goal significantly. The shot is low & powerful with LOSC GK #16 getting down early to save the shot across goal.
Whilst Botman was unable to impact the shot he was able to force #9 wider in the area to tighten the angle for the shot on goal adding to the difficulty to finish. He then demonstrates very good awareness of the developing situation with RC Lens CF #9 (Ganago) looking to pounce on the rebound. Botman very quickly gets to his feet so that he can stoop & header the ball clear of the advancing #9 into the path of a LOSC midfielder on the edge of the area. His reaction speed & awareness to prevent the threat to goal in the second phase of play was impressive especially as grounded initially.
This summer could see Botman qualities drawing focus from those in elite European competitions across Europe. His skill set is suited to a team that values possession which encourages all players to take responsibility to progress play & not simply retain possession. His in game adaptability with his passing would be a key asset as he can comfortably recycle possession, but also drive his team forward. The range of passing & accuracy has the potential to break defensive lines as he looks to probe the opposition. He can also turn the defences towards their own goal with passes into channels or over the defence into space. Whilst he tends to use his passing ability over dribbling with the ball he does have the ability to travel forward to create overloads as comfortable in possession.
Despite his age, Botman’s decision making & calmness alongside an experienced CB has lead to LOSC forming the toughest defence in Ligue 1 along with their first title in over a decade. There are no significant weaknesses in Botman’s defensive ability as demonstrates his mental attributes well in his composure, decision making & reading of the game. Positionally he strong which provides him with the platform to defend well against deliveries into the area & challenge effectively to remove the danger. His positional sense is essential when operating in a man marking system which he does well & has the strength to impose himself upon the opposition. Combined with his physical attributes at standing 6”5 along with a strong leap he is an imposing figure aerially which makes him a big asset at defensive set pieces & a potential threat in attack. His pace also is a key aspect that makes Botman a good all rounder defender capable in possession & defensively solid too. Botman development has shown he has the capabilities to perform at a high level with consistency which would likely see him move before too long.