Toma Bašić – Player Report

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Croatian
  • Age: 23
  • Date of birth: 25/11/1996
  • Current Club: Girondins de Bordeaux
  • Career: NK Zagreb (Y), Hajduk Split, Rudeš (L), Girondins de Bordeaux
  • Position: Centre Midfield
  • Secondary Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Left

Overview

Having coming through the ranks in his native country with NK Zagreb, Hajduk Split and Rudeš, former Croatian U21 international Toma Bašić made the leap to Ligue 1 football in the summer of 2018 when he joined Girondins de Bordeaux. Signing on an initial four year deal for a fee in the region of €3.5 million, Bašić has since gone onto make 44 league appearances to date for the French side, staking his claim to a starting central midfield role at the club. The young midfielder was in good form prior to the cancellation of last season (getting 3 assists and a goal in his final four matches prior to the abrupt end) and he has gotten off to a very good start to the 2020/21 campaign, scoring twice and putting on some high quality displays.

He primarily plays as a central midfielder for his club and has operated in more defensive roles and with the freedom to get forward, showing his versatility depending on the style of his midfield partners. He is yet to set the world alight with his performances in a Bordeaux shirt, but has has slowly but surely adapted to his surroundings and could now be classed as a good midfield option who has his best years well ahead of him. Defensively, he can be very physical as well as providing an aerial presence at the heart of the midfield, whilst he also enjoys getting forward and is capable of driving from deep with the ball and shrugging off challenges before picking a pass.

The 23 year old has played a lot of senior football for someone of his age and demonstrated that he is capable of adapting to different leagues. He has become a consistent central midfield player who has the ability to heavily influence the game both in defence and attack when on form. As mentioned previously, Bašić has represented his country at youth level on several occasions but is yet to receive a senior call up. However, if he continues to perform consistently in what is one of Europe’s top five leagues he will be knocking on the door of the international stage in a set up that has overseen the development of some quality midfielders in recent times such as Modrić, Rakitić, Kovačić and Brozović.

Bašić will be looking to kick on this season after a stop-start campaign for him last season that was eventually brought to an abrupt end due to the pandemic outbreak. He has gone about it the right way so far, and has started all six of his side’s opening league games as he seeks to become an increasingly influential part of this Bordeaux team. With his 24th birthday approaching next month as a I write this, now is the time for the midfielder to really cement his place as a first team regular whilst continuing to develop his game so that he may become a well rounded option in the centre of the park.

Physical

Standing at 6’3 with an average to strong build that allows him room to fill out a bit more, Bašić can be an imposing figure in central midfield. He is strong in the challenge and is capable of easily muscling off his opponent to win possession or fending off challenges to retain the ball, he uses his body well to get in front of his opponent and can be very powerful either when driving with the ball or in midfield duels. Moreover, his height allows him to provide an aerial presence which he makes good use of to give his team an advantage from opposition long balls or set pieces.

Fitness and stamina wise, he is capable of battling hard late into the game, but is not the most energetic at times and he can come across as quite passive when the opposition are in possession. Once he gets up to speed, the Croatian becomes a force to reckon with and when driving from deep he can inject pace and directness into the attack. However, he is not particularly agile when quickly changing direction and can seem slightly uncoordinated on occasion due to his height and build. Furthermore, he is not quick off the mark and this can lead to him being late when trying to challenge for the ball.

Technical

Bašić is capable of controlling the ball effectively and driving with it through midfield during transition phases as he looks to put his team on the front foot and get them heading towards the opposition goal. Once he gets going, the Croatian can be difficult to dispossess due to his stature and ability to shrug off challenges whilst he has shown the ability to quickly maneouvere the ball despite his size and although he can appear a bit ungainly, he can use his body well to protect the ball and progress up the field or win fouls for his team. Since the Croatian’s arrival in the south of France, no other player to play over 1000 minutes in central midfield for the team has averaged more progressive distance carried with the ball.

On average, Bašić carries the ball 131.2 progressive yards (towards the opposition goal) per 90, whilst he averages the lowest out of the same group of players for progressive passing yards per 90 (173.3/per90), and this helps to illustrate the type of midfielder that he is. Rather than acting as the playmaker in the team, he likes to run with the ball before finding a pass and this can be very effective in certain systems and scenarios, as well as adding an extra dimension to the midfield.

VIDEO: Fig 1. A great example of Bašić using his physicality and drive to shrug off challenges and create space for teammates, whilst getting his team up the pitch.

However, he does sometimes need to take more care over his first few touches when taking the ball on the turn in midfield or in tight spaces, and he occasionally appears to be quite lethargic in possession, lacking the intensity required to be effective, especially when put under pressure in his own half. Bašić rarely seems rushed when on the ball, but he does let some complacency slip into areas of his game at times and he would do well to iron this out of his overall game as he continues to develop.

When passing, the 23 year old often looks to go forward and can be a creative force from midfield when required. He has a decent passing range and is capable of finding switches of play or delivering dangerous balls in the final third, though he rarely attempts to play longer switches of play and instead prefers to drive with the ball or find a short to medium length pass along the floor to a teammate in a more advanced position. His passing can be crisp and during his time in Ligue 1 he has averaged an overall pass completion rate of 78.4%. Within that, his passes over medium distances have been the most consistent with a success rate of 87%, and he tends to use his much stronger left foot during link up play. In fact, 83% of his passes either from dead ball situations or open play since coming to Ligue 1 have been with his left foot, making him quite a one sided player.

Also, a bit like his control, he could do well to avoid letting lapses of concentration slip into his passing, as he is occasionally guilty of playing sloppy passes to give away possession in midfield or selling his teammates short during transitions. In actual fact, it is during build up play in midfield areas that Bašić is most likely to give away possession even when under little pressure and in fact he is more effective and decisive with his passing when in the final third.

Fig 2 + 3. Bašić illustrates his passing ability in the final third.

The above example shows that, despite his occasional downfalls in deeper areas when passing, Bašić’s vision in the final third can also cause problems. Fig 2 (Left) shows him playing a “no-look” reverse pass into the path of the onrunning striker, the defender in front of him thinks he is either going to play a pass inside or try and get a shot off on his stronger left foot, but he uses this to his advantage to play the reverse pass. In Fig 3. (Right) although the pass that he makes is perhaps less complicated, it is actually very important to the attacking move. By drilling a pass out to the winger, he allows his teammate time to take a touch and find a cross to the back post, whereas if he had decided to play the simple short pass to the teammate right in front of him, the move would have slowed down and they would have likely been forced backwards.

The 23 year old is also capable of taking set pieces, and although he himself can provide an aerial presence at 6’3, he has been used as a set piece taker by Bordeaux on several occasions since his arrival. His left footed set piece deliveries can lack consistency, but he is more than capable of putting balls into dangerous areas with pace for his teammates to attack and during his time at Bordeaux his deliveries from set piece situations alone have lead to 22 attempts at goal from teammates.

He is not afraid to have a pop at goal from range or make his way into the penalty area, and he has taken on 1.68 attempts on goal per 90 since his arrival in Ligue 1. For the majority of shots that cause problems for the opposition keeper, he shows good technique to get his head over the ball and get his laces through the ball, rather than trying to curl the ball home, keeping his shots low and aiming for the bottom corners, forcing them into difficult saves if his shots evade the defenders. Whilst he has demonstrated his ability to be composed when one on one with the keeper to slot home, the clip below shows him going through on goal against Angers and finding the net, not panicking and doing well to keep his composure.

VIDEO: Fig 4. Bašić breaks through the Angers defence before calmly slotting past the keeper.

Overall, on the ball Bašić is technically sound and has the ability to find passes, beat defenders and generally cause problems for the opposition, but some lapses in concentration and decision making can hinder his impact on proceedings. On a technical level, the young Croatian has shown that he has the capability to carry the ball effectively, be a threat from set pieces by finding dangerous deliveries into the box, and test the keeper from range or finish in one v one situations. If he can become more trustworthy with his play in deeper areas and iron out the unnecessary concessions of possession, then he can become a competent and consistent midfield option in a midtable top five league club.

Defensively, the young midfielder also displays good levels of technique, using his body effectively to muscle off opponents and win back possession at times. He is capable of breaking up play effectively using his physical presence and aggression, but he could make better use of these tools as he develops to become a more well rounded central midfielder. Due to his physique, you would be forgiven for perhaps initially pinning him down as a more defensive minded midfield player, but in reality, although he has played that role sporadically in the past, he prefers to get forward and does his best work in the middle and final thirds. He could be more proactive when defending and he appears to be quite sluggish at times when his team are sitting in a block whilst the opposition have possession. Although his positioning is generally sound and he attempts to screen the back four well, he does have a tendency to be inconsistent with his defending, by being too passive and allowing his man to get away from him or failing to engage with the player on the ball.

As mentioned previously, he can lack a yard or two of pace off the mark and this can hinder his ability to quickly close down the attacker when charging out of the midfield line. Having said that, his reading of the game can be effective higher up the pitch, so when his team are pressing rather than sitting, he is more effective at breaking up the play. For example, if we look at two of the games he has played in Ligue 1 this season, when his team sat off against Lyon, he was less effective defensively due to being in deeper areas where he could take less risks and seemed reluctant to try and put a foot in for fear of giving away a foul. However, when they took on Nantes, despite going down to ten men, they still pushed a bit higher and this gave Bašić more leeway to close down the opposition midfielders.

Fig. 5 + 6. These images capture some of Bašić’s common defensive issues that he could improve upon.

The above examples highlight some of Bašić’s defensive problems, which mainly surround a lack of intensity and speed when tracking back. In Fig 5. (Left) the midfielder is slow to get across and closes the attacker down at the wrong angle, as the path he takes (blue) gave the forward enough time to get the ball out of his feet and take a shot on goal, whilst if he had taken a route closer to that that of the yellow arrow, Bašić would have perhaps been able to intervene. The speed at which he is running to close down the defender was also quite lethargic in this scenario and he probably could and should have done more to prevent the shot that ended up being tipped onto the post. Whilst in Fig 6. (Right), Bašić neither tracks the man on his left shoulder nor does he work hard to close down the space between the defence and midfield, leaving the back four exposed to the onrunning forwards.

From what we have seen so far, it is clear that their is certainly a player there who can be a very useful option in midfield, due to his technical ability on the ball and his physical stature and aggression off it. However, it is also clear that he is far from the end product, and there remain several areas of his game that would require improvement and development should he wish to make the setup up to potentially play European football (that is, playing for a team in the top five leagues capable of regularly qualifying for European competitions). His lack of intensity and inconsistency in a few parts of his game do hinder his overall contribution to the team, but he certainly has the talent to build on as he develops and reaches his “prime years”.

Tactical

The Croatian is not the type of player to dictate the tempo of the match, but instead he is the type of midfielder who can pop up in dangerous areas and inject a bit of life into the attack, whilst also offering a different dynamic due to his ability to carry the ball from midfield rather than trying to find difficult passes in order to progress his team up the field. Since his arrival, Bašić has primarily been deployed as one of two central midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 system, with his most common partner being the 26 year old Brazilian Otávio. In my opinion, they compliment each other’s style of play well, as Otávio is smaller, more disciplined and prefers to find passes, whilst Bašić is a bigger physical presence, prefers to dribble with the ball and join the attack, but offers less defensive security.

As a result, the 23 year old is granted a bit of freedom to venture forward when playing alongside the Brazilian, as he has some kind of defensive security behind him that can cover in case of a counter attack. That’s not to say that Bašić’s defensive responsibilities are in any way aleviated (and I think he could work harder to close the space between midfield and defence at times when tracking back), but instead it grants him a bit of security to go forward and also allows him to press higher and look to interrupt the opposition build up play. His player radar below shows that he ranks very highly in successful pressures when compared with midfielders from the top five European leagues.

Fig 7. Toma Bašić’s player radar from the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons combined.

As can be seen from the midfielder’s radar, defensively he ranks particularly highly in successful pressures per 90, and performs decently in successful tackles per 90, but he does struggle when it comes to making interceptions which is perhaps an area in which he could look to improve his numbers, which will happen as he continues to develop a better positional understanding of the game. The number of successful tackles and pressures is perhaps not surprising as due to his physical presence he can be quite dominant in duels, whilst as mentioned earlier, he is passive when sitting in a block but much more effective when granted the freedom to try and break up the play in midfield.

Attacking wise, due to his dangerous set piece deliveries and lung bursting drives that create opportunities for his teammates, he ranks very highly when it comes to expected assists per 90, whilst it’s no surprise that his numbers are good when it comes to successful dribbles. The areas in which he struggles most are in pass completion and turnovers, which link in with what I described earlier as lapses in concentration to give away possession unnecessarily. In this circumstance a ‘turnover’ is described as “A miscontrol, or being tackled by an opponent and losing possession of the ball without attempting a dribble.” and this accurately describes one of the weakest parts of Bašić’s game. Once he gets going with the ball at his feet, he is tricky to dispossess, but his initial first touch can often lack the required quality and he would do well to take more care over this in order to improve his ball retention in midfield.

In attack, his off the ball movement is often key to his success, as he is able to support the attack by making late runs into the final third and creating overloads in central areas. This is something that Bašić has mastered as he ghosts in undetected into dangerous areas between the lines where he can either pick up the loose ball, be found by a teammate or simply draw defenders towards him and create space for others. The images below aim to show just this:

Fig 8, 9, 10 + 11. These examples show Bašić making supporting runs beyond the opposition midfield in an effort to receive the ball and drive at the defence.

In the first image (top left) he has clearly managed to get beyond the Nantes midfield line and his team are now in a four v four situation whilst he is able to drive at the heart of the defence. In the second image (top right), Bašić makes a clever run in the blindside of the opposition midfielder to run onto the pass and once again find himself running at the defence. In the third (bottom left), he seeks to make a run in behind the midfield press, however, in this situation it backfired slightly as the man on the ball was tackled, leaving the Bordeaux defence exposed. In the final image (bottom right), the Croatian recognises that the central defender has been drawn out of position and so makes an effort to run into the space vacated by him in the defensive line to be found by a ball over the top.

His awareness of where the space is when making off the ball movements can make him a threat and difficult to pick up for the opposition midfield, but he could improve upon his awareness once he has received the ball, occasionally failing to check his shoulder and allowing the defender to take the ball off his toes if his first touch isn’t excellent. Meanwhile defensively, Bašić displays a good understanding of when to apply pressure to the opponent, and how to get into the face of the attacking player and force them either into a mistake or away from goal, however, as mentioned earlier, he struggles when playing in a block and sometimes fails to recognise the dangerous situation that is developing in front of his defence (See Fig 5 + 6). Although he can be a useful player at the heart of the midfield, as noted on several occasions within this report, there are some areas of his game that he must improve upon should he wish to become a more influential presence in the team.

It is clear that the 23 year old has talent, and can be a good asset to have by adding an extra dynamic to the Bordeaux midfield, but (as with almost every player) it is important that he is used in the correct role in a suitable system. As mentioned previously, he forms a good partnership with Otávio in midfield, and this is due to the freedom he is granted to roam forward from deep. If he was to be utilised as the main defensive midfielder in the side, his effectiveness would be reduced dramatically due to his occasional lack of awareness and lapses in concentration. However, if deployed too high top the pitch (in a number 10 role for example), although this would grant him the freedom to get forward, it would reduce his ability to make late movements and create overloads whilst also meaning he would be unable to drive from deep with the ball as often.

As a result, should he ever move, or should Bordeaux change their system, it is important that he is granted the right mixture of freedom yet depth in his role. Perhaps in this way, it could be argued that Bašić is somewhat of a luxury, as although his drives from deep and creative output (set pieces included) can be effective, he does not offer the most consistent defensive stability, whilst he is also far from a natural out and out number 10 type player, but that is not to say that he isn’t / won’t become an important cog in Bordeaux’s system.

Psychological

Mentally, I have already covered Bašić’s concentration issues whereby he can take his eye off the ball or fail to recognise an opposition threat, whilst I have also talked about him appearing to be quite lethargic in some areas of his game. However, there are other parts of his mindset that do impress, for example, his confidence to travel with the ball even when under pressure in midfield areas can be invaluable to his team. By beating defenders and carrying the ball up field, the Croatian can relieve any pressure that was building on his team whilst also setting up counter attacks (the video in Fig 1. illustrates this perfectly).

Furthermore, although he does have some defensive frailties, his aggression when pressing can be very impressive and this is highlighted by his statistics when it comes to successful pressures per 90 (Fig 7.). Meanwhile, although he sometimes takes his time when getting back into his defensive position, when there is a shot from the opposition midfield, he displays good bravery to put his body on the line in order to get a block in. Whilst the speed at which he runs back towards his own goal can be questioned occasionally, he shows a desire to get forward and support the attack, as portrayed in the image below.

Fig 12. Having defended a corner, Bašić makes a lung-bursting run to support the counter attack. In this particular scenario he got his reward, as the ball fell kindly to him on the penalty spot and he slotted home.

I previously discussed the idea of Bašić being a “luxury player” and this can have both positive and negative impacts on the player psychologically. As when he doesn’t have a good game, fortunately for him it doesn’t have too negative an impact on his team’s overall performance and this can be viewed as a good thing, as although it means he lacks some influence in the team, it also means he has the time and freedom to develop without the pressure to perform impecibly week in week out. Conversely, when the Croatian does put in a good performance, he has the ability to have a massive positive impact on proceedings by adding physicality in defence and directness in attack.

Finally, his composure and vision in the final third are also fairly impressive and will only get better with time. He has previously demonstrated his composure in front of goal by slotting home calmly for his two goals so far this season, whilst he has shown good confidence levels to drive with the ball and take on shots from distance, which have had limited success in terms of goal returns, but he has often tested the keeper and as a result won set pieces etc.

Overall, much like the technical and tactical aspects of his game, there are certainly positives to take away from Bašić’s development up to this point, but there also remain parts of his overall performance to date that require further development over the coming seasons, which is entirely understandable as he is still only young and learning his trade.

The Future?

Currently the Croatian remains on the same contract that he signed when he first joined the club back in the summer of 2018. That was a four year deal which will see him through to the summer of 2022. Since signing for around €3.5 million, he has been in and out of the side due to injuries and form, but the leap from Croatian football to Ligue 1 must have been a big one for a 21 year old making his first move out of his home country. This season, Bašić will be hoping to kick on and cement his place in the starting lineup by keeping up his early season form and avoiding injury. He has started all of Bordeaux’s first six matches, perhaps indicating that he is firmly in manager Jean-Louis Gasset’s plans for this campaign.

I have mentioned on various occasions in this report that Bašić is far from the end product at this stage and there are several improvements that can be made to his game as he develops further and gets more top flight minutes under his belt. He is now entering his third season at the club and will turn 24 in November 2020, so really the settling in period is over for the midfielder and now is the time for him to cement his place formly in the Bordeaux starting eleven and start to become a key figure for them this season. He has certainly started this season well for Les Girondins, and you can read a bit about the team’s performances up to this point, here:

If Bašić does begin to iron out the issues in his game whilst also playing to his strengths, I see no reason why he could not be capable of playing at a competitive Europa League / group stage Champions League side at some point in his career. Having acclimatised to top five league football in France, it would be no surprise to see him stay their for a couple more years, but he could also be capable of playing in any of the other top flights in the future should Bordeaux decide to cash in on him next summer as they face financial difficulties.

Closing Thoughts

This was an interesting report for me to write personally. Thus far for Target Scouting I have only done individual player reports on players that I have really enjoyed watching and feel that they are already capable of playing at a higher standard of football. However, in this case, I feel Bašić is best served by remaining where he is, and he still has quite a bit to develop within his game over the coming seasons. At times when observing him, I have been thoroughly impressed by his ability to ride challenges and drive with the ball, as well as his movement in the middle and final thirds, yet I have also been left disappointed by certain inconsistencies in his game that I hope will be seen to in the near future as his development continues.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored, Fbref and Statsbomb.

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