Is Jeremie Boga finally ready for the Premier League?
Rennes. Granada. Birmingham. Sassuolo. What a long, strange trip it's been for Jeremie Boga, the French-born Ivorian international winger who was once one of the prize recruits in Chelsea's loan army. His permanent move to Serie A came in the summer of 2018 for a mere €3m. But the brass at Stamford Bridge made sure the deal included a €15m buyback clause – so could Boga be heading back to London?
The first question is whether he's good enough. His attacking output has been improving steadily over the past few seasons at LW, but it's still mediocre by the standards of the Premier League:
That said, Boga is an outstanding finisher in open play, so his attacking is rather more effective than the underlying numbers might suggest. Also, his ball retention is extraordinary, helped in large part by his excellent skill in ground duels. Without a doubt, this is a very talented player.
He's also a player with a very distinctive style. As his smartermap for this season shows, he's almost all about short passing and dribbling:
That's what we like to see: a gifted dribbler who uses his skill a lot. Boga also takes shots from very good positions with a nice angle on goal. Add in his finishing skill, and it's no surprise that he's been scoring at more than double the rate a generic player might from the same positions, with a conversion rate above 20%.
Comparing Boga to other LWs in the Premier League by style, we find quite an interesting list:
It's a pretty short list, because not many players do so much dribbling and so much link-up passing without too much of anything else. But there they are – two Chelsea players in the mix. We often go on about how Chelsea's player pool is full of interchangeable parts – the sign of a unified recruitment and training philosophy that cascades down through the age levels – and the results are no different here. So how does Boga stack up against the two other Blues? Let's compare:
As expected, Boga can't really match his erstwhile colleagues for attacking output. Like Eden Hazard, he doesn't take a ton of shots, but Hazard boosted his output with some aggressive passing as well. Boga's not much for defending, either, which would probably have to change in the Premier League. There's also the matter of the incumbents in the squad: not just Callum Hudson-Odoi but also a certain Christian Pulisic, though Pulisic played quite a bit at RW for Borussia Dortmund.
Moreover, at 23 years old Boga might not be improving fast enough to join a club competing for the Champions League. Yet it's not hard to see why Chelsea were interested in him in the first place, and he's certainly thriving now.
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