Silas Wamangituka has been arguably one of the most surprising discoveries in all of European football this year. The man surfaced out of thin air, missing the eyes of many football fans before he made the switch to the Bundesliga from Ligue 2 outfit Paris FC. In all honesty, Wamangituka wasn’t quite performing at a level with which you could say he deserved a chance in Europe’s top flights at that time. Stuttgart’s scouting team wasted no time however, securing the young Congolese winger for about £6.2 million in 2019.
This has been a breakout campaign for him, where he’s flourished into a delightful run of form. In 21 Bundesliga matches, he’s scored 11 goals and provided three assists. He’s currently 7th in the Bundesliga for total carries into the penalty area (28), 2nd in that top ten in progressive yards per carry (20.2), 8th in the league for total successful dribbles (46), and is 4th amongst defenders for total pressures in the attacking third (73).
In order to understand what has allowed him to flourish, here are some of the positive and negative qualities that make Silas Wamangituka the player he is.
The most interesting part about Wamangituka is how frequently he travels up and down the flank every match. In Pellegrino Materazzo’s 5-3-2, he plays out on the right like a wing-back given the instructions to go out and score goals. This natural instinct to run at goal was cultivated at Paris FC where he spent his time playing as a center forward. He scored 11 goals in 32 Ligue 2 matches, displaying both the desire to score and the effort to press.
His workrate when defending stood out to many who saw the potential for Wamangituka to be deployed in a variety of roles that call for this kind of unique skill set. Playing out wide as a wingback is a new position for him, but he embodies it so well because of this experience he’s had as a striker.
Oftentimes you’ll see him break away from his typical position on the right flank and roam along the forward line, acting as a floating winger. His capability to play as a winger gives him this kind of freedom, which adds a unique dynamism to the Stuttgart attack.
A few of his runs into the box have come from the left side, so clearly he’s capable of operating in any of the spots he chooses. A player like this has the potential to be used in a variety of roles as he continues to mature in a tactical sense.
Given the freedom to roam up and down the flank freely, Wamangituka can contribute immensely to the buildup play. He generally collects the ball higher up the pitch than normal in his wingback role, which allows him to run at the backline and apply pressure to the defense. When attacking off the dribble he looks to take defenders head on instead of rounding them, which is where he displays his speed and strength in possession. His runs on the ball are direct and progressive, looking to waste no time when getting forward.
There are few other defenders in the Bundesliga who have contributed to as many attacking opportunities as Wamangituka. The wingback has produced 52 shot-creating actions this season, which are defined as dribbles, passes, or fouls leading to a shooting opportunity. In this category he’s ranked 6th amongst defenders, placed in the list with top players like Filip Kostic and Raphael Guerreiro. In addition to the incredible amount of goals he’s scored so far (11), he’s also ranked 4th amongst defenders for involvements in buildups leading to goals this season.
The goals he’s scored have come from multiple positions, usually when driving in on the right or left wings. Instead of being more of a creative finisher, Wamangituka seems to be the type of goal-scorer that collects rebounds and is more of the scrappy type. His speed on the ball makes it difficult for defenders to track and effectively mark his runs into the box, making his finishing all the more deadly. One of his better goals was on a run from deep within his own half, carrying the ball for more than 60 yards, and finishing it off clinically. He’s also been proficient from the penalty spot, scoring three total for Stuttgart.
When driving forward, he looks to combine with his teammates or be ambitious and take it himself past a few defenders. In those combinations, plenty of his touches come in the opposition penalty area, a stat in which he actually leads all defenders in the Bundesliga. This is a critical demonstration of how often Wamangituka gets into dangerous positions to create scoring chances.
His combination of goal-scoring threat, dribbling ability, and combination play is what has given him the confidence to perform throughout the majority of the season. It hasn’t been a coincidence that the matches where he’s had the opportunity to score goals in have been his best performances. Getting in on the attack is like the fuel to his inner fire, you could say.
If there’s any major downside to point out for this player, his decision making when defending would definitely be the standout.
Much of his ill-discipline and poor decision making arises during transitions or in 1v1 situations. Because he’s eager to support the attack, he often gets caught out of position when Stuttgart loses the ball on the counter. When marking, he often fails to apply enough pressure to close the man down. Although he makes about 3.3 combined tackles and interceptions per match, this is mostly due to his high work.
It’s important to remember that Wamangituka isn’t naturally a defender, so making these kinds of mistakes was probably an expectation from Materazzo. Although he requires much more concentration on this end of the pitch, his overall output is what saves him in this case.
In truth, Silas Wamangituka is one of a kind. It’s difficult to really say who he really resembles in terms of his play style, but if you’d need to pick one, it would be Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic. They’re both wingbacks who’re heavy on the offensive end, looking to get into the final third and create chances. Kostic is more of a passer while Wamangituka is more reliant on his speed and dribbling, but both players get forward with the same intentions.
Stuttgart can try to hold on to the Congolese man for as long as they can, but Europe’s elite clubs will soon come calling. It’s been rumoured that he’s been on the radars of Liverpool and Bayern Munich in the past, so it’ll be interesting to see who comes calling once the summer arrives.
Because he fits so well into a formation that utilizes wingbacks, he would certainly do well with a side that uses a similar system. Inter Milan or AS Monaco would be good options for him because they’ve utilized the 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formations consistently
Silas Wamangituka has all the ingredients that are required for one to become a top footballer in Europe. He has natural athletic ability, he’s 21-years-old, has a high work rate on both ends of the pitch, and can score goals from an unorthodox position.
In order to move up the scale and attract interest from Europe’s top clubs, Wamangituka needs to continue his run of form and improve on some aspects of his game. Fixes to his defensive awareness and passing ability could add more creative options to his game when going forward, making him an elite level wingback in the Bundesliga.Written by Gabe Neves (follow us on twitter @pythaginboots)