• Jack George

Talentspotter – Pacifique Niyongabirie

Pacifique Niyongabire is one of the many talents currently in Adelaide United's ranks at the moment. Niyongabire has played just three games in his A-League career but has shown extreme potential in his few minutes for the Reds. 

Having just played four games and a mere eighty-two minutes in the A-League so far, he has already scored his first A-League goal, in a stunning 5-3 game against Perth Glory. 

Niyongabire signed a two and a half year scholarship contract with Adelaide United in March 2018, meaning his contract has technically expired at Adelaide. However, he was seen modelling their kit for the 2020/21 season, so his stay could likely be extended at Adelaide following an agreement for pay cuts between players and the club. 

Niyongabire comfortable playing on both wings and is right-footed. When playing on the right, he will often run diagonally at his marker and take him on in an attempt to cut back or cross. On the left, he prefers to cut inside onto his right foot.

Niyongabire is pacey and often gets in behind the defensive line, but he is comfortable also dropping deeper to pick up the ball and carry it forward. He uses his strength well to shield the ball and keep his team in possession and is extremely agile and balanced. 

However, his main strength is his directness and ability to take players on. He causes problems for opposition teams with his 1 on 1 ability and they often double up on him to ensure he doesn't beat his marker.

In this example, Niyongabire picked up the ball and began to run at Michael Zullo. Steve Corica was wary enough of the young winger to instruct Milos Ninkovic to track back, and sure enough, he was there alongside Zullo.

Niyongabire tried but ensured that first and foremost his team kept possession. 

The goal showcased his agility and close control when taking on an opponent, and the finish also demonstrated a high level of composure.

Ryan Kitto made a driving run from halfway on the left-hand side of the field and Niyongabire remained close to the touchline as a simple forward passing option. 

Kitto continued his run and ran away from the goal to the left, causing the winger to dart infield into the box. Kitto took a loose touch and Niyongabire collected possession calmly, with a good first touch taking him ahead of Tarek Elrich. 

The young winger shaped up to shoot with his left foot but continued his dribble, cutting inside with his left foot and gliding past Osama Malik in the process.

The touch took him just outside the six-yard box and he powerfully converted into the bottom left corner.

However, like any young player, Niyongabire contains flaws in his game. He isn't the strongest defensively and should not rely as heavily on his right foot.

Video 1 (again)

Looking at the same example from up the top, Niyongabire attempts to take on both Ninkovic and Zullo. During this move, he takes ten touches with his right foot and one with his left.

When only using one foot when dribbling at an opponent, especially when you're right-footed on the right-wing, it makes it a lot easier to defend against because they know that you're aiming to cross the ball and not cut inside. 

They put pressure on you to shift the ball to your weaker foot, and in this situation, Zullo does well to force Niyongabire to turn backwards after running out of space.

Should he begin the run with his left foot, Zullo is left to second guess himself on which space to cover.

A two-footed player in nearly impossible to stop when running at an isolated defender and young wingers should be aiming to be as two-footed as possible, making them extremely unpredictable. 

Niyongabire is a massive talent but has only made four A-League appearances since making his debut in 2018. He is approaching 20 and needs to be given the game time he deserves to fulfil his potential.

The Reds winger will need to have a breakout season this year, but if he does it is likely he will end up in Europe. He is fast, physical and has good technical ability, but may need to work on his end product and weak foot.


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