Transfer/Analysis: Bez Lubala

Blackpool yesterday evening announced the signing of Bez Lubala from Crawley for an undisclosed fee. The ‘mystery man’ that’s been twisting our melons since he was seen posing with his shirt on the Bloomfield Road touchline on Monday has finally been announced by the club, penning a three-year deal with the option of a fourth, after Joe Nuttall moved to Northampton Town on a season long loan.

Lubala was someone we first analysed in our League Two Super Six piece where we picked the then-Crawley forward out as a key man at that level. Since then, we’ve made four signings who played at that level last year either permanently or on loan, and we’ve now secured Lubala who is the ninth signing of the summer window.

Background

Bez or Beryly is a Congolese forward, raised in Leicester. He started his career with Birmingham City and made five appearances in the Championship, though his only start came in the League Cup against Reading with the others coming off the bench.

Primarily right-footed, he’s a dead ball specialist and at the age of 22 is full of potential. Known for his explosive pace, ability to shoot from range and raw unpredictability, Lubala burst onto the scene in League Two last season and looks to have all of the capabilities to make the step up in tangerine.

Taken to Crawley by manager Gabriele Cioffi, his former coach at Birmingham under Gianfranco Zola, Bez made his breakthrough last season.

Playing style

Lubala’s heatmap indicates his intention to drive into the centre from the left wing, cutting onto his preferred right foot and try his luck. He also likes to hug the touchline and take on his opponent one-on-one, where his pace and aggression are his key strengths. The heatmap also shows his work rate in that he likes to drop deep on the left hand side and support his full-back. Perhaps when James Husband takes the ball from the keeper, or comes into the middle to help out the centre-backs, we can expect Lubala to drop deep and receive the ball in his own half before driving the ball forwards to create something at the top end of the pitch.

He scored seven goals in the first nine games of last season and was in unstoppable form, drawing interest from the Premier League according to the Daily Mail. From a goalscoring sense, his form did drop off after that as he went 10 games without a goal before his next one came in November. He finished the season on 13 goals in 41 games in all competitions, a strong first season in senior football.

Crawley played 4-4-2 for the majority of last season, with Lubala on the left wing, so it’s likely that he will have more freedom and find himself slightly further forward for Pool, which can only help him add to the number of chances he gets to make things happen in the final third.

As noted by EFLAnalysis.com, Lubala averages 8.23 dribbles per game with a 53% success rate. Perhaps more impressive, he averages 2.7 passes into the final third with a success of 67.2% which highlights there’s an end product as well as the endeavour.

As outlined by @footballfactman on Twitter, Lubala had by far the most shots in League Two last year. While it may be easy to be concerned by that with a thought that 113 of the 126 must’ve ended up in the stands, let’s remember that Critchley is a coach who is likely to get the best out of his talent. He provides another option in the forward line and is different to the other players we have who aren’t necessarily so direct.

He’s also shown as being unselfish – yes he may like a shot, but he also looks to thread a pass and cut back for his teammates to try their luck.

One area where possibly he will be keen to improve on is his assists. He only made three last season, having primarily played out wide. Neil Critchley will be keen to keep Bez’s predatory instincts, but will also want to bring in more of a consistent output and add further assists to his game as he looks to make the step up to League One.

Not only is he good with his feet and coming in off the wing, but he’s also known for his set-pieces and is capable of taking a direct free-kick, which prompted Quest and Crawley Town to use #benditlikebez after his awesome free kick against Macclesfield last season. Hes also comfortable stepping up for a penalty – something we could’ve done with on Saturday against Stoke!

The Congolese forward also picked up 10 yellow cards last campaign so clearly has some fire in his belly and it will be important that he controls this when things don’t go his way.

Whereas CJ Hamilton is primarily left-footed and likes to cut in from the right, Lubala looks likely to play on the opposite flank and also loves to run with pace, cut in and make things happen.

With Jerry Yates the primary option through the middle with Gary Madine offering something slightly different off the bench, we’ve got Hamilton and Liam Feeney comfortable playing on the right, and now both Kaikai and Lubala who can play naturally on the left. Add Keshi Anderson and Oliver Sarkic who can play in the number 10 role, and we have a plethora of options in our forward positions. Each is capable of filling into one of the spaces should we pick up any injuries, while we should also expect the front four to rotate mid-game and keep creating problems for other teams’ back lines.

While Lubala has primarily been used as a left winger in his career so far, we expect Critchley to keep the front four quite fluid and may use Lubala in the number 10 role, or even leading the line on some occasions. Much will depend on the form of the individuals and the team collectively as he tries to find a winning formula, but one thing is for sure – Lubala creates another option in multiple positions and is exactly the type of player we’ve been frustrated to see our rivals sign in the past.

Highlights

As you can see from the full highlight video in the GIF above, it’s clear that Bez has pace and aggression when driving forwards. Not only that, but he has quick feet and some trickery which will get Pool fans off our seats when we’re safely allowed back into Bloomers!

The deal

Lubala was linked with Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday, the latter managed by his former Birmingham manager Garry Monk, earlier this summer for a fee of around £500k – our fee has remained undisclosed.

Birmingham also had an undisclosed sell-on fee on the young forward as part of the agreement to Crawley when he left last season, having turned down a new deal, so it’s likely that we may have paid close to that rumoured figure, based on similar deals that have happened in this window. That said, Covid-19 will likely have left Crawley in need of the cash in comparison to normal summers, and they will also be happy to have taken a decent fee for a player who they picked up for free 12 months ago.

It seems we’ve been tracking Lubala for some time, but the club was just waiting to see where the land lies in terms of squad size. Following the departure of Joe Nuttall on loan to Northampton, a space was freed up in the squad in the forward line, and that void was promptly filled by Bez. Not only is he that replacement, but he will surely be a better option on the left of the front four than Nuttall, competing directly with Kaikai and also creating further competition for Hamilton, Yates and Anderson in the other forward positions.

View from the other side

Below are some comments from Crawley Town fans on their CTFC Fans Forum.

he joined them on a three year contract so must be a good sale for us. That being said we do now lack some quality up front. Who will replace Lubala’s spot on the left in the starting eleven. Wish him the best and won’t forget his contribution and Norwich goal any time soon.

Will leave a big gap in the team to fill. Excellent player first half of last season, tailed off towards the end, but contributed plenty of goals and assist from the wing, no surprise he’s been snapped up by a team higher up the leagues.

Fans also reacted to Crawley’s announcement of the sale of Lubala on Twitter:

Very good player, he’ll come on well for you lot i think. Lots of flair, lots of ability, he still seems very raw though.

Great feet, his shot to goal ratio is poor but he does take a lot of shots, so he’s clearly good at that. I’m surprised at how low his assists are. I do think league one is a good level for him though. He’ll probably develop much better with you guys!

Summary

In Lubala, we have another option up top who is at the right age to come into the side and do well, with the raw ability to play in a higher division. A man who doesn’t turn 23 until January, Bez will be looking to make an immediate impact and become a regular starter for Pool this season, with a view to returning to the Championship within the next couple of seasons.

Having been in blistering form in the early part of last season, he may have ended up playing in either the Championship had he got a move in January. So if he can force his way into our first team and come into form, he’ll be worth far more than the figure we’ve likely paid to Crawley for him.

We’ve secured ourselves another goalscorer who won’t be afraid to try and be creative and try things even if it doesn’t work first time around. It’s important that we have players who are willing to take risks and unlock the door at times in what will be a tough season.

Perhaps one of the key benefits to this deal is that it will keep Sullay Kaikai on his toes. Arguably our key man, Sullay has been known to drift in and out of games. Now, with Lubala waiting to get his chance, he’ll have to be on it or he won’t get in the team – and that’s the kind of competition we need all over the field if we are to have a successful season. If Sullay can find his form either from the left or through the middle, then Lubala will be pushing the rest to keep their form, which is truly exciting.

With 21 senior players in the squad at the moment, there will need to be further departures before we are able to make further signings. Based on the trialists we’ve seen recently, it’s clear that we’re looking to improve in both centre-back and left-back. Hopefully if Ben Garrity can secure his loan move to Oldham and Jamie Devitt finally departs, meaning we’re able to bring in the two additions to complete our squad ready for the trip to Plymouth a week on Saturday!

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Image: @bezlubala on Twitter

Published by Tom Johnson

Seaside exile living in Leeds. Been watching the Pool home and away since 2001

5 thoughts on “Transfer/Analysis: Bez Lubala

    1. Garrity has this evening gone to Oldham on loan. Devitt looks likely to go which leaves 3 spaces. Do you think we need more than 3 more players in?

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  1. Wow. That was an impressive summary, even including the parts of the field where he sweats the most! Very thorough and very enjoyable to read. Thanks. Hope springs eternal. UTMP Terminallytangerine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback! Certainly looks a good signing this one and he will surely be coming with a view to being a regular starter. We haven’t had this sort of competition for places since the Championship days, that’s for sure

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