Houssem Aouar is ringing bells across France. The 20-year-old French Algerian hot shot plays for Lyon in Ligue 1 and is becoming a hot commodity for significant clubs like Liverpool, Manchester City, and Barcelona.
Aouar is an exceptional midfield talent for four reasons: he possesses a high literacy to create, score, dribble and defend. Europe is limited with midfielders who have the nous to do all four actions within 90 minutes at the highest level.
His key strengths include his accurate passing, keeping himself between the defender and the ball, and his high defensive contribution. Aouar is also an excellent dribbler which enables him to get into positions to score and provide key passes.
On the other hand, Aouar’s weakness in regard to aerial duels is likely in relation to his short height and inability to leap. Also, his crossing isn’t the strongest but his game is penetrating centrally. So, to have a poor crossing ability is okay for this profile of the player.
A versatile creative outlet
His levels of versatility make him a great asset for managers who like to play various systems.
So far this season, Aouar has played LCMF, LDMF, LAMF, LW, and AMF. In each position, he has played this season he has at least one goal contribution.
Further, he loves to play on the left-hand side of the pitch often finding himself in the left half space. In like fashion, Andreas Iniesta did for the same Barcelona and Naby Keïta does for Liverpool.
On the contrary, he often finds himself in central positions as well. For instance, he started in a LCMF position against Lille in Ligue 1, but his heatmap below highlights his ability to roam.
He completed an impressive five out of six dribbles while roaming, with Lyon going on to draw the match 2-2. Aouar roaming allows him to get more touches on the ball, therefore, injecting more creativity into Lyon’s attack.
The complete midfielder
Aouar’s all-around ability as a midfielder shines when compared to many of Europe’s elite capable of scoring, creating, dribbling, and defending. For this purpose, remember that he is a mere 20-year-old when comparing him to these players.
Stats are from over the calendar year of 2018.
Aouar falls short in terms of his successful attacking actions per 90 compared to the other midfielders. However, his total goals scored, goals per 90, xG (expected goals per 90), and xA (expected assists per 90), showcase his efficiency in the attacking third despite partaking in less successful attacking actions.
When comparing Aouar to Pogba and De Bruyne, we can see that only Pogba has a higher goal accumulation and xG than him. Secondly, Pogba and De Bruyne have a higher xA than Aouar: not surprising as both of these players are of the highest ilk. Thirdly, Aouar’s goals per 90 are practically level with De Bruyne’s. Lastly, his dribble success % is on par with Pogba and De Bruyne.
Only Keïta and N’Dombèlé have higher successful defensive actions per 90 than Aouar. In addition, only N’Dombèlé (89.95%) has a higher pass accuracy than Aouar (88.08%).
In brief, its evident Aouar is amongst the best of the best in world football right now.
Aouar’s first goal: Spatial awareness
The playmaker made his first-team debut against AZ Alkmaar in 2016/2017’s Europa League. He came off the bench in the 84th minute with very little to do. It was not until the corresponding leg when Lyon trashed Alkmaar 7-1. Aouar was on the mark with his first goal.
Analysis of the first goal
1. Lacazette drops into midfield while Aouar’s football intelligence enables him to drift into the vacated space to receive the through-ball.
2. Once in possession, Aouar commits his marker, laying off the ball to Jallet. Aouar is aware of the space behind him.
3. Aouar ghosts away from his marker and finds himself in the space behind in the previous action.
4. Aouar’s awareness of space has enabled him to get into a 1v1 situation with the opposition keeper. He closes the gap, keeps his composure, and puts the ball in the bottom left corner.
Aouar’s ability to find space is what enabled him to hurt the opposition.
Aouar impresses in the Champions League
In this season’s campaign, Aouar played in six Champions League matches competing against Manchester City, Hoffenheim, and Shakhtar Donetsk. Aouar tested himself against Europe’s elite and prevailed massively.
Per 90, Aouar averaged a super impressive 2.8 tackles, 1.7 key passes, 2.3 shots, 2.7 dribbles, accompanied by an 87.8% pass accuracy. Secondly, he contributed three assists within those six appearances that being a goal contribution to every other game. Lastly, he totalled the most defensive duels (55) and highest defensive duel success (14.55%) in the Champions League this season of any U20 player.
Against Manchester City
1. Here we see Aouar sense the danger of Aguero ready to counter-attack after his team loses possession, so he initiates the counter press.
2. He wins the tackle and retrieves the ball.
3. Not too long after, Aouar finds himself harassed by Aguero and wins the 1v1 dribble finding himself in space to transition forward.
4. As Manchester City squeeze up and apply pressure, he lays the ball off to his teammate. This allows Aouar to ghosts into space where he is able to receive the ball and play a key pass or surge forward. Unfortunately, he does not receive the ball, and the attacking transition breaks down.
In those four successive actions, we see Aouar’s inherent ability to apply pressure, win the tackle, win the dribble, and get into a position to hurt the opponent. Aouar is the complete midfielder as highlighted previously.
90.3% pass accuracy
6 ball recoveries
5/8 tackles (most on the pitch)
2 fouls won
0 times dispossessed
It was an outstanding performance from the youngster competing against the likes of Fernandinho and Silva in midfield. It saw Aouar garner the respect of Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola said: “Houssem Aouar is a very good player. He is incredible. We talk a lot about (Tanguy) Ndombèlé, but Aouar is also excellent. He’s always very calm with the ball at his feet, with excellent technical quality.” (Sky Sports)
Aouar is making himself known as one of the brightest young midfield talents in the world. He is already a complete midfielder as he can dribble, create, score, defend, pass, and retain possession. Aouar has the innate ability and skill set to play for the best club teams in the world. However, as a 20-year-old, there is a lot for him to learn. Whichever club he chooses to play for in the future, will have a world class midfielder for the next ten years on their hands. Under the right management, Aouar can propel to incredible heights.
There is speculation surfacing that he will choose to play for Algeria over France. No disrespect to Algeria, Aouar would have the chance to play with elite level players if he played for Les Bleus. He would have the opportunity to compete at the World Cup and the Euro. A 26-year-old Aouar for France at UEFA Euro 2024 is a mouth-watering prospect.
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