Is this French teenager the next big thing?

The record-breaking Neymar transfer has affected the footballing world in numerous ways. One of the major effects is astronomical transfer fees for every player as compared to before the Brazilian’s saga. As this goes on, we can see another effect and that is the increase in attention to young players.

For a club like Barcelona, finance is not a problem as such. However, when any club sees great potential in a player and are certain he will develop with them, they can not let the opportunity slip away. The same has happened and Barcelona along with Inter, Lyon and various other teams have taken an interest in Sochaux’s 16-year-old Lucien Agoume.

Compared with Pogba and scoring two goals in four matches for the French under-16 team, here we shall analyse him using statistics to determine what makes Agoume a player to keep an eye on.

Overview

Agoume plays as a defensive midfielder most of the time but can be deployed as a central midfielder and on some rare occasions even as an attacking midfielder. At 180cm, Agoume is very tall for his age. Born in Cameroon, the youngster is the youngest player to debut for Sochaux, currently in Ligue 2.

Playing for the U19 team at 15 years of age, Agoume was always very much ahead of his age group. When it was mentioned that Barcelona wanted Agoume, it was quite apparent that the young Frenchman had great technique and tactical awareness. We shall look at a few examples to see to what extent this awareness goes.

Awareness

In the first example, we see Agoume in the centre of midfield. He is aware of the many players around him and knows that turning around and driving forward won’t be possible. He also notices the limited passing options available to his teammate and offers himself as an option. This is because he has seen his teammate to the left and knows a one-touch pass to him is possible.

This is very important for his team as they won’t lose possession and the team will have space to drive into. Such linking up of play is seen in Sergio Busquets‘ arsenal and if Agoume develops to become half as good as Busquets, he will be an incredible player.

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Agoume links up play very quickly and moves into the space he has previously created.

Taking a look at another example of Agoume’s link-up play, we also see his quick-thinking which will also be explored in detail later. Agoume is surrounded by five opposition players and receives a short pass which he controls. Now we see his quick-thinking where he drives a bit forward, the opposition is forced to close down and he swiftly passes the ball to his teammate.

There is space created because of his earlier drive forward which he moves into to receive the ball. This quick interchange has allowed Agoume to have possession in a potentially threatening area.

Off-the-ball movement

In a player as young as 16 years of age, tactical awareness and footballing intelligence can only be expected to a certain extent. Unless of course, the player is from an Academy equivalent to the likes of La Masia, Ajax or Olympique Lyonnais. It is impossible to see Agoume and think that he lacks that intelligence.

He has great off-the-ball movement, good awareness and his ability to find space for himself to offer as a passing option is incredible.

Here, we have an example of his off-the-ball movement. Sochaux have a throw-in. From the image below, we can see that because of the opposition’s player is aware of Agoume, he is not available as a passing option. But here the numerical superiority comes into play. But what made this movement by Agoume worth noting is noticing it soon and doing what was necessary which is impressive for such a young, raw talent.

Going back to the image, Agoume positions himself sideways and approximately perpendicular to the touch-line. Thus, when the ball is passed to him, he is able to quickly turn and drive forward. He follows this with a well-weighted through-ball and provides a great chance on goal.

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Agoume shows great positioning followed by a good pass

We have another example of off-the-ball movement where Agoume shows his awareness to avoid being dispossessed. Here, Agoume is receiving the pass from the left wing to the left-interior, where he is. Had he taken a touch right there, the chances of him being dispossessed would have been higher. But he lets the ball run which is not expected by the opposition player marking him which catches the opposition off-balance and allows Agoume to have a few good chances for a through-ball, but unfortunately, none of the Sochaux players expected the possibility and no through-ball was played.

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Agoume turns away quickly to make space for himself

Pinpoint passing and innovative vision

Agoume has an excellent passing range. Along with this, the added bonus that he makes very, very quick decisions means that he rarely misplaces the ball. We shall take a look at a few examples and analyse what makes him so capable in passing.

In this example, we take a look at his passing ability rather than decision-making. Admittedly, he does extremely well to spot his teammate making a run and decides to take that option in enough time that his teammate won’t be caught offside. But what stands out is that he is able to execute a perfectly weighted pass. A chip over the defence sees his teammate through on goal, and the chances of failing were very high as Agoume would have to take eight players out of the equation to release the Sochaux attacker. But he pulls it off immaculately.

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Agoume has a great passing range as apparent from this chip over the defence

In the next example, the focus is on his vision, passing ability and confidence in his skills. Here, Agoume has three opposition players surrounding him. As one of them is approaching him from behind and the other two are in front, he has to pass very quickly. He has two easy passing options on either side but he does very well in spotting the run of the third, more difficult option. Here his confidence comes into play and he shows that he is very aware of his capabilities by choosing the tough option and executing a great pass to release his teammate.

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Agoume shows confidence by choosing the more difficult but better option

This confidence is very important because when a player has to go to a bigger, more competitive league, many times there are problems related to fitting in and finding the rhythm at the start. That’s when their confidence is important because it allows them to push on and keep trying and eventually it is essential to become world-class naturally.

Defensive contribution

Agoume is playing with players much above his age group. However, he does quite well considering this. Let’s take a look at some examples of this.

Here, we see Agoume for the Sochaux under-19 team against PSG. He is playing as a defensive midfielder. As we can see, the opposition has the ball and the player is looking to pass it back to his defence. Let’s consider two aspects here; the opponent’s mistake and Agoume’s quick reading of it. The main mistake made by the opposition player is that he was not aware of his surroundings, hence we was not anticipating the young Frenchman’s tackle. This along with the fact that the ball was not shielded by his body made things easier for Agoume. Agoume was very quick to notice that the opponent was not aware of his positioning and he took the chance. He could have also tried to dispossess the opponent laterally rather than from behind. Now, this may be his instinctive decision of making that tackle from behind but what it did was that had the tackle been lateral, there would have been a chance for the opponent to push Agoume away.

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Agoume tackles the opposition successfully in a beneficial area

Here, we have an example of Agoume’s positioning to help in defence. The opposition’s right winger is in control of the ball. Agoume, by positioning himself, cuts off the passing lane along the wing. Which makes a huge difference as we can see the opposition’s attackers at the front were moving towards that same wing. The 16-year-old does well to not allow the pass but he helps his team collaterally. His efficient positioning and prevention of the pass allows his team to regroup. This is a very important facet in Agoume’s defensive play.

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Agoume positions himself excellently to close passing lanes

Footballing intelligence

Agoume has such a high ceiling because he thinks very fast and acts just as quickly. Here, we have an example that will show exactly how Agoume combines his skills.

We can see that Agoume has received the ball but the opposition is pressing upon him. He pivots one of his feet and turns quickly to continue having possession. Now simultaneously, he has spotted his teammate in a very progressive position. He does everything quickly and also executes the pass very well.

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Agoume shows quick thinking and great technique to keep possession and make a progressive pass

The future

Of course, all these things matter to the player’s quality a lot. But he demonstrates that he is tactically acute, technically sound and can handle physical challenges. This incredible combination gives him the very high ceiling that he possesses. Not only that, but he can develop in many directions which means he can suit the top European leagues very well.

Lucien Agoume is a very talented midfielder. And his potential is undoubtedly high. He can continue to develop in many ways and it won’t be a surprise if he becomes a key figure for whichever team he plays for.


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Anurag Agate

Tactical analyst, Culé, tiki taka ftw
Socials

Anurag Agate

Tactical analyst, Culé, tiki taka ftw