“If they’re good enough, they’re old enough”
Each year in the UEFA Champions League, new talents emerge. Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and many more from that Monaco team are just a few examples. And it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more talents rise to the occasion in the Champions League. Here, we analyse how two of the most promising talents from this years’ yield, Houssem Aouar and Tanguy Ndombele, work together and what makes them special.
“Houssem Aouar is a very good player. He is incredible.”-Pep Guardiola
“I do not like comparisons, but indeed, Ndombele can be a new Pogba,”-Genesio, coach of Olympique Lyonnais
When you have a team filled with young players and a reputation for developing youngsters you have to have good players that are young. And when one of the most successful coaches ever compliments one of them and when the other is compared to a World Cup winner, the question is, how do you play them together?
Houssem Aouar is a 20-year-old who was born in Lyon, and is it follows, is a homegrown talent for them. Ever since Lyon have started concentrating on youth development, Aouar has been one of the most promising players for the French club. At 175cm, he is not a dominating physical presence, but he is technically excellent and is great at dribbling.
Tanguy Ndombele is the more physical of the two. The 22-year-old made his debut for the French national team in 2018. At 181cm, he can be seen making much more tackles and positions himself more defensively than his teammate, Aouar. He was on loan from Amiens at Lyon when he made his breakthrough and this was an excellent deal for Lyon as they signed him permanently for a bargain.
In terms of positioning, Aouar tends to play on the left wing or in the left of midfield. Ndombele’s play is very complimentary to Aouar’s as Ndombele tends to drive forward with the ball on occasion compared to Aouar dropping back to receive it. Both of them are attacking assets in their own right.
Let’s take a look at some statistics now. From the images, we observe five aspects of their play. Namely attacking, technique, tackling, defence, creativity. As one would expect, Aouar is better than Ndombele in terms of attacking and creativity. However, Ndombele is better in defence and with his tackling. Narrow margins throughout but the older Frenchman leads in technique.
This season Aouar has six goals and two assists to Ndombele’s four assists. Both players are great at passing with 88% and 89% accuracy for Aouar and Ndombele respectively. Now, this is where things get interesting. Both of them have the exact same tackle success rate and dribbles attempted. This shows how well either of them can do in attack. However, we find that Ndombele is deployed defensively more than Aouar.
This is a result of his earlier statistics which show he is clearly superior to his French compatriot in defence. But surprisingly, Aouar has a higher interception rate at 0.9 to 0.6. But this is partly due to his great tactical awareness and his advanced positioning. How does the advanced positioning help? Well, Ndombele is the more physical one who contributes in defence through tackling and dispossessing opposition. His 20-year-old teammate is the one who Lyon count on to cut passing lanes if the opposition counter. This accounts for his high interceptions. This gives Lyon kind of a dual cover to stop counter-attacks through the middle of the pitch.
Other statistics are as expected with Ndombele having a 56% success rate in tackling to Aouar’s 44%.To balance this, Aouar has five big chances created to Ndombele’s one. We can see a clear pattern in the statistics, too.
Aouar and Ndombele are not stereotypical attacking midfielders or defensive midfielders. They do both, each to a different extent. But their combination play in midfield is a very rare thing, as it is quite often to see two great players, not at their best beside each other. This duo is different. They do what they are good at and this aligns Lyon in a way that they are very quick in attack and quite reliable defensively. This duo may just be what Lyon should keep a hold of if they want to take back the league title from Paris Saint-Germain.
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