Age: 22 (12/03/1997)
Club: Newcastle United
Height: 173cm / 5ft 8
This scout report will aim to provide a tactical analysis on Newcastle United player Allan Saint-Maximin, it will primarily focus on; his physical attributes, his technical ability, providing an analysis of his stats from last season, his awareness of tactics when playing and what type of player he is with regards to his mindset. For this particular scout report there is also a section on how he will fit in at his new club following his move from French side OGC Nice this summer.
The lively 22-year-old forward Allan Saint-Maximin had impressed last season for Patrick Vieira’s OGC Nice side and he caught the attention of many clubs, most notably Newcastle United who have since signed the Frenchman for a fee in the region of £16.5 million. Saint-Maximin’s style of play is electrifying and incredibly entertaining to watch for the fans, as he topped almost all of the players from Europe’s top five leagues when it came to dribbling with the ball, finding himself at the top of a leaderboard that contained the best players in the world.
The winger certainly has the pedigree to be a great player having played for France at youth level and being named in the senior squad on occasion. At 22 he already has three full seasons of top-flight football under his belt with Nice and SC Bastia whilst also playing as a rotation option for Hannover and Monaco having made his breakthrough at Saint-Etienne. Therefore, he is a very experienced player for his age who should only improve, with the season just gone having been his most profitable.
Saint-Maximin played in all positions across the front-line last term, playing with a strike partner of Mario Balotelli or as a winger in a front three. All of these give him the freedom to play his game, making him a fairly versatile forward depending on his team’s tactics.
Known for his pace and directness, Saint-Maximin is capable of reaching tremendous speeds, both with and without the ball. As a striker, he tries to use his acceleration and sprint speed to make runs in behind the opposition defence between opposition centre back and full back. In this example, he finds himself in the fullback’s blindspot whilst the centre back is too far away to cover for him.
Whilst he is also very fast with the ball at his feet. His low centre of gravity gives him an edge when dribbling as he is able to shift his weight and change direction very sharply, often being able to throw the defender off balance, an example of this can be seen below. He is fairly strong for his height and is able to hold off defenders well when needed. Overall, he is a good athlete for the positions he plays and is able to physically compete when required.
This example shows how far Saint-Maximin was able to dribble with the ball before releasing a pass. He used his low centre of gravity to quickly change direction and then drive inside and run at the defence. He also used his acceleration to drive past the central midfielder.
Saint-Maximin’s technical ability with the ball at his feet is almost second to none. He always looks to take the ball on the turn and run at defenders, his pace, directness and ability to quickly change direction makes him a real handful for defenders who regularly have to resort to fouling him, either accidentally or on purpose in order to slow him down. He is capable of basically every piece of skill in the modern game and is highly unpredictable (something that makes him a real threat).
Another trait of his that is mentioned less often is the shot power he is able to generate, his technique and low centre of gravity when striking the ball allows him to generate a huge amount of power making it incredibly difficult for keepers to handle if it ends up on target.
His finishing is decent but not exceptional and could easily be improved upon and given the fact that he is able to create many chances for himself, it would greatly benefit his goal tally. He is fairly one-footed, using his dominant right foot when possible, but it rarely hinders him as he is often able to use his quick feet to work the ball onto his right and he can play decent standard passes with his left foot when required.
With regards to passing, the Frenchman is capable of some clever first-time layoffs and passes when he rarely elects not to dribble, and his crossing is of a decent standard.
As can be seen in the radar below, Saint-Maximin’s dribbling stats are those that stand out above the rest (4.4 successful dribbles per90). Moreover, he was also able to register a good number of key passes and managed to get one in four of his shots on target. However, he must look to improve goal conversion rate whilst his defensive output is also very low even for a forward. Saint-Maximin scored 6 goals in Ligue 1 last season whilst setting up a teammate on 3 occasions during the course of the season. This meant that he directly contributed to just under a third of Nice’s goals last season in a team that scored the third least in Ligue 1 in the 2018/19 season.
Saint-Maximin’s tactical awareness is perhaps his biggest downfall. Without the ball at his feet the flamboyant Frenchman appears to switch off at times, only making the occasional run in behind.
When the opposition has the ball he rarely presses and when he does, he is rather lethargic, he does not cut passing lanes well and rarely tracks a man.
He comes alive when receiving the ball and can turn his man easily when he decides to, he can provide a great out ball for his team, either chasing down a ball over the defence (upon closer analysis it can be observed he often pulls wide to stretch the opposition defence, even when playing as a striker) or, more commonly, by receiving the ball to feet and carrying his team up the pitch by either winning a foul or finding a pass. He is not a traditional winger who takes it to the byline and crosses every time and prefers to cut inside and take shots at goal.
However, in the final third his decision making regularly lets him down as he regularly seems unable to release the ball without taking on one last man. He is certainly guilty of often overplaying and this must frustrate his teammates who await a pass whilst in a better position. He loses the ball often (6 per 90) and many of his shots are blocked (29% of his shots last season). This is evidence that his decision making must improve if he wishes to fulfil his potential.
This is his shot map from open play in the 2018/19 season for OGC Nice which shows how many shots he takes from outside the penalty area (primarily cutting in onto his right foot from the left wing) and also shows how many of his efforts on goal are blocked before reaching the target.
Below is an example of Saint-Maximin’s poor decision making, the red arrow indicates the direction from which the ball has been played into him, the black arrows show the passing options he had when he received the ball, the one to the players left would have been the right decision. The yellow shows what Saint-Maximin did, he cut inside and had a shot on goal. By cutting inside he allows the two defenders to join the third on the cover making it difficult for him to get his shot away, his shot was on target but easily saved. What was interesting about the rest of this clip was the frustration that his teammates showed for not passing to a player in a better position than himself. It is important for attacking players to have selfish streaks but it’s also important that they have the tactical awareness to know when to release the ball.
Saint-Maximin oozes confidence in possession and has no shortage of tricks that he will use to beat his opponent and isn’t afraid to shoot from any position. His attitude towards working hard for the team could easily be questioned, with reported fallouts at Nice over missing training and pulling out of matchday squads without permission. He lets his frustrations with teammates show on the pitch and it is clear to see that he does not relish the task of defending. Allan Saint-Maximin is the textbook definition of a flair player but at 22, as he grows older and gains even more experience, he has plenty of time to mature his attitude whilst maintaining and improving his skill level.
How he could fit in at NUFC:
Allan Saint-Maximin has been on the move this summer, with Newcastle United his final destination. Around £16.5 million is the price tag being circulated which is reasonable in today’s market. Both Joelinton and Saint-Maximin seem to be the club’s replacements for the recently departed Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez respectively. The three players to primarily occupy Newcastle’s two winger positions last season were Miguel Almiron, Christian Atsu and Ayoze Perez and below is a comparison of that trio’s average radar against Saint-Maximin’s.
As can be seen, Saint-Maximin has both better dribbling and key passing stats than the NUFC wingers, however, (mainly due to Perez) Newcastle’s shooting accuracy and goal conversion rate are better. So, what Newcastle will be getting with their new signing is a huge increase on their ability to beat the opposition defender in a one v one situation and Saint-Maximin could also create more chances for the team than the Newcastle trio managed in the previous season. Yet another important area is defensive output, which Perez is known for but Saint-Maximin struggles with.
Newcastle have adopted a 5-3-2 formation in pre-season and in the first game of the Premier League season. meaning there are only two real positions up for grabs in the team for the attacking trio of Joelinton, Miguel Almirón and Saint-Maximin. All three are capable of playing as strikers or of playing just in behind the main forward so Steve Bruce will have some decisions to make over which of the three will be starting the season on the bench, perhaps due to Saint-Maximin being the latest arrival and the player with the worst defensive output, he may be used as an impact substitute in the opening stages of the season at least, as was the case in the Arsenal game on the opening day of the season. It will certainly be an exciting front three to watch for Newcastle fans, with a young and talented strike force.
Saint-Maximin has been likened in playing style to that of one-time Newcastle player Hatem Ben Arfa, a player who quickly became a fan favourite with his skills and goals but lost his way in the premier league due to a mixture of bad man-management and a poor attitude. These comparisons are fair as they are similar in playing styles, however, Saint-Maximin offers more pace and experience for his age and he will likely want to carve his own path without following in another player’s shadow. He is a risk, but one you could argue worth taking and if he is managed correctly there is no reason why he couldn’t be a success in the Premier League.
Allan Saint-Maximin is, even though frustrating at times, certainly an entertaining player to watch. He gets the fans on the edge of their seats and is very unpredictable in possession. He is already a handful but could easily evolve into a nightmare for defenders, his ability to come short and run at the opposition makes defenders want to mark him tightly but his pace means that he can also run in behind. His versatility of being able to play as a striker or a winger makes him desirable for most managers, furthermore, his age means that he has plenty of time to develop even further. Saint-Maximin is a rare type of player who can be a talisman for a team with his skill, pace and directness and as every team requires players to do the dirty work, every team also requires players who are talented with the ball at their feet and he is exactly that. If he can make minor changes to areas of his game that need attention (attitude, work rate, end product) he will develop into an even bigger talent.
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