Ligue 1 is one of the most interesting leagues to watch for the simple reason there is so much footballing talent on display. Much of the reason for Ligue 1 teams producing such talent is down to lack of money in the league. Ligue 1 does not compete in the commercial side of the business with the likes of the Premier League or La Liga who are earning more revenue through TV rights and sponsorship. The knock-on effect is that Ligue 1 teams do not have the budget than even bottom tier Premier League teams have at their disposal. This means that Ligue 1 teams can not buy top players to bring into their teams (the exception being PSG).
To counter the lack of money, Ligue 1 teams have put an emphasis on their academies to produce quality young players which they can sell on to bigger European teams to make a huge profit. With Ligue 1 teams having to replenish their teams each year this gives opportunities to young players in their academies to gain first-team action. Ligue 1 provides an amazing platform for young French players to gain significant first-team minutes which accelerates their development and there is no coincidence that it is a league that continues to produce world-class players.
One such player who is coming through the conveyor belt of young French talent in Ligue 1 is 19-year-old Bordeaux midfielder, Aurélien Tchouaméni. Tchouaméni excelled in the Bordeaux academy and his career was accelerated to the first team when he made his breakthrough last season making 14 appearances. His performances merited his selection for the first team where he has established himself as a key player for Paulo Sousa’s team at the start of the 19/20 Ligue 1 season. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of the role Aurélien Tchouaméni plays at Bordeaux, and why he has the potential to become a world-class player.
Aurélien Tchouaméni predominately plays in a double pivot as a right centre midfielder or right defensive midfielder. Paulo Sousa is a tactically flexible manager and uses many different formations using 3-4-2-1, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations most frequently. This shows Aurélien Tchouaméni is comfortable and understands many different systems which is great for his development. Aurélien Tchouaméni’s positions are relatively the same he can be instructed to take up different roles like protecting the backline or being in a slightly more advanced role up the pitch. Tchouaméni’s various roles mean that he covers a lot of ground, as you can see in his heatmap this season.
One of the main roles Aurélien Tchouaméni has in Paulo Sousa’s team is to be a deep-lying playmaker. Tchouaméni is a key player in Bordeaux’s build-up play as he drops to receive the ball off his defenders or off the goalkeeper. His job is then to progress the ball past the opposition’s first line and start the offensive transition for his team. Tchouaméni is quite intelligent in the positions he takes up, so he can receive the ball off his defenders. He will drop in between his centre-backs to give himself time and space so he can get his head up and survey the pitch before delivering a forward pass, as you can see in the image below.
When the ball has passed the opposition’s first line and Bordeaux are in a more advanced position on the attack, Aurélien Tchouaméni positions himself on the ball side just behind the attacking player as a pivot. His role is to give his attacking teammate an option if an attacking avenue is blocked off, as you can see in the image below. Tchouaméni’s job is then to switch the play and probe a different avenue of the opposition’s defensive set up to find a weakness.
When Aurélien Tchouaméni gains possession of the ball the first thing he looks to do is make a pass to his teammates. Tchouaméni is not afraid of the ball and he is constantly looking and demanding the ball off his teammates. He gets on a lot of balls as a result of his commanding nature and confidence where he makes nearly 40 passes per game. Tchouaméni’s confidence to get on the ball is merited as he has an impressive 85% pass accuracy. What is striking about the Bordeaux midfielder is he is very mature beyond his years as he is very calm and composed on the ball. He picks up smart positions and looks like he has loads of time where he can look up and play dangerous passes that look to hurt the opposition.
Aurélien Tchouaméni’s main role is to drop deep and receive the ball off his defenders and progress the ball forward, as I mentioned earlier. Tchouaméni is very good at passing forward between opposition players and breaking the first line. An example of this can be seen in the image below, Tchouaméni is being pressured by a Lyon midfielder, he does not panic and plays a sublime eye of the needle pass forward to his teammate breaking Lyon’s midfield line setting his teammate up to directly attack Lyon’s backline, he posses an attribute which many midfielders find hard to execute which is exciting to see from such a young player.
Aurélien Tchouaméni does not always drop deep to receive the ball and sometimes leaves this responsibility to his midfielder partner. When this occurs Aurélien Tchouaméni positions himself higher up the pitch in the 10 position to stretch the opposition and add depth to Bordeaux’s attack.
With Tchouaméni being closer to the opposition’s goal he looks to play passes in behind which creates goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates. An example of this can be seen in the image below, Tchouaméni is in a more advanced position when he receives the ball facing the opposition’s backline. he shows great vision and plays a perfectly weighted ball in behind to the onrushing Otavio. Otavio is in on goal but squanders the chance to score.
Aurélien Tchouaméni has put up some impressive passing numbers in the opposition half, he attempts 18.6 passes per game with an 81% pass accuracy. These stats are certainly impressive but because of his defensive duties, Tchouaméni is positioned deeper and seems to spend the majority of the game closer to his goal and further away from the opposition’s goal.
Aurélien Tchouaméni is technically gifted but added to this is his physicality, he is quite tall standing at 185cm and is very strong. Tchouaméni has very good ball control and is very athletic with him possessing all these attributes leads to him being a great dribbler of the ball. With Tchouaméni receiving the ball so close to his goal he is often pressured by opposition attackers and midfielders who try to nick the ball off him to set up a chance to score a goal. Tchouaméni is very good at using his body to protect the ball against the pressure as he is very strong. With his great ball control and his athletic ability, he is able to dribble by the opposition player and by the press.
You can see in the image below, Monaco try to pressure Aurélien Tchouaméni but with his strength, he is able to hold the player off before using his ball control and pace to glide by the opposition player beating the press. Aurélien Tchouaméni would be considered a press resistant player, this type of player is highly sought after as there is now a huge emphasis for teams to press and counter-press the opposition. If a team has a press resistant player it is a big advantage in they play past the press and exploit the huge spaces in behind.
Tchouaméni attempts 1.1 dribbles per game and completes 88% of his dribbles which is quite impressive when he decides to dribble. He does not attempt many dribbles per game as it seems that Tchouaméni only decides to dribble when he does not have any support or there is no immediate pass on. In these situations, Tchouaméni shows his ability to dribble in a 1v1 which he is quite successful in as he has great feet and speed to get away from his man. In the image below, Tchouaméni has no pass open so he uses his ball control and cuts slightly back and dribbles by the opposition right back and accelerates down the wing where he plays a dangerous ball across the box but no Bordeaux teammates are there to get on the end of it.
Aurélien Tchouaméni plays a key role for Bordeaux when in possession but he takes on a greater role for Bordeaux out of possession. Being in a double pivot in Paulo Sousa’s system, Tchouaméni is expected to contribute defensively which he does. Aurélien Tchouaméni regularly positions himself in front of the Bordeaux backline to protect them and also to block any passing lanes into the opposition central strikers. Tchouaméni scans in front of the Bordeaux backline and uses his mobility to cut off any forward balls, as you can see in the image below.
Tchouaméni does not defend well just in his own half, he contributes defensively in the oppositions half defending from the front. The Bordeaux midfielder is excellent at anticipating and reading the game and knowing when the right opportunity is to step out of his position and press the opposition in their own half. Tchouaméni is very athletic as I have mentioned above, but he uses his ability to gain ground quickly to his advantage when pressing the opposition. The opposition plays out from the back and is pressed by Bordeaux attacking players. A pass seems to be on as the opposition thinks his teammate is free but this is where Tchouaméni uses his great anticipation and pace to close the ground before tacking the opposition player nicking the ball off the Nice midfielder creating a dangerous opportunity for Bordeaux close to the opposition’s goal, which you can see in the image below.
Probably the most impressive aspect of Aurélien Tchouaméni’s defensive contribution is his ability and willingness to make defensive recovery runs. The majority of midfielders and even some defenders when the opposition is on the counter or when the ball has passed them by players don’t have the same application and motivation to make a defensive recovery run. They have an attitude where they almost concede that they can not help their team defensively and therefore do not bother and put the effort to get back.
This is where Aurélien Tchouaméni is different he seems to have the attitude that he can make a tackle or stop an opposition player from creating or scoring a goal and so runs the hard yards to prevent this from happening. Even though the Bordeaux midfielder seems to be scrambling back he has a great sense of where the danger is and where the ball will end up. Tchouaméni uses his great mobility and pace to recover to put in a tackle or slow down the attacker. This great defensive attribute is illustrated in the image below, PSG are on the counter-attack Mbappe is free and put in behind. All of the Bordeaux players believe it’s a lost cause as Mbappe is in on goal. Tchouamén has the will to get back as he senses the danger and uses his pace running nearly 30 yards to put in a tackle and prevent a certain goal.
Overall Aurélien Tchouaméni contributes greatly defensively for his side making 0.9 interceptions per game, 2.1 tackles per game and making 1.2 clearances per game. Tchouaméni’s defensive efforts have prevented a lot of goals against Bordeaux showing the young Frenchman is an important cog in Paulo Sousa’s defensive set up.
Where Aurélien Tchouaméni needs to improve
Aurélien Tchouaméni is a very promising young French talent but he has to improve on some aspects of his game to land himself a move to a big club. One area that lets down the Bordeaux midfielder is that he coughs up possession very easily losing the ball 9.1 times per game which is costly given how close he is positioned to his own goal. Tchouaméni sometimes lacks concentration and dwells on the ball too long which makes it easy for opposition players to nick the ball off him and bear down on Bordeaux’s defence.
A prime example of why he urgently needs to clean up this area of his game was the game on the weekend against Lyon. Paulo Sousa substituted Aurélien Tchouaméni just before the 39th minute of the game. When asked the reason for hauling off the young French midfielder before half time Sousa said ” he was very slow on the ball. Two or three times, he lost the ball very easily, he lacked speed and mobility”. Tchouaméni needs to concentrate for the full 90 minutes and look to protect the ball better or he will not be considered by the big clubs as ball retention is such an important part of the game.
To take his game to the next level Aurélien Tchouaméni has to start contributing more, in terms of goals or goal involvements. Tchouaméni has not scored this season that is no surprise because he has such a low volume of shots on goal with 0.8 shots per game. In terms of goal creation, the young French midfielder has only assisted once in Ligue 1, this is also not a shock as he has created zero big chances and produced as low as 0.3 key passes per game. The answer to why Aurélien Tchouaméni has a relatively low goal contribution is that he plays a more defensive role in midfield. However, it looks like he is holding back, he has so much ability that has not been released yet. The Bordeaux midfielder should look to contribute more in terms of goal contribution which will make big teams take notice of his talent. Tchouaméni has been likened to Manchester United’s Paul Pogba which shows the type of potential the young Frenchman has but like Pogba he is inconsistent in his performances showing glimpses of huge potential but not delivering high performances every game. Aurélien Tchouaméni is only nineteen, so this is not a massive issue, he is still developing but going forward he should work on putting up high-level performances on a more consistent basis to ensure he reaches his potential.
Where Aurélien Tchouaméni’s future lies
For such a talent that Tchouaméni is, it throws up the question where he will be next in a bid to elevate his career further. The Bordeaux midfielder has already expressed his interest in playing for Mourinho, saying “Why not I think he’s one of the best coaches in the world- I think it can only be beneficial for a player to work with a coach of this calibre”. One issue for Tchouaméni is the Spurs manager has just signed Gedson Fernandes from Benfica, so it is very unlikely that Mourinho will look to sign Aurélien Tchouaméni any time soon. But this naturally leads to who is the better player if we compare the two players. Gedson Fernandes has missed much of this season with a foot injury so to get a true representation of the player we will look back at the 18/19 season which makes more sense.
When comparing both players they are very similar in style. They both have impressive pass accuracies ( 85% vs 84%) have a low volume of attacking/ goal involvement, both are very good defensively but Tchouaméni scores slightly better in interceptions per game (0.9 vs 0.4), tackles per game (2.1 vs 1.3), total duels won (60% vs 52%), and ground duels won (59.5% vs 52.4%). Tchouameni completes more dribbles per game than Gedson Fernandes ( 1.1 vs 0.9) with a significantly higher number of those dribbles completed ( 88% vs 58%). Overall there is not much to separate the two players but according to Tranfermrkt, a team could pick up Aurélien Tchouaméni for 14 million but more realistically could be bought for 30 million, nearly half the fee Gedson Fernandes is valued at. So the teams that were interested in Gedson Fernandes should be interested in Tchouaméni, who could be a smart buy.
With Spurs out of the question, other Premier League teams might be interested in Aurélien Tchouaméni. A front runner for the Bordeaux midfielder is Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves who have shown interest in the player. Nuno Espírito Santo is a great coach but Aurélien Tchouaméni would be the understudy to Moutinho and Neves and would not get as many first-team minutes under his belt and therefore would harm the player’s development. Chelsea and West Ham were in for Gedson Fernandes so are looking for that type of player, but again Aurélien Tchouaméni would probably be sitting on the bench instead of playing first-team football. The only other team who probably should be looking for a player like Aurélien Tchouaméni is Manchester United who need a deep-lying playmaker that can play forward progressive passes. Solskjaer is looking for young hungry players but realistically unless Pogba leaves the club they will not sign Aurélien Tchouaméni but he would be a good replacement if Pogba decides to leave the club.
Aurélien Tchouaméni is a great young talent with massive potential to become a world-class player. Paulo Sousa has employed a system and tactics that play to Tchouaméni’s strengths in receiving the ball deep and either playing line splitting forward passes or dribbling past the press to progress the ball forward. Also out of possession Tchouaméni is such a physical presence who can anticipate danger and is very mobile to cover the ground to make defensive recoveries and interceptions making him a very good defensively minded midfielder, which is shown in my analysis.
Aurélien Tchouaméni must improve his concentration and ball retention and overall, bring consistent high-level performances as he becomes more established in the first team. The young Bordeaux midfielder’s ability is endless and he is the type of player who is highly sought after from the big clubs. If Tchouaméni develops and improves further, he would surely be signed up by the big guns. At the moment Aurélien Tchouaméni should stay at Bordeaux to gain more first-team experience and keep developing but have no doubt that he will end up at a top club if he keeps progressing the way he has done so far.