Arsene Wenger has a habit of pulling a rabbit out of his hat, every now and then stunning the Arsenal fans by buying a relatively unknown player and turning him into a much coveted star. And he has often turned to France’s pool of talent for his performances. While the poor shape of the Ligue 1 has led to a depletion in the quality of players, the league has supplied to the national team in recent years. There is no dearth of raw talent waiting to be harnessed.
Rumours are rife that Wenger has turned his eyes to France once again to pick out a player who is rated by many as Zidane’s heir. Many have come and gone since, but no one has clearly stepped in to fill the void left by Zizou in the Les Blues squad. Although Yoann Gourcuff and Samir Nasri did come a little close to fulfilling expectations.
Another young player to be dubbed as the new Zidane is Lyon’s attacking midfielder Clement Grenier.
Clement Grenier was born in the town of Annonay which is a short distance from one of southern France’s major cities, Lyon. Starting for local team FC Annonay in their under-9 side, he helped his team reach the final of the National Cup. Soon afterwards, Lyon’s scout ran their rule over Grenier and was eventually inducted into the club’s youth academy in 2002.
During his early years in Lyon’s Reserves he attracted much attention from clubs from Italy and England, with scouts likening him to the Brazilian great of this era, Kaka. And this was an obvious comparison, considering his role as an attacking midfielder and a knack for introducing flair to his game while also being a free-kick specialist of sorts.
Grenier featured in a number of pre-season matches in the 2008-09 season though he mainly played for the Reserves side in the fourth tier of French football. Grenier was a part of the Lyon Reserves side that reached the semi-finals of the Coupe Gambardella, a U-19 cup tournament by the FFF, making seven appearances and scoring three goals along the way. Tendinitis barred the young Grenier from making any senior team appearances that season.
In the 2009-10 season, Grenier made his debut for the senior side as a substitute for Bafetimbi Gomis against Toulouse. For a further seven months, Grenier would not feature for Lyon’s senior team until finally appearing as a substitute in a 2-2 stalemate against Bordeaux.
Style, Strengths & Weaknesses
Post 2009-10, Grenier made 23 appearances for Lyon in all competitions in 2011-12 and 32 in the 2012-13 season. This season has been Grenier’s best season at Lyon scoring seven goals and notching up nine assists.
Grenier made 28 appearances in Ligue 1 for Lyon this season, making 20 starts but only 10 full appearances with the other 8 being substitutions.
According to his role in the Lyon team he can be either be deployed on the right hand side of the midfield or behind the striker as an attacking midfielder or purely as a second striker. With 7 goals to his name this season, Grenier is clearly a player with an eye for goal. Most of his goals have come in from a close range and though not thoroughly ambidextrous, Grenier is comfortable shooting with either foot. This is precisely why Grenier has been likened to Man City midfielder, Samir Nasri.To make an accurate analysis of Grenier’s abilities we could consider his last game of the season for Lyon, which was a 2-0 win over Rennes. Grenier managed to score a goal in the 69th minute as well. As seen from the heat map, Grenier is comfortably deployed over the entire region surrounding the final third most notably advancing from the center, while also drifting to the sides occasionally. He may not be an out and out second striker as yet, but he can be involved in play making around the fringes of the box, occasionally taking charge of the game. This signifies a player who is very much in the mould of contemporary midfielders like Santi Cazorla, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who have been made to work across the midfield at times.
Grenier style of play is mainly offensive considering his passes are mainly short ranged and going forward with a lack of defensive mentality. To overcome these shortcomings, Grenier has been alternatively blessed with a powerful long shot and also comfortable in dead ball situations. If he were to stay in France, he could be molded into a potential replacement for Lyon’s master free kick taker, Juninho.
Grenier has been the subject of much speculation this summer window, with a massive interest from Arsenal. Arsenal’s chief scout in France, Gilles Grimandi, has scouted Grenier on a number of occasions. Arsene Wenger has responded affirmatively to reports of the scouting trips of Gilles Grimandi as, “We are following him. His intelligence of play pleases me. He has interesting qualities. He reminds me of Nasri.”
Lyon owner Jean-Michel Aulas has swiftly moved on to slap a price tag of £31 million upon Grenier, to keep control over his prized asset, aged 22. It is very unlikely that Arsene Wenger would splurge such an amount on a young talent with the likes of Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere already being reared into the attacking midfielder’s role. The Professor is known to be a shrewd bargainer and could make a serious move for Grenier, if he deems it necessary.
While other European clubs have not been linked with Grenier, Internazionale and Liverpool have supposedly inquired with Lyon about Grenier’s transfer situation.
“Things are not more complicated because I know what I want, and I know that it’s still not the time to talk about it. I want to stay focused on the French national team.” Grenier has told the media before accepting that he and OL coach Remi Garde have had a talk regarding his future at the club.
“We’ll see, the weeks will pass. Now I’m focussed on the national team because it’s something magnificent, you have to enjoy it. Afterwards, I’ll go on holiday and we’ll see after that.”, says the player who has received his first call to the national team for the friendlies against Uruguay and Brazil, as a replacement for the injured Samir Nasri.
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