Without a doubt, Argentina has produced some of the most enjoyable players to watch in world football. Such is the talent generated that just naming the country instantly creates thoughts about the greats like Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Angel di Maria, to name a few from the present generation. Adding to the Argentine legacy of excellent dribbers comes a new face, that of Marseille’s on loan star, Lucas Ocampos.
Who is Lucas Ocampos?
Lucas Ocampos is a 20 year-old Argentine who most often is deployed as a right attacking midfielder but has played nearly everywhere in midfield and even the role of a second striker. Ocampos first played in Argentinian side River Plate’s senior team at a very young age (17). Earning senior appearances early on got the attention of plenty of club scouts. In 2012, he moved from Argentina to France to play for the then Ligue 2 side Monaco for €13 million, which is a lot of money for a player who was only aged 18 back then.
The talented youngster lived up to the hype and had a relatively significant impact as expected, scoring a spectacular bicycle kick in his second appearance against Valenciennes FC in Coupe de la Ligue which was then voted as the best goal of the 2012-2013 season by the Monaco fans (it’s not the only time he’s scored that sort of a goal).
Although Ocampos didn’t start many matches, he managed to make over 100 appearances for Monaco. In his first season, he managed to score only 6 times in 36 appearances. In his second season with the French club, he managed to score 6 goals in 34 total appearances playing only 5 full games.
Not having enough time on the pitch made him hand in a loan request which the club agreed to and loaned him to the league contenders Olympique de Marseille with the option to make it a permanent deal at the end of the season. So far, Ocampos played a part in 5 goals, scoring once and creating 4 chances in only 7 appearances and playing 2 full games under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa.
Style of play, Strength and Weaknesses
Watching Ocampos for the first time in 2013, the thing that caught my eye first is how well the lad could dribble. His ability to get through defences with such quick feet accompanied by amazing feints is quite remarkable. What makes him even more special is his great technique on the ball as well as his first touch. A combination of such technique and agile dribbling skills make it seem like defenders are all but cones placed on the ground during a training session.
Ocampos uses his speed, one of his better qualities, to find space to run into behind defenders. Coupling this with his ability to take on defenders in tight spaces makes him a productive outlet. Apart from his aforementioned and obvious dribbling talent, the Argentine is a good passer of the ball, constantly searching for team-mates in attempts to create chances in front of goal. He has created 11 chances this season in Ligue 1 with both Marseille and Monaco (at the time of writing). He has over 290 accurate passes in 30 appearances this season, with a pass percentage of 78%.
Ocampos’ physicality and ability to propect the ball make him closer to a more complete winger. His defensive contributions and tacking are traits that cannot be ignored. He is the kind of player that is willing to fight for the ball in order to regain possession. He isn’t afraid to make a solid tackle, with a tackling ratio of 1.4 tackes per game, which is a rather decent stat considering he plays on the flanks. Standing at 1.87 meters, Ocampos is an aerial threat in the box, hard to mark in set-pieces and has a better chance of winning aerial duels on the end of long balls.
Though still not the complete package, Ocampos’ shooting accuracy (or the lack of it) is something which can’t be ignored. His shooting accuracy this season is only at a weak 30%. Given that he is capable of powerful shots with either foot, this is definitely something Ocampos can work on. Often, he takes his dribbles too far, failing to capitalise on situations for his team with the more obvious option being available.
There aren’t many young players these days that are as technically gifted and wholesome as Ocampos. He has learned to adapt to the modern trend or style of wingers, choosing to cut inside most of the time, rather than taking it out wide and putting in a cross. His pace, dribbling and knack for being in the right place at the right time make him a very useful addition to the team.
The move to Marseille was a bit of a surprise as the player, though gifted, failed to break into a Monaco side but interested a club competing for the title, while his parent club failed to do so. A return to the principality remains unlikely but a permanent move to Les Olympiens cannot be set in stone either. Ocampos is certainly one of the most special young technical players competing at the top level, but his consistency remains a negating factor.
Though the hype and excitement around the Argentine from his early days still remains, it has gradually faded away as he stepped away from the limelight. One can’t help but point to the positive impact an intelligent professional like Bielsa could have on the youngster as he moves into a crucial period in his career.
Written by Ahmed Haytham
It’s fair to say that football has always been his biggest passion. Arsenal was one of the main reasons he fell in love with football at the age of seven. He used to play football for his local club before injuries got in the way. After college, he hopes to get a Coaching Badge and start a managerial career in football.
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