Some say the French League is a dominated by one team- PSG. This year, however, Lyon have emerged as a serious title contender. At the forefront of this title challenge has been the much talked of, Alexandre Lacazette. But another player who has also been instrumental has been the highly talented Nabil Fekir. Although Lacazette is arguably Lyon’s best player, Fekir is highly regarded, so much so that Lyon’s chairman was quoted saying “he is my Messi”. With Lyon pushing PSG for the title- and Fekir playing a huge part in this- there seems to be a kernel of truth to this, albeit we all know, he is no Messi. So who is Nabil Fekir?
So who is Nabil Fekir?
Of French and Algerian descent, Fekir is a product of the Lyon youth academy although he was actually released by Lyon at the age of 14 in 2007. After he played for smaller clubs, Lyon then re-signed Fekir in 2011. Having re-joined in 2011, Fekir represented Lyon’s youth team scoring 7 goals in 26 matches over two seasons. Although this was a solid return, Fekir did not progress through the youth teams and only managed one U21 appearance.
Last year, however, Fekir made his debut for Lyon against Reims on 24th August. Though he was subsequently included in multiple first team squads, he did not make the full step to the first team; still making 7 appearances for the youth team that year and only 11 for the first team. This season, however, has been Fekir’s break out year. Lacazette catches the headlines for his goal scoring exploits but Fekir has put together an impressive first full season notching 12 goals and 10 assists in 28 matches. He made his first appearance for France against Brazil and subsequently against Denmark; and is regarded by Didier Deschamps as having “great potential”.
Nabil Fekir won the ‘Player of the Season’ and ‘Midfielder of the Season’ at the 2015 Talent Radar Awards along with being named in the Team of the Season. The midfielder has made an impression on our Talent Radar Team of the Week and Player Rankings feature as well, while also being named in the U-22 Ligue 1 Team of the Season 2014-15.
Style of Play, Strengths & Weaknesses
Fekir is a typical modern age winger; quick, technical and small. Within Lyon’s system Fekir either plays on the wing or with Lacazette in a partnership. Although comfortable in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, his most comfortable position seems to be the right wing. Like many left footed wingers playing on the right hand side, he loves driving at fullbacks and cutting inside to shoot. What this does mean, however, is that he is unlikely to drive to the by line and cross with his right foot.
Although he doesn’t always cross, unlike many left footers, Fekir is not afraid to use his right foot to cross and finish in the box- occasionally.It is obviously his right foot isn’t as strong as his left- this is something he can work on- at least he isn’t completely one-footed. Despite being only 5’8”, he is very strong on the ball. If anything, his strength might be his most surprising trait. He uses his body very well and creates clever angles to block defenders and shield the ball. Due to this he can quite easily hold off defenders and draws a lot of fouls because of it. He may not be nearly as good, his strength on the ball and acceleration reminds me slightly of Hazard.
A slalom like winger, Fekir can sometimes be too quick for his own good. At times his touch seems slightly sloppy and he uses his strength to keep the ball. When he plays in a more number 10 role in the final third, he doesn’t seem to be as effective. When the opposition close up around the box ,I’m not sure if he is the one to be making the killer pass. He is either faced with too much or he simply passes to the wings; where he should really be receiving the ball. However, on the break he seems to be very capable of drifting inside and playing the ball into space- something he might find harder in a better league.
On the left side (unlike the right) Fekir is capable of beating his defender and driving to the by line to cross the ball more than cutting inside to shoot. Because of his differing play on the wings, I can see why he’s given freedom to drift between positions at the top of the pitch. To be able to do this though, the player needs to have a high football intelligence. At the moment Fekir seems more adept and comfortable, attacking fullbacks on the wings rather than trying to dribble through two banks of four.
Quite often I’ve seen him receive a very strong pass and control it, whilst also pinning his defender. After his initial first touches though , he seems to do a bit too much. He needs to learn when to pass and went to dribble, as sometimes defenders double up on him and he loses the ball. He needs to realise that he needs to use his brain not just his feet to beat the defender. In the box, however he seems a cool finisher. He has good touches with his left foot and can finish quite naturally. Although he seems to have a cultured left foot directly outside the box; I don’t see him being able to score 35 yard screamers.
What he does do well- especially on the right- is drift inside the fullback and finish with his left; as seen by his 12 goals this year. In sum I wouldn’t say Nabil Fekir is the most prodigious 21 year old in world football. He possesses excellent strength, a good left foot and is a good finisher. He needs to learn to be more decisive with the ball, but also learn how to position himself better. He doesn’t do anything particularly badly, yet you’re left wondering why he isn’t even better.
What does the future hold?
Although Fekir doesn’t seem like a young player every club wants, he looks like a player that will get better with playing time and age. With the rumoured departure of Alexnder Lacazette, next season could be Fekir’s time to fulfil his potential. I think he will become a better player once he’s made the star man. If he can just work on becoming more consistent and decisive he could have a bright future for Lyon, France and probably earn a move to a bigger club. I think he has star quality; he just needs a lot of refining and coaching.
Written by Bill McLoughlin
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