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Mosope Ominiyi writes a comprehensive scout report on Vincent Koziello, Nice’s talented midfielder.
OGC Nice’s excellent start to the 2016/17 campaign has been particularly refreshing to see, especially as the bigger sides haven’t started in similar fashion. AS Monaco and PSG have asserted themselves as France’s heavyweights in recent seasons, but Lucien Favre’s side have emerged as early title contenders and consistency will help mount an unlikely charge for silverware.
In amongst their team is a rejuvenated Mario Balotelli, who is finally playing with the goal-scoring prowess that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in recent years. There are a handful of academy talents who have broken through into the senior side including centre-backs Malang Sarr and Olivier Boscagli, but there’s a more notable talent in the ranks.
Vincent Koziello, who recently turned 21, has all the tools needed to become a world-class player in the coming years.
Having already racked up 50 Ligue 1 appearances at the time of writing, Koziello continues to improve and the Frenchman’s progress hasn’t gone unnoticed in recent months.
Having joined the club’s youth academy in 2013 from local side AS Cannes, he made his first senior appearance in November 2014 under then-boss Claude Puel. He hasn’t looked back since, taking significant steps to assert himself as a mainstay in the team whilst being consequently rewarded with a call-up to France’s under-21 side.
The presence of midfield compatriots including PSG’s Adrien Rabiot and Corentin Tolisso at Lyon has only fuelled Koziello’s determination to succeed, and more experience at international level will prove beneficial in the long-term.
The 5ft 7in midfielder, who operates mainly in the centre but can also adapt to a more defensive role, has been heavily linked with a move to both Arsenal and AC Milan recently – no surprise given his quality.
His Man of the Match display during Nice’s 1-1 draw against Lille at the end of August epitomised some of his main strengths, where his constant pressing forced a mistake which lead to his own well-taken goal, before making four tackles, two interceptions and two key passes during the 90 minutes also.
On the surface, plenty might scowl at Koziello’s uninspiring tally in regards to goals and assists. But once you analyse further, it becomes evident that his talents aren’t particularly flashy but admirable to say the least.
Despite being a relatively small central midfielder, he welcomes physical battles with opponents and is able to make a number of successful interceptions as well as ball recoveries because of this.
He has a tendency to get involved in build-up play and this allows him to showcase his excellent passing range, as well as the spatial awareness to find unmarked team-mates running forward into promising positions near the final third.
As previously mentioned, his passing range is an integral component. Regularly recording pass accuracy of 90% and above, it’s unsurprising to see the majority of his passes are forward and towards the attacking third.
His energetic work rate means his level of defensive contribution is high off-the-ball, and although he rarely does many flashy dribbles or fancy flicks, it’s a welcome mindset from a young player that has the desire to continually improve with time. Given his small frame, it allows him to take-on opponents with much more freedom than it would if he was significantly taller, and he’s able to smoothly transition from defence into attack with the ball at his feet.
Another of his strengths, perhaps surprising given his stature, is his ability to tackle effectively. He has excellent spatial awareness and can get forward into a more advanced playmaking role when required, but the ability to tackle successfully on a consistent basis helps to relieve pressure on his more attack-minded team-mates, who are not as reliable out of possession. Having averaged over two tackles per game so far this season, it’s obvious that when called upon, Koziello rarely gets it wrong defensively.
Although not a necessity to improve upon he will want to improve his involvement in goals when looking reflectively to justify his contributions further forward. As someone ever so comfortable in possession of the ball, it would make sense to see him in a more advanced role as he matures and wants to add more versatility to his ever-growing list of qualities.
A common theme among talented youngsters, consistency can always be a factor – especially with tough matches coming thick-and-fast like in Nice’s case as UEFA Europa League football has been an additional challenge to cope with. Koziello may be initially disheartened not to see his name in the starting line-up, a frequent occurrence in recent weeks, but should understand that appropriate steps are being made to ensure players of his calibre have to be rotated in order to avoid possible burnout.
He has been an unused substitute on the bench in five of Nice’s Ligue 1 matches this term, and a late replacement in three other fixtures at the time of writing. Given his role in the side, it’d be unfair to judge him on a few cameo appearances, but it’s essential that he is offered guidance and support to help remain patient whilst waiting for his opportunity to establish a sustained run of games in the team considering the midfield depth at Lucien Favre’s disposal. With that being said, questions will be asked if the 21-year-old – one of Nice’s best players – doesn’t feature more often in the coming months.
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