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Máté Bajtay writes a comprehensive scout report on Adam Ounas, Bordeaux’s latest sensation.
It is almost needless to list how many young players French football has produced recently. The likes of Ousmane Dembele, Kingsley Coman or Anthony Martial are perhaps the finest examples of the French youth system’s current excellence, apart from already world-class players such as Paul Pogba or Antoine Griezmann. Through that, we can observe Ligue 1’s growing significance of producing some immense prosperity for the future of European football.
No surprise then that such a traditional powerhouse of the French game, Girondins de Bordeaux wants to keep pace with the finest ‘youth factories’ currently in France like Lyon, Monaco or increasingly Nice. Alain Giresse, Bixente Lizarazu and Christophe Dugarry have all come through the youth ranks of Les Girondins as well as the great Zinedine Zidane, who spent most of his early career at Bordeaux. One player worth keeping an eye on now within their youth ranks is certainly Adam Ounas. He has the potential to be the next big thing in Ligue 1.
Born on 11 November 1996 in the town of Chambray-lès-Tours in central France, Ounas has spent his early youth career from the age of 4 up to 14 at Tours FC, encouraged by his father Hadji Ounas, a former goalkeeper. After departing Tours, he has played for smaller youth clubs, after eventually being scouted by Arnaud Vaillant, scout for Bordeaux and subsequently signed for Les Girondins in 2013.
It is fair to say he was already at an advanced age when he joined a professional youth development side such as Bordeaux, maybe because of that he needed more time to settle and ‘only’ made his professional debut in 2015, on the brink of his 19th birthday. It was a decent debut as he netted after coming off the bench in a 3-2 loss away to Lorient. He went on to score a total of 5 goals and 2 assists last season in 16 appearances in a convincing first professional season under then manager Willy Sagnol.
On the international level he is surrounded by controversy though. Having played twice already (scoring one goal) for Les Espoirs, the French U-20 team, one might have thought it is only a matter of time until he is called up for Les Bleus. However, Ounas has suddenly switched allegiances and opted to play for the Algerian national team in the future, the roots of both of his parents. This decision was probably driven by guaranteed selection and more playing time. However, unluckily the decision came shortly before he got injured at the end of October, meaning he had to miss the crucial World Cup qualifier against Nigeria where he was called up for the first time. He wasn’t included in Algeria’s CAN squad and he is yet to debut for them. If France sees a potential in Ounas, they might need to act quickly and select him for a competitive match on senior level to rule out any possibilities of a potential switch.
What is his Style of Play?
Adam Ounas is a very exciting young offensive player. He is probably most suitable for the No. 10 role, but under both Willy Sagnol and Jocelyn Gourvennec he has been tried out at nearly every attacking role for Bordeaux. He is extremely comfortable in possession and is often seen gliding past opponents with some wonderful technique and great balance. His style of play is very much similar to that of Nabil Fekir, Sofiane Boufal and Rachid Ghezzal, all formed at Ligue 1. The player himself identified two key role models from within Ligue 1, per 20 Minutes: “I really enjoy the work of two Ligue 1 players, that’s [Angel] Di Maria and [Sofiane] Boufal.”. The comparison with Fekir seems the most adequate not only because of their excellent left-foot cutting in to the middle from the right, but also their body composition and general vision in the last third. One would even argue that when it comes to physique, Ounas is better off than the Lyon star.
In terms of fitting into team formations, Ounas can be best used in a flexible 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 or in an increasingly popular 3-4-3, as a wide forward on either side. With regard to last season, he has featured all across the attack for Bordeaux. He made seven of his 16 league starts on the right wing in a 4-3-3 but also played on the right of a 4-2-3-1, at No. 10 role and wide on the left. His breakthrough season saw him score five goals and provide two assists to Willy Sagnol’s side.
Concerning the current season, until he got injured in the end of October, Ounas has played much more on the left side in something resembling a 4-4-2/4-2-2-2, a staple of the new manager. In general, playing a naturally left footed player on the left side indicates a less possession-based team tactics, shedding light on the importance of accurate crosses and general counter-attacking style with less possibility to cut into the middle of the park. Although, one would believe that Ounas could be better fitted to a side that possesses the ball more and carry it around in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 shape, formations to which he is suited more naturally. To this point it’s been a mixed season: he only made 13 appearances in Ligue 1 (2 in the Coupe de la Ligue with one goal) with no goals and one assist. His highlight was an encouraging performance at Lyon, where Adam and the whole team played brilliantly.
As previously mentioned, Ounas has the ability to take players on with ease, which is probably his greatest asset for any team he will play for. We all remember Ousmane Dembele last season for Rennes dribbling past defenders, leading to him either creating good opportunities for himself or for his teammates. There’s always great value for a winger who can constantly bring the ball from the middle third to the final third by himself. With a better attacking structure, this can lead to creating high quality chances during the transition phase, becoming a massive boost for an opportunistic team such as Girondins de Bordeaux. He attempted six dribbles per 90 minutes of league action, succeeding with an impressive 3.3 of those in his breakthrough season.
At such a young age, players tend to be less confident taking actual shots. Not in the case of Adam, who had 3.1 shots per 90 minutes last season.
We can see that shots inside the box are of extremely high quality. For a 20-year old winger, his output is pretty decent, both in terms of the five goals he scored and the number of chances he created per 90 minutes.
This footage combines perfectly his strengths in both driving past opponents and taking shots with confidence.
Overall, Ounas’ most relevant strengths lie in his particular dribbling ability and his low center of gravity. If used correctly in the center or on the right of a 4-2-3-1 offensive role, his assets such as close control, acceleration and link-up play can provide a massive added-value to a struggling Bordeaux side.
Despite the positives, he has flattered to deceive this season, suggesting that he needs to deal with constant pressure better as a regular in the team, after his successful first season. After scoring five goals last year, he is yet to find the back of the net, and has recorded only one assist this season. In his defense, he was injured for one month in November and since then he is yet to recover fully. Some of that may be admittedly down to Bordeaux’s strikers too, who have been quite shocking at finishing thus far.
Like most young players, Adam needs to develop his physical attributes in order to be even more successful in 1v1 challenges. Standing at only 172cm and weighing 65kg is not good enough, even in the more technical Ligue 1. This can pose limitations when he is up against bigger and more physical defenders. Although his lack of height could contribute to drawing fouls or take-ons, it also poses obvious problems attacking and defending during dead ball situations.
His defensive work rate is also lacking, as is his discipline, having picked up four bookings (one red) in just over 700 minutes of playing time. Becoming a regular for his club is absolutely crucial this season. Ounas is still a little raw and needs to develop his game to improve consistency, similarly with most players at his age. Certainly, the next couple of years will be vital to his development. What is probably a good move for his progress is that he looks to be staying on with Bordeaux, getting more and more playing time.
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