Eric Devin writes a detailed scout report about Faitout Maouassa, Nancy’s versatile youngster
Who Is Faitout Maouassa?
Born in the Paris suburb of Villepinte, home to Alou Diarra, Faitout Maouassa has been somewhat of an enigmatic figure this season. He started his career at amateur club RFC Argenteuil, but failed to catch the eye to any great extent while there, despite being under the noses of Paris Saint-Germain and France’s famed Clairefontaine academy. The young left back currently plays for Nancy, having moved to the eastern club in 2013. After a strong performance in the 2015 U-17 World Cup, his star was on the rise, and he enjoyed a decent amount of playing time with the first team last season, operating as a more attack-minded deputy for Vincent Muratori and Tobias Badila.
Last summer, he received a somewhat surprising call-up to the U-19s for the European Championships in Germany. Despite having considerably less experience than Olivier Boscagli, manager Ludovic Batelli entrusted the youngster, only 16 when the tournament began, with the starting left back role. The move proved a masterstroke; Maouassa didn’t receive the attention that attackers like Kylian Mbappé and Jean-Kévin Augustin did, but he made the team of the tournament as France emerged victorious, no small feat for a player a year younger than his more illustrious teammates.
With Nancy promoted to the top flight this year, Maouassa had struggled for playing time until recently. Vincent Muratori was the starting left back at the beginning of the season, but when he went down with injury, the team called on Tobias Badila to spell the veteran. Maouassa is a left back by trade, and lacking opportunities in that position, Nancy manager Pablo Correa has also experimented with playing the youngster in central midfield and on the left side of a 4-3-3. In this last role, Maouassa has shone, recording two goals and two assists in his last five appearances, all starts, even though playing as a box-to-box midfielder might eventually suit him better.
What is his Style of Play?
Somewhat undersized at just 5′ 7″, Maouassa makes up for his lack of height with searing pace and even better acceleration. Fairly strong, he thrives at taking players on with the ball at his feet, either bombing on from fullback, or cutting inside. Played on the left, he is more apt to move wide to stretch play by crossing the ball, while on the right, he endeavors to play as an inverted winger, being more of a goal threat. This versatility makes him difficult to keep in check as his ability to switch flanks is a great means of confounding opposing defenses, either in creating overloads or switching play.
Despite his small size, Maouassa plays with a level of fearlessness, being unafraid to challenge for headers or to snap into a tackle. While he does have the ability to put in decent crosses, Maouassa is also comfortable linking play through one-twos, displaying an ambition that sometimes exceeds the abilities and awareness of his teammates and, indeed, himself. This overall bravado has been an issue in terms of his discipline as well, as he has received five bookings this season despite only starting ten matches in the league. Still, though, the confidence Maouassa has at eighteen is something to behold, even as he has been used at a variety of positions.
What are his Strengths?
What immediately catches the eye when watching Maouassa is his pace. While quick with the ball at his feet, he also has great acceleration, making him very effective on the left side, where he can run onto a long ball and whip in a cross. His timing of runs in this regard is strong as well, allowing him to hang on the shoulder of an opposing fullback before bursting past him onto the ball. As previously stated, he also has a high level of confidence, bordering on audacity, something which is imperative for success at the top level. That confidence, again, can sometimes work to his detriment as well, but as his skills and decision-making catch up with his imagination, it should bode well for him.
Although some of it is down to Nancy’s injury situation and Correa’s penchant for rotating players, Maouassa is also very versatile. Initially a striker during his days at Argenteuil, he has shown this season that he can affect a match in any position save central defense. While often young players’ versatility can be problematic in their establishing themselves as first choice, Maouassa’s has been quite the opposite, as Correa has even, of late, experimented with tactics and personnel changes that appear to be geared towards getting the best out of the youngster, effectively building the team around him. Coupled with this versatility, Maouassa also has a fairly high level of stamina for his age, with some seeing his best position being potentially as a wing-back ahead of a three-man defense as a result of this.
Faitout Maouassa in Ligue 1 action for Nancy . (Photo credit: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
What are his Weaknesses?
For all of his evident talent, Maouassa is still very young, and he evinces many of the traits that young players in skill positions do. His discipline, again, is probably the biggest issue, as his dismissal proved pivotal in a recent 1-0 loss to fellow strugglers Caen, and he also missed another match due to card accumulation. He is eager to make a tackle, but his positioning and reliance on his pace to make up ground on players have sometimes forced him into mistakes. There are some parallels to be drawn, perhaps, between Maouassa and Benjamin Mendy in this regard, as the Monaco man was often dogged by similar issues in his career before, now, at 22, becoming a full international at left back.
In attack, whether linking play in the middle of the park, or running onto a long ball, he can sometimes be let down by his first touch, one of the reasons why it is hard to see him having a future as an orthodox left back, given that his losing the ball in an advanced position can leave his team open on the counter. More gifted in terms of pace than close control, he also generally over-estimates his ability on the ball when attempting to take opponents on in the dribble. In concert with this, he could likewise use some improvement in his decision making, as he often favors his left foot and tries to use his body and pace to get the ball onto that foot, when the better option might be a pass or to use his right foot.
A recent match against Paris Saint-Germain may point the way to Maouassa’s future. The visitors lost 1-0 at the Parc des Princes, but through no fault of the youngster. Played not at left back or as a winger, Maouassa was instead deployed in central midfield, where he faced off against one of the best in the world at that position, Marco Verratti. Verratti’s irrepressible style was still in evidence, but the Italian was not at his usual heights, Maouassa’s blend of pace and power forcing him into a more subdued performance. He also had a strong shot well-parried by Kevin Trapp, and there is more than a little suggestion that operating in a style not unlike that of Verratti might bring the best out of Maouassa in the future, a freer role in midfield not only offering less in the way of repercussions but also the potential for his pace to stretch play and frustrate opponents whose style is predicated on shape.
The player himself might concur, telling OrangeFoot in an interview, “In this moment, I feel that my best position is as an attacking midfielder. I like playing like this, cutting inside from the right onto my left foot. I think this is one of my strengths. Ever since I was a kid, I have always been attracted to the opposing goal.” Playing in a more offensive role, either in midfield or on the wing, seems to make the most sense for Maouassa, as it would not only get the best from his attacking talents but alleviate potential issues surrounding his discipline at fullback. Nancy’s situation is somewhat desperate at present, though, so Correa is right to use him on the wing for the time being, lacking much in the way of attacking options aside from the youngster.
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Eric Devin is an Oregon-based football writer. He writes about Ligue 1 for Get French Football News and Outside of the Boot.
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