Nathan Staples writes a detailed scout report about Wylan Cyprien, Nice’s forward-thinking midfielder
Who is Wylan Cyprien?
From the French territory of Guadeloupe, Wylan Cyprien was a dreamer that kept achieving his dreams.
He told BeIN Sports earlier this season: “Before starting football, I wanted to become a professional player. I succeeded in signing for Lens, now I’m in a good Ligue 1 club. We’ll see the next step.”
In fact, the 22-year-old has been in the top flight of French football before, with his former club Lens. On that occasion, he didn’t pull up any trees, scoring two goals and creating two more but ending the season with nine yellow cards and eventual relegation back to Ligue 2.
A superb season back in the second tier caught the eyes of many, as Cyprien went on to score seven goals as his club just missed out on a swift bounce back up. That disappointment did not last long, with the youngster joining Lucien Favre’s project at OGC Nice for just €5m, linking up with an assortment of exciting talent.
That new spotlight seemed only to bring the best out of him. Eight goals, three assists and helping sit on top of Ligue 1 over the winter break, the youngster has had a monumental rise that has managed to unseat Vincent Koziello as the club’s brightest prospect.
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In that same interview with BeIN, he revealed that working with the Swiss manager has really helped broaden his horizons and encouraged him to take chances: “He wants us to get the most out of ourselves. He does not impose his methods, on the contrary, he adapts and corrects it according to his players. This is something new to me and it brings out a lot in me.”
It was a simply divine campaign, that surely had him in the running for Young Player of the Year, only for an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered against Caen in March to cut his season short. It also was the final blow to his club’s chances at a title but their passage to the Champions League was in no short terms at least partially down to Cyprien’s fine form.
What is his Style of Play?
Cyprien is a forward-thinking midfielder, as many of his stats would attest to, but would sometimes be more reserved when Nice shifted to a 4-2-3-1.
However, Favre promoted almost a fluid style of football that changed to meet his team’s and his players’ needs, so he would tend to share a box-to-box style role with midfield partner Jean-Michel Seri. When the Ivorian pressed forward, he would either step back or when the formation was more attacking, help join in as a defensive midfielder held his ground, which was also replicated when the former Lens man stormed into the opposition half.
More often than not, though, Cyprien was the one in the midfield asked to press the man on the ball. With his high energy levels, he did the grunt work that allowed Seri a little more freedom to dictate play once the ball was back in Nice’s possession.
That’s not to say Cyprien’s style does not have an effect on his team. His vivacious, positive thinking play allowed the players around him to either find space or drag attention away as he pushed through the centre.
Those two of Seri and Cyprien combined really made Nice tick. One was the engine, the other the motor but adding the latter to the former’s established quality pushed Les Aiglons much further than anyone could have anticipated.
What are his Strengths?
To start with, Cyprien has excellent close-ball control. Able to bob, weave and shift his body weight as he pleases, defenders struggle to sneak the ball off him and when he also adds a burst of speed to his play, he can drive past opponents like they were cones on a practice field, without even an inkling of slowing him down.
He keeps possession well, which is shown in his great understanding with the players around him. If Seri or Koziello are in a better position, he allows them to control it but at the same time, if he’s spotted a gap to play through, he has the ingenuity to pick out that killer ball to put the forwards in dangerous areas.
Added to that is his great striking ability, both from distance and from set-piece opportunities. The wonderful strike against Marseille showed how he can accurately place the ball from long range in full speed, while the superb free-kick against Paris Saint-Germain displayed that he can be the one that adds that extra goal threat from midfield.
Not only that, his ability to arrive late in the box while the ball is out wide is another real plus point. Almost Frank Lampard-esque, he always tends to be in and around the semi-circle of the 18-yard box and makes the clever, unnoticed runs that get you the extra few, simple goals a season.
The youngster is a super athlete too, able to cover a lot of the pitch in a game and is a real willing worker. In fact, his full attitude to the game is gratifying, he has spoken about the team’s strong relationship and that looks to have helped him not only settle quickly but learn how he can best benefit his team.
What are his Weaknesses?
While Cyprien has regularly been filling a box-to-box midfielder role, which could be an excellent fit with his current skillset, he does need to work on his defensive side of the game. He’s an inconsistent tackler, coming in at wrong angles and occasionally being a little rushed when asked to either press or cover a running man.
He also sometimes has too much of a focus on the ball, allowing opponents to exploit that naivety in the gaps he makes. That has been covered by the quality teammates around him but that lack of awareness would make him struggle as part of a two-man midfield. His style and game at this moment in time would suit a role as an attacking midfielder much better, where the defensive responsibilities are more limited.
Even at 5”11, he’s not got any real aerial presence either. He doesn’t get the greatest of leaps and his lack of size in general means that he can be too often bullied when the ball is in the air.
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