Kwame Atteen writes a detailed scout report about Houssem Aouar, the Lyon and France midfielder.
While we are all so used to the production line that French football has ever so consistently delivered. There is a new creator in town that is turning heads amongst the best in Ligue 1. While the emergence of Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and Samuel Umtiti have taken many football fans’ breath away in the last few years, the next skilful French talent to land on the scene comes in the form of Lyon’s Houssem Aouar. With Lyon making such significant signings in the summer in the shape of Mariano Diaz, Bertrand Traore and Memphis Depay the season before you would not have thought that the academy talent would step in to become the lead creator within the Lyon midfield shielded by the sturdiness of Lucas Tousart. This weekend’s brace at Amiens is very much the perfect example of this.
Who is Houssem Aouar?
Houssem Aouar was born in Lyon in 1998. Joining the Lyon academy in 2009. Having spent 2 seasons amongst the Lyon B team he then went on to make his debut in the Europa league last February replacing Sergei Dardar. Although Bruno Génésio only gave Aouar 3 appearances last term this was surely enough to impress the Lyonnais coach in addition to a strong preseason.
With the likes of Maxime Gonalons, Sergei Dardar, Corentin Tolisso and Alexander Lacazette all leaving the club last season, in true Lyon fashion they did not only look to the transfer market they also looked to the quality of their academy for replacements, which is extremely refreshing to see in the modern game. Now with 12 appearances under his belt this term he has now over taken Clement Grenier and Jordan Ferri as the main fixture in midfield rotated alongside NDombèlé and Toussart as Génésio turns to youth in order to reignite the spark that may have been lost from senior player departures from the club.
What is his Style of Play?
Although only 19 years old he is very much a technically gifted footballer. Aouar’s style is the perfect mixture between two former Lyon fan favourites, Gourcuff and Grenier. He is very energetic with the quality to go with it, which is essential in playing in Lyon’s counter attacking style that focuses on pace and transitions.
What are his Strengths?
Aouar has the ability to glide past players in an instant as well as regularly ghosting into the box similar to Gourcuff at his peak. In addition to this he has the kind of composure and eye for a pass that Grenier specialises in. Which is essential when you have the speed of Traore, Depay and Diaz at your disposal ahead of you.
This mixture of talents allows Aouar to adapt to the tempo of the game. Whether this be aggressive bursts into the box on the counter as we saw against Amiens resulting in two goals or more of a tight knit passing game playing one twos in tight spaces, while cascading through the midfield into the final third. This is where he has found himself on the same wavelength as Fekir and the other forward thinking players in the team. This is what makes Lyon so exciting to watch.
Often the press hassles the opposition into a mistake in the midfield, and the ball is released to Aouar on the turn and the whole team breaks. Aouar is especially adept at letting the ball run across his body. A talent that many of the best midfielders of the past have had.
At the point of receiving the ball on the break Aouar’s decision making is what is keeping him in the team, as he often picks the correct incisive pass that results in a chance. Based on performances from the start of the season until now Aouar would definitely be a contender for a Ligue 1 team of the year inclusion, as well as potentially being a dark horse for a place in the French world cup squad. What a dream debut season that would be.
What are his Weaknesses?
At present Aouar is finding his feet in Ligue 1 as is Génésio in understanding where Aouar’s true position lies. His strengths are to turn on the break and feed the forwards, which he does fantastically well both when playing centrally or when he plays in a wide position. However when playing centrally his creativity can be hindered particularly against big teams, as there is a reluctance to break and be more creative for fear of emptying the midfield. This may simply be an effect of the formation that Lyon play however in Aouar’s early years in Ligue 1 he may benefit from playing more games in an attacking midfield role or as one of 3 in midfield to fully ensure that his confidence continues to grow and that his responsibility is solely focused on creation rather being a defensive midfield screener.
That being said Aouar definitely looks like a future French international and if he continues to produce the performances he has been, Lyon may be looking at a player that can continue to take on responsibility with the likes of Fekir continuously rumoured to be moving away.
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- Scout Report: Houssem Aouar | Lyon’s young midfield star - March 12, 2018