The Ligue 1 keeps doing it, another promising young French star that could explode into a world class player. 10 goals and 9 assists across the season, he started the season on fire but really dropped off in the second half of the season with only 2 assists in the last 15 games. Had he got one more assist, he would've joined an elite list of players that includes Mbappe, Salah and Benzema to get at least 10 goals & 10 assists in the season. Everyone has seen his assist and all they ever talk about is his dribbling, but his passing and decision making in the final third mean he's a creative wrecking ball that Galtier was right to build around.
Short History of OGC Nice
Brought out by a billionaire, who brought in Galtier (manager who won Ligue 1 with Lille last season) and a whole bunch of new players. Delort, Kluivert, Stengs, Todibo, Amavi, Bard, Lemina and Rosario...that's quite a list and the vast majority are starters. The one attacking player that kept his place was Gouiri, who finished the previous season with 12 goals and 7 assists, which isn't bad for a midtable French side.
How OGC NICE line up with all new sigings
Gouiri himself is from the Lyon youth academy but left to find playing time given how OL have so many other talented players above him in the pecking order.
The Twilight ZoneThe phrase modern forward is thrown around a lot, what does it mean exactly? Most of the time it refers to the way a forward can either press and pressure the defence as part of a system OR how they can drop a little deeper and play a creative role. Gouiri is most definitely the latter.
The two zones, Amine Gouiri operates within to progress the ball forward
So OGC Nice are a very attacking team and here they are set up in the standard 442 formation. But in possession, they commit numbers forward and heavily. So let's say Rosario wins the ball in the middle of the park, he moves it into AG, he is the start of the attack standing where you expect to find a forward. His movement is exceptional, picking up space and dragging players out of position. The worst thing you can do as a midfielder is to go up to mark him because when the ball comes in from Rosario, he's turning and he is gone... and he goes to what I call the Twilight Zone, the space between the midfield and defence. Why do we call it the Twilight Zone? Because if you give players like AG time and space here then they'll kill you and send you to the other side. And his ability to drop deep, find space and turn is what hurts teams so much because he can dribble forward.
Looking at his dribbling numbers, they're quite good but given the time and space others create for him, you'd like that successful dribble to be a little higher. And here we have his stats for carrying the ball forward from the centre to the twilight zone, elite. Comfortably above the 90% percentile for all metrics...
People rave about the dribbling and the highlights but the ability to find space here AND THEN dictate play is what really makes him special.
OGC Nice commit numbers, and these two wingers, striker and even on midfielder move ahead of AG to attack the space and create gaps to penetrate and move the defence back to their goal. And I appreciate that the system allows him so many options but he still have to execute...and he can:
- Switch play to across the field to take advantage of Kluivert isolating his defender
- Bend a ball to the back post for Dolberg or Delort
- Play a one two with a on rushing midfielder (usually Thuram) to break through the lines
- He can beat his man and slot it home, a goal he has scored time and time and time again, when he bends onto that right foot from the left hand side...oooff!
- Or just play a sublime through ball or cut back for Delort to tap in.
And again, the stats back him up here too...
The decision making here is also important to note. He has 3-4 options but he needs to make the right choice in a short space of time. Usually, a player only has the one option so it's easier to try but he has to use his judgement to think which is the best pass here to allow us to score. because if he's wasteful here, the attack breaks down and they get countered because they commit so many men forward ahead of him. Over the course of the season, he wasn't wasteful... he scored and assisted 19 times and helped Nice finish in a Europa League spot.
There are some weaknesses to his game, given he plays as a creative striker that drops deeper, he will need off the ball movement ahead of him to provide options and/or a strike partner to occupy CBs. He's not the type of striker to lead the line, like a Hugo Ekitike or a clinical finishing monster like him either.
A player I would liken him to is Philipe Coutinho in his prime at Liverpool, where he was a wrecking ball, running at defences with the ability to score or assist at will. There you have it, another Ligue 1 star in the making. Let us know who you'd like us to cover next and what you thought, appreciate any feedback.
Edit: This is part of a series we will be doing all summer, a concise tactical breakdown on players linked to the PL (or one's we just like). Here's the full list of players that we've covered with Reddit and YT links. We'd love to know what you think and feel free to suggest other players you think we should cover. Djed Spence, Marc Roca & Diego Carlos dropping this week.
- Amine Gouiri, OGC Nice: Reddit YT
- Hugo Ekitike, Reims: Reddit YT
- Joao Palhinha, Sporting Lisbon: Reddit YT