Nabil Fekir scout report - Profiling the next big star from Olympique Lyon
Takeovers and financial injections often change the overall outlook of a football club. Paris Saint-Germain's recent uprise is nothing different. They have gone onto become French champions for the fourth year in a row, dominating the league in every way possible and it is no surprise that they won the title last year by a difference of eighteen points, above Olympique Lyonnais who ruled the top flight about a decade ago. Lyon have never got their hands on the trophy since the 07/08 season when Karim Benzema powered them to the finish line, winning the Trophée du Meilleur Buteur, the Golden Boot equivalent in the process. They have been improving and their players certainly reflect the case, Alexandre Lacazette scoring a total of 21 goals in the league. Even though all the attention and transfer frenzy is directed at the 25 year old Frenchman, there is another player who has been showing signs of huge potential and improvement on the pitch, Nabil Fekir.
Fekir was born on 18 July 1993 in Lyon, the second largest city in France. He started his senior career at Olympique Lyonnais Reserves and Academy, Lyon's reserve team in 2011 and was promoted to the first team in 2013. His debut came in a 2-0 defeat against Real Sociedad after replacing Yassine Benzia at half time. He made his Ligue 1 debut against Evian which Lyon lost 2-1 and in a 4-1 thumping of Bastia, he had the first career goal to his name, also setting up another for Lacazette in the match. That was the only goal in his first season where he made 16 appearances in all competitions.
The 2014/15 season saw him start regularly for the French side and form a partnership with Lacazette, who finished as top scorer, scoring 40 goals between them. 3 of his goals came from his right foot implying he is not a solely left footed player. He had 9 assists to his name and created 48 goalscoring opportunities for his team mates. Apart from boasting a pass completion rate of 84%, he completed 2.8 dribbles per game complementing 96 successful take-ons, leaving defenders in awe of his energy, agility and pace.
He improved under their manager Hubert Fournier and was awarded the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year in 2015 along with the Talent Radar Player of the Season and Midfielder of the Season awards. Notable performances and attacking talent honored with justification and Fekir was a bomb waiting to explode.
Last season, he made a blistering start to the campaign scoring four in four matches but an injury during his France debut kept him out and he never really got going again.
Style of play and strengths
Fekir is known for his agility, quickness and surprisingly for a man of his build, strength. He is established in the no. 10 role but can play either upfront or through both wings. He has often shown his full ability when he's played on the right, cutting inside and never hesitating to have a go at goal. He likes running at defenders drifting wide and using his technical ability to get past them.
At 5 ft. 8, his strength is the most surprising of all. As an attacking midfielder, he has only been knocked off the ball 75 times, nothing high for a player of his age and physique. He holds onto the ball pretty well and picks out through balls when the opportunity arises.
Apart from his pace and agility, he has an eye for finding a team mate in the final third and had completed a total of 49 key passes in the 2014/15 season, 1.4 of the kind every game, showing maturity and teamwork instead of taking route one trying to get his name on the score sheet.
Out of the 13 goals he scored the year before, 12 of them have come from inside the penalty area attributing to his patience to wait for the big opportunity before unleashing his lethal left foot towards the target.
He has shown glimpses of his ability at taking set pieces with his inswinging corners and indirect freekicks though he hasn't been put on primary duties.
Though he has shown he's capable of holding off defenders and using his physique to cleverly get the better of the defenders, he's weak in the aerial department as his build suggests. He has only won 21.51% of the total aerial duels, contesting 46% of such aerial battles and never looking like a threat. This certainly writes off his chances as a lone striker but he would still be an asset for teams resorting to the short passing style of play.
There has also been concerns regarding his work rate, with criticisms shedding light on his reluctance to track back and contribute to the defensive phase of the game. He would need to step up his efforts in this areas to make sure he isn't held back in what could be a glorious career.
On Fekir's call to the French national side in March 2015, manager Didier Deschamps remarked, "Fekir is a player with great potential. I consider that he can bring us something different. He plays in a different role to the others. He can score and set up others to score."
His style of play has had former France international Bernard Lacombe drawing comparisons with Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben.
Nabil Fekir still has a long way to go in his career and at the club that produced the likes of Karim Benzema, Hatem Ben Arfa and more recently Alexandre Lacazette, it is a comfort zone that he could use to mould his potential into something extraordinary.