Houssem Aouar is a name heavily linked with top teams in the Premier League.
The Lyon midfielder has been on the radar of the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham Liverpool and Manchester United over the past 12 months, and looks set to leave the French outfit this summer.
At 23 years of age Aouar is approaching the peak of his powers, but what would he bring to the Premier League?
Odds correct 13:30 (21/07/21)
Aouar is a midfielder who consistently gets in good scoring positions.
While it may not look it based on the basic stats, his most recent season at Lyon (21/22) was his best in terms of providing an attacking threat.
The Frenchman scored seven times for his club in Ligue 1, but he did so in limited minutes due to injury; playing just 1875 minutes of the league season, the equivalent of 19.7 full matches.
When we take a closer look at his expected goal (xG) figures, we start to see the type of player who would be a danger in any team.
Aouar averaged an impressive 0.46 xG/95 minutes last season.
That is the same output as Kevin De Bruyne recorded in the Premier League last term, and more than the likes of Chris Wood, Anthony Martial, Timo Werner and Roberto Firmino – all of whom are strikers.
If we take away penalties and look solely at non-penalty xG/95, Aouar’s 0.39 is better than the figures both Kevin De Bruyne (0.35) and Bruno Fernandes (0.27) managed in the Premier League last season.
Obviously, I am not saying he will be better than those two if he came to England, but it gives us an idea of the kind of player he is – one who gets into good scoring positions regularly.
Aouar got on the end of eight big chances (0.35 xG+) last season, scoring five of those.
The reason for that was a slight shift in position, with Lyon using him further forward as opposed to initiating the play deeper.
As well as providing a goalscoring threat himself, Aouar is also a promising facilitator.
While his assist total was down last season (3), his xA/95 was at its highest since 17/18, averaging 0.17.
The Ligue 1 xA/95 average last season was at 0.08, so Aouar’s average was respectable, but it was still some way off the major creators in the league such as Angel Di Maria (0.49), Neymar (0.43) and Aleksandr Golovin (0.41).
In the Premier League, Kevin De Bruyne led the way of players to have played more than 800 minutes with 0.47, followed by Raphinha (0.35), Jack Grealish (0.33) and Bruno Fernandes (0.33).
When playing deeper, Aouar’s ball progression is solid, but given he was playing in a more advanced roll last season, he wasn’t tasked with getting his team up the pitch as much.
He is capable of doing so if a team needs him to, but with the way he was getting into excellent scoring positions, whilst also setting up chances for his teammates means, I would be tempted to let him operate further forward.
Another reason for that is his lacklustre defending.
He isn’t very active on the defensive end, with his pressing below average in terms of successful pressures per 95 (3.8), even though he does play higher up the pitch.
With the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool all linked, who would be best suited to signing the Lyon man?
Liverpool’s lack of attacking contribution from midfield has been well documented in the last few seasons, with the Reds set up to attack in a way that rarely involves the midfield getting forward.
Aouar would provide them with a legitimate goalscoring threat in the final third, but his lack of pressing has to be a negative in a Jurgen Klopp team who do press from the front.
Tottenham have some canny operators in the attacking midfield space already, with Tanguy N’Dombele and Giovani Lo Celso, and given Nuno Espirito Santo’s defence-first mindset and structure, Aouar might not be the man for Tottenham with his lack of defensive activity.
That leaves Arsenal.
They have arguably one of the best defensive midfielders in the league on their books, Thomas Partey, a player who can more than cover for any lacklustre defending.
Aouar would be well suited to playing in a box-to-box midfield role with the Gunners, so long as Partey is fit and able to do the dirty work.
His contributions in attack are needed from midfield for an Arsenal team who really struggled in that department last season, and seems a perfect fit for the youthful team Mikel Arteta is building.
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