Imran Louza at Nantes 2020/21 – scout report
France has produced some incredible talents over the years, and recently there seems to be a mass influx of talent coming through the ranks at top academies all over the country. Some of these names include Eduardo Camavinga, who has recently been touted for a move to Manchester United and Real Madrid, Rayan Ait Nouri, currently on loan at Wolves, Arsenal’s William Saliba, etc.
Among these names of top youth players coming through the ranks of the finest French footballing academies is 21-year-old Imran Louza who plays for Christian Gourcuff’s Nantes. He joined Nantes’ academy in 2006, as a mere 7-year-old and learned his craft for almost 13 more years before making his debut in a 4-1 victory in the Coupe de France back in January 2019.
Since the beginning of the 2019/20 season, Louza has been quite a prominent member of the Nantes team since the arrival of Gourcuff, who instilled an incredible belief in the youngster, particularly this season where Louza has started in almost every game for the French club, even scoring twice.
This scout report will be a tactical analysis of how Imran Louza has been utilised so far this season. It will be an analysis of how the youngster has been so crucial for Nantes’ tactics under Gourcuff so far in Ligue 1 in the 2020/21 campaign.
Style of play and best positioning:
Imran Louza is a 5’10” central midfielder. He is predominantly left-footed, however, he is adept at playing with his right foot too. As stated before, the Frenchman has played 7 games so far this season for Nantes, averaging 86.1 minutes per 90, meaning that he is rarely taken off in games.
Particularly in the previous few games, Gourcuff has put his full trust into the youngster. Usually, when players come from an academy and make their debut with the first team, they are rarely thrust into central roles on the pitch, especially at centre-back or in central midfield. However, Louza has been trusted by his manager to occupy one of the most important roles on the pitch as a central midfielder in a double pivot in a 4-4-2.
Central midfield is not the only position Louza is capable of playing in, however. He has also been utilised as an attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 as well as a winger cutting inside from the right onto his left foot.
His role is very free. Regardless of the position he plays in a match, his manager gives him a license to drift from side to side and even out into the half-spaces or the flanks depending on the situation. This free role always allows Nantes to have a free man whilst they are in possession, and this free movement can be seen in his heat map.
Safe possession in a double-pivot:
One of Imran Louza’s most noticeable traits is his safety in possession. As already stated in this scout report, Louza is typically deployed in a double-pivot in central midfield alongside Pedro Chirivella, the ex-Liverpool man. The double-pivot is quite flexible, and Louza is the central midfielder who drops the shortest to pick up the ball from the centre-backs.
Generally, when a player does this role, his goal is to take the ball from the build-up phase of play with the backline, and progress it further up the field, however, Louza likes to act as a wall pass most of the time, helping his side circulate the ball from left to right, and even switching the play out to the fullbacks as well.
His safety in possession can be seen by his incredible pass accuracy. So far this season, Imran Louza has made an average of 51.98 passes per 90 with a passing accuracy of an efficient 87.02 percent. His statistics in this respect are eerily similar to that of his midfield partner, with Chirivella making 51.97 passes per 90 on average with an even better 87.99 percent accuracy.
These completed passes statistics leave Louza as number 25 on the rank of total passes per 90 with Chirivella as number 26 for midfielders in the entire league.
In this example, Louza has received the ball from the centre-half and has time to take it on the half-turn to look for a progressive pass forward. He instead decides to play to the nearest player to the left, Nantes’ right centre-back who was sat in plenty of space with no pressure coming onto him.
This safe possession style of Louza is an exceptional quality to have in a player once it suits the teams’ style of play. In this case, it does suit how Gourcuff wants his Nantes side to play in possession. However, Louza has a great range of passing and at certain points, such as the situation shown above, the 21-year-old could take more risks to progress his team further up the pitch.
That is not to say that the talented midfielder does not try his hand with progressive passes, in fact, when he does play progressively, he is very efficient with his passing.
Here is an instance where Louza moves the ball from the first phase into the second phase using a split pass between the two Paris Saint Germain forwards to the feet of Chirivella instead of playing backwards to the centre-backs or fullback, which he would normally do. He has the ability to makes these risky passes between the lines but needs to try and utilise this asset more.
His progressive passing statistics are still very respectable which is a great sign for Louza and for Nantes as he is still only young and if he fulfils his projected potential, he could become one of the most efficient progressive passers in Ligue 1, providing he stays in France. He currently averages 6.75 progressive passes per 90, with an average distance of 204.33 metres, making him the 38th best progressive passer in the league.
From the data viz above, we can see Louza’s progressive passes from the past calendar year. The most noticeable thing about this visual is that the majority of his progressive passes are played from the central areas either out to the left or the right flank.
From watching the Frenchman play, it is very clear that he switches the play quite a lot to the flanks in order to circulate the ball quickly from one side of the pitch to the other. By doing so continuously, he wears out the opposition as they are constantly being forced to shift from side to side in their defensive block, but it also disorientates the opposing team’s defensive block, creating gaps to play through, which can be seen in the following image:
Late runs into the box:
Louza has a very distinct way of creating goalscoring opportunities for himself. Regardless of whether or not he is playing as an attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 or a central midfielder in a 4-4-2, the 21-year-old makes very late runs at the edge of the box in order to create room for himself to score just at the 18-yard box.
This technique is very effective as the midfielder has managed to bag himself a number of goals from these types of positions whether they be with Nantes, Nantes II, or the French Under-21 side.
In the footage above, we can see this exact movement from Louza taking full effect, leading to the opening goal against Nimes in the league.
Whilst his side are attacking, Louza holds his run until he is on the blindside of the opposition’s defenders. He times his run to perfection and calls for the pass on the edge of the box where he has moved slowly to position himself so that he can receive the ball in space before looking to finish off the attack.
This is so effective because, for one, he has a wonderful strike and is very confident in front of goal which also gives confidence to his teammates to play it to him as they believe he will finish off the chance, and secondly, the timing of his late runs into the box at the blindside of the defending players means that by the time the ball is being played to Louza, they have no time to react or block the shot.
Another example of this exact passage of play can be seen here:
Louza has once again allowed the attack to formulate, before making a late run to the edge of the box, in which he receives a pull back from his teammate to strike home a lovely goal before the opposition’s defenders can react.
Despite having numerous chances of this kind so far this season, the Frenchman has failed to convert any, although he has only played seven games, so one would be fairly certain that he will score many goals from these scenarios in future matches.
His two goals in the 2020/21 campaign have come from the penalty spot as Christian Gourcuff has faith in Louza once more to take his side’s penalties.
Imran Louza is gifted for his ability in possession, however, he is certainly not blessed with defensive nous in terms of 1v1 duels. That being said, his work rate is noticeably excellent, and he rarely gives his opponent’s a minute on the ball, harassing them constantly until they have either ceded possession or else moved the ball on.
Despite this determination, Louza has a tendency to make fouls due to his aggressive nature when in a defensive duel closing his man down and has even gotten himself sent off already this season in a match at home to Nimes. His defensive statistics are still very respectable. Louza completes 6.9 defensive duels per 90 with a success rate of 55.56 percent. He also completes 5.06 recoveries per game along with 2.15 counter-pressing recoveries.
This calendar year, Louza has completed 152 recoveries in total in Ligue Une, with 83 of these being counter-pressing recoveries. 71 of the 152 recoveries were also from the central area due to Nantes deploying a mid-block out of possession, with Louza typically in the centre of midfield.
As can be seen from the data visual above, which represents the data from all seven of Louza’s league matches this season, the majority of recoveries come from counter-pressing. However, what can also be noticed is the number of interceptions that he makes.
Louza’s reading of the game is excellent. We have spoken before about his intelligence in possession of the ball, but his intelligence out of possession is just as impressive. The Frenchman is not blessed with pace but makes up for it with positional awareness.
From this image, before the ball has even been played Louza had already started to move to cut off the passing lane to the intended player, in which he did successfully by intercepting the pass in order to regain possession for Nantes.
Once again in the following image, we see an almost identical move happen:
With this awareness and ability both in possession and out of possession, it is unimaginable to think of how good Louza could potentially be should he fulfill his potential in the future.
This highly-rated prospect is certainly one to watch yet again this season in Ligue 1. His panache and movement whilst on the ball is incredible to watch and it is no wonder why he was targeted with a 20 million euro move in the past summer transfer window to Italian giants Milan.
This move never came to fruition, but it is certainly a testament to Louza’s quality that massive European clubs such as Milan have been eyeing him for a future move. The midfielder has an abundance of talent at his disposal and if he carries on playing as well as he has, and becomes as good as he is projected to, the 21-year-old may follow suit with the likes of Adrien Rabiot, N’Golo Kante, Corentin Tolisso, and Matteo Guendouzi just to name a few, to join a top European side one day.
At the moment, we should all just enjoy him playing to the best of his ability for Nantes.