Every two years, the attention of many fans and scouts are put on the U17 World Cup, where future prospects will showcase their abilities and bring the trophy back to their home country. This year, there were predictions about the champion for the edition, which included Brazil U17, since the defending champion, England U17, did not qualify for the competition. And indeed, the Brazilian youngsters brought joy to their home fans by lifting the trophy after a thrilling comeback in the last ten minutes of their match against Mexico U17. As for the individual awards, two out of the three awards were claimed by the South American youngsters, which included the Golden Ball that belonged to Gabriel Veron.
Finishing as the runners-up of the Golden Ball race was Adil Aouchiche as the French midfielder led his team to a third-place finish and had caught the eyes of many fans and scouts. He had an outstanding campaign that saw him register one goal and seven assists, while he also played a key role in the team’s journey to the semi-final, only to see his side lost to the eventual winner.
Still, being considered as a “wonderkid” in recent years, his performance had attracted the attention of many big clubs and many have expected one of those names will become the next destination for the Paris Saint-Germain player. This tactical analysis scout report will provide an analysis of Aouchiche’s outstanding U17 World Cup campaign and a closer look at his performance in 2019 in general. Meanwhile, using statistics and footages, we will forecast what does 2020 have in store for the French youngster and how he can secure a spot of Thomas Tuchel’s tactics in Ligue 1 this season.
Overview and style of play
During the campaign, manager Jean-Claude Guintini opted to use a traditional 4-2-3-1 formation for his France U17 side. Chrislain Matsima and Tanguy Kouassi were chosen to fill in the two positions at the heart of the team’s defence, while Melih Altikulac and Brandon Soppy occupied the attacking full-back roles respectively. Screening the space in front of the defence were Johann Lepenant and former Sochaux midfielder Lucien Agoumé.
For Aouchiche, he was used in the attacking midfielder spot as he took on the responsibilities of connecting the midfielders with striker Arnaud Kalimuendo-Muinga, which was also his teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, and is the team’s main creative source. He is able to move away from his position often to support the attack and even switches positions with his teammates to help them get into a good position to receive the ball.
Besides playing in his preferred position of an advanced playmaker, Aouchiche can also be used as a central midfielder who takes on a more attacking role in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Since his style of play is quite offensive, it will be ideal to pair him up alongside a defensive midfielder who can carry his defensive responsibility and give him the cover he needs when driving forward with the ball.
In Paris Saint-Germain’s squad, that defensive midfielder can be Idrissa Gueye, who is known for his defensive qualities during his time at Everton. Tuchel can use him alongside Marco Verratti, a natural deep-lying playmaker, who will provide him through balls and put him in a positive state to either continues the team’s attack or create a chance by himself. Below, Gueye will cover up the unoccupied gaps while being able to recover possession immediately incase Aouchiche’s intention is stopped by the opposition’s player.
Another option that is also viable for the German manager is using a 4-2-1-3/4-2-3-1 formation and puts Aouchiche into the attacking midfielder position. Still keeping the mentioned principles in Verratti staying deep to provide the French youngster penetrative passes and Gueye covering for him, but by putting him at the top of the midfield triangle, it allows him to have more license to roam and dribble with the ball.
On several occasions, Aouchiche is also being used as a central forward and is given the license to drift wide, similar to a winger. This benefits his style of play as he tends to dribble with the ball more often and is able to make crosses into the box, which is the traits that will be analysed more thoroughly later in the analysis. Paris Saint-Germain also use a 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 formation in some matches this season and it will be a great chance to maximise Aouchiche’s versatility.
While it might not be similar to their U19 formation for their first match against Real Madrid U19 this season, this can become a hint for how Aouchiche can be used as a striker in Tuchel’s two-striker formation. Being more of a natural playmaker, the French midfielder can take on the role of a false nine who drops deep to bring his teammates into play.
No matter either Edinson Cavani or Kylian Mbappé will fill in the remaining striker role, his appearance will allow both of them to burst forward more often, especially Mbappé. The former Monaco player can utilise Aouchiche’s passing ability to turn up at the end of his through passes and sprint towards the opposition’s goal. While Cavani can become a target man who connects with the French midfielder’s long balls and creates a chance on his own.
Amid the fact that he is a natural playmaker who can set up chance after chance for his teammates, it will be fascinating to follow how Tuchel, and possibly other managers, will capitalise on his versatility to pick out the best position for him. Still, at the age of 17, there will be more to come for Aouchiche as his potential and attributes are yet to be maximised. The upcoming year will be crucial for him after his performance at the U17 World Cup as a spot in Tuchel’s plan is up for grabs and he can even progress further than that.
Involvement in the team’s build-up
During the U17 World Cup campaign, it was a familiar scene to see French players build their attacks from the backline. By using the passing ability of Matsima and Kouassi, it was viable for them to make progressive passes up front and linked up with the attackers. Along with that, many would have expected both central midfielders in Lepenant and Agoumé to join the process since both full-backs tended to position themselves higher up the pitch.
Still, that was not what really happened on the pitch. While both centre-backs played a key role during the process, there was only Agoumé who did position himself near Matsima and Kouassi to offer an available passing option. The other player who involved in the team’s build-up was, surprisingly, Aouchiche.
On many occasions, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder opted to come deep and receive the ball from the defenders while also creating a flexible passing triangle with them through his movements. Given the fact that he started most of the matches as an attacking midfielder, this was a surprising tactical point to note. Whenever he dropped deep to receive the ball, he would move slightly to the left-hand side of the two central defenders and at times, even filled into the position that the left-back left behind.
Depending on the situation, his movement can be flexible as he can shift across his team’s half to involve in the build-up. Also, his body orientation is another thing that needs to be taken into account. Again, he will rely on how the situation develops to make a precise decision in order to avoid losing possession inside the half.
For example, in case he manages to find an unoccupied pocket of space that allows him to receive the ball without any significant pressure, he will turn his body towards the centre-backs to help him receive the ball in the most comfortable state. After that, just a small turn would be enough to change his sight from heading towards his team’s goal to the opponent’s half, similar to the shot above. In a contrasting situation where it is compulsory to position himself in between the lines or there is at least one player who follows him, he will turn the order upside down and aims to orient his body first. This helps him to quickly scan the field for possible receivers and will be able to act quickly in case an opposition’s player moves close to him for the ball.
While in most of the matches this season, his team tended to line up with a back four, there are also some of those in which a back three was implemented. That was the case when Paris Saint-Germain U19 met Real Madrid U19 for the second time during their UEFA Youth League campaign this season. With this strategy, it was viable for the centre-backs to create a small passing triangle among them. In case the opposition attempted to press their build-up, the outside centre-backs would drift wide into the half-spaces to stretch the passing triangle and also gave them time to execute a progressive pass.
Aouchiche’s role remained the same as he still came deep to receive the ball and, therefore, created a passing block inside the middle third of the pitch. But rather than drifting leftward in this situation, the French midfielder stayed centrally and acted as the top of the passing block. There, it was viable for him to link up with the midfielders up front immediately after he received the ball.
Furthermore, coming deep to get the ball also brings another benefit for Aouchiche as it can help him to have a wider perspective on the situation to pick out teammates who are ready to burst into the space behind the opposition’s defensive line. In the shot below, the French midfielder dropped deep and involved in the build-up, thus, allowing him to scan the field for a potential teammate, in this case was Ziyad Larkeche, who was sprinting into the final third. With a long pass that completely eliminated several of Real Madrid’s defenders, Aouchiche managed to put Larkeche into a great state to continue the team’s attack.
Generally speaking, this strategy benefits his team in a significant way as it avoids the need of making long passes directly towards the attackers. Usually, those passes are risky and some end up being cleared or intercepted by the opposition. With Aouchiche dropping deep on many occasions, the centre-backs now do not need to use long-ranged passes in order to start an attack. Instead, they can lay the ball to the French youngster and he will take on the rest of the responsibility.
In the modern game, playing out from the backline has become a common feature, with most teams already applying it and even using different variations of the strategy. For Aouchiche, though, this trait of his can become very useful in the future as it allows him to fit into the tactic quickly without facing any struggles. Still, he has just proven his ability among the youth leagues and still needs more experience in adapting to the mentioned strategy. A few first-team matches under his belt is what he needs and with his impressive performance for France U17, Tuchel may attempt to find a way to give him more first-team football to develop his attributes and traits.
Playmaking and assisting
In the role of a playmaker, it is important that a player must be able to link up the team’s play and encourage teammates to join the attack through his passes. And that is what Aouchiche does best whenever he appears on the pitch. Firstly, it is worth noticing that he usually maintains a short support range with his teammates in order to eliminate the need for risky passes.
Along with his trait of coming deep to get the ball, again, helps the team to recycle possession in an efficient way while standing still against the opposition’s pressure. Rather than sticking to his position on a constant basis, the French midfielder tends to roam across the pitch and heading to the ball carrier. His intelligent movement gains him the advantage of picking up possession more often and exposing pockets of space at the same time. Also, by moving flexibly in between the middle third and the opposition’s final third, it is possible for him to drag along several of the opposition’s defenders, therefore, opens up space for his teammates to move into.
Secondly, the French midfielder is very good in terms of positioning himself in free space to pick up the ball. Using his vision, he will scan the field constantly to find pockets of space that are available for him to move into. From the situation above, he will use that space to come closer to the ball carrier and offer to pick the ball up in a less dangerous way for the team.
Also, it is possible for Aouchiche to find gaps around the 18-yard box to occupy and wait for an opportunity to receive passes from his teammates. There, he can create chances for himself or lay the ball off to another player who is making a progressive run into the box. The situation below against Australia U17 is one of the scenarios that demonstrate that type of situation best. He picked up the pass from his teammate out wide in an unoccupied gap, where he continued his run into the box and sent a low cross to Kalimuendo-Muinga, only to find it being cleared away from the 6-yard box.
Whenever Aouchiche is on the ball, the French midfielder usually makes a smart pass that puts his teammates into an active position to continue the team’s attack. This strategy proves to be efficient, especially during counter-attacks where his side gain a numerical advantage.
The shot below demonstrates a 3v2 situation that Aouchiche and his teammates are involved in during the team’s counter-attack. Another thing to note about this situation is the positioning of the two Spanish defenders. José David was having his attention focused on Aouchiche and this left the space behind him unoccupied. Meanwhile, his partner, Javi López oriented his body towards his team’s goal, which left his partner without support since his intention was to retreat back into the defensive third.
Fortunately for López, the French winger, Issac Lihadji, was still a long way from him and was far from a threat. But David was facing a tough situation where he would have decided between stepping out to tackle Aouchiche or staying to control Nathanïel Mbuku. He opted for the second option and immediately the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder punished him with a through pass into his blindside for Mbuku. Although the chance did not end up being the fourth goal for France at that stage of the match, still, it showed the vision that Aouchiche had to analyse the situation thoroughly before setting up Mbuku’s chance by making a pass that was out of David’s reach.
Statistically speaking, he registered a decent amount of pass during the U17 World Cup campaign with an average of 48.29 passes were made per 90 minutes by him and it reached the accurate rate of 82.6%. While those numbers did not help Aouchiche to reach the top ten passers of the competition, it was not a surprising fact since he only ranked fourth in terms of total passes among the squad with 316 passes to his name, lower than Agoumé’s (420), Matsima’s (359) and Kouassi’s (322) records.
Still, it proved how important he was in France U17’s squad as the team’s playmaker for the campaign. While he is not a player who tends to make long passes on a constant basis, he still registered an average of 3.51 long passes per 90 minutes, which showed the flexibility in terms of choosing the best solution to continue and progress the team’s attack. As mentioned, with seven assists under his belt, he finished the competition as with the most assists and reached the average rate of 1.07 assists per match.
Besides from being able to make penetrative passes and start attacks for the team, Aouchiche can also offer to send crosses into the box after dribbling wide with the ball. Using his vision and the ability to curve the ball towards the destination that he intends to do so, it is possible for the French midfielder to pick out strikers who position themselves inside the 18-yard box. In Mauro Icardi, Paris Saint-Germain have a striker who is good in the air and able to turn up at the end of crosses to convert them into goals. Aouchiche can link up with the Argentinian striker and create more goals being scored from headers.
With the fact that Aouchiche is quick and technical on the ball and in his dribbling, he usually creates trouble for the opposition’s defenders and tends to be fouled quite often. On average, he suffered 0.61 fouls per 90 minutes in the competition, which although is not such a high number, it still indicated how tough it is to tackle him.
As a result of those fouls suffered by him and his teammates, free-kicks will be given and this is a great chance for him to demonstrate his ability. Below is one of the free-kicks that he took during the competition, which was from the match against Haiti U17. It was a well-driven free-kick towards the top left corner of the goal, but the goalkeeper was quick enough to move to the left and stopped a great goal being scored.
Apart from direct set-pieces, Aouchiche is also a threat when he takes a corner. With his vision, it is possible for him to identify unoccupied gaps inside the box and encourages his teammates to enter that area through a floated cross. Two of his assists in the competition came from corners and it was from the same match against Spain U17. Aouchiche chose to play a floated cross in both of them and while the first one, in the shot below, found a late arrival, the second one found the head of Georginio Rutter and goalkeeper Iván Martínez had no chance in stopping both.
While being at his best when the team is controlling possession through his passes and dribbling ability, he also shows his commitment to the team’s defence and attempts to recover possession on several occasions. In the pressing phase, he usually displays an impressive work rate and determination in order to help his teammates in winning the ball back inside the opponent’s half.
During these types of scenarios, this is another occasion where his positioning ability is demonstrated in the best way possible. In the situation that led to his goal against Dynamo Dresden later on, Aouchiche used his vision and anticipation to read the pass that was made by Patrick Wiegers that headed towards Sascha Horváth. There, he applied pressure on the former Sturm Graz midfielder which forced him to make a heavy touch and lose possession.
He also makes great use of his pace in order to catch up with the opposition’s player and forces him to lose the ball inside their half. This closes down the space surrounding the ball carrier and at the same time, cutting out the possible passing lanes that the player can make with his teammates. After doing so, again, anticipation becomes a good key for him to predict what the ball carrier will do next and prevent that move from happening.
In the situation below against Chile U17, the Chilean defender intended to make a turn to the opposite direction that Aouchiche is moving towards. But the French midfielder was quicker to reach the ball and stopped him immediately after he started executing his move. The opposition’s player was left confused and also found himself struggling to keep up with Aouchiche’s pace. Unfortunately, the chance did not end up being a goal since the shooting range was quite narrow for the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder.
In a similar way, pace and anticipation also help Aouchiche in intercepting passes that are made towards his team’s half. On several occasions where the ball carrier is far away from him, he will assess the situation to see if there are any potential receivers around him or not. This allows him to position himself near that player and ready to make a head start to get to the ball, which will also be viable to create a counter-attack after possession is recovered.
Aouchiche has enjoyed a good year in terms of personal achievement as he made a huge step up to have his Ligue 1 debut against Metz. Amid the fact that France U17 could have advanced further than the semi-final, it was a good competition for the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder as he won the Silver Ball award. Still, slowly but steadily, while he is fulfilling the expectation of being a ‘wonderkid’, he has a long way to go to become one of the first choices in Tuchel’s plan.
But, there is no doubt that he made huge improvements during 2019 and that surely did not slip through the eyes of the German manager and several big clubs’ scouts. As mentioned, 2020 will be a crucial year for him as he will be aiming to maintain this rate of progressing and developing. There are certain aspects that still need to be taken into account to develop further, such as being less aggressive and selfish in his style of play. Nonetheless, Aouchiche will be a fascinating player to follow not only next year, but in a few more years to come, and there is a certainty that if he keeps progressing like he is now, the days of playing for Paris Saint-Germain’s first-team will not be too far away.