Olivier Pantaloni’s side have received plaudits for their high tempo, high intensity, and exciting football this season. In addition, Pantaloni has a very talented bunch of players at his disposal. He had just the perfect mix of energy and enthusiasm of the young talents and experience and composure of the older players. One of the young prospects that have stood out this season is 1999-born striker Mounaïm El Idrissy.
The young Frenchman recently got promoted to the first-team after a pretty impressive debut season in 2018/19. Starting out as a right-winger, El Idrissy is then moved to play mainly as a striker this season. He immediately thrived in the striker role, scoring a total of five goals from 21 Ligue 2 matches. With a total of only 668 minutes played in his belt, El Idrissy is still a rotational player but regularly makes appearances as a substitute. His average of 0.67 goals per 90 minutes is the third highest in Ligue 2, only behind newly-signed Lyon player Tino Kadewere and Clermont striker Adrian Grbić who has attracted interest from numerous teams including Rangers and Celtic.
Before analysing the player in a more detailed fashion, let’s take a quick look at his profile and role in Ajaccio’s tactics.
At Ajaccio this season, El Idrissy was deployed mostly as a striker although there were a couple of times where he was played as a right midfielder. Under Pantaloni, Ajaccio are very consistent with a 4-4-2 formation although occasionally Pantaloni would tweak the formation and give it a bit of variation. They may turn into 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 at times but the main difference is only whether they’re using two strikers upfront or one striker and one attacking midfielder, the rest of the setup is not very different from the 4-4-2 that they usually use.
El Idrissy is mainly deployed as the right-sided striker, thus you can see on the heatmap above that he generates more activity on the right side of the pitch. Furthermore, you can see how dynamic he is on the heatmap above. He’s not stationary and will look to explore the advanced areas often as well as drop from his position if necessary. He occupies half-spaces often and would attack the wing whenever there’s opportunity to do so.
However, he doesn’t only stay on the right side of the pitch. Both Ajaccio strikers are flexible in positioning and movements and both strikers often interchange positions. So, El Idrissy may attack the left side of the pitch at some point in a game and the same thing can be seen with his partner upfront. This is in order to confuse their respective markers, create a dilemma, and potentially get away from his marker or his teammate. He may also look to make a run in behind the opposing defence if he sees an opening and move closer to the flank and occupy the half-space if the ball is played wide in order to help create an overload on that area. I’ll explain his movements with more detail later on in this analysis.
His role at Ajaccio is more than just a finisher. He contributes a lot in defence by actively pressing the opponent. Ajaccio are a high-pressing team. They press with high intensity and aggression upfront and both strikers are expected to participate as the first line pressers.
Not only pressing upfront, Pantaloni also demands his attackers to contribute in defence inside their own half. So, if an opposing team manage to play their way out of Ajaccio’s high press, the strikers will quickly drop and get into position to create a mid/low-block as can be seen in the image above. Inside their own half, the strikers would also be expected to press and engage the opponent in a duel if they are near the ball. Both strikers would also be expected to quickly press if the ball is played inside Ajaccio’s pressing traps. Discipline in both attack and defence are very crucial for the whole Ajaccio team and it looks quite clear that El Idrissy thrives in his current role due to his excellent offensive and defensive discipline.
According to Wyscout, El Idrissy completes an average of seven successful defensive actions per game which is quite impressive for a striker. He also averages 5.09 possession-adjusted interceptions per game which is quite impressive. He can be a bit too aggressive in defence though and this can be seen from his average of 2.42 fouls per game and a total of four yellow cards collected throughout the season. El Idrissy shows high commitment, discipline, and aggression in defence and in addition to that, he also tends to get into good defensive positions and is proficient at reading the game and the numbers above certainly proved his strength in defence.
Both Ajaccio strikers would also contribute quite a lot in the build-up, albeit often indirectly. Their movements are key in this department. While having good passing and control can massively help in this phase, it doesn’t seem mandatory for strikers in Ajaccio’s tactics. The striker’s movements are pivotal as they can create and exploit space by making those movements, allowing the ball to be progressed and played into dangerous areas. The striker doesn’t need to get involved directly in the build-up, but their movements are absolutely crucial to help the team attack.
An important aspect that helps El Idrissy massively in his game is that he has impressive overall athleticism and physical prowess. Standing 1.81m tall and weighing about 74 kg, he seems to have a rather lean build but has developed upper and lower muscles.
El Idrissy shows pretty good upper and lower body strength. He’s able to use his body well to protect the ball and hold off his defender while playing with his back to goal. He doesn’t really struggle a lot against opponents with smaller or similar stature and often even able to shrug them off in a duel, however, larger opponents may give him some problems in physical duels.
Aside from ground duels, El Idrissy shows pretty decent proficiency in aerial duels. He has a fairly good height and linking back to the previous section, he has a good upper and lower strength. His powerful core and lower body allow him to reach decent vertical height when leaping and his upper body strength allows him to jostle and outmuscle defenders either on the ground or in the air. His height and athleticism advantage makes him quite a useful player in aerial duels both from set-pieces and in open plays.
Looking at his stats in this area; El Idrissy averages 9.45 aerial duels per game which is quite a lot with a success rate of 39.2% which is pretty decent. His high number of aerial duels are because aside from being the main target inside the box, both Ajaccio strikers are also the long ball target in the build-up. Though Pantaloni’s side mainly opt for shorter but high tempo exchange, if they’re unable to bypass the opposing team’s pressure then they may look to play long and the strikers are the main target to receive or lay off the ball. Meanwhile, El Idrissy’s success rate may look pretty low but it’s actually pretty decent considering his large number of aerial duels and the fact that for the majority of his duels, he has to face bigger and stronger opponents. What makes him quite strong in this area is his ability to anticipate where the ball is going to arrive, the timing of his leap, and his aggression. Aside from those, he seems to be able to generate pretty decent accuracy and power in his headers as well.
El Idrissy seems to also have pretty decent agility. He turns over his shoulder pretty quickly shows no signs of struggling and lack of hip rotation. El Idrissy also seems to be able to adjust his body quickly when controlling the ball as well as before striking a pass or shot, allowing him to get into the most comfortable position possible in order to execute his actions.
Furthermore, he shows good body coordination and rarely loses balance when changing directions both on and off the ball. He’s able to stay on his feet despite being body charged or challenged as well.
Good body starting position also allows him to turn and adjust his body quickly in various situations in the game. He doesn’t seem to need to take too many extra steps or extra touches on the ball when trying to turn and change directions. He’s also able to accelerate, decelerate, and then re-accelerate without struggling, showing good body and pace control.
Talking about speed, El Idrissy shows pretty decent explosiveness over short-range and pretty impressive pace over medium/long-range. Again, in this area he displays strong lower body power. Firstly, He is able to burst-accelerate and reach his top speed pretty quickly. Secondly, once he has reached his top speed and he’s already on his stride, he can cover medium/long distances quite quickly. This is mainly due to his long, powerful strides. This certainly helps him quickly track back/press or push forward/run into space. His short-range explosiveness as well as medium/long-range pace makes him quite effective at winning foot races and can cause problems against slower defenders.
El Idrissy is quite an energetic player and has a pretty good level of endurance. He has a high overall work rate and he certainly shows energy in both attack and defence by actively moving around, making runs, and getting involved in the action. There tends to be a slight drop of performance in the second half though, seemingly mostly due to fatigue which is pretty normal and not surprising considering how hard he usually works in the earlier stages of the game. However, throughout most of the game, his endurance and work rate are impressive and his performance is relatively stable.
Ball control and linking play
As mentioned earlier in this scout report, El Idrissy’s role in attack is not restricted to only getting into good goalscoring positions and finishing the play. He also gets involved in the build-up alongside his partner upfront. While both striker’s movements are most important in the build-up, we can always see a glimpse of their technical ability on the ball whenever they receive it.
From the image above, we can see several things. Firstly, El Idrissy shows great spatial and positional awareness. This is mainly attributed due to his tendency to scan and his great body positioning. El Idrissy tends to check his surroundings multiple times before making his decision and taking his next action. He’s also aware of his body positioning. He seems to always make sure he stands with an open body shape in order to allow him great vision of the pitch. Both tendencies allow him to read and assess the situation, which in the end often results in quicker reactions and (usually better) decision making.
Secondly, you can see that El Idrissy dropped to offer support for the centre-mid whilst simultaneously trying to drag the opposing defender out of position. In this case, however, the opposing centre-back hesitated to jump out of position and let him free. This allowed El Idrissy to receive the pass from the centre-mid.
Upon seeing El Idrissy receive the ball, the centre-back (yellow circle) decided to jump out and press but El Idrissy (who already anticipated his opponent’s move) easily dribbled past him and he was able to play a dangerous pass into the box for his teammate.
Aside from dropping into a pocket of space in a central area, El Idrissy (or his partner) can often be seen offering support by dropping and occupying the wide channels as well.
Above, for example, you can see that El Idrissy dropped from his position to offer support. Whilst doing that, this time he’s followed tightly by his marker. Out of the frame, his striker partner would look to move towards the open space that was left by the opposing centre-back that jumped out of position. In this situation, as he’s being tightly marked and aggressively pressured, El Idrissy would look to play a first-time pass either towards the flank or the nearby centre-mid instead of holding up the play.
A similar movement from El Idrissy from a slightly different team move can be seen in the image above. In the example above, El Idrissy plays as a left-sided striker.
Again, he’s dropping to offer support to the left-back. At the same time, his teammate (the left midfielder) made a double movement by dropping deep and quickly turning around to get away from his marker. El Idrissy would see the movement and played the ball into space for the left midfielder. Above seems to be a pretty common and simple third-man combination by Ajaccio but without proper tactical coordination and understanding between the wide midfielder and the striker, this movement would be difficult to pull off.
There are a couple of other common attacking movements by Ajaccio that can be seen, like in the two images above, for example. As also mentioned earlier, both strikers like to roam out wide if they see the nearby full-back vacating his position. Basically, anytime either of them sees an opening, they will quickly make a run towards that space.
As you can see above, there are several possibilities. The Ajaccio left-sided centre-back may play the ball towards the dropping wide midfielder first or he may go direct with a long pass into space for El Idrissy.
Now talking about his technique on the ball.
Firstly, when it comes to receiving the ball there are several things that can be seen. As mentioned earlier, El Idrissy tends to try to adjust his body position and look to receive with an open body shape rather than closed body shape in order to allow him greater vision of the pitch. Linking to his coordination and agility, El Idrissy is often able to adjust his body quickly when he receives the ball so he can control the ball in the most comfortable fashion. El Idrissy tends to receive in a tight space between the opposing midfield and defence and he doesn’t really have a lot of time to dwell on the ball once he receives it as opposing players will usually quickly collapse onto the ball and swarm him. This is why he mainly relies on playing quick in order to avoid pressing traps.
El Idrissy’s first touch when controlling the ball is not always reliable. I can see quite often the ball bouncing away from him or him knocking the ball a tad bit too far when receiving the ball which is not very ideal due to him mainly playing in tight spaces. However, El Idrissy would often avoid controlling the ball unless necessary as he mostly looks to play quick short first-time passes towards nearby options instead.
El Idrissy usually collects the ball with the inside of his right foot, sometimes he would feint and let the ball run across his body when receiving in order to trick his marker.
When it comes to dribbling, El Idrissy is pretty straightforward. He’s clearly not a very technical dribbler but he seems to have a pretty decent dribbling ability despite not having a very strong first touch.
Above is an example of him in a 1v1 offensive duel against an opponent. El Idrissy doesn’t really dribble often in a game but he’ll do so if necessary. He also doesn’t try tricks to beat his man, preferring to play simple instead. Mostly he’d try to drag the ball one way with quick but very light touches, keeping the ball close to him whilst dragging his man with him. After that, he would then knock the ball towards the other way to beat his man and quickly accelerate onto the ball.
His passing is pretty decent. Statistically, he averages 19.89 passes per game with a success rate of 54.4%. At first, looking at that, they don’t seem to be very impressive numbers but El Idrissy is actually not a terrible passer at all. I’d say his tendency to play first time passes (to avoid pressure) and try risky killer passes definitely contribute to the low success rate of his passing. But overall, without pressure, he can be a pretty reliable passer.
Movements, shooting, and finishing.
Most of his movement tendencies have been mentioned in the earlier sections of this scout report. However, this particular section will mainly focus on his ability on making movements to break through the opposing team’s defence as well as movements and positioning inside the box.
Now, talking about his off the ball movements, I can’t help but notice several things. As mentioned before, he tends to check his surroundings multiple times off the ball which greatly affects his spatial and positional awareness. Aside from that, he also seems to have good tactical understanding and reading of the game. Again, this can be seen from his decisions. How can we see that? By looking at where he moves, how he positions himself to receive/attack the ball, the timing of his executions, and etc. He’s often in the right place and at the right time and he seems like he’s always a step ahead of his opponent.
The image above is a pretty simple example of what I mentioned above. He saw his teammate dropping to offer support and saw the opposing defender moving out of position. He quickly made a run to exploit the space in behind.
Above is also an example of his intelligent off the ball movements. In the situation, El Idrissy made a double movement in order to create separation from his defender and dismark himself inside the box. The young French striker initially made a run towards the near post but immediately stopped his run and moved towards the opposite direction. He successfully freed himself and received his teammate’s cutback cross but his first touch was poor and he lost the momentum to shoot and score.
This other example also shows good ability to read the situation and quickly react accordingly. El Idrissy was on the far side of the box. He delayed his run and waited until his partner made the first move. In this particular situation, his striker partner dropped slightly from his position which opened up a little bit of space inside the box. El Idrissy quickly accelerated into space to attack his teammate’s low cross. He got a touch to the ball but it was wide. Excellent instinct, anticipation, and movements by him nonetheless.
El Idrissy ranks fourth compared to other Ligue 2 strikers in touches in box with an impressive average of 4.23 touches in box per game. From this stat what you can see is that not only he has got good service from his teammate, but he constantly gets into good positions inside the box in order to receive/attack the delivery.
Now, aside from his movements in the final third and penalty area, what makes El Idrissy really dangerous upfront is his shooting ability. Before we take a look deeper into his ball-striking ability, let’s take a look at his data below.
Above we can see the shot map of El Idrissy throughout this season. As you can see, it’s a pretty normal shot map. A lot of his shots are understandably taken from inside the penalty area although there are several shots from outside the box also as you can see.
Statistically, El Idrissy has a total of 19 shots attempted and 10 (52.6%) of them have been on target. Six out of 13 (46.2%) of his shots from inside the box have been accurate, meanwhile, an impressive four out of six (66.7%) of his shots from outside the box have been accurate. However, his shots from outside the box tend to go straight to the goalkeeper. El Idrissy has an average of 0.16 xG per shot which may also suggest that he’s been taking decent quality shots although he doesn’t really produce a large volume of shots. Kadewere, for comparison, has an average of 0.22 xG per shot with a total volume of 68 shots. Meanwhile, third top scorer, Ibrahim Sissoko of Niort has an average of 0.13 xG per shot with a total volume of 86 shots which suggest that he has a high volume of shots but doesn’t really produce high quality shots.
Through video analysis, I can see that his ball-striking technique seems pretty decent. He’s able to generate curve and spin on the ball as well as decent power on it. He also has a good agility, balance, and coordination which allows him to quickly adjust his body before taking a shot and allows him to keep his balance and anchor him to the ground when shooting. El Idrissy is mainly right-footed though and doesn’t take a lot of shots with his left foot, so he tends to move the ball towards his right first before shooting.
Now the last part of this analysis is about his composure. El Idrissy shows great calmness and composure inside the box. This makes him extra dangerous, especially in 1v1 situations like in the image above. In the situation above, El Idrissy received the ball from the halfway line and drove forward with it (his team were on a counter-attack). He’s face-to-face with the opposing goalkeeper and took his time with the ball. He adjusted his body in order to give a signal as if he’s going to shoot to the far post but as soon as the goalkeeper made the move, he struck the ball towards the near post and scored the goal.
El Idrissy has the perfect blend of impressive overall athleticism, good overall technical ability, strong mentality, and tactical intelligence. He seems to be a versatile striker with quite a complete skillset and I can see him playing in a wide variety of roles. Just on the surface, he might also be suitable for clubs like Lille and Rennes, both of which have certain tactical similarities in their playing style compared with Ajaccio.
El Idrissy has been a very interesting name to look at this season. Despite not collecting many minutes this season, he has been outstanding in all his games. There’s absolutely no surprise that several clubs have reportedly been keeping tabs on him including several Ligue 1 sides. It would be very interesting to follow his development in the future.