Sakina Karchaoui at Olympique Lyon Feminin 2019/20 – scout report
After announcing a transfer for right-back Ellie Carpenter, Olympique Lyon Feminin have wasted no time in announcing yet another move for another full-back. This time they have picked up Sakina Karchaoui from Montpellier to compete at left-back. Lyon’s left-back spot has been a bone of contention with Alex Greenwood competing with 19-year-old Selma Bacha. However, the Lionesses’ defender hasn’t settled in too well and looks destined to leave the French champions with the move for Karchaoui announced recently. Lyon seem to be hitting their stride in the transfer market by also tying up moves for Dzenifer Marozsan and Sarah Bouhaddi, who were both linked with moves away.
This scout report will detail Karchaoui’s strengths and weaknesses and how she fits into Lyon’s tactics.
Sakina Karchaoui is a 24-year-old flying left-sided full-back playing an attacking role for both club and country. Having played for Montpellier since her youth this transfer to Lyon represents a step up in quality and a result of consistent performances for a number of years. Having also played 29 times for France, Karchaoui is an experienced player at such a young age and can benefit Lyon massively going into the new season. Karchaoui’s main highlight at Montpellier was her dribbling and progression ability from an offensive perspective. The left-back has speed and is aggressive when defending. Karchaoui has an aggressiveness to her game that opens the door for useful out of possession pressing tactics. These attributes combined have made her such an attacking force in Division 1 Feminin outside of the top two clubs.
This tactical analysis will first breakdown and detail Karchaoui’s offensive and defensive skill set and proceed to understand how she will fit into Lyon’s squad next season.
Karchaoui’s attributes are catered towards an attacking setup which was the case when she played for Montpellier. Karchaoui’s most important and best skill is her dribbling ability which she used to good effect to attack opposition defenders. Montpellier majorly played a 4-4-2 formation with two forwards that compliment each other. Both full-backs complimented each other with Karchaoui the more aggressive full-back.
Karchaoui’s attacking runs down the left side was a method of attack for Montpellier where she would look to drive inside to pass to the two centre-forwards. It was her dribbling that enabled her to effectively take the ball from defence to the final third. Karchaoui is the more attacking full-back which meant her average position was higher. In doing so, the left-winger or left-midfielder will alter their position based on the left-back’s movement allowing Karchaoui to drift in and stay wide.
This heat map is for Karchaoui’s 2019/20 season and it illustrates her higher average position and activity in the central areas in the final third. Another point we can take away from this is Karchaoui is athletic and has the ability to play box-to-box. We can see her tirelessly working hard on the pitch, to both defend and attack. Against teams such as Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyon, Montpellier were likely to sit back and soak up pressure and counter-attack. Here, Karchoaui would require immense concentration and both mental and physical energy. The left-back averaged 7.6 dribbles/90 last season which portrays her strength in this area.
In this example, we can see Karchaoui receiving a pass from a throw-in. She is marked by Delphine Cascarino who sits on her tightly. From here, Karchoaui is able to take a touch inside and find a way through the onrushing Amandine Henry and Cascarino. This one action bypasses three Lyon players including Lucy Bronze. Though Karchoaui isn’t able to get through to the 18-yard box, she maintains her composure and manages to continue the Montpellier move. These inward movements combined with her energetic presence on the ball makes Karchaoui unpredictable. Being so proficient on the ball makes defenders hesitant to commit a tackle in the event they give away a penalty. A by-product of this is a number of players that commit to closing her down opening up space for her teammates to run in behind which can be seen in the example below.
Against PSG, we see Karchaoui making her trademark inward movement towards their 18-yard box with three defenders fixated on her position. This allows her teammate to make a run through the middle.
The second image shows us the moment Karchoaui releases the pass which is after all three players have converged on her position. Karchaoui’s teammate runs onto the ball and is now able to get a shot away. Karchoaui’s dribbling ability allowed for the space to be created.
However, where the left-back is lacking is in her crossing accuracy and this could be a reason for her preference to drift into the central areas. Though, playing in a team like Lyon will require a player to be flexible and proficient at both crossing and interchanging play. Both Bacha and Greenwood are very effective at pushing down the line and crossing as well as pushing into central areas. While we’ve highlighted Karchaoui’s ability to come inside it is her presence in the wide areas that will need to be improved especially when it comes to crossing delivery. She averaged 3.64 crosses/90 with a 20% accuracy rate compared to Greenwood who has a 33.9% success rate and Bacha with a 44.8% accuracy rate (albeit with slightly fewer games). Both Lyon left-backs have much higher accuracy rates, and looking at the Montpellier cross map below out of the sample size provided many of Karchaoui’s crosses are in deeper, central areas, unsuccessfully I might add. The data provided shows that she had a 20% success rate across 15 cross attempts. This also supports our notion of Karchoaui’s preference to stay in the central areas and cross, drive, or pass.
Defending & transitions phase
From a defensive standpoint, Karchoaui’s pace and athleticism land her in good stead as the left-back is able to engage in defensive battles. Though she isn’t the best defender, Karchaoui is not afraid to get stuck in and make her presence known. The best way to describe her style of defending is energetic. Karchoaui would be an extremely good fit in Lyon’s pressing system when they press in midfield, which can be even more useful when she plays in midfield. They use their wide players and midfielders to contribute and engage in positional rotations in their pressing system. Karchaoui will need to be tactically aware and pick up on the triggers and understand the positional movements that occur in the team. My detailed analysis of Lyon’s defensive system can be read in April’s Total Football Analysis magazine if you’d like to dive more into this.
Karchaoui averaged 7.91 defensive duels/90 with a high 74.6% win percentage along with 4.52 interceptions/90. These numbers give us a good indication of Karchoaui’s aggressive nature successfully working for Montpellier where they would most often sit off against better quality sides. This also indicates her intensity and want to pressure teams rather than sit off and wait. Both traits are useful additions for this Lyon side who are likely to face teams who will hit them on the counter-attack. Montpellier’s recovery map above indicates a good number of recoveries made by Karchoaui through positional pressing. In the sample size given, Karchaoui accounted for nine recoveries resulting in two shots. Her recovery to shot conversion rate might not be high but it shows she can adhere to pressing systems.
Looking at the above example, we can see Karchoaui positioned high and is ready to press PSG as they look to play out from the back. The pass from Alana Cook into her teammate is met by Karchoaui’s timed run which ends up resulting in a possessional turnover for Montpellier. Now, Karchaoui can drive through and has a goal-scoring opportunity. This exemplifies Karchaoui’s off the ball awareness and capability to press teams high up the pitch.
A high number of Lyon’s recoveries come on the left side because of Amel Majri playing a very aggressive role whether she’s deployed as a left-winger or attacking central midfielder. The above graphic mirrors this as we can see a high proportion of Lyon’s recoveries coming off the left in the final third. Part of Lyon’s tactics mostly revolve around being active in the central areas and their wide defenders move into narrower positions to create superiority. This can again be seen in the recoveries map where a number of actions have happened in the half/central space. Karchaoui should slot into this left-back or left-winger role seamlessly when it comes to defending and transitioning.
The only concern with Karchaoui would be her aggressiveness can leave space in behind at times, especially when playing at left-back. There are times where the left-back will go in to press a player but they manage to get a turn on Karchaoui leaving space in behind. This could be a concern against more clinical teams especially because of their willingness to press Lyon higher up and counter-attack. We saw many a time in the games against Paris Saint-Germain where Nadia Nadim would be a nuisance to Wendie Renard and Griedge Mbock during build-up. One of their goals came courtesy of Nadim’s constant pressing which resulted in them being dispossessed around their 18-yard box.
The passage of play above illustrates the point we are making here. Karchoaui goes in to challenge for the pass but her opponent is one step quicker. The danger here is the vast amounts of space in behind and any loss of possession here could expose Montpellier.
The opposition player manages to get the first touch and makes it a smart one where they manage to it get around Karchaoui leaving her out of position. Against better quality teams, she could be more exposed, though her pace does help her bail out of situations.
How does Sakina Karchaoui fits into Olympique Lyon’s system?
The main question surrounding Karchoui’s transfer will be how she fits into a team that has two possibly three left-backs in the squad. This move appears to have signalled the end of Greenwood’s time at Lyon who is linked with a move back to the FAWSL to Manchester City. The young Bacha has already shown glimpses of promise to have been given a number of starts last season. The defender seems to have much more in her locker defensively than Greenwood which is what Jean Luc-Vasseur is looking for. So where can see Karchaoui in Lyon’s system?
Starting with her presence in attack, Lyon will most likely retain their 4-2-3-1 formation that has been the pillar of their success. We will see Karchoaui be used at left-back with Eugenie Le Sommer or Majri in front of her. The left-back will be used slightly differently depending on the player that starts at left-wing. In Le Sommer, Lyon have an inside forward that wants to cut inside and shoot leaving space on the overlap for the left-back to use. Majri is a player that can play as an orthodox left-winger or come inside and make direct runs into the 18-yard box. We’ve already seen how Karchoaui is much more effective making runs inside than sit on the outside, which makes Majri a more viable option.
Karchoaui will fit in seamlessly, her ability to play at both left-back and left-wing. This enables the French international to understand the mentality of an attacking player and having played with some of these players for the national team should aid the chemistry between Karchaoui and her new teammates. With Le Sommer likely to start at left-wing, Karchaoui will use the spaces out wide but I believe she will use the deeper half-spaces more to deliver more deep completed crosses though her accuracy is something that needs to be worked on.
These positions map gives us an idea of Lyon’s attacking shape with these specific examples coming from their league games against Bordeaux (L) and Stade de Reims (R). On the left, we can see Bacha (#4) is positioned just outside of Majri (#7) who from here can drive in or stay outside. Also, notice how Bacha’s position is deeper than Majri’s which shows that she did most of her work slightly deeper. The other map shows Majri in a much narrower position propelling Bacha to push up into a more attacking role. Karchaoui could follow a similar pattern and adjust based on the winger’s position game to game.
When it comes to Lyon’s defensive structure, Karchaoui should slot in well because of the way they like to defend. Lyon command the lions share of possession which means they when they defend they are up against counter-attacks or build out from the back when the opposition get the ball back. In either scenario, Lyon’s defensive line is higher up meaning they try to win the ball back in midfield. They employ a midfield press that heavily includes the full-backs. Usually Bronze will drive inside to stop the midfielders from progressing the ball, whilst the left-back will ensure the centre-backs are not outnumbered and cover the area behind their position.
The duels map shows us that there aren’t too many duels happening in the defensive third proving they do most of their work in midfield. This suits Karchaoui and her higher positioning where she can use her energy to press without the fear of leaving too much space in behind. Being screened by two of the best holding midfielders in Amandine Henry and Saki Kumagai ensures this. If you look at the earlier recoveries map, we can see where Lyon like to win the ball back so all in all this suits Karchaoui.
Karchaoui represents a very shrewd and prominent signing for Vasseur and Lyon. She represents good value coming on a free especially given her vast experience at such a young age. The player has already represented France on multiple occasions so isn’t afraid of the big personalities of Lyon having played with most of them already. It will be good competition and learning for Bacha too enabling Lyon to develop two of the best young full-backs in world football at the highest level. While we haven’t talked too much about Karcahoui’s versatility, the experience of playing in two positions will only help Karchaoui play her role better by drawing the experiences from there. Overall, I think Karcahoui is a win-win for both club and player.