Yasser Larouci 2019/20 – scout report
Liverpool have undoubtedly set the global standard at present for the position of fullbacks. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are more than just key players in Jürgen Klopp’s system; In fact, they have been elevated to a phenomenon status for those positions. If Liverpool runs the best school for fullbacks, it would be interesting to look at the graduates of Liverpool academy. Previously we published a scout report on Neco Williams and today I shall examine his counterpart at left-back, Yasser Larouci in this scout report.
The 19-year-old Algerian has made frequent appearances for the U23s in the Premier League 2 and the UEFA Youth League. After gaining first team exposure during the pre-season friendlies in the summer of 2019, he made an appearance in the third round of the FA Cup against Everton. His 6th minute substitution came as a result of Milner’s unprecedented injury but he managed to play the rest of the game as a left-back and was selected in the starting lineup for the next round’s fixture against Shrewsbury Town. Using a combination of data and tactical analysis, we shall examine Yasser Larouci’s attributes and go into a deeper analysis of how he fits into Klopp’s tactics.
Style of Play
The left-footed Larouci stands 175cm in height and has a strong physique weighing 70kg. His physical attributes allow him to use his pace to dominate the left flank. Originally developed as a left-winger, he has been recently converted into a fullback given the diverse profile of the position currently at the club. That said, he has also been deployed as a left midfielder in the UEFA Youth League and as a centre forward in the U23s league.
By closely looking at his video replays, we see that the winger tendencies are stronger than that of a left-back. He prefers to have a lot of space to receive and dribble at opponents. He also prefers receiving the ball in the space in front of him which he can chase with his pace, rather than at his feet. Take a look at his heatmaps from the FA Cup the first one against Everton, where he was forced to operate deeper against a more attacking opponent. He tends to struggle in games that demand a lot of defending as it he doesn’t seem to have been developed as a defender in his youth.
The second one was against Shrewsbury town where he was able to advance higher and almost play as a winger in the opposition half. His attributes are manifested much more dominantly when he has the freedom to attack the spaces higher up the pitch.
A specific movement that comes naturally to Larouci is attacking the space behind the opposition fullbacks in the progression or creation phase of attacking organisation. Here we see two instances in both the games where he picks the right moment to make a run in behind the opposition defensive line. This helps push the line back, giving his team greater space to circulate the ball in possession, provide space to his advanced players to receive between the lines and support the finishing phase with an extra forward.
A good example to see why he prefers to stay high and wide is in this instance below against Shrewsbury town. We see Fabinho having dropped to the line of the defence on the right for a Liverpool buildup with three players, while the two midfielders in front of them engage in duels with the opposition. His positioning is high and this helps pin the opposition right back. This makes the centre forward (Divock Origi in this case) a bigger threat centrally. Here we see Larouci almost playing the role of a left-winger.
Using the stats from wyscout for the all games he has played in, I’ve created a profile of the key actions relevant to his position. We could use the data and analyse his footages to conclude that his a far more attacking player than a defensive player.
His biggest asset is his dribbling ability. His other stronger attributes are his actions in the final third, pace and endurance to operate the wide left corridor. With the U23s he averages 6.92 dribbles per 90 which puts him ahead of the curve compared to other players in the league. He also has good success with his dribbling, keeping possession 66.3% of the time after his dribbles (55/83) averaging 3.6 successful dribbles per 90.
I was keen to see how this ability could impact his influence in the final third or the creation and finishing phases of attack. Not only does he maintains these figures even in the final third with a similar success rate. He also manages to finish a good portion of his dribbles with a shot which works well to raise his xG figures. For reference, his xG from the Premier Leauge 2 with Liverpool U23s is 0.09 and his overall xG from all games he’s played is 0.047.
Progressive runs are an important metric to analyse the efficiency of a players dribbling ability. I was keen to look into Larouci’s stats and I compared his progressive runs per 90 against the number of passes he received per 90 and plotted the figures for the three competitions separately. The aim was to examine if there was a big difference in the figures depending on the level of the competition. We can understand why his progressive runs with the Liverpool U23 are much higher than in the Youth league and with the senior team in preseason friendlies. His overall progressive runs was 2.524 per 90 across all competitions. Assuming the FA Cup fixtures were the highest level of competition for Larouci at Liverpool, his progressive runs stat from just the Everton and Shrewsbury games was 2.95 per 90.
What seems to fall short is his crossing. He averages 2.97 crosses per 90 which is lower than the number of dribbles in the final third, indicating a general reluctance to square the ball after reaching the final third. With the U23s he has managed a 23.1% success with his cross (6/26) times and his overall crossing accuracy is 17%. His long pass accuracy is 26% which shows that as of now crossing and long passing are not a strong element of his game. We know that crossing and long-range passing are fundamental strengths of Liverpool’s first team fullbacks. Larouci should work on them more, as he has recorded 2 shot assists and 1 assist from his cross giving an xA of 0.22.
Looking just at his overall passing accuracy of 84.8% we might be led to conclude that Larouci’s passing is one of the stronger attributes of his game. However, while analysing his performance in the FA Cup, against Everton in particular, I noticed the significant number of times he chose to pass back to his centre back rather than look for a forward pass.
An example is in this instance below against Shrewsbury town, where he in possession of the ball on the left wing with plenty of space to advance forward, but instead he chooses to square the pass prematurely to his midfielder killing the momentum in the progression phase. It is understandable that his decision making during these key games was more inclined towards not conceding possession and playing it safe amidst more experienced senior players.
I then tried to analyse his overall decision making when it comes to passing in his performance in all competitions, specifically how many times he passes forward and how many times back. It was interesting to see that he passes back 45% of the time keeping his pass accuracy higher during the game. This reflects upon his risk-taking behaviour as a fullback. In the next section I will also look into his positioning and tactical decision making supplementing the findings here.
If we compare his progressive runs against his progressive passes, we can clearly see that his dribbling ability exceeds his playmaking ability. If we look at his percentile plot at his progressive passes per 90, we see that with a figure of 5.12 he is behind the curve comparing to other players in the Premier League 2.
We have already looked into the zone of the pitch along which he likes to operate. It is interesting to observe that Larouci is strongly inclined to making overlapping runs on the outside of his forward wide player than making underlapping runs through the inner corridors. Let’s take this instance here where Liverpool is trying to progress from the left and Shrewsbury have managed to get players behind in time creating an overload.
The wide winger ahead of Larouci is positioned close to the sideline occupying the wide left flank. Larouci, in possession of the ball has a few short passing options. After choosing to play the ball back and square to his midfielder he stays in his position and is reluctant to make a run behind the defence through that overload. This could be because of the positioning of his wide winger.
Another aspect where Larouci seemed to take a while to adapt to was the communication with his fellow teammates and the subsequent timing of his runs. Here we take an instance where Liverpool are trying to buildup from the back with Lovren in possession of the ball. Larouci has already begun advancing along the left flank. Fabinho is dropping along the defensive line from the midfield to add to the superiority, but he hasn’t made himself available yet. The forward from Shrewsbury who are playing a 4-4-2 will soon close the space on Lovren so he signals frantically with his hand for Larouci, his left-back to come deeper and help out in the buildup.
In another instance, the play has been overloaded on the right before this shot and Liverpool are looking to switch the play through the midfield. The midfielder is about to receive the ball in the left half-space, but Larouci’s has already begun sprinting along the left flank behind the midfielder’s shoulder. The opponent is looking to shuffle across and close him down so that the switch all the way to Larouci on the left can be stopped. Once the midfielder turns he has to play the ball back to the centre back who is deeper (not shown here) and he signals Larouci to drop back since he was too far up the pitch to offer a passing lane. We see a case of the need to anticipate the moment to run and develop an understanding with teammates.
Larouci’s physique theoretically makes him a strong defender but his playing style relying on technical prowess rather than aggression makes him avoid the defensive aspects of his game. Larouci wins 5.93 defensive duels per 90 with the Liverpool U23 which is just about the average in the league among all players. His success is 53.03% which is in fact lesser than the average. His aerial defending ability is also quite poor winning 50% of his aerial duels and attempting 20 duels in 17 games in all competitions. He has a slightly higher success with the U23s winning 58.82% but his attempted aerial duels are way below the average with only 1.53 per 90.
Another big drawback to his game is that he is prone to concede possession in critical zones, especially in his own half. He averages 1.62 losses per 90 in his own third with 0.45 dangerous losses per 90 which is quite alarming and makes him a liability in games. He loses the ball 11.15 times per 90 in transitions with a high loss index of 2.53.
Looking into the positional aspect of his defending, we see how he is susceptible to leave the space behind him prone to opposition to attack. In this instance against Everton, the midfielder picks the right moment to exploit the space behind Larouci and Gomez because of Larouci’s positioning which catches him offguard. Not only has the entire team required to transition backwards because of this pass behind, they even concede a low cross into the penalty box.
After going through all his attributes, I wanted to compare his data separately in the different competitions he has played. Larouci is just 19 and has a long way to develop but it is interesting to see which attributes show big variations in different levels of competitiveness. This radar compares his performance in the preseason friendlies of 2019, the Premier League 2 with the Liverpool U23s and the UEFA Youth League. Although the figures could be very gross and not encompassing all the minutes he has played, we could summarise that his attacking attributes are more consistent than his defensive ones.
A fullback for Liverpool requires to be a prolific attacker, a robust midfielder and a brave defender all in one. It is a demanding criterion and the shoes of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold cannot be easily filled, but they are good role models for young players to develop their own game. Yasser Larouci is a talented dribbler of the ball, provides a lot of threat in the final third and offers a lot of pace as a left-back. However his game has its shortcomings, and he needs to develop his playmaking abilities in the midfield, positional sense and decisiveness in defensive actions.
At 19 years of age, it is difficult to predict whether a loan to another club during the transfer window will provide him with the game experience he needs to mature into a Premier League regular. Liverpool reports also indicate that it is unlikely considering the club are keen to invest in him and Neco Williams for the future. Gradually giving him game time with the first team is crucial to see a talented dribbler like Larouci blossom into a well-rounded player.