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Adil Aouchiche: PSG’s ”the one that got away”?

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Paris Saint-Germain has one of the most prestigious and effective academies in France. Not only from the Parisian region that’s the hailed by the likes of Thierry Henry and Kylian Mbappé for its’ street football. The same street football that helped form the aforementioned players to who they were and are. But the PSG academy is very present around all of France.

The results it’s had speaks for themselves. In world football today you could form an elite-level starting elven by only players who’ve left PSG before establishing themselves in the senior squad.

Alphonse Areola (Fulham) – Dan-Axel Zagadou (Dortmund), Tanguy Niassi (Bayern), Boubakary Soumaré (Lille) – Kingsley Coman (Bayern), Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Cristopher Nkunku (Leipzig) – Odsonne Edouard (Celtic), Moussa Dembélé (Lyon), Moussa Diaby (Leverkusen)

One name that’s not on the list, due to the high-level competition, is Adil Aouchiche. But don’t let that fool you. Seen to pure talent, Aouchiche is better than many of the offensive players which have just been mentioned.

Who is Adil Aouchiche?

Aouchiche was born in the Parisian suburb Le Blanc-Masnil on July 15th 2002 to parents of Algerian descent. He started in the PSG academy at age 12 after having spent the majority of his early years in Tremblay FC.  

The now 18-year-old Aouchiche was not only the rising star in the PSG academy but in the French youth national teams as well. In the U17 EUROs, he was the tournament’s top scorer with 9 goals in 5 games, including 4 goals against the Czech Republic and a hattrick against Sweden. Later that year, as France won bronze in the 2019 U17 World Cup, Aouchiche was the main creator as he registered 1 goal and 7 assists in 7 games. More than a goal produced per 90.

After the tournament, he got to feature 5 times for PSG’s senior side in which he scored 1 goal. A goal that made him the second youngest goalscorer in PSG history. But in the end, Aouchiche left PSG for Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2020. He was a part of the senior squad, was very highly rated, but didn’t see a realistic path for himself to a spot in the lineup as he was fighting against the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, and Angel Di Maria. Therefore, he left to get game time.

Player profile, strengths and weaknesses.

The first aspect of Aouchiche’s game that must be highlighted is how well-rounded he is offensively. The 18-year-old is very completed in the way that he’s both a goal-scoring threat and as well as being an orchestrator pulling the strings of the attacks. Much like Kevin de Bruyne at Manchester City. Although, he excels in chance creation. This past season he created 59 chances (12th in the league) and 12 big chances (11th) in Ligue 1, as well as 4.89 in shot-creation per 90. This all resulted in 5 assists. Adding to this, he’s a big threat at set-pieces too with his passing foot (corners, long-range free kicks, etc).

Furthermore, he’s very tricky to control as he’s very unpredictable and his technique makes it tough to dispossess him, even in crowded areas where Aouchiche is excellent at maneuvering the ball. He’s got excellent flair as well. He succeeded 53.2 percent of all his dribbles in Ligue 1 this past season, which should be seen as an acceptable achievement given it was his first season at senior level.

Defensively he contributes a lot as well. On average he executed 20 pressuring actions per 90 in Ligue 1 this past season, where he succeeded in 28.1 percent. Meaning his team regained possession within 5 seconds of the pressuring action being executed. To that, it should be added that 28.1 percent is really good seeing to the European standard which is around 20-25 percent.

Aouchiche is a player beyond his years. He’s more mature in his decision-making, vision, and execution than most players his age. He’s got excellent technique, excellent passing-foot to match his vision but above all, he’s a difference-maker. He’s yet to prove that more at senior level, but it’s hard to count the times he’s stepped up in PSG’s and France’s youth team when the going got tough or when it mattered the most. And that itself says a lot about the winner’s mentality he’s got.

The areas of his game he still needs to improve are mainly gaining experience. At this season you’ve seen that he hasn’t fully adapted to senior football yet. Instances where he doesn’t get away with things he did at youth level. It could be making one dribble too much and losing the ball for example. But these are things that come with time. One should remember that he’s still just 18 years old and has a lot to learn. But with that said, he’s far ahead of most players his age.

Potential?

Like most skilled attacking players of French origin, Aouchiche has at many times been compared to Zinidine Zidane. Like most young players, it’s unfair to put that pressure on him, and it’s hard to decide whether it’s an accurate comparison to make. But what’s certain is that Adil Aouchiche deserves to be compared to the best. He’s that good of a talent.

Speaking from personal opinion, he’s a world-class talent. The only thing he needs is continued game time to keep on growing, improving, and adapting to the men’s game. Adil Aouchiche is 100 percent a player to watch for the future and his impact at club level will only grow with time. He’s now got one senior season under his belt, in which you could see clear improvement at the start and end of, so it will be even more exciting to follow him in the coming.

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