Adil Aouchiche was voted second-best player at the U-17 World Cup in November 2019, a sign that his talent is already well recognised internationally. Gifted with above-average technical skills, he excels in chance creation and dribbling. Such features, however, could be considered a luxury in a team battling relegation, like his St-Étienne. This is probably one of the reasons why Aouchiche is struggling to meet the high expectations that followed his arrival to Les Verts.
Bio and playing style
Debut at PSG before signing for St-Étienne
A graduate of Paris Saint-Germain’s academy, Adil Aouchiche (born near Paris in July 2002) made his professional debut on 30 August 2019 in a 2–0 league win against Metz, playing 65 minutes. That remained his only FL1 match with PSG, but he also played two cup games, scoring against Linas-Montlhéry.
In search of playing time and reportedly convinced by a big signing-on fee, Aouchiche joined Saint-Étienne in July 2020 on a free transfer from PSG.
Aouchiche was named in the 100-player shortlist for the 2020 Golden Boy Award, and was voted second-best player of the U-17 World Cup in 2017.
A creative attacking midfielder
Adil Aouchiche is a very creative attacking midfielder, whose greatest strength is surely chance creation. In slightly less than 1000 minutes with Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1 he has served up 3 assists out of 2.7 Expected Assists (0.25 xA per 90 minutes).
Remarkably, Aouchiche is able to exactly double the amount of chances that attacking midfielders create on average: at the time of writing, he has created 3.32 chances per 90 minutes this season, while attacking midfielders create 1.67 on average. One of the ways he is able to do that is with accurate through balls (0.3 per 90 minutes vs the 0.2 average for CAMs). Aouchiche is the team leader in assists (3) and chances created (35), while in the latter he also ranks fifth in the league. Needless to say, Saint-Etienne are highly dependant on the chances he creates: more than a fifth of the chances that the team create come from Aouchiche, even though he has played only 55% of total available minutes to date.
Apart from vision, dribbling is the other technical skill in which Aouchiche excels: he attempts 3.4 dribbles per 90 minutes and succeeds 64% of the time, (vs 2.4 P90 for the average CAM and with a success ratio of 58.6% on average).
These very positive stats in chances created and dribbles contribute to Aouchiche’s Vision and Dribbling performance indexes. A scatter chart that includes all the Under-20 players in our database clearly highlights Aouchiche’s qualities, especially when it comes to vision: his Vision index is ranked fifth in Europe, behind Dejan Kulusevski, Jadon Sancho, Harvey Elliot and Amine Gouiri.
Aouchiche is the typical “trequartista“, moving between the lines. When in search of the ball, he likes to move out of the central area, either to the left or to the right, in search of space and freedom. He then quickly positions his body towards the centre of the pitch so as to increase his chances of finding a teammate in space.
Things to improve
The flipside of the coin of attempting many audacious passes is – simply put – that many of them go wrong:
- In the opposition half, Aouchiche’s passing accuracy is a mere 59% vs a role average of 70.5%.
- Aouchiche loses possession of the ball roughly 19 times every 90 minutes, while the role average is 16.
The other aspect of his game that needs a marked improvement is Aouchiche’s defensive attitude. None of his defensive numbers are better than the average. This lack of defensive aggression could, in our view, become a serious deficiency when playing for teams that aren’t looking to win a league (like St-Étienne). Aouchiche’s background is part of the problem here: after spending so many years in PSG’s youth academy, in teams used to dominating their leagues, he is simply not used to defending. Life at St-Étienne is very different on this front and the adaptation hasn’t been easy so far.
Potential and outlook
Playing time is helping, but St-Étienne are struggling
The decision to move to Saint-Étienne was clearly intended to find playing time and that has worked, to an extent: he has played with some consistency so far.
However, the message that coach Claude Puel sent by denying him a place in the starting XI against his former club PSG is worrying. Aouchiche’s arrival at St-Étienne created huge expectations, which the young man has not yet quite lived up to. In a recent interview, former St-Etienne player Jean-Michel Larqué stated that, unlike in his day, nowadays young players at Sainté are a little on their own and do not have the best possible environment around them.
Moreover, St-Étienne are struggling in Ligue 1: they lost seven matches in a row between the end of September and the end of November and – at the time of writing – sit in 16th place, not far from the relegation zone. Needless to say, relegation would be extremely detrimental to Aouchiche’s progress.
– Vision (0.25 xA P90)
– Dribbling (2.3 successful dribbles P90)
– Defending (tackle success < 60%; interceptions P90 < 0.6)
– Possession losses (19 P90)
– Playing time in both FL1 and Coupe de France
– Relegation from FL1
How long in Green?
Adil Aouchiche signed a three-year contract with Saint-Étienne that expires on 30th June 2023, but seems to include a renewal clause for another two years.
Rumour has it that the agreement with ASSE was reached thanks in part to a big signing-on fee, which convinced Aouchiche to move 500km south of Paris and created a lot of hype around his name. Such a significant investment also forces Saint-Étienne to properly time the player’s future departure from the club, in order to maximise their capital gain.
Regarding this last point, everything will be subject to how Les Verts end the season. If Claude Puel’s men avoid relegation then Aouchiche will find himself in a good place next year, likely to see more playing time and so further his development. On the other hand, if ASSE are relegated then the club would be in a tough spot: sell Aouchiche only one year after signing him (probably for less than they could), or risk bringing a skilled player to a tougher and less-skilled FL2 that would not suit his game. Most of the time, players with a lot of quality and not much substance struggle when playing in leagues of lower overall quality.
This analysis is part of our ‘Wonderkids: 2021 Outlook”. Please find the link for its free download here. A printed version is available too.