This summer, Lyon’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette made the move from France to the Premier League. Lacazette was the star of the team having been the club’s top scorer for four consecutive seasons. Someone had to step up to fill the void left behind: Nabil Fekir stepped up to the plate.
Fekir is one of the better known stars of Ligue 1 outside Monaco and Paris, but remains relatively unknown in the rest of Europe. Following Lacazette’s departure, responsibility and pressure fell on the shoulders of the 24 year old.
Fekir bounced around various youth teams before the age of 18, finally rejoining Lyon in 2011 having had a spell there between 2005 and 2007. Two years in the club’s reserve team were followed by his first senior appearance in August 2013. In the 2014-15 season, Fekir picked up Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award, making 34 league appearances and scoring 13 goals in the campaign.
His form during that season led to a call up for the national team, and in 2015 Fekir scored his first and only goal so far of his international career. However, the Frenchman ruptured his cruciate ligament in September the same year and missed the vast majority of the 2015-16 campaign. Seven months later, and Fekir returned to the Lyon squad in time for a few late appearances, but question marks remained over whether he could find form again.
After a satisfactory season last year, Fekir has kicked on and revelled in being the focal point of the team following the departure of Lacazette. This season has seen the Frenchman hit the form of his life. Fekir has registered nine goals and four assists in just ten appearances, including a stunning halfway line strike at home to Bordeaux.
He can consider himself unlucky to not be called up to the most recent France squad. Didier Deschamps controversially opted for his trusted old guard including the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Dimitri Payet. Fekir’s form is certainly deserving of a run in the French national team and at 24 years old, he should be getting more exposure on the international stage.
Fekir plays primarily as an attacking midfielder in behind a striker, although he is capable of playing further forward by himself if required. Despite not being an out and out striker, Fekir contributes a good amount of goals over a season. The year he had his cruciate ligament injury, he still scored four goals in nine appearances. He is currently on course for his best goalscoring season too.
Fekir scores all types of goals, from long range efforts to finishing off team moves with late bursts into the box. And not only is his speciality scoring goals. He has a strong repertoire of passing in his game and is very strong on the ball.
Much of Fekir’s forward play revolves around collecting the ball, passing to a teammate and following the play forward into the box, rather than sitting deep. He takes on defenders frequently and once he gets past them, has the strength to hold them off before looking for a Lyon shirt to pass to.
Given that Fekir’s playstyle revolves around good chemistry with the players around him, many expected him to struggle when losing the prolific Lacazette to the Premier League. He works best with a quick striker ahead of him to latch onto his through balls. Mariano Díaz and Bertrand Traoré joined Lyon in the summer, providing pacey attackers to support Fekir.
Although these two players are good signings, it is unlikely they will score as many goals as Lacazette over the season. However, the pressure of being the star in the team has pushed Fekir on further. He even took the captain’s armband after Maxime Gonalons left for Roma.
Fekir is 24 years old and will only get better over time, so what does the future hold? No matter how much Lyon want to hold onto him, French clubs tend to struggle to keep their best footballers. Other European clubs can offer higher wages and a more reliable prospect of Champions League football.
If he were to leave, Arsenal could be a good fit for the Frenchman. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are out of contract in the summer, so signing a creative attacking midfielder would help remedy Arsenal’s losses. Fekir would also link up again with his countryman and former teammate Lacazette. Fekir also appears to work harder and score more goals than Ozil so would make for an interesting replacement.
There has been no concrete interest in Fekir from foreign clubs so far, but it is hard to imagine that no one would come in for him in the summer. No matter what happens, Fekir has a bright future ahead of him, although it is unlikely to be in a Lyon shirt in the long term.
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