Below is the Get French Football News 100 profile dating new Crystal Palace signing Pape Souaré’s 2014 as well as an in-depth scout report into his strengths and his shortcomings.
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Senegalese international Pape Souaré has been linked to a number of clubs across England in the past year or so and for good reason, has has been an ever-improving player immersed in what was the second-best defence in Ligue 1 in the 2013-14 season. Since making his debut aged 19 under Rudi Garcia, Souaré has never looked back and he has grown into one of the league’s better left-backs, with the potential to become one of the best in Ligue 1.
Souaré started his career in his home country with Diambars FC before joining Lille in 2008. He spent a few years in the reserves before making his first appearance off the bench in February 2011, making his first start a month later against Stade Brestois. He was a part of Senegal’s Olympic team at London 2012 and whilst he grabbed headlines for an awful high-kick to the face against Mexico, he topped the assist charts for the tournament with four, ahead of the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Neymar.
However, it was his loan spell at then-newly promoted Stade de Reims where he really made his name, starring in an unexpectedly solid season with les Rémois that showed that Souaré had the capacity to become an important player for his parent club Lille. In 23 games, he was a big part in a surprisingly strong defence despite the club’s finish of 14th, which while an overachievement for the Ligue 1 new boys at the time, could have actually been even better were it for more potent attackers. They conceded just 42 goals all season long, better than anyone other side outside of the top eight and shipping less goals than 4th placed Nice.
So it should not come to anyone as a shock that he would carry on in that vein of form back with his parent club, helping them to become one of the stingiest defences in Europe in 2013-14. He played all but one of the games during their 11-game run without conceding and if they had not conceded a few goals late on in the season, they would have beaten PSG’s record of letting the opposition score just 23 times in the league that season. Instead, Lille finished with 26.
He also added goals to his game, scoring on three occasions and this is more impressive when you take into account that he had not scored before that season outside of the reserves. Souaré was used in a multitude of positions, from left-back to midfield to left-wing, he showed his versatility to play wherever he was needed.
Whilst he failed to register an assist, he created 20 clear-cut chances over the course of the 2013-2014 campaign and whilst the majority of these originated from crosses out wide, he created just under a quarter of these opportunities after initially marauding through the middle of the park. The only personal disappointment would have been his discipline: he showed his immaturity giving away a couple of penalties this calendar year and during the 2013-14 season alone, he picked seven yellow cards along with one red which is borderline unacceptable for a defender that holds down a starting spot in one of Ligue 1’s top eight clubs.
Since August and the start of the 2014/15 season, much like the majority of his teammates, Souaré has not quite been as effective as previously. He has only made 12 appearances from 19 games and Lille have won more games without rather than with Souaré in the starting 11.
His performances have had a deflated air about them in recent months, much like the rest of the Lille team, but Souaré is seemingly less interested in pushing high up the pitch and is more cautious not to dive in and make clear-cut interceptions. Perhaps the collective lack of confidence in and around Lille in this first half of the 2014/15 season has rubbed off on the youngster.
Characteristically, Pape Souaré is athletic going forward; he is able to create chances from wide areas and has imposing aerial abilities. He is quick on the ground, usually eager to get forward and paralleled with a wonderful, wraparound crossing technique; he can pose a real threat in the opponent’s final third. His pace enables him to scurry back after a failed attack and whilst he is a fairly inaccurate tackler, to the point where he can come across as quite rash, his reading of the game often enables him to snuff out a pass before his opposition winger receives the ball. Souaré is also following the trend of the stronger, modern fullbacks, and his leap permits him to be a real asset in defending set pieces.
There is no doubt that Souaré is a very good Ligue 1 player, one of the best left-backs that the league has to offer and if he rediscovers some form in early 2015, then Lille may have to fend off offers from other European sides. The African Cup of Nations would be a good place to start, a good showing in that will not only put him in the shop window but also hopefully give him a permanent spot in the starting line-up again and we will be able to continue to watch this exciting 24-year-old grow.