After breaking into the FC Lorient first team at the start of last season, 20 year old midfielder Enzo Le Fée is now getting his chance to impress in the top division of French football. The young midfielder displayed his quality in Ligue 2 and even attracted the attention of Napoli and Atalanta in the summer, according to L’Équipe, but committed his future to FC Lorient by signing a long-term contract. With many journalists and pundits labelling Le Fée as one of the most promising talents from the promoted teams this season, expectations are high and clubs across Europe may be watching closely to see if he can perform at a high level in Ligue 1.
Last season, Le Fée primarily played centrally in a 4-2-3-1, either in the #10 position or as part of the midfield two. He also started two games on the left wing last October, when Lorient set up in a 4-4-2 shape, and has continued to be used in a variety of positions during the start of this season. Due to his creativity and technical ability, Le Fée was used mostly in the advanced midfield position behind the striker last season, but performed equally well in a deeper midfield role and can contribute effectively with defensive work when his team are without the ball. Minutes have been restricted for the young midfielder this season, with new signings Trevoh Chalobah and Thomas Monconduit coming in and playing in the central midfield positions, admittedly to entirely successful effect. The attacking midfielder Quentin Boisgard has also been brought in from Toulouse and despite being deployed predominantly on the right wing, he can also play in the #10 position. The added competition for places in the line-up is expected as Lorient made a significant investment in players last summer (£24m), the 7th highest amount in the league, which is an indication of the aspirations of the club in their first season back in the top flight since 2016/17.
In Ligue 1 this season, Le Fée has played 336 minutes of football in his team’s first 10 matches. He started the season by playing the full 90 minutes in Lorient’s first fixture, a 3-1 home win against RC Strasbourg. Lorient set up in a familiar 4-2-3-1 shape with Le Fée playing as part of the midfield two and the young midfielder displayed some impressive defensive ability by making a number of tackles and interceptions in midfield areas. His positional awareness and reading of the game without the ball is notable for such a young player and enables him to win the ball back for his team effectively. Le Fée also made a difference against Strasbourg at the other end of the pitch, completing the most key passes (3) for his side including a smart through-ball that eventually led to the third goal for his side.
Since the win against Strasbourg, Le Fée has struggled to retain his place in the starting 11, starting only three of the next nine league games, being replaced before 90 minutes in each. In his second start, he played on the right of a midfield three and was unable to influence the game in the same manner as his previous appearance, completing only 70% of his passes and receiving a yellow card for a foul early in the game. With his side 2-0 down, he was taken off after 58 minutes to be replaced by an extra striker in an attempt to get something from the game. Since then, Le Fée has been in and out of the side and has only managed 46 minutes of football in Lorient’s last 5 league games. A midfield partnership of Laurent Abergel and Chelsea loanee Trevoh Chalobah has been preferred by manager Christophe Pélissier recently and it looks like Le Fée will have to earn his place back into the side. A switch to a 4-4-2 shape after a difficult start to the season for the club has meant that there is also no space for Le Fée in the advanced central midfield role either, with two strikers up top favoured at the moment.
A comparison of Le Fée with his midfield competition in the squad highlights why Pélissier has opted for alternative players in recent weeks. After conceding 13 goals in the first 6 league games, the shift to a 4-4-2 has improved Lorient defensively, with only 4 goals conceded in the last 4 games, including a clean sheet away to Dijon. This defensive solidity can be attributed partly to the new midfield pairing of Chalobah and Abergel, but conversely has made the club a lot less threatening going forward. In 813 minutes of football, Abergel has completed 6.2 successful tackles per 90, the highest amount for any player in the big-5 leagues this season if you discount players who have played less than two 90s of league football.
Looking also at successful pressures, which are defined as pressing actions from the player that lead to the team regaining possession within the next five seconds, Abergel also ranks in the top 3% of players in the big-5 leagues with 8.89 per 90. Both metrics highlight just how effective Abergel is at stopping attacks and winning the ball back for his side. Chalobah brings additional qualities to the midfield that contribute to the defensive performance, including 1.43 interceptions per 90, which ranks him in the top 5 for Ligue 1 midfielders. Alongside this, Chalobah completes 2.5 successful tackles per 90 and 2.5 successful dribbles per 90, the latter indicating that he is effective at progressing the ball further up the pitch where the wingers and forwards can create and score chances. The table below displays a comparison of some of these key metrics, with Le Fée included.
Enzo Le Fée
Successful Tackles per 90
Successful Pressures per 90
Interceptions per 90
Successful Dribbles per 90
One feature that this current midfield partnership lacks is creativity, with Le Fée outperforming both in important metrics such as key passes and expected assists. Currently though, Pélissier seems happy to sacrifice the extra creativity in exchange for a solid midfield base and therefore the young midfielder may have to remain patient. Despite displaying good defensive awareness, it is noticeable that Le Fée can sometimes struggle with the physicality of the league. The numbers reinforce this view, with 3.75 turnovers per 90 underlining that he regularly loses the ball to stronger opposition midfield players. He also scores very low for Tackle/Dribbled Past %, a metric which represents the percentage of dribblers faced that he managed to tackle successfully. With a value of 15.4%, opposition players are finding it a bit too easy to get past Le Fée, mostly due to his small frame and lack of physical strength.
On the whole, Le Fée has had a relatively tough start to Ligue 1 football. New additions to the squad along with tougher opponents in a new league have meant that the young midfielder has had to be patient so far. However, there is still plenty of football to be played this season and Le Fée will undoubtedly get his chance to play more minutes and secure a place in the starting 11, provided he can build on the performances of last season that earned the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.