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PROSPECT | Mounir Chouiar

Ligue 1 has a new dribbling king, and it’s not who you think it is. The summer departures of Allan Saint-Maximin, Hatem Ben Arfa, and Marcus Thuram left a gaping hole in the league’s dribbling charts. Enter Mounir Chouiar, Dijon’s 21-year-old winger who joined DFCO from Racing Club de Lens for €3.5m in September.

With 70 successfully completed dribbles at the time of writing, Chouiar possesses not only one of the highest tallies in the league, but he does so at an amazingly efficient success rate. Of Ligue 1 players that have attempted 100 or more dribbles, Chouiar has the best rate of success at 63%, higher than renowned tricksters like Kylian Mbappé (52%), Houssem Aouar (59%), and Neymar (61%).

Chouiar’s ability to beat defenders regularly gets the winger into dangerous positions in the final third. Often deployed on the left flank of a trident of attacking midfielders, Chouiar has a tendency to cut inside onto his stronger right foot in efforts to isolate and take on opposing defenders. From there, the French youth international has the ability to either go for goal himself or to create goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates.

As a creator, Chouiar provides 2.6 key passes per 90, a figure that trails just behind Neymar’s (2.7) and Di Maria’s (3.5), cementing the 21-year-old’s status as a premier chance creator and dribbler in Ligue 1. The winger’s manager, Stéphane Jobard, is himself quite the admirer of his player’s range of abilities. In September, just after signing Chouiar, Jobard declared, “He can destabilise the defence in one-on-ones, he’s capable of making the final pass and can even score. He has the whole arsenal of a modern footballer.”

Comparing Chouiar to players with similar passing and dribbling statistics brings up world-recognised stars that play for the best teams in the league. Chouiar’s situation is a bit different though, as the youngster is still just making a name for himself, and his club, Dijon, finds itself 16th, just three points above safety. Were it not for Chouiar, DFCO would likely find themselves in the bottom three. Such is the young attacker’s importance to his team.

That a young newcomer to Ligue 1 finds himself the outlet that his side often turn to in attack is a testament to Chouiar’s quick emergence and influence. His close ball control allows him to keep possession in tight spaces, while his unpredictability and arsenal of tricks keeps his opponents guessing on what his next move might be.

An often-unrecognised aspect of Chouiar’s game is his defensive contribution to his side, something that is rarely seen in this breed of dribbling, playmaking attacker. Standing at 1.77m, Chouiar is not an imposing, dominating figure, and yet his tackling statistics – 2.1 completed per 90 – impresses, especially for an attack-first winger. To put that figure into context, the same players that were compared to Chouiar earlier complete just 0.4 (Mbappé), 1.1 (Aouar), and 0.8 (Neymar) tackles per 90. This sort of input is crucial to a club as precariously positioned as Dijon. For DFCO, every tackle, dribble, and key pass that Chouiar can provide will go a long way towards Ligue 1 survival.

Presently, Dijon’s attacking star is stuck on the sidelines with a sprained left ankle suffered against Monaco on February 22nd. Projected to be out for around four weeks, Chouiar was due to miss at least two more Ligue 1 matches, including an important relegation dogfight against 19th placed Amiens, although COVID-19 disruption has meant that the French youth international has more time to return to full fitness. Dijon will certainly need the 21-year-old to return to form quickly upon his recovery from injury, as his performances often make or break the attack of the Bourgogne side.

After his demonstrative performances this year it is clear that Mounir Chouiar belongs in Ligue 1. So, if Dijon struggle to perform in these last few months of the season and succumb to relegation, expect Chouiar to be a wanted man. There are still things to improve on such as decision-making in the final third and generating a more consistent output of goals and assists (four and zero at the time of writing), but Chouiar is already a very productive attacker with plenty of upside to boot.

Questions remain about his future in international football, too. Chouiar has played at multiple levels of France’s youth set-up, most recently receiving his first cap for the U21 side. He is, however, also eligible to play for both Mauritania and Morocco, but is more likely to play for the latter. Ultimately, if the 21-year-old can continue his upward trajectory then an international career, whether it be with France or Morocco, will certainly be in his future too.

G.M.

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