FEATURE | Martin Terrier: Reborn at Rennes

Martin Terrier has been a well-known name in Ligue 1 for a while now – representing four top-flight sides to date. After breaking through at Lille and finding his feet with Strasbourg, the forward found his first opportunity at the top level with Lyon. Often used as a wide forward, the 25-year-old was never able to find the form that many believed he was capable of.

Terrier did show some signs of promise at OL towards the end of the 2018/19 season, as he managed to net six goals in seven games, becoming a pivotal part of the attacking line as an inside forward arriving late from the left or bursting in behind with inverted runs. The following year, however, he wasn’t able to replicate the same form, scoring just one league goal.

After three seasons at OL and a loan move to former club Strasbourg, many believed the former France under 21 international had missed his chance in the upper echelons of European football. However, Rennes still believed that the promising talent, that excited many in his youth, could still be nurtured. Two seasons and £10.8m later, sporting director Florian Maurice brought Terrier from his old club to Rennes. Reunited with former manager Bruno Genesio, Terrier ascended to a whole new level.

In the 2021/22 season, focus has been stolen by Kylian Mbappé and Moussa Dembélé’s impeccable scoring ability in Ligue 1, with Terrier’s performances and impact going under the radar but, as his role transformed from being a threat in the final third to the penalty area, Terrier quietly became one of Ligue 1’s most prolific goal scorers. His 21 goals in 37 league appearances this season was six more than the last two seasons combined in all competitions. The improvement in his underlying numbers shows why there’s been such an upshift.

In taking 2.75 shots per 90 minutes this season, Terrier is averaging a whole shot more a game than last season – showing the progression of his role in the attacking phase. There’s also been a noticeable improvement in the forward’s accuracy with a further 13% of his shots finding the target – now 50.3% overall. This is despite fewer touches in the opposition box, showing growth in efficiency as he matures. His accuracy of finishing is among the best in Europe, with an expected goals of 13.6 and an overall tally of 21 goals, Terrier outperformed his xG by 7.4.

At Lyon, Terrier was often responsible for trying to split opponents with progressive passes and carries, but without end product while assists have been less frequent. However, the forward has shown an improvement in his decision-making with greater involvement in overall build-up play and transitions at Rennes. He managed a career-best five assists across all competitions this season.

Foraying runs and ball-carrying have always been key attributes for complete forwards, whether featuring through the middle or in the wide areas. Terrier has always tended to drift into areas of restricted space, stopping attacks from flourishing, but, in the last two seasons, this part of his game has evolved. Terrier is a key ball carrier, often launching Rennes into promising counters, his 5.4 progressive carries per 90, an improvement of 1.88 on the previous season, and an increase of 0.3 shot-creating actions per 90 are testament to this. These aren’t massive numbers but show a continuous improvement of his effect in the final third with goals now his primary objective.

Terrier has proven throughout his career that he’s able to operate in various roles. Naturally a wide forward, the former Lille man has featured across the front line this season to brilliant effect. With such goal-scoring ability and versatility, Terrier is bound to be hot property this summer. Stylistically, Terrier suits a counter-attacking system. Running in behind high lines and breaking the offside trap comes easily to the Frenchman as he’s blessed with considerable pace. This could make him a good addition to a Premier League team looking to break into the top six and challenge for Europe – Leicester City come to mind with their ability to break at speed. Liverpool have also been linked with the 25-year-old as Sadio Mané looks Bayern Munich-bound. Terrier’s recent potent finishing could make him a suitable replacement.

Tottenham have also been interested and, lacking depth behind Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Terrier’s versatility could be a great option for Antonio Conte. The Bundesliga’s high tempo would also suit his style where RB Leipzig are known for taking forwards to the next level. However, unless one of the top three clubs were to take a punt on the Frenchman, he may view a switch to Germany as a sideways step.

Whether he stays or goes, Terrier has proven he belongs in Europe’s upper echelons and that his name could soon become a well-known one well beyond Ligue 1. 

Liam Wraith

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