As with many of his AS Monaco teammates Thomas Lemar is hot property at the moment. The 21 year old French attacker has shone whether deployed centrally or on the left hand side for the team with perhaps the most deadly attack in Europe at the moment.
Having made his first team debut at Caen in the French second tier in 2013 it came as a shock to no one when he moved to As Monaco in 2015 as part of the clubs shift in policy towards purchasing young talented players with significant sell on value. As Lemar has represented his country at every level and has now made his first senior appearance his value can only be increasing.
To date this season Lemar has contributed 11 goals and 8 assists over 38 appearances meaning that he has been directly involved in 19 goals or 0.5 goals per game. Those statistics only tell part of the story however with the attacker also 2 dribbles, 1.9 key passes and 1.6 shots per game over those 38 matches.
These statistics for a player who is still so young suggest that he is a key part of their attacking system and a player through which they play in the attacking transition.
There has been significant interest in Lemar this season from a number of different clubs keen to add to their attacking proficiency. He style of play and mental strength suggest that he would be able to adapt to any number of new situations although he may well favour a move to the English Premier League over a switch to La Liga in Spain with Arsenal and Spurs both known to be interested in the young Frenchman.
With that said however there is nothing to say that Lemar will choose to not stay with Monaco for at least another two seasons. The quality of French football as a whole is on the rise and Monaco have a young side that plays to the strengths that Lemar possesses. He is well thought of at the club and is already viewed as a leader amongst the squad at his relatively young age.
Ability in one on one situations
One of the strongest areas of Lemar’s game is his balance and ability to beat the opposition player in one on one situations.
He is very much a modern attacker in his ability to shift the ball to the left or to the right with equal effectiveness. This makes him extremely difficult to defend in central areas of the field unless the opposition is able to commit numerous defensive players to cover him.
When wide left or wide right Lemar has the ability to go down the outside or cut back inside towards the central areas.
In this example Lemar takes possession of the ball deep inside of his own half whilst facing his own goal and with two opponents closing him down.
In quick transition there is no supporting structure in the deeper areas of the field and thus the options are limited.
His balance and knowledge of space on the field sees him spin immediately away from the closest marker before driving forward with the ball. He is one of the rare players who is as quick with the ball at his feet as he is without the ball and he burst past the second defender and moves quickly towards the opposition goal.
Here Lemar takes possession in the opposition side of the field with two defensive players covering and no clear supporting player.
In the first movement Lemar moves infield looking for space but the two defensive players close in to cover the space. He has the intelligence however to read the pressure and he spins back out of the containment and in to space so that he can drive forward in space with the ball.
This comfort with the ball and game intelligence are one of the key aspects of Lemar’s game and this makes him almost impossible to mark tightly in the final third of the pitch.
Appreciation of space
While Lemar is able to drive with the ball at his feet in to space he also has the ability to identify the correct time to release the ball to play his team mates in to space beyond the defensive structure of the opposition.
Whilst Lemar is best known as a wide player the way that he drifts in to central areas of the pitch is reminiscent of the Brazilian midfielder Coutinho and he has a similar eye for a passing lane through compact defensive blocks.
In time we should see Lemar move infield in to a more conventional number ten position where his ability to play in 360 degrees would cause maximum damage.
Here we see Lemar originally driving through the centre of the pitch with the ball at his feet. We have already seen that he has the pace and the ability to get away from immediate pressure through a burst of speed.
Instead, despite the pressure from two opposition players Lemar is able to identify the space in behind the defensive line and the movement from the forward player. As the attacker makes his dynamic movement in to the pocket of space the weight and the timing of the pass from Lemar are perfect giving his teammate the maximum opportunity to get through on goal.
On this occasion the space that is open as Monaco attack is in the wide area of the field as the opposition defensive structure has narrowed in to a compact unit.
Lemar has the ball in the half space on the left side and there are options for him to drive with the ball towards the opponents goal on his own.
Instead he sees Mendy supporting down the left flank where the maximum amount of space is open. Again the weight and the pace of the ball are perfect and Mendy is able to move on to the ball and cross the ball in to the box, this cross results in yet another goal for Monaco.
Movement and composure around the penalty area
As well has being able to commit opposition players with his ability on the ball and identify space and movement around him to cause maximum damage to the opposition with his passing range Lemar is also a threat himself in the penalty area.
In this example Monaco are playing Spurs in the Champions League group stage. As he collects a lofted pass across the penalty area and instantly controls the ball the Spurs defensive block quickly shifts across to close him down.
Instead of losing composure or trying to cut back in to a central area where the pressure was coming from we see Lemar pause for a second allowing the ball to settle.
In the face of the onrushing pressure Lemar then releases his shot back across the face of goal in to the bottom corner of the goal and past his fellow French international Hugo Lloris.
As Lemar picks the ball up on in the central areas with acres of space around him.
Instead of driving in to space with the ball towards the goal he instead reads the run of the attacking player who has made a curved ball to remain onside.
As Lemar plays the ball down the outside to the player making the run he then continues his own run in to the central area. The central defensive players shift across to cover the first pass and Lemar is able to run in to a pocket of space to gather the cross as it comes across goal and finish easily.
There is no doubt that Lemar is an exciting talent with a big future in the game. His capacity to come alive in the final third is such that he will get fans off their seats wherever he ends up.
As he gains more experience and matures as a player then his statistical output should only increase. Indeed there is little standing in the way of him becoming one of the premier attacking players in the game.
He will eventually leave Monaco and France behind, when he does so however he will not be going anywhere cheaply.