Yacine Adli – Player Report

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: French / Algerian
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 29/07/2000
  • Current Club: Girondins de Bordeaux
  • Career: US Villejuif (Y), PSG B, PSG, Girondins de Bordeaux
  • Position: Attacking Midfield
  • Secondary Position: Centre Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Overview

After making a name for himself though Paris Saint-Germain’s youth system, and even making a senior appearance for the French champions, Yacine Adli was purchased by Girondins de Bordeaux on the 31st of January 2019 for a fee in the region of €5.5 million in a transfer that reportedly includes a large sell on fee percentage should the youngster be sold in the future. Since joining, the French U20 international, who is also of Algerian descent, has been given his first real taste of senior football in Ligue 1, having made 32 league appearances for Les Girondins to date as I write this.

With the fee being rather sizeable, and the inclusion of a sell-on clause in the deal, it would suggest that the camps of both PSG and Bordeaux rate the youngster quite highly, and therefore it should be no surprise that he impressed in his first full season in Ligue 1 last term. Adli racked up 3 league goals and 3 league assists in little over 1000 minutes for the outfit based in the South-West of France, a very decent return for a 19 year old making his first steps into top level senior football. Consequently, he and the club will certainly be hoping that he can build on last season’s performances whilst getting more minutes under his belt.

A French youth international of Algerian descent with the middle name Zinedine playing for Bordeaux, have we seen this before?… He was never going to be a defender was he?

Unsurprisingly, the 20 year old is a bit of a maverick on the pitch, primarily operating as an attacking midfield player, who has also been deployed in deeper or wider areas if necessary up to this point. Adli likes to use his ability on the ball and passing range to cause problems for the opposition defence, whilst he is also partial to a shot from distance, which he has shown can be very effective.

Adli finds himself just under two years into a four and a half year contract, and it’s fair to say he’s gotten off to a steady start at his new club. At 20, he should only get better as he gains more experience and steadily increases his playing time, and in a squad that boasts a host of young midfield talents, Bordeaux will be hoping that he can continue his current rate of development whilst staying injury free. This analysis will aim to examine every aspect of Adli’s game and what we could expect to see from him as he continues to develop in Ligue 1.

Physical

Standing at 6’1 and with an average build, Adli cuts a more physically imposing figure than most players in his position, displaying an ability to compete in shoulder to shoulder duels and stand his ground against strong defenders, using his body well to protect the ball and ride challenges. Although he is quite tall, he doesn’t often challenge in aerial duels and is more comfortable with the ball at his feet rather than challenging for headers. The 20 year old is quite agile, allowing him to evade challenges and use quick feet to beat defenders, but lacks a bit of pace and is more of a threat when he receives the ball to feet rather than trying to make runs in behind.

However, this lack of overall speed doesn’t really hinder him when dribbling, as he instead uses his close control and strength to carry the ball forward, whilst he often goes looking for the ball short rather than trying to make runs beyond the striker. He attempts to stay low when he has possession in order to remain balanced when being challenged and he has strong legs which allow him to strike the ball with power. Stamina wise, the youngster sometimes struggles if the game is played at a frenetic pace and he has only completed a full 90 minutes on three occasions since joining Bordeaux, often coming on as a substitute or being brought off late into the game, and whilst he battles hard in duels, his actual work rate in terms of ground covered is not that high.

Technical

Technically the midfielder has the ability to be a game changer. His creativity, technique and flair make him a very unpredictable force and he can bring an extra edge to his team’s attack. He has the ability to drop his shoulder and ghost past defenders, or by using his physicality to brush off challenges, and this allows him to be a threat in the final third but also to help his team progress up the pitch. Due to his size and lack of overall pace, it means that he cannot rely on his speed to beat players and instead must look to use his body shape and ball control to trick defenders.

Up to this point in his Bordeaux career the French U20 international has attempted 3.9 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 64.6% (he has also gotten off to a good start to this season, completing all 7 of his attempted dribbles thus far), showing that he is not shy of taking on his opponent with the ball at his feet and generally is able to have some joy in these situations. Last season, he averaged the second most attempted dribbles per 90 in his team behind young winger Samuel Kalu, whilst also since his arrival at the club he has the highest progressive distance yardage per 90 (376.1 yards / per90) of any central or attacking midfield player in the squad.

However, although his ball carrying ability adds creativity and impetus to the attack, it does have it’s downsides and Adli must learn to improve upon his decision making as he develops further, sometimes taking on opposition players in the wrong areas of the pitch for example. Due to his ambition to get the ball under control and look to take on defenders, or by sometimes trying to overcomplicate things, he is guilty of losing possession a lot. From miscontrolling the ball and being dispossessed (losing the ball after being tackled by an opposing player – not including attempted dribbles) alone, he loses the ball on 5.3 occasions per 90, and that does not include the just over a third of his dribbles that don’t come off. So although the 20 year old is often granted the freedom to go and be expressive and try and make something happen for his team, he would do well to improve upon his ball retention ability and decision making at times.

The midfielders passing can also be key to unlocking opposition defences, and he has frequently displayed his ability to pick out teammates with killer balls in the final third, or being able to link up from deeper areas in midfield to help progress his team up the pitch. His passing in normally incisive and looks to penetrate the midfield or defensive lines of the opposing team. Much like his dribbling, his overall pass completion rate of 78.8% is not the most economical, but he does average 1.9 key passes per 90 and 4.5 passes into the opposing final third per 90, showing that although he may not be the most efficient in possession, Adli is certainly creative and can bring an added spark to the attack. From deeper central areas, the 20 year old is capable of finding accurate passes to invite the wide players to get forward on the counter attack. First he draws players in by using his close control before then using his passing range to pick out a teammate in space.

Fig 1 + 2. Adli uses his passing range and weighting to play passes into the path of his on running teammates in space in wide areas.

The style of his passing can vary based on the position in which he has been deployed, and since he has been unable to really tie down a starting position in the Bordeaux side, this has varied quite a bit since he signed for Les Girondins. In the final third, he looks to be more direct and is always scanning for a killer pass, whilst when he is in a deeper area of the field, he either looks to find longer passes out wide or tries to link up with midfield teammates during slick passing combinations. The clip below is a prime example of how Adli can influence the game by picking the ball up in deeper areas before linking up with teammates and progressing his team up the pitch, it is also a good example of his composure and weighting of passes in the final third as he slips the ball through to the striker who then goes on to finish.

VIDEO: Fig 3. Adli picks up the ball in a deep position before linking up neatly with a teammate to progress, and then finding a killer final ball to assist the goal

The 20 year old can also provide a threat from set pieces, as he scored an impressive goal last season from a direct free kick from just outside the area, whilst he has also racked up a couple of assists from corners or wide free kicks from which he has found a teammate in the penalty area to apply the finishing touch. Due to not being a regular starter in the team as of yet, he has not been able to fully stake his claim as the team’s set piece taker, but he has displayed that he can offer quality from set piece deliveries and also provide a threat from direct free kicks.

During open play, when he receives the ball in wide areas, he prefers not to try and cross, and instead looks to link up with teammates in and around the penalty area, or tries to cut inside and get a shot off. Although this can be effective and create openings, it is also much more complex than simply trying to deliver the ball into a dangerous area from out wide, and Adli is occasionally guilty of over playing in promising situations, trying to beat defenders or pick out the perfect pass or combine smartly rather than playing a simple ball into the box. This creativity is one of the main reasons he is in the team, but he could improve upon his decision making in the final third on occasion and show more situational awareness of the defenders around him and the whereabouts of his teammates.

Interestingly, despite often trying to work the ball into the box and combine with teammates in tight areas, Adli probably is most dangerous when he picks the ball up in space from 20-30 yards out from the goal. The youngster is capable of generating tremendous power with his long range efforts at goal, and when he can muster the the accuracy to match it, it can result in him finding the back of the net. Due to this ability, he becomes a very useful asset who can create something from nothing, not only by beating defenders or picking out passes, but also by unleashing strikes from range that can cause real problems for the opposition. All three of Adli’s league goals for Bordeaux came last season (his first full season at the club) and all three came from outside the box. However, at times he struggles to find the space to get shots off, and this is something he could improve upon, as he is capable of being a threat from range.

Fig 4. Adli’s shot map since his move to South-West France.

Whether it be shooting or passing, Adli is heavily right footed and he plays 86% of his passes with his dominant side, displaying that he is perhaps quite reliant on using his stronger foot in order to be effective. This is not uncommon and most players have a far stronger foot, and although he is capable of using his left, I have rarely seen Adli use it to try and play difficult passes or take shots on, which is perhaps an area of his game he could work on in order to make himself even more unpredictable.

Despite often losing the ball, Adli has previously shown that he can be consistently effective at winning back possession depending on the position in which he has been deployed. He looks to put his weight about in challenges, and can be aggressive when battling for the ball, whilst although he is not the fastest, he closes down the angles well to get in the face of his opponent.

However, he can lack defensive discipline which can lead to him being caught out. When beaten high up the pitch, he sometimes tries to make tactical fouls to prevent the counter attack, but he is not very subtle when executing these which can result in him picking up yellow cards, whilst his eagerness to press the ball can allow to him be drawn out of position. The image below seeks to illustrate this, as although his body positioning isn’t bad and he is showing good positivity by trying to press the ball, he displays a lack of awareness of the space around and behind him.

Fig 5. Adli vacates the space in front of the defence to press the man in possession, Bordeaux’s shape as a whole is not impressive in this image, but by pressing, Adli leaves the defence exposed should the player on the ball manage to slip a pass by him into one of his teammates in the yellow box.

On the whole, technically Adli is a very promising young talent. He is capable of beating defenders, picking out key passes, linking up the play in deeper areas and providing a goal threat from distance and set pieces. In some areas, the 20 year old is still quite raw and he must learn to harness his abilities and make better judgement calls during games, but this can be an issue for many young players and it is a part of the game that improves with experience. Adli is a forward thinking player who is much more comfortable in possession than out of it, and as a result his defending cane be quite inconsistent. The next section investigates what positions and roles the midfielder has played previously and which suit him best to get the most from him.

Tactical

As mentioned previously, Adli is the type of of player who can create something from nothing and be a creative force going forward. He has been a useful player for Bordeaux since his arrival, but was definitely brought in as someone to develop further at the club and they would have been well aware when they spent the €5.5 million on him that he was not yet the end product, but with 6 league goal contributions to his name last season and one so far this season, he has already begun to repay the faith shown in him by Les Girondins. However, he is yet to have nailed down a starting position in the team and as a result it has been tricky for him to settle down into a singular role at the club. At times since his arrival it has almost seemed as if his managers have been unsure of his best position, and consequently over the last couple of years he has played in a variety of roles. The youngster has played as a wide player on both sides, an inside forward, as a number 10 or in a central midfield partnership in a slightly deeper role.

He provides creativity from whatever position he is asked to occupy, however, naturally there are areas of his game that suit some roles better than others. For example, when playing in a two man midfield partnership, his passing can be influential and he is able to drive from deep, but he fails to offer much in the way of defensive stability and his decision making could lead to losses of possession in potentially dangerous areas that could expose his team to the counter attack. When playing as a wider player, Adli is competent but probably at his least effective, unless given the freedom to drift inside. His lack of overall speed and one footedness means that he can be quite predictable in wide areas, and whilst he is able to track the opposition full back well enough, it is far from his strongest attribute.

The positions in which Adli can be most influential from what he has shown at Bordeaux so far are; as a narrow inside forward in a front three where he is granted the freedom to roam, drop deep or cut inside onto his strong foot to try and link up and create chances, as an out and out number 10 where he has the freedom to try and create in the final third, or in a midfield three where there is defensive security behind him should he lose the ball, but he can drop deep enough to influence proceedings during build up play.

Manager Jean-Louis Gasset has primarily set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 system thus far this season and Adli has started two of their opening six matches, once as a deeper midfielder and once as the number 10, perhaps suggesting that his best position has still not been decided upon. Against weaker opponents, or alongside a very defensive minded midfield player, Adli could happily operate as a deeper midfield playmaker, but against strong opponents his defensive frailties may be exposed should his team not see much of the ball. In the more attacking midfield role, his defensive contribution is decent whilst he is also able to be more instrumental in the final third. In the deeper roles he faces competition from the likes of Toma Bašić and Otávio who have struck up a decent partnership at the heart of the midfield, whilst further forward Nicolas de Préville has been the primary attacking midfielder in the side, and we are yet to see what role new signing Hatem Ben Arfa will play in the side. I talked about Bordeaux’s start to the season up to now (as I write this) on Twitter:

Adli is often quite intelligent with finding space to receive the ball, as mentioned earlier he is unable to rely on his pace to get in behind, but he is able to drift into pockets of space to receive the ball and this makes him hard to pick up for the opposition. Whilst the game goes on around him, Adli sometimes remains still and the defenders drift away from him rather than him having to make any dramatic movements, and then once he receives the ball he jumps to life and is direct with his passing and link up in the final third, cutting a composed figure yet also seeming purposeful in possession. When he picks the ball up in the final third, he is able to use his close control to draw defenders in before releasing a pass, and this demonstrates good tactical awareness of creating space for others, not by making off the ball runs to draw the defender marking him away, but by receiving the ball in threatening areas and creating panic amongst the opposition backline.

Fig 6. Adli draws in defenders and beats them using his close control before finding a pass to his overlapping teammate.

The example above shows Adli drawing the attention of defenders whilst his teammate makes a run off the back of him, by picking up the ball in that kind of area before releasing a pass, Adli is able to create space for his teammates. He also enjoys dropping deep to help link up the play, but could do more to support the striker when playing as the number 10, sometimes leaving his teammate isolated and failing to draw defenders way from the main goalscorer. Furthermore, he does his best work around the fringes of the final third before looking to find a killer ball and rarely makes runs into the penalty area, and he would do well to take up more dangerous positions in order to pose more of a direct threat to the goal.

The radars above portray what has been covered in the report thus far. He ranks highly when it comes to dribbling and progressive yards, whilst he struggles with goalscoring and ball retention (turnovers). This clearly shows that up to this point in a Bordeaux shirt, Adli has been more of a provider than goalscorer, and he is more attuned to creating chances for others than being a direct threat to goal himself (although he is capable of scoring from range as previously discussed). So he can be effective when deployed in either position, but for the reasons already covered, in my opinion he is better equipped to be an attacking midfielder at this stage of his career. Defensively, Adli ranks highly for successful pressures whilst his tackling numbers are also not bad, but when watching him it is clear that he is not a naturally defensive minded player whilst he also needs to improve upon his ball retention, especially in deeper areas of the pitch.

The 20 year old has already proven to be quite versatile in the relatively short amount of senior football that he has played, and this can have both positive and negative effects, as it grants him a better understanding of what each position requires and perhaps allows him to become a more well rounded player, but it also stops him from getting into a rhythm and really settling down into a role that he can make his own and be at his most influential. This season he should be looking to break into the starting eleven and stake his claim to a position, whilst the Bordeaux management perhaps need to decide where they want Adli to operate as he develops further.

Psychological

Adli is a young, attack minded player brimming with confidence who looks to have the potential to be a real asset for Bordeaux. He is composed and direct on the ball, and is not afraid to take on defenders with the ball at his feet, try and find a killer pass, or take on a shot from range. His unpredictability in the final third makes him somewhat of an unknown quantity for defenders and this can make him dangerous when looking to create openings. He does have a tendency to drift in and out of games at times depending on his position, as if he is out wide his influence on the match can be hindered, but when deployed in a deeper or more central role he is able to see a lot more of the ball.

When defending, Adli has short bursts of energy where he will aggressively press the man in possession to try and force a mistake, but also occasionally he can be quite passive and this adds to the narrative that he is defensively somewhat inconsistent. The 20 year old is capable of battling away well in duels and has the physical requirements to stand his ground and win his fair share of tackles. Adli appears to be a relaxed player when defending and attacking, and although this can be a good trait by allowing him to be compsoed, he should be careful not to go too far in that direction and begin to look disinterested.

The Future?

There is a reason that an 18 year old with barely any first team experience cost Bordeaux a few million and PSG felt the need to insert a big sell-on clause, and that is because he has a bright future ahead of him should he continue to develop as he has done so far and steers clear of any major injuries. Having said that, Adli is still very much finding his feet in Ligue 1 and Bordeaux will have to be patient with him, as he is not yet the finished product and he will make mistakes, but he has shown enough to prove that he has the potential to be a game changing player who will be pushing for a starting spot this season. The Frenchman still needs to improve upon his decision making and consistency, whilst also adding a bit more defensive work rate to his game could benefit him being selected more as the manager will have more trust in him.

Adli currently remains on his original contract that he signed in January 2019, which keeps him with Les Girondins until June 2023, and this gives him a good amount of time to break into the starting eleven and cement his place as a first team regular. His versatility up to this point will help him to gain more game time as his teammates pick up injuries or drop in form, but with the quality that he possesses, Adli will be looking to be starting week in week out on his own merit.

It is quite difficult to predict at what level Adli could be capable of playing at the height of his career, but based upon what he’s shown thus far, he has the raw quality to be a very impressive player if he is able to develop other areas of his game. Prior to his transfer to Bordeaux, Adli was linked with some eye-catching moves to clubs such as Manchester city, Arsenal and Barcelona, and this again shows the potential that he possesses and the high regard in which he is held across Europe.

At 20 years of age, he is still very young and last season will have been a great way for him to find his feet in the top flight of French football, starting 11 Ligue 1 games last term and making 10 substitute appearances. Jean-Louis Gasset and his coaching team will be hoping to see even more from Adli in this campaign and it would not be surprising to see the midfielder raise a few eyebrows with his performances this season as his career gets into full swing.

Closing Thoughts

Adli is not your average attacking midfielder, and his build and technique make him stand out from his teammates and competitors. He is capable of picking out that pass that can cut open the defence or firing home from range to get a goal out of nothing, and these types of players can be incredibly valuable to the teams they belong to. The 20 year old is a player full of potential who I think could play at a very high level in his career, but for the moment he must focus on getting regular game time whilst simultaneously developing his skills to make him a more well rounded and consistent player.

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