Talented creative midfielder Mounir Chouiar has risen to prominence over the last couple of years, enjoying an impressive start to life in France’s top tier with Dijon, having made the switch from Lens in the summer of 2019. The 21 year old joined RC Lens at the age of 8 and came up through their youth system before making his professional debut at the age of just 17 in Ligue 2. After breaking into senior football, the French youth international went not to make over 80 appearances for Lens and their second-string prior to his estimated €3.5 million transfer to Dijon.
The attacker is someone who is capable of the unexpected and who can get the fans on the edge of their seat. This has contributed to him quickly becoming a key member of the Dijon team that avoided relegation last season (though they were helped by the season being brought to an early close), after they had also just scraped by to survive in the previous campaign. On his debut season in Ligue 1, Chouiar managed to score four league goals, which is a significant contribution when it is noted that their top scorer that year only managed to net six. Despite failing to register an assist, his expected assist figure for the season of 2.9xA showed that he was a creative force.
Chouiar has represented France from U16 level all the way up to U21s, in what is a highly competitive youth setup with an incredible volume of talented young players at their disposal. However, he also has Moroccan and Mauritanian heritage, and since he is yet to make a senior appearance for any of the three countries, his international future remains somewhat of a mystery, although if he can continue his current development, he is sure to be in high demand.
So far this campaign, Dijon and Chouiar have yet to really get going. They find themselves bottom of the table after 12 games played as I write this, with just one win and four draws to their name. Another particularly concerning statistic for the Dijon hierarchy is the number of goals they have managed to score, netting just 8 times so far this season, three less than the next lowest. As one of the side’s main creative forces, Chouiar must shoulder some of the responsibility for their lack of goalscoring, and he himself is yet to get off the mark, although he has managed to register two assists so far.
In terms of playing style, as mentioned earlier, Chouiar is a creative force who looks to make things happen in the final third and excite the fans. The 21 year old seems to primarily enjoy operating on the left wing, from where he has the freedom to drive at the defence and attempt to cut inside onto his stronger right foot before picking a pass or strike an effort on goal.
He has an eye for goal and has previously demonstrated his composure when 1v1 with the keeper. He is also more than capable of picking out a killer pass at times, though he has a preference to take on defenders with the ball at his feet before finding a teammate. The youngster has a lot of tricks up his sleeve which made him one of the most formidable dribblers in the top 5 leagues last season, and he is the type of player that makes something out of nothing due to his mercurial talent.
- Nationality: French / Moroccan
- Age: 21
- Date of birth: 23/01/1999
- Current Club: Dijon FCO
- Career: RC Lens, Dijon FCO
- Position: Left Wing
- Secondary Position: Attacking Midfield / Right Wing
- Preferred foot: Right
The 5’10 midfielder displays a low centre of gravity when on the ball, making him tricky to dispossess, whilst he has a good burst of acceleration in his locker and his agility allows him to wrong-foot defenders and skip away from challenges. His top speed is adequate yet unspectacular for a winger and he relies on his technical ability and short bursts of acceleration and changes in direction to evade defenders and create space for himself. Stamina wise, he can fade in and out of the spotlight but is generally capable of carrying a threat late into games. Although, due to his position being one from which players are regularly replaced late on, he has a tendency to be withdrawn for the final 10 or 15 minutes.
The winger does have quite a slight build which means he can struggle in shoulder to shoulder duels and lacks strength when competing for the ball. He does use his body wisely to protect the ball and win fouls and due to his agility he can often bypass challenges or win free kicks. If Chouiar was to move to a more physically demanding league, he may need to put on a bit more muscle in order to compete. Furthermore, the 21 year old does not provide much of an aerial presence, and rarely challenges for headers unless absolutely necessary, although that isn’t really his role or strong suit so doesn’t require any immediate attention.
Chouiar is very impressive technically, the winger is incredibly lively on the ball, and he harbours the ability to ghost past defenders and create space and openings to find a pass or pull the trigger for a shot. His dribbling ability makes him extremely dangerous with the ball at his feet. He is always positive when receiving the ball, looking to find a way to get at the opponent or unlock the defence.
Chouiar has completed 4.3 successful dribbles per 90 in the league since joining Dijon, in a team that generally sees less of the ball than the opposition, putting him in the 98th percentile for successful dribbles when compared to other wingers and attacking midfielders from the top five leagues. What makes his dribbling even more impressive is his success rate. Due to his team not seeing as much of the ball, he is required to make the most of his opportunities, and consequently is successful with two out of three of his attempts. The radar below highlights some of the winger’s strengths and weaknesses, as he ranks highly in dribbling, whilst his chance creation is also to a decent standard. However, his pass completion and turnovers are quite disappointing and could be and ball retention could be an area for him to improve upon.
It is clear that once he gets the ball, the 21 year old can be a real threat and is actually quite efficient in possession. However, there are areas of his game which require improvement and one of which is his concentration and awareness. He is more than capable of controlling difficult passes, yet he is sometimes too sloppy with his control, especially when put under pressure. He would do well to improve upon the his concentration at times, he has miscontrolled the ball on 2.2 occasions per 90 since joining Dijon, making sure that his first touch is to a good standard before thinking about beating the defender.
Furthermore, he could improve upon his awareness and decision making at times, especially when on the ball in deeper areas of the pitch where he may look to take on players in potentially dangerous areas which could hurt his team if he were to lose the ball. In the final third, generally he is quite effective but could perhaps be more decisive and try to pick out a pass or get a shot off sooner rather than trying to take on too many opponents. Chouiar also heavily favours his right foot, and much prefers to try and use his stronger foot to shoot or pick out a pass, and this can contribute to him being easily read when cutting in from the left as it is clear he wants to get the ball on his right side.
Another stat that highlights Chouiar’s desire to dribble is that over the last season and a half he has progressively carried the ball a total of 4293 yards whilst dribbling, whereas his forward passing has only amounted to a total 3680 yards in the same time. Whilst the actual figures don’t mean a lot in this case, the fact that he has dribbled the ball further forward than passing it illustrates the type of player he is, as although he is capable of picking out key passes, he almost always looks to take on his opponent. Passing wise, the winger is capable of picking out teammates in good positions. In one game in particular I observed, when deployed in a more central role, he showed his ability to skilfully work space in central areas before releasing one of the forwards into the channels.
The France youth international rarely looks rushed on the ball, and remains composed even when under pressure, however, much like his dribbling, he does have a tendency to overcomplicate his passing and would perhaps do better to retain possession at times, especially in deeper areas. Rather than trying to pick out overambitious “champagne” balls to teammates over 50 yards away. Moreover, as mentioned previously, he could be more decisive in the final third, as when he gets into good positions he could sometimes be quicker to pick out a teammate.
Having said that, this is being hyper-critical of a young man with a lot of potential and talent, and he has displayed his ability to pick out teammates in dangerous positions and create chances in the final third, this is highlighted by the fact that he has completed 2.6 key passes per 90 in Ligue 1 for Dijon in order to create opportunities.
Chouiar is also one of Dijon’s main set piece takers, from both wide set plays and direct free kicks. Although he is yet to score from a direct free kick for his side, he displays good technique to get dip and bend on the ball and can pose a threat when shooting from the edge of the area. When it comes to delivering corners, he displays good variation in his deliveries and is capable of putting the ball into dangerous areas for his teammates to attack.
As is often the case with set piece takers, his biggest issue is consistency, but this is something that should improve as he continues to develop and gain more experience. His crossing from open play is fairly similar, though he has shown good composure at times to lift his head up and pick out a man. For example in the video below, he shows decent awareness to first secure possession, before linking up neatly and picking out the man at the near post to fire home.
When given the opportunity, Chouiar does prefer to take on defenders and try and get a shot off rather than delivering a cross. His shooting can pose a threat, and like his free kicks, he is able to generate a good amount of power, dip and curl on the ball as a result of his technique. His shooting accuracy is mixed, and is an area in which he could improve upon as well as his actual total goal contribution, which could help Dijon a lot due to their goal scoring problems of late. Last season, just under half of his attempted shots were on target. Which was a decent record given the fact that about half of his shots also come from outside the area. However, this season that number has dropped to around a quarter, which would corroborate with his current struggle to find the back of the net.
Chouiar’s shot map displays his desire to cut inside from the left and take shots on goal, with the vast majority of his efforts coming from the left hand side of the penalty area. It is also apparent from this shot map, that many of his attempts get blocked, perhaps indicating that he could have taken better options and although he retains the confidence to go for goal, he could look to vary his creativity in the final third a bit more. Whilst despite often testing the keeper from outside the area, all his league goals in a Dijon shirt have come from within the 18 yard box.
The 21 year old has previously demonstrated his finishing ability when through 1v1 with the keeper and is capable of finding the back of the net. But, as is the case with many young forwards, he must find a way to more regularly and consistently contribute directly to his team’s goalscoring in order to take his game to the next level.
Chouiar is a bit of a maverick, and due to this, his tactical understanding of the game can be hindered at times, especially when his team don’t have the ball. His defensive awareness and positioning are mixed, he sometimes works hard to track the full back, but is quite inconsistent whilst his defensive technique leaves some room for improvement. When running back towards his own goal, it is quite clear that this is not the part of the game that Chouiar enjoys and when faced with a particularly attacking and energetic opponent, he can struggle to track their runs. Fortunately his attacking threat and ability to hurt teams on the break can counteract many of his possible defensive flaws due to the full backs being wary of leaving him unattended.
In possession, the midfielder often likes to hug the touchline and provide width, isolating the defender before driving inside towards the penalty area. He can then use his agility and balance to skip past tackles and open up the game on the counter attack before finding a pass or trying to beat more defenders. He is particularly effective when squaring up to the defender, when he is joined by an overlapping full back to distract his opponent before cutting inside as he is able to use this defensive hesitation to work space for himself. Chouiar is also capable of drifting inside into pockets of space between the defence and midfield, and this can cause confusion as the full back often doesn’t know whether to track him or pass him on.
Chouiar is fairly versatile, and has been deployed all across the three in Dijon’s regular 4-2-3-1 system. He is most comfortable when operating out on the left, but has had some impressive cameo appearances down the middle, using his impressive close control to work space and find balls into the channel for his teammates to run onto. In my opinion, Chouiar is best utilised on the left when given the freedom to drift and little defensive responsibility, as then he is able to come inside and try to find pockets of space, or pull wide and isolate the defender before driving at him.
I have already spoken about the youngster’s composure on the ball, and he very rarely seems to rush his play even when under intense pressure, although perhaps a bit more urgency when being hassled in his own half wouldn’t be a bad thing. His body language often shows confidence and again he rarely seems stressed or hassled by what is going on around him.
When defending, Chouiar could show more urgency and be a bit more proactive when helping out his full back, and can be guilty of putting in half hearted challenges to win possession. Especially when deployed in a more central role, the 21 year old seemed to be happy to jog around without much intensity when his team were out of possession, but also chose some intelligent moments to apply pressure and showed a decent understanding of the game to cut passing lanes into the midfield.
It is clear that Chouiar loves to take on defenders and be positive with the ball, but at times he could do with improving upon his decision making and understanding which areas of the pitch are least detrimental to lose possession in. This does not mean that he should tone down his creativity, but he would do better to recognise the situations in which picking a simple pass in his own half would be more effective than trying to go at it alone. In duels, the winger can be quite aggressive and nippy when he gets close enough to the man on the ball, but he is generally quite passive and rarely seems to be phased by heated atmospheres, keeping his cool the majority of the time.
Off the field, Chouiar has had some issues of late. The midfielder was omitted from the Dijon squad to face Lens due to turning up late to the pre-match preparations and he was criticised for his lack of “professionalism” by caretaker manager David Linarès, who stated that the forward is a young player with a lot to learn. Chouiar must maintain his focus and continue to work hard in order to continue his development, though perhaps his attention was drawn away in the summer by the prospect of a big money move to the Premier League that seemed to be quite close at one stage.
Despite only joining Dijon in the summer of 2019, the winger was heavily linked with a move away from the Ligue 1 side last summer, with Premier League clubs such as Leeds United and Arsenal rumoured to have held an interest, whilst Spanish club Sevilla were also linked with a move for the attacker. Chouiar is a player with huge potential and is often a stand out for a Dijon side that has been flirting with relegation for a couple of years, and it wouldn’t be too big a shock to see him depart over the next year or so. Although a player of his talent could be pivotal to Dijon’s chances of survival, so they may well be desperate to keep him until at least the end of the season.
The winger signed a three year deal with the club in the summer of 2019, with a reported optional year extension should both parties agree to it. Consequently Chouiar finds himself firmly under contract with the Ligue 1 club. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing for his development at the current moment. Even though the team are struggling, his performances with them last year drew huge plaudits and are one of the primary reasons he was linked with a move away. If he can play a part in Dijon’s bid for survival, then not only will it allow him to develop, but he will also maintain the attention of possible suitors for the next step in his career.
Despite his undoubted talent, there remain several areas of his game that require improvement as Chouiar develops further. He could look to increase his defensive contributions in order to become a more well rounded player, whilst he must also improve upon his decision making and tactical awareness when in possession. Chouiar is a player with a lot of potential who could go on to become a high quality winger at a very good level of football, but first he must become a more well rounded and consistent performer. Not only would this improve his long term development, it would also be a massive boost for Dijon as they search for a way out of their current quandary.
Mounir Chouiar is a player I enjoy watching who brings an element of excitement and unpredictability to the game, similarly to Ligue 1 compatriot Ludovic Blas who is another young attacking talent with a bright future. I decided to write about Chouiar as I feel that he is a player that can be a difference maker, especially for a side like Dijon, and these types of player’s futures are often difficult to predict, as in the end it will likely come down to consistency.
The 21 year has all the tools to be a top quality winger, and I will be keeping track of his progress throughout the rest of the current campaign. Should he help Dijon to safety having not won any of their first 11 games, it will be a big achievement and a huge boost to his career, however, should they fail to survive, he is perhaps a player with too much quality to be playing in Ligue 2, and there may well be some bids for him in the summer.