Ligue 1 is packed with young and talented players nowadays. With PSG being the “big stack bully” in the league, they also manage to recruit a lot of the more talented players when they are really young and, therefore, have seen their academy produce some great players as of late. Some of those players stay at PSG, while others choose to move on, possibly due to the really high standard set in the first team and the desire to play first-team football coming sooner in player’s careers.
Yacine Adli is one of those players who wanted to get first-team football very soon in his career and, despite making his debut for PSG’s first team at the age of 17, he ended up playing in the youth teams of the Paris giants. After playing for the U19, and PSG B teams, Adli decided that it was time to take a step up. In the 2019 January transfer window he completed his move to FC Girondins de Bordeaux, and continues to be a regular for France in the U19 and U20 teams. In this scout report we will take a look at Adli’s main characteristics and strong points, his potential to develop, and mention some aspects he still needs to improve.
Yacine Adli is a 19 year-old attacking midfielder that can operate in the centre, or in either wing, but has mostly played as an CAM, a RAM or a CM at times. At 1,86m he is quite tall and knows how to take advantage of his height, whether it is to press the opposition or to protect the ball when he has it. He also has good speed both with and without the ball, and is able to cover big distances relatively quickly.
In the current season, Adli has played 21 games in Ligue 1, starting 11 of those and averaging 49 minutes on the field. He had two appearances in both cups for Bordeaux as well. On an International level, he played for France U19 in the UEFA U19 Championship and for France U20 in the U20 World Cup in Poland.
What sets him apart from others? For starters, Yacine Adli has got an amazing technical ability and knows how to utilise it very well. He can dribble past players in 1v1 situations easily and owes that to his great ball control skills. But technique is not all about dribbling, Adli’s first touch is remarkable for such a young player and he possesses a great set of passing and shooting techniques to use in different situations.
Adli also knows really well when to use those different techniques, giving him the edge over opponents as he is able to execute faster than them. One-touch passing is also a big part of his game and he shows an interesting awareness of his surroundings. As we’ll show in this tactical analysis, adding to his technical ability, Adli already showcases adaptability to different tactics and situations, as well as maturity in his playing style.
Impact on build-up – from the first to the final third
When it comes to the build-up play, Adli takes part in it in different ways depending on the position he is playing, but also on the team’s needs and tactics. Most of the times, playing as an attacking midfielder, he will position himself between the opposition’s midfield and defensive lines in order to receive the ball. He has great spatial awareness and, scanning the pitch constantly to find a pocket of space, is able to present himself as a viable and progressive passing option for his teammates. Once he receives the ball, and almost always does it in the “half-turn”, he ends up facing the opposition’s defensive line and can either play through balls, combine with his attacking teammates, or carry the ball forward himself to force a defender to step out and create space.
In this next image, we can see Yacine Adli positioning himself in that space in between the lines to receive the ball, with lots of space behind him to drive forward,leaving him facing the Saint-Étienne’s defensive line.
His ability to find spaces is very good; in fact, Adli averages 33.36 received passes (per 90min) and ranks 4th in this indicator amongst attacking players (forwards, wing-forwards, attacking midfielders) in Ligue 1, showing that he consistently looks to be a viable passing option. Playing as an attacking midfielder, he is often given the freedom to look for these spaces on either side of the pitch, although he prefers to receive the ball more centrally if possible.
His role as an attacking midfielder was, in some games, paired with being a part of a narrow front three in a 3-4-2-1/3-4-3 system that Bordeaux used at times. In these games we would see Adli closer to the opposition’s defensive line, dropping off from his position to receive the ball and, therefore, creating a gap on the opposition’s defensive line for the striker to exploit with a counter-movement.
In this next image, we can see an example of that counter-movement being made by Jimmy Briand as Adli drops to receive the ball and drags Saint-Étienne’s defender out of his position.
Paired with his ability to find spaces, Adli’s great passing abilities enable him to play through passes, and progressive ones in general, with some ease. Being able to receive the ball, in those “smart” spaces puts him in great positions to face the opposition’s defensive line. Picking out team-mates making runs or combining with them has led to 3 assists for him this season. These numbers show us exactly that; Yacine Adli averages 41.66 passes (per 90min) with an 83.37% accuracy rate, ranking 4th amongst all attacking players (forwards, wing-forwards, attacking midfielders) in Ligue 1. On average (per 90min) 6.92 of those passes are made to the final third and, when it comes to progressive passes, he averages 5.16 (per 90min).
In the image below we can see Adli with the ball in one of the mentioned situations. Keeping his head up enhances his vision and enables him to play a through pass to Kalu, who is making a run in behind Saint-Étienne’s defensive line, putting him in an advantageous situation to score.
Sometimes, when space is not available in between the lines, Adli comes deep to receive the ball in his own half. When he does so, it is to either find teammates in more advanced spaces, or to make the ball circulate from side to side in an attempt to disorganise the opponent and break their shape. His technique helps him to play line-breaking passes but his spatial awareness does wonders for him in this type of situations. Recognising the teammate he wants to pass to, and in order to open the passing lane for him, Adli sometimes uses what we call a disguised pass. He has also been seen using fake passes or simple dribbling movements to get away from pressure when coming deep to receive the ball.
In the image below we can see a situation where Adli has come short to receive the ball in his own half. He uses a fake pass to get away from the Amiens’s player press, and gets into a position where he has three open passing lanes to players who can progress forward. This play shows his ability to escape press, but also his awareness and vision, as he recognises that a simple move can increase his passing options both in quantity and in quality.
Dribbling and progressing – creating danger
Another aspect in which Adli shows great capacities is dribbling and progressing with the ball on his feet. His big stature, and overall strength, are very useful to protect the ball and to keep his balance when dribbling past opponents. Despite being tall, Adli is quite agile, and is often seen dribbling in between opponents successfully. He is also a good ball carrier, able to cover big distances with the ball on his feet relatively quickly, and without being pushed off or tackled by opponents, which is particularly useful in counter attacks.
In the image below we can see Yacine Adli receiving the ball on the half-turn and using his body to rotate past the defender. With this movement, and use of his body, Adli is able to get past the Amiens player while protecting the ball from him. He also creates a good counter-attacking situation since he is able to carry the ball forward with no opposition and with teammates following.
As it was already mentioned, Adli also has good 1v1 skills and is able to take on opponents and get past them. If the chance arises, Adli will try and dribble past his opponent, but only if it is necessary or if he thinks it will help to create danger. This use of his dribbling skills as a tool, and not just for the sake of dribbling, shows that he recognises where the true value of 1v1 dribbling resides, and is already mature on that level at such a young age.
Yacine Adli has the whole lot of skills in his locker, from the fancy ones to the simple ones, but he seems to use the latter more often. Body feints, simple step-overs, or just pure ball control allow him to glide past opponents always with a purpose in mind for each move. He has averaged 4.35 dribbles (per 90min) this season, which only ranks him 28th in Ligue 1 amongst attacking players (forwards, wing-forwards, attacking midfielders), a low number considering the positions he takes up on the pitch allow for a lot more. When we take a look at his dribbling success rate we find that it is quite impressive. At 59.26% it’s one of the highest in Ligue 1 showing how effective Adli is at dribbling past opponents.
In the image below we can see Adli dribbling past two Nîmes players as his teammate Otávio makes a run towards the penalty area. Taking on the opponents, and getting past them, Adli drags both of them with his movement and is then able to play a pass to Otávio who scores.
Long shot taker
We’ve discussed Adli’s technical ability several times throughout this analysis, and his shooting technique doesn’t fall short on his other skills. In the beginning of the article I mentioned how Adli is able to use different kinds of passing and shooting techniques, and that has to do with him being able to recognise which part of the foot he has to strike the ball with in order to achieve the result he wants. Because of that, he is successful at shooting from long and short-range, but uses different techniques in each situation.
Yacine Adli is also a great free-kick – and set piece in general – taker, making use of his technique to play different kinds of crosses and strike different kinds of shots. In the image below we can see Adli’s free-kick goal against Amiens. He shoots the ball with the inside of his foot, curling it into the top left corner at a relatively close distance.
His numbers in terms of shots taken are not particularly high at 1.37 (per 90min), but as with all stats, they don’t tell the whole story. When presented with an opportunity, Adli as no problem in taking the shot, but only if he can’t play the ball to a teammate in a better position. Bordeaux also average 10.06 shots (per game) which is one of the lowest numbers in the league.
Analysing Adli’s shot map for this season taken from Wyscout, we can clearly see how he attempts more shots from outside the penalty box than from inside it. He has a great long-range shot and is not afraid of using it, having scored 3 goals from distance this season. His accuracy on the shots is not bad either, having few shots gone wide and a lot more blocked, he ends up with 32% (8) of his 25 shots going on target. Despite his goal number being low (3) is xG is even lower at 1.41, meaning that he scored more goals than expected from is shots, based on historical stats of how likely it is to score from the position, type of assist, preceding events etc.
In the image below we can see an example of a long shot from Yacine Adli. The image is from his goal against Marseille and serves the purpose of seeing how Adli strikes the ball with a different part of his foot, as well as with a different motion, in order to achieve a more powerful shot rather than a placed one. The shot is also taken first-time which makes it technically even more difficult, but Adli manages to score a great goal from it.
Last but not least, we’ll be taking a look at what is perhaps the weaker side to Yacine Adli’s game, his defensive contribution. Playing as an attacking midfielder, and occupying more advanced areas in the pitch, Adli is often involved in Bordeaux’s first or second line of pressing. Taking advantage of his size, he is able to cut off passing lanes with some effectiveness as well as press his opponents denying them space to execute. He mostly does this when counter-pressing, since he operates in an area more prone to possession losses and his team wanting to get the ball back as soon as possible.
In the image below we can see an example of Yacine Adli using his body to press an opponent, denying him passing lanes and space. His stature enables him to reduce the opponent’s field of view and makes it harder for him to be able to find a teammate.
When it comes to recoveries, Adli averages 4.54 (per 90min), and 2.59 of those are through counter-pressing. In fact, of the total 90 recoveries he has this season in Ligue 1, 53 were a result of counter-pressing and only 4 were interceptions. Most of his defensive actions take place in the central and final thirds, and that might be related to Adli’s weak point when it comes to defending, his defensive transition.
Yacine Adli’s reaction to his team losing possession is, as mentioned, to counter-press. However, if he is not successful at doing so or if he is too far away to do it, he sometimes fails to get back and help his team defending. When he does not fail at it, and actually comes back, he sometimes does it with a lack of speed and intensity which may cause problems to his team.
In the image below we can see an example of one of those situations. Bordeaux lose the ball on the build-up, and now Bennasser (nº17) has two Saint-Étienne players to worry about. Because Khazri (nº10) makes a move to join his teammates on the ball side creating numerical superiority over Bordeaux in that area, Saint-Étienne’s other midfielder is left with no one marking him due to Adli’s laziness on defensive transition.
This tactical analysis has shown how Yacine Adli, despite being only 19, already possesses great abilities and performs quite well for his young age. His creativity is impressive and enables him to create several dangerous situations for his team to capitalise on. He is also very able to take chances himself, but has an interesting unselfish side to his style of play which is not very common for a player of his age that is trying to prove himself in top-flight football.
Of course, he still has a lot to improve, especially in respect to the defensive side of his game, as sometimes he is slow to get back on defensive transitions or a bit passive on his pressing. Nevertheless, the time for him to improve and develop his long and, with the right coaching and motivation, this “defensive laziness” often seen in young players can be surpressed.
Yet another proof of the good scouting made by the PSG academy, and later by Bordeaux who decided to give him a chance, Yacine Adli has huge growth potential and creates big expectations for the future on anyone who watches him play. Will he be able to take the leap from the youth French national teams to the Èquipe de France? Will we see him playing in the Champions League in the near future? If he is not there already, then you should definitely add Yacine Adli to your “ones to watch” list and wait to find out.