With the January transfer window just around the corner, we at Football FanCast are running the rule over rumoured targets of the Premier League’s top clubs.
Some, such as Manchester United-linked Edinson Cavani and seemingly Tottenham-Hotspur-bound West Brom striker Saido Berahino, are already well known to the Premier League audience.
Others, however, remain somewhat shrouded in mystery – names we’ve read in the newspapers and online plenty of times without being given much evidence of their actual ability.
Reported Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool target Sofiane Boufal firmly falls into that category, having been linked with both clubs since the start of the season and even earned himself the moniker of ‘the new Eden Hazard’.
Certainly an audacious description but there are some notable similarities, particularly that the 22-year-old is a playmaking wide-man whose performances are reaching talismanic levels for Ligue 1 side Lille – Hazard’s former employers.
So, what’s all the fuss about, I hear you ask? Well, Football Fancast are hoping to shed some light on Boufal’s credentials with a bit of help from our stats-mad mates at Whoscored. Here are FIVE key stats you need to know about ‘the new Hazard’.
Sofiane Boufal boasts the second-most dribbles of any Ligue 1 player this season, after former Newcastle United star Hatem Ben Afra, with 50 and is also the owner of one of the best take-on success rates at 72%.
But perhaps most impressively, he’s averaged the fifth-most successful dribbles per match of any player across Europe’s five leading top flights, as shown above.
The other names in the top ten, such as Lionel Messi, Neymar, Douglas Costa and Franco Vasquez, show how important the ability to ghost past defenders is in the modern game. It’s also not too far away from Eden Hazard’s return from last season – a Premier League best of 4.8 dribbles per match.
The 22-year-old is ranking in fifth once again, but this time in Ligue 1’s creation charts. Despite not recording a single assist this term, only four players have bettered his average of 2.8 created chances per match – as shown above.
Yet the Moroccan’s statistics are arguably more impressive than those above him. Lille are really struggling this season, finding themselves in 13th place, and have scored the second-fewest goals of any side in the league – just eleven.
Accordingly, Boufal’s stats would be even stronger if Frederic Antonelli’s side had a more dependable goal scorer. Ironically, it’s the winger who currently leads the club’s goal charts with four in 13 outings.
It may sound somewhat cynical, but winning fouls is an integral part of the modern game – through honest means, of course. Eden Hazard was fouled three times per match last season, contributing heavily to Chelsea’s 15 goals from set pieces, and Boufal has recorded that exact same statistic for Lille this term – as shown above.
That puts him joint-top of Ligue 1’s fouls drawn charts alongside Florent Balmont, but perhaps more impressively ranks the 22-year-old joint seventh throughout Europe – see below. That’s three times per match Boufal’s team will have the opportunity to strike from distance or send a lethal delivery into the box. A huge advantage in the modern game.
Although Boufal’s primary position remains the left wing, he’s shown a more versatile side to his game over the last few weeks, as evident above.
Indeed, the Moroccan prospect has impressed on the right flank, on the left and as a no.10 – although he’s not made the biggest impact when deployed as a centre-forward.
Nonetheless, it shows Boufal is capable of adapting his game for the good of the team and is reminiscent of Hazard’s final year at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, when he often switched between various attacking roles.
It would be superficial and inaccurate to suggest the 22-year-old is already the finished article, in spite of the many comparisons with Eden Hazard.
Indeed, there are notable flaws to the 5 foot 9 winger’s game – most particularly his wastefulness in possession. Alarmingly, he’s not only been dispossessed the most times of any player across Europe’s five leading top flights this season, but also recorded the most unsuccessful touches – in other words, failed attempts to control the ball.
It’s evidence that the youngster might not be ready for top end Premier League football just yet. Then again, his statistics are bound to be high in this regard as most frequently used outlet of an underachieving Lille side.