The one true spark in an otherwise bleak Nice attack is a young gun firing on all cylinders. His name? Amine Gouiri. With 14 goals and 6 assists in all competitions, Gouiri has spearheaded Les Aiglons to 12th in the Ligue 1 table — just six points off of sixth-placed Metz.
It takes immense bottle and a huge sense of self-worth to leave your boyhood club at just 20 years old due to a lack of game time; that’s exactly what Gouiri did. Facing competition from the likes of Memphis Depay, Karl-Toko Ekambi, young superstar Rayan Cherki and the now departed Moussa Dembélé, Gouiri never really got a look in at Lyon.
He amassed just 10 substitute appearances for the club he’d called home for the best part of a decade, and decided he deserved better. Gouiri found refuge at Adrian Ursea’s Nice, and since his arrival for €7 million at the Allianz Riviera it’s fair to say any critics have been silenced.
Whilst Lyon might not be missing him all that much, with the side currently second in Ligue 1, Gouiri has already realised his immense talent on the south-east coast of France. With 10 league goals, he’s Nice’s top scorer, with Pierre Lees-Melou second on four, and ranks seventh in Ligue 1 for goals scored.
Most of those ahead of him, however, play as an out-an-out number nine, whereas Gouiri can be sound more regularly operating off the left flank as an inside forward, akin to the role Mohamed Salah plays for Liverpool, albeit on the opposite side. Blessed with a combination of pace and power that any forward in world football would envy, Gouiri is a predator in the box, and he finds space as if a seasoned veteran.
As a right-footed player deployed on the left, Gouiri is extremely effective at cutting inside and delivering a wicked cross, see his assist for Dante’s goal away to Montpellier, or opting for a curling effort into the far corner; he’s found his trademark at just 21, that’s impressive. Not only is Gouiri Nice’s top scorer, he’s also their top creator, with five Ligue 1 assists. The attack doesn’t exist without him; take him out and they’d crumble.
At such a young age, you are often allowed time to develop whilst senior pros ensure the machinery ticks over, not at Nice. Gouiri is the fundamental piece of their attacking puzzle, and it’s most certainly a puzzle without him. Currently loitering dangerously above the relegation zone, and with just three wins in their last 13 league games, Gouiri is going to have to dig Nice out of yet another hole.
With four goals in the Europa League, Gouiri has shown he can perform on the European stage, and his tally of 17 goals and assists (G/A) in all competitions holds up extremely well in comparison to other wide forwards across Europe.
Sadio Mané has 15 G/A, Harvey Barnes has 17, and Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané only have 22 combined; whilst Gouiri does operate centrally as well as off the left, this is very promising. Furthemore, to add to his unique play style, a powerful dribbler akin to the aforementioned Barnes, rather than a mazy one like Raheem Sterling for example, Gouiri’s underlying numbers are exceptional.
Of his 2.7 shots per 90 in Ligue 1, 1.7 of them come from within the penalty box; more than Ángel Di María’s 1.3, despite the Argentine taking the same number of shots per 90. Possessing an xG + xA per 90 tally of 0.63 this season, Gouiri is up there with some superstars of the game; Mané and Timo Werner are on 0.66, Jadon Sancho’s tally is 0.54 and Marcus Rashford is down at 0.43.
Perhaps the most impressive, and most underrated, aspect of Gouiri’s game, however, is his creative flair and vision. He averages 1.4 key passes per 90, which is more than Kylian Mbappé’s 1.2, and whilst Gouiri’s tally isn’t groundbreaking, it’s promising for someone with such a killer instinct in the box.
Gouiri isn’t a traditional winger, and it may well turn out that his long-term future in the game will see him move centrally on a permanent basis, but with him carrying Nice on his back from the left, it’s highly unlikely his position will be altered this year. Another 12-18 months of development, however, and you could be seeing Gouiri balling in the Champions League for one of Europe’s elite.
By: Cameron Smith
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Agence Nice Presse / Icon Sport