5. Wylan Cyprien
OGC Nice came 3rd in Ligue 1 last campaign, the highest top-flight finish in the club’s history. Under the magic of head coach Lucien Favre, Les Aigions played attractive football to say the least, and had it not been for Monaco’s madness throughout the year, Nice would’ve been everyone’s club to watch.
Favre’s side had many top performers; from the enigmatic Mario Balotelli to the cool & collected Jean Michaël Seri, but the man whose rise to prominence superseded the rest was Wylan Cyprien. Blessed with the physique of the modern footballer, Cyprien finds it relatively easy to get from box to box due to his large, yet lean frame. Furthermore, he’s no slouch on the ball, as he scores more goals that you’d expect from your run-of-the-mill midfielder.
At 22, Cyprien is coming off his breakout season where he carried Nice to a European place, and deservedly earned transfer interest from some of England’s top clubs. I will be looking at some of Cyprien’s most prominent features, with the first two being positive & the last one not necessarily being a weakness but a part of his game he should aim to develop.
A free kick specialist is valuable to many teams, as a set piece goal can turn the game on its head. It’s why the likes of Dimitri Payet, Miralem Pjanić & Hakan Calhanoglu have generated so much hype for their ability to change the course of a game with a kick of a ball. Earlier on in the season, he scored a free kick to open the scoring in a 2-2 draw away to PSG. Despite this being the only free kick he scored in the campaign, it will become an effective tool to wield should he choose to develop it.
Cyprien’s technique is one of the most valuable attributes of his game; he uses the instep of his foot to add curve to his shots, giving it more accuracy, meaning he has a greater chance of success in contrast to the knuckleball or power techniques used by other footballers which can go firing over the bar if done with the slightest bit of inaccuracy. It also means his technique will become more dependable as he ages, as knuckle ball specialists tend to struggle with gauging shot power as they age.
For a player of his experience, his pass selection is remarkably accurate. With regards to his long passing in particular, it is quite a sight to see him change the point of play in a matter of seconds & as he boasts an average pass length of 15.59 metres (2nd highest in Nice behind Seri) there’s evidence to suggest further improvement in this department is pending. To switch the play for the sake of it is unnecessary, but to switch the play with intent is delightful. Many times this season, Cyprien has managed to accelerate the speed of Nice’s counter attacks with his passing range, but a recurring theme of his passing is that it becomes predictable, allowing the opposition to prepare for his passes before they arrive. As Nice could potentially be playing in the Champions League next season, it is imperative that Cyprien makes his passing more unpredictable whilst also retaining his accuracy, as the best defenders & midfielders in the world play a whole different ball game than what he’s used to.
One of Wylan Cyprien’s favourite things to do in a game is his trademark long-distance dribble. As he is capable of traveling a large amount of ditance without losing the ball, he tends to get carried away with himself (completing 1.93 successful take-ons a game, the most of any Nice midfielder). Granted, it is promising to see an upcoming player ooze such confidence, but should he neglect his trivial errors, it may well manifest itself into a fault in his game. He tends to dribble without considering any immediate threats to him or the ball, thus leading him to into a blind alley, and lose possession. While he does have the most successful take-ons for Le Gym, he must be wiser with his dribbles; his 87.5% successful take-on-rate pales in comparison to Vincent Koziello’s 95.65% rate. Additionally, he also waits too long to find the right pass & ends up ignoring two very good options to choose a less successful third one. Cyprien must try hard to find a balance between energetic curiosity & slapdash sprinting; otherwise his true potential may never be unlocked.
A terrible knee injury ended his season short, but with his club side OGC Nice in Europe next year, his return will be eagerly awaited. When it comes to the international scene for France, he likely won’t get a shot at making the World Cup squad, but it is imperative he continues his development in order to make the Euro 2020 squad (albeit quite a way off). He’s made good career choices so far & if he can refine his errors, Wylan Cyprien will become one of the most complete midfielders of our generation.
By: Ham Mpanga/@MrRaumdeuter
Photo: Louie Hendy/@LH_BCFC