Scrolling through the 2021-22 Ligue 1 standings, you might find some notable surprises. Previously one of the best teams in France, Saint-Etienne has become the dregs of France’s premier league. Lens’s performances set the club above its expectations. Remarkably, with 24 points, the club is on track to finish in a Champions League spot.
Then, there is OGC Nice. The southeastern finds itself in third place, making it a challenger for the Ligue 1 title. Players like Youcef Atal, Jean-Clair Todibo and Mario Lemina all help Les Aiglons with their domestic success. However, Nice’s attacking options continually steal the show.
The man who leads the dynamic attack is Bourgoin-Jallieu-born Amine Gouiri. With six goals and four assists on the board, the striker is one of Ligue 1’s most-coveted players.
Although he has ties to Algeria, Gouiri spent most of his developmental career at Lyon. After slowly progressing through the academy, he made just eight appearances with the team. Eventually, he flipped to Nice for $7.7 million. He was one of the hottest prospects in European soccer, netting numerous times for both club and country.
The Guardian branded him as a young talent to watch. Despite all this, Gouiri barely played for his club before leaving for a foreign part of France.
Despite the pressure from the media, he continues to thrive. Now, he garners interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs and prestigious national teams. Here’s how.
Amine Gouiri success at Nice and France
Instantly after moving south for Nice, Gouiri proved his worth despite the near-$8 million figure. In his first match with the team, Gouiri hit two goals past Lens.
He finished his first season with Les Aiglons with a good stat line. He had sixteen goals with eight assists. Yet, he did more than just that. In Ligue 1, he had a 76% pass success rate and created 121 shots.
FBREF also says that Nice had a greater expected goals with Gouiri on the pitch than without him.
Things look well in Gouiri’s sophomore season at Nice. Already, he racked up 68 shot contributions (tied-1st in Ligue 1), and FBREF reports that he is first in xG with 8.6 on the board. Also, his 18 shots on target is second in Ligue 1.
At the international stage, Gouiri has had success. He was the top scorer of the 2017 UEFA U-17 Euros. He bagged five goals in that tournament. Additionally, he added another four in the 2018 UEFA U-19 Euros.
Even with the U-21s, Gouiri continues to shine. The Nice star has been an integral element of his side’s attack. Gouiri’s two goals helped France to the top of their 2023 Euros qualification table.
The Greens or the Blues?
Gouiri is close to earning his first cap, much like Christopher Nkunku after his stunning performances. The France Football Federation surely took note of Gouiri’s impressive performances at the youth levels. Still, for some reason, the team is yet to call Gouiri up. Players like Nkunku, Illan Meslier, and Allan Saint-Maximin have yet to represent their countries at the senior level.
The competition is fierce, and Gouiri will likely need to earn more experience in continental competition to earn the cap. It seems to be Gouiri’s goal to play for Les Bleus. Despite lofty expectations, Gouiri put himself on the right track.
However, Amine Gouiri also has the option of playing for Algeria. Without a cap for France and possessing ties to Algeria, playing for the Fennecs could be a real possibility. Algeria is by no means weak. Players like Riyadh Mahrez, Islam Slimani and teammate Andy Delort helped Algeria to the final stage of World Cup qualification in Africa.
All of the following stats came from FBREF’s catalog of Ligue 1 stats.
Franco-Algerian talisman Amine Gouiri plays at several different positions. He spent time as a right-winger, second-striker, and even played in the midfield. However, he usually operates as center-forward or a left-winger, using his speed to blow by defenders.
Gouiri is a shifty, elusive, and pacy attacker, drawing comparisons to Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus and Argentine ace Angel Correa. Gouiri has impeccable ball control, often receiving the ball in midfield to help shake off stingy opponents<.
He is not someone you want to face in a one-on-one situation. Even while off-balance, he can still pull a rabbit out of his hat and blow by his marker.
Gouiri is solid defensively, but he still has a long way to be labeled defensively elite. His 16 tackles, 11 blocks and four interceptions are solid numbers. Gouiri is also active with his pressing, logging 171 pressures in Ligue 1 matches.
On the other side of the ball, he is an animal. He is tied-first in Ligue 1 with 68 shot-creating actions. Yet, he is dependable in ways outside of pure goal-scoring.
For example, Amine Gouiri has taken 46 corner kicks for Nice (4th in Ligue 1) and has carried the ball into the final third 34 times(6th in Ligue 1). But his impact extends beyond stats. Gouiri helps draw defenders, leaving teammates open for assists. Essentially, defenders must pick their poison when attempting to handle the 21-year-old.
Gouiri’s recent games show his brilliance as an attacker and teammate.
Amine Gouiri was up to his old tricks against one of Nice’s most-hated rivals. The striker scored Nice’s lone goal in the 1-1 game with Marseille. Although the original game faced controversy due to a crazy pitch invasion from Nice fans, Gouiri proved why the heated rivalry was one of soccer’s most fun to watch. Along with his goal, he shot twice, touched the ball 42 times and had an 80% successful passing rate.
READ MORE: Fixture between Nice and Marseille halts due to fan violence on the pitch.
In a recent game, Nice beat Angers 2-1. Their victory was influenced by, as usual, Gouiri. He had 66 touches, shot twice, created four shot-creating opportunities, and earned an assist. Although fellow attacker Andy Delort got Man Of The Match honors with his clutch brace, Gouiri also did a lot to neutralize a dangerous Angers side.
In Nice’s 0-1 home loss against 6th-placed Montpellier, Gouiri dipped into his array of tricks. He logged 60 touches, had three shots on target, and also completed 39 passes. Although his side did not pick up any points due to Florent Mollet’s 80th-minute goal, Gouiri still had a good night.
Stade de Gabriel Montpied awaits the third-place Nice side in a clash to affirm Nice’s superiority. Clermont Foot, 15th in Ligue 1, had a hot start before plummeting down the table with loss upon loss. Nice will need a win to challenge Lens for the second place. Gouiri’s good showing will surely attract interest from scouts everywhere. The side will travel to Clermont-Ferrand on Sunday in hopes of earning three points.
Last-place Metz won’t be a big challenge to OGC Nice. However, it could be an opportunity for Nice to overtake Lens in the standings and potentially challenge PSG for the Ligue 1 side. For Gouiri, it’s his chance to move up in different stat rankings. He’s seventh in goals, sixth in assists, ninth in shots and fourth in key passes. A breakout game could get him farther up the board in all of these categories and more. Gouiri will aim to bolster his numbers, and Nice will try to do the same to their ranking on November 28 at Allianz Riviera.
READ MORE: Lionel Messi targeting strong finish to 2021 with PSG.
This potential-top-of-the-table clash will either confirm or dispel the notion that OGC Nice is ready for the Champions League. Although they’ve done exceptionally well in Ligue 1, they’ll need to defeat a contender like Paris to cement their status as one of Europe’s elite. Although PSG has been on-and-off in recent games, they still are a better team on paper. Nice will need to show they can win games like this regularly to be a Champions League mainstay.
If Gouiri does well at the Parc des Princes, it will build more interest in him and o attract attention from England, Spain, Italy, and more. Gouiri could even be considered for a call-up if he does well during the club season. Gouiri will try to prove himself in Paris on December 1.
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