3 Key Things: Why Monaco Playmaker Thomas Lemar is a Man in Demand

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Thomas Lemar is hot property at the moment. The young Monaco man is linked with a host of clubs, most notably Arsenal, and there’s good reason for it. He is an excellent player, one with a whole lot of quality and variation to his game, and here, we’ll take a look at some of his finest qualities.

1. Passing

Arguably Lemar’s finest attribute, passing is the cornerstone of his game. He’s only a small guy, and as someone who plies his trade either on the left-hand side or in behind the strikers, he regularly finds himself picking up possession in the final third. That means he’s often in position to be a difference-maker, and by way of supplying 10 assists in Ligue 1 last season, he quickly became France’s most prolific goal-giver.

The first thing to note about this number is the fact that Lemar is a premier set-piece taker. Of his 10 assists, 2 came from corners and a further two came from freekicks. That illustrates just how lethal his left-boot is from dead-ball scenarios, but crucially for Monaco, it’s equally impressive in open play.

Lemar spent most of season playing on Monaco’s left wing, and because of that, he had the chance to cross the ball a lot. As a result, many of his key passes came from either cutbacks or crossing opportunities, and given that Monaco play an upbeat game that revolves around fast-paced football and direct ball movement, that’s not too surprising. Lemar became an expert at finding teammates like Radamel Falcao at the far post, and when there wasn’t an opening in that kind of position, he would simply square the ball towards the penalty spot.

He’s extremely adept at this kind of thing, and while some would point to the fact that a lower percentage of his key passes are genuinely creative efforts, he’s still very strong when inventing things through the centre. He has a good range of passing and, as the example below shows, the kind of tight dribbling and vision to make things happen in close. In fact, one of the more enjoyable aspects of watching Lemar play is the way in which he probes for an opening. He keeps the ball close to him, looks for teammates nearby and, importantly, has the acceleration and vision to play quick one-twos.

Overall, he’s an exceptional passer, and one who would very much fit into an Arsenal-esque system.

2. Athleticism

If you look at Lemar, you’ll probably think he looks like your typical playmaker. After all, he’s small, has great technique and is a supreme passer. That might lead you to think he’s a little like David Silva – a technical marvel who isn’t overly athletic – and yet, when you watch Lemar in action, it’s clear that he’s a pretty quick player.

In Monaco’s system, which is formulated upon quick ball movement and speed in transition, Lemar is one of the guys who gets things going. He likes to duck inside from the flank as often as he can, as a means through which to receive the ball in between the lines, and from there he can rocket forward if there’s space ahead of him. He has a sharp little burst of acceleration, one that can take him away from nearby defenders, and his top speed is pretty sharp too. Throw in his unique dribbling style, which combines loose-looking touches with sharp flicks of the ball around onrushing players, and he’s a tough guy to stop when he’s up to speed.

All of this is significant, because it gives Lemar variety. He isn’t simply a patient prober in the lead-up game or a guy who can spark a break with a brilliant pass, but also a ball carrier and a runner who can get into goalscoring positions.

3. Shooting

Scoring goals isn’t necessarily something you would associate with Lemar, as his distribution and dribbling tend to stand out in Monaco’s build-up play, but he does get onto the end of his fair share of attacks. He scored 9 goals in Ligue 1 last season, and again, his athleticism helped him to get into these locations.

It wasn’t uncommon to see him sprinting in from the left to arrive at the far post, and though he only averages 1.7 shots per game, his ability to complete them with a fair degree of efficiency was impressive. His speed helped him to get into position, and once he was there, that wand of a left foot allowed him to do the rest. There was one particular goal against Bastia, where he lobbed a shot, first-time, into the back of the net from a tight angle, and it highlighted just how good Lemar can be due to his technical quality.

Of course, as always with Lemar, it’s important to note his set-piece exertions. He hit one freekick goal this season, and also took a fair number of other shots from outside the area. Throw in his penchant for a long shot or two in open play, and of his 58 shots in Ligue 1 last season, 39 came from outside the area. Only two were goals, but the good news here is that, of the 19 shots that he struck from inside the penalty area, seven were converted. That means he tends to tuck away his better opportunities, something which is undoubtedly significant to teams when they create top-line opportunities.

Lemar isn’t the complete player just yet, though. He relies a little too heavily upon his left foot at times, even if his right isn’t that bad, and he can be a little untidy with his shorter passing from time to time as well. Generally, however, he’s a superb prospect, and it isn’t overly surprising to learn that Arsene Wenger has declared Arsenal’s interest in him recently. This is a guy who can pass, shoot and, by way of his athleticism, contribute in both slower and faster sequences of play.

That makes him a sought-after commodity, but regardless of where he ends up next season, Lemar should continue to build upon this season’s efforts. After all, he’s done that ever since he debuted for Caen in Ligue 1, and as a 21-year-old who is still rising to meet his potential, there’s no reason to think he won’t to improve even further.