Sofiane Feghouli: Why La Liga’s Fastest Man is Such an Asset to Valencia

Sofiane Feghouli

Playing as Nuno’s right winger at the sun soaked Camp Nou for Valencia’s clash with Barcelona, Sofiane Feghouli looked up for the occasion from the outset.

A look of steely determination permeated from his eyes prior to kick off. He looked ready for battle.

Although Valencia lost the match 2-0, they played excellently against the Catalan giants, putting in a performance full of energy and intensity.

While the Algerian didn’t receive much recognition for his display, the quality of his work gave evidence as to why he’s so highly rated within the club, and why he’s such an important player for the Bats.

The 25-year-old combined attributes that can often be found at opposite ends of the spectrum supremely well, and ones that are quite rare to find in a single player. They were power and intelligence.

The possessor of athleticism that would be the envy of many used his acceleration, speed, strength and power so well in the contest. The platform for him to be able to complete all this influential work undoubtedly came from his intelligent positioning and movement.

To ensure he achieved regular success in counter attacking situations, he’d cleverly position himself around 20 yards behind the half way line (inside his own half). By positioning himself there, he made certain that when Valencia won the ball back and found him, he was clear to charge forward with space ahead of him, for Adriano (Barca’s left back) was usually upfield in advanced positions.

The tactic worked wonderfully. It allowed the man who’s been reportedly recorded as the fastest man in La Liga to isolate himself with Barcelona’s centre backs. According to Valencia they’ve clocked him at 35.53 km/h, and that’s a harrowing proposition for any defence.

Moreover, when the former Grenoble product wasn’t used as the first outlet on the break, he’d surge upfield and make outside-to-in runs, which meant by the time a teammate played a ball to him over the top, he was ostensibly making a run into the same area, and in the same fashion, as a centre forward would.

It was also impressive to note that, despite all the hustle and bustle he provided, the way he subtly found space in Los Che’s slower build-up play was masterful.

By drifting infield to find space in between Barca’s lines of midfield and defence, he showed his footballing intellect. When doing this he crucially found nice pockets of space in around Javier Mascherano (Barca’s holding midfielder) to utilise. And from here he opened up the pitch for himself, with Valencia providing options a plenty for him.

One of those outlets that was so aptly exploited was created directly by his movement. Inherently, when he drifted centrally, this made vacant spaces for his fullback, Antonio Barragan, to motor into. The fact Valencia’s right back is so good at attacking meant Feghouli’s movement made complete sense, as it provided a damaging attacking avenue for large parts of the game.

Unfortunately for Valencia, despite the massive threat they posed to Barca, they just couldn’t come up with a goal.

The display of Feghouli was hugely positive though, and showed he’s not your average speedster, and that he can inflict pain on any side in a multiplicity of modes.

With very exciting times ahead at Valencia, it would be great if Feghouli remained at the club amid interest from Tottenham. He clearly has a strong love for the club that signed him back in 2010, saying; “I’m very happy here and looking forward to seeing how the new project at Valencia goes. I’m contracted. I hope to keep growing with this team.”

The dynamic winger certainly appears to be at the right place for him to continue his growth as a footballer.

The added bonus of Champions League football looks likely next season too. So, all things considered, Valencia and Feghouli should enter their fifth season together with plenty of hope and promise.

If he stays, he might just end up a club legend. Who would’ve thought that when you rewind to those early days where the man who was once hailed as the new Zinedine Zidane was playing in Ligue 2 for Grenoble.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.