2017 22under22 Countdown – #8: Thomas Lemar

“His left foot is amazing – it’s like a hand – he puts the ball where he wants”
– Alaeddine Yahia, Lemar’s former teammate


Date of Birth: 12 November 1995 (21 years old)
Nationality: French
Position: Winger
Club Appearances: 86 (13 Goals)
International Appearances: 2
EIF Ability Rating: 66

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.*


Four of the last five players on EiF’s 22under22 countdown have been French, and we continue with yet another Frenchman at #8: Thomas Lemar. Lemar started his professional career at Caen, where he played for two years before signing with Monaco. However, Lemar didn’t really become a Ligue 1 household name until this season, during which his great performances for Monaco have earned him many plaudits and a call up to the French national team.

In a fantastic season that has seen Monaco reach the summit of Ligue 1 and the Champions League semifinals, Lemar has been a key part of the club’s success. So far this season, Lemar has made 43 appearances, scoring 12 goals and notching 10 assists from the left wing. He is part of the core group of youth at Monaco along with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, and Fabinho. Monaco’s free-flowing, attacking style has been a joy to watch this season, and Lemar has been at the heart of it.


Strengths


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Lemar has one of the best left foots in Europe, and he doesn’t hesitate to use it (Photo: AS)

In Monaco’s 4-4-2 system, the burden to score goals falls heavily on the two strikers. However, in order for the strikers to score, good service is required, and that’s where players like Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar come in. Lemar’s greatest strength is his ability to deliver quality service into the box. Lemar provides the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao with chance after chance after chance to put the ball into the net. He can deliver from deep, he can beat a man and put a cross in from the byline, and his corner kicks and set pieces are, without exaggeration, world class. Incredibly, Lemar has averaged 4.2 key passes per match this season.

In addition to his ability to create chances for his teammates, Lemar also poses a sizable goal threat himself. 10 goals from a creative-type winger in a 4-4-2 system is nothing to scoff at. Furthermore, many of his goals have come in very important matches. In the Champions League group stage, Monaco beat Tottenham 2-1 twice, and Lemar scored the winning goal in both matches. He also scored an 113th minute goal to give Monaco a 4-3 victory over Marseille in the Coupe de France Round of 16, and he assisted the winning goal and earned man of the match in Monaco’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg clash against Borussia Dortmund. Many of his goals do not lack in quality either. Some of his best goals this year include a cheeky chip against Marseille and a dipping long range effort against Rennes.


Weaknesses


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Lemar made his debut for the French national team this past November (Photo: Le Figaro)

Like many young wingers, there are three key areas in which Lemar will need to improve: Goal scoring rate, consistency, and physicality. Lemar can aptly be compared to Mesut Ozil in terms of his role within his team. Both are highly creative, versatile left-footed players who look to create goals for their teammates but are also capable of scoring themselves. But what separates a player like Ozil from most young wingers is the sheer amount of goals that he is involved in. If Lemar can push his goal and assist stats closer to 20 than to 10, he will be an elite player. He already possesses more speed than Ozil and compatible dribbling ability, but he simply needs to improve his positioning and vision in the final third to create more chances. Consistency and physicality will both come with time and experience, but at the moment they are both certainly areas in which Lemar is lacking.

Lemar’s final weakness is his right foot. As a left footed player who plays on the left side and looks to cross more than he does shoot, he often does not need to use his right foot. However, to add another element to his game, he will need to improve his weak foot. If he posed the threat of cutting inside and taking shots with his right foot, defenders would have to face the dilemma of getting close to him and risking being beat on the dribble or giving him space and allowing him better opportunities to cross.


Thomas Lemar is already an excellent player. He is one of the best players on perhaps the hottest team in Europe this year, he is surrounded by youth, pace, and talent, and his technical ability allows him to combine with his teammates to devastating effect. He has already earned a call-up to the French national team, and although the Les Bleus side is packed with talent, it is tough to argue that Lemar doesn’t deserve to be there. Whether he is wearing the French colors, the distinctive red and white Monaco kit, or the shirt of another European giant, expect Thomas Lemar to continue to cause defenders problems for years to come.

Previous: No. 9, Bayern’s French speedster, Kingsley Coman