Real Madrid have made their second signing of the summer in preparation for the 2022-23 season. With Kylian Mbappe dealing a decisive blow in transfer proceedings, it allowed Madrid to shift their attention to other positions and sign premium players for the present and future.
In their bid to do so, Madrid have secured the services of arguably the best young defensive midfielder on the market, Aurélien Tchouaméni, who rejected offers from PSG to play for Los Merengues.
The 22 year-old Frenchman signed for 100m Euros (80m fixed + 20m add-ons) according to reports, and will arrive to compete and win the role of an anchor in Madrid’s midfield. The former Monaco man will add depth and quality in midfield, leaving Madrid with one less thing to worry about.
Tchouaméni’s direct competition for the position will be with Casemiro, and while both are elite ball-winners, there are subtleties in Tchouaméni’s game that are quite different from that of the Brazilian’s playstyle.
In this article we will try to answer some questions about the strengths and tendencies of the French international.
Tchouaméni comes off the back of a very good season with Monaco, having played 2929 league minutes and being instrumental in Monaco’s third place finish this season. The Frenchman regularly plays as a part of the double pivot in Monaco’s 4-2-3-1 system or as the lone midfielder in their 4-1-4-1 system.
Looking at his touchmap, his zones of operation become evident. The bright spots in front of the box assert his screening presence for the backline but playing in a double pivot gives him the freedom to venture forwards into the opposition half as well. He is perfectly capable of playing that sort of box-to-box role, which he talks about being comfortable in as well.
Game reading and Ball winning
Ball winning is arguably Tchouaméni’s biggest strength. The Frenchman is a high volume defensive action player. His exceptional reading of the game and tracking passing lanes allow him to disrupt opposition attacks frequently.
A physically dominant presence, Tchouaméni has an affinity for attempting tackles. He has the reach and has the athleticism to claw back possession from the opponent with his tackles, giving him a very large zone of control. His body shape when attempting a tackle makes him very good in 1v1 situations. The timing on his tackles is also brilliant more often than not as he often looks to jump and engage the opponent. He is deceptively quick at stepping up and closing down the receiver, not allowing them space to turn.
His game reading truly shines when looking at his interceptions, where he ranks third in Europe, having recorded over four true interceptions (interceptions+blocked passes) per90. If we look at his interception map, we can clearly notice the defensive cover that he provides on the flanks. He is very good at passively marking the opponent to bait a pass into his zone and then jump in the path to intercept it. His ability in anticipating passes is phenomenal.
His awareness allows him to keep track of the runners in behind and into the channels. This provides protection against incisive passes in behind or finding players in-between the lines. His positioning facilitates forward movements from the fullbacks and other teammates.
His positioning allows him to block passing lanes and also helps him to recover loose balls in the defensive 40% of the pitch. A quick glance at his ball recovery map underlines a few things. The sheer volume of loose balls he recovers, averaging just over eight recoveries per 90, is phenomenal, with a high density of those coming in the central zones underlining his screening presence. His positioning aids him to have close access to clean up on bad touches or misplaced passes.
Tchouaméni is a physical beast. His athleticism is incredible and at 185cm he is incredible in the air as well, boasting an aerial success rate of 71.3%, which is among the best in Europe. This allows him to win headers in the middle of the pitch from opposition long balls or goalkicks but also adds offensive value in the box from freekicks and corners.
A colossal ball winner, Tchouaméni is very serviceable in possession as well and this is arguably the department that gives him an edge over Casemiro in isolation. His passing over short and medium range is crisp and accurate. Over longer distances, his passing is good but it lacks the crispness and the flight on the ball that often allows the opposition to recover back.
One aspect of the Frenchman’s passing is the verticality he offers. He is constantly looking to find targets that help his side gain meaningful territory in opposition half. His progressive nature on the ball adds further value to his stock. He ranks in the top 10 percentile for progressive passes in Europe among his peers.
He isn’t one to control the tempo and dictate play from deep but his passing allows him to quickly progress the ball up the field in transition situations. While he is not an elite passer like Kroos, he is very serviceable in that department, offering circulation.
Unlike Valverde, he isn’t a powerful line breaking ball carrier from midfield. His carries are often short and utilized to release some pressure before passing the ball. When offered space, he does tend to carry the ball high up the pitch. His initial burst of pace allows him to escape the pressure situations but the line-breaking carries are not the norm for him.
While he attempts a lot of passes under pressure, a direct result of his position on the field, his passing in such situations has room for improvement. While he can’t wiggle through an opposition press like Modric and use his close control to beat incoming press, he uses his body really well to retain possession or draw a foul. While chance creation isn’t his primary task on the pitch, he has a proclivity to attempt passes into the box from wide areas and when allowed the time and space in front of the 18 yard-box, he loves to have a go at goal, recording 1.7 shots per 90.
Aurélien Tchouaméni 21-22 | AS Monaco— Yash (@Odriozolite) June 7, 2022
Tchouaméni is a monster defensively in terms of pure volume of disruptive and ball winning actions he performs. Would be a great screening presence in that midfield. He is also good on the ball.
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At 22, Tchouaméni is a physical beast and a brilliant blend of an exceptional ball winner, who can sweep everything in front of defence, on top of being very serviceable in possession as well. There are aspects that need work, like his overzealous nature to close down opposition or his passing under pressure but some of that can be masked in a framework of the team’s structure. The midfield trio of Tchouaméni, Valverde and Camavinga is an exciting, energetic ball winning heaven that has the ability to outrun opponents over any stretch of the game. It’s also a midfield that is at its most threatening in transition situations. It will be interesting to see how the team lines up next season, and it’ll be intriguing to observe the dynamic that develops between the youngsters.
Is Tchouaméni worth the premium price? Only time will tell but given his age and the state of the transfermarket, it might pay dividends in the long run. His success at Madrid will depend on a lot of things, from the team’s tactical set-up to his surroundings, but the tools are all there for him to add value, provide defensive coverage and be the anchor that helps in possession — thus providing excellent floor raising value to Real Madrid.
Will he be a starter immediately? I think he will be eased in. Will Tchouaméni be the best DM in the future? He most certainly has the potential for it.