Finding Aurélien Tchouaméni’s next club

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For the second year running, Aurélien Tchouaméni has been one of Monaco’s shining stars, and one of the hottest commodities on the transfer market. Since the loss of incredible players like Bernardo Silva, Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and Fabinho, AS Monaco have never looked the same, and have performed rather unremarkably in Ligue 1. Following the immediate loss of those coruscating figureheads, the team even slipped as low as 17th in the 2018-19 season, narrowly avoiding relegation to Ligue 2. The season signaled a marked and catastrophic demise, for a side that had secured 95 points just two seasons earlier, comfortably winning the title. Ever since, Monaco have been struggling to re-raise the bar and find their way toward Ligue 1 title-winning potential.

But with one of the best midfielders in the world in Aurélien Tchouaméni, AS Monaco are now slowly making their way back to their best, and look set to finish within the top three again this season. As a result of being one of the world’s top emerging talents, conversations persist about possible next steps for the top-quality 22-year-old. With that, we decipher the best fit for the Monaco man if a move were to be made this summer.

Tchouaméni’S STYLE OF PLAY

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Having been instrumental for the Monegasque side since arriving in 2020, departing will create a gaping hole for Philippe Clement’s team in the years ahead. Although Monaco may secure a sizable fee from any club trying to prize him away, the 22-year-old may prove to be an irreplicable presence. A fee of around £70 million could provide enough funds to pay for the services of two defensive midfielders in his stead, but the Monaco board would be fortuitous to find anyone who can provide anywhere close to his all-around game. So what is that all-around game, you ask?

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Tchouaméni can play as a ‘number 8’ or ‘number 6’, playing as a hard-and-fast mix between the two for the majority of the 2021-22 season. Philippe Clement’s favoured formation at Monaco since January has been the 4-2-3-1, allowing the midfield warrior to play alongside another young Frechman in Youssouf Fofana. Fofana provides a sound defensive partner for Tchouaméni, where each can take turns venturing forward or sitting deep. As both sit in and provide central cover during defensive phases, Tchouaméni has been the more proactive in stepping out and winning challenges – as demonstrated by his 6.62 tackles + interceptions per 90 (the fourth most on a per 90 basis of players with 20+ appearances). His anticipation and reading of the game are particularly impeccable, making more interceptions than any other player in Ligue 1 this season (108 in 33 appearances). On the other end of the spectrum, his tackling ability and timing could drastically improve. While he loves to dive in and take matters into his own hands, the Frenchman needs to learn when it may be best to stay on his feet. His tackle percentage of 44.6% has steadily improved since his early days at Monaco, but he’s also picked up a booking every third game – with eight yellow cards and one red this season. With this in mind, he’d be a perfect fit for Arsenal, and we can call it a day! But in truth, for a midfielder with his intelligence and composure, Tchouaméni’s disciplinary record shows an oddly juxtaposed juvenile immaturity, which will need to be eradicated at his next club.

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Speaking of high-possession clubs like Arsenal, Tchouaméni may not possess the passing range of midfield elites like Thiago or Toni Kroos. But he is extraordinarily efficient when moving the ball, always in search of the most productive pass. The 22-year-old drops in nicely during build-up phases, and never shies away from playing long progressive passes over the top. Completing 79.9% of his long passes this season, whilst keeping his short pass completion above 90%, Tchouaméni ranks among the best midfielders in Ligue 1 when it comes to his in-possession game.

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Even more impressively, these high-level passes may be easy for him, but the flamboyant Frenchman never wants to make anything look straightforward. With a high degree of skill and poise, the Frenchman loves to put on a disguise and toy the opposition with his fancy footwork before making a pass. A master of the feint, Tchouaméni has the silky smooth moves to dance his way around any opposition defender – highlighted by his 74% dribble success rate this season.

With exceptional skill on the ball, solid long passing range, and a high-level reading of the game both in and out of possession, Tchouaméni is essentially the French Declan Rice. It’s no wonder why both young midfielders are thought of in such high regard, and both compared to every top club in the world day in and day out.

Stemming from his exceptional reading of the game, Tchouaméni always knows exactly where to be both in and out of possession. He will always be a hard-working professional, but his positioning out of possession often allows him to conserve energy, granting him the ability to last the full 90 minutes in nearly every game of the season (he’s averaging 87 minutes per game in 2021-22). His impeccable number of interceptions speaks for itself, whilst his 74% aerial duel success suggests further illustration of his ability to time situations and rise to the occasion when appropriate. At the other end of the pitch, Monaco’s number eight mostly finds himself halting his runs to the edge of the box, holding his position and readying himself for counter-attacks as part of Monaco’s rest defense. This allows him to clear up any messes made by the forward line, or even position himself to have a pop at goal from outside the box. This was expertly conveyed in Friday night’s 2-1 win over Lille, where he scored his first Ligue 1 brace with two fabulous strikes from outside the area.

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Even when looking for ways to knock Tchouaméni’s game, he goes on and scores a brace. Taking all of this into account, we look at some of the best options for the Frenchman’s future at the top of European football. Remember, not only do we need Tchouaméni’s next club to suit his style and price tag, but also a place where he’ll instantly rack up the minutes to take his career to the next level. Here are the candidates.

Manchester United

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Clearly lacking potency in the final third and a strong defensive leader in their back line, the side Erik ten Hag is set to inherit currently fails possess many of the fundamental characteristics needed to make United great again. As discussed by every living soul on the footballing universe, one of those gaps is (still!) a reliable defensive midfielder. While we cannot fully make assumptions about the direction Ten Hag will go at Old Trafford, the Red Devils worked best under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a double pivot. This happens to be where Tchouaméni has found consistency and comfortability in 2021-22, alongside another defensive presence that allows him to fully express himself and show-off his dazzling dances.

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At the very least, under Ten Hag’s possession-based style of play, Tchouaméni’s ability to play accurate one and two-touch passes under pressure would serve him well. But even more imperatively, the Red Devils have been crying out for an intimidating defensive presence for years. While Fred may be a decent defensive presence, he lacks the same imposing frame of a Fabinho or Rodri to ever be that intimidating player for United. Tchouaméni makes up for that lack, whilst simultaneously improving upon the possession-based qualities of Scott McTominay. Beyond United’s two current starting midfielders, United would be blessed to finally find a Frenchman in which they can rely on week in and week out.

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They failed to find consistency in Paul Pogba, and from one Frenchman to another, the hefty fee may actually pay off this time (if United were smart enough to make the move happen!). While his discipline is a problem, it also presents an opportunity for a club like United, that desperately need greater proactiveness in midfield. His sound positioning and bravery when tackling would be well-approved by United fans all around, and give him a different edge to both Fred and McTominay.

The downside for the Frenchman may actually have nothing to do with him, but United’s own failure to integrate new signings over the years. You’d be hard-pressed to find a United transfer that fit in like a glove right away, with no adjustment period needed. Bruno Fernandes may have been one of the most transformative players to ever enter United’s frame, but for every Bruno there was a (insert just about any other transfer here). When considering young talents developing their craft, the list is even shorter, and this could be worrying for Tchouaméni as he decides on his next club – with the pick of the litter. Making matters worse, their treatment of players in recent memory has also been questionable at best, from their repeated lies to Jesse Lingard to the ostracization of Donny van de Beek.

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Had United invested in a defensive midfielder of his quality last year rather than players in other positions who would go on to destroy the entire crux of what United had been building (see United’s Tactical Follies in the Post-Ronaldo Era – In-Depth Analysis), they would be well set up heading into a Ten Hag era in 2022-23. Instead, it’s a hot mess, and one Tchouaméni may be right in steering clear from.

With Donny van de Beek and James Garner also returning from loan spells away from Old Trafford, Erik Ten Hag and co. may continue to ignore the calls for a new defensive midfielder, and sign another centre-back instead. If the 22-year-old midfielder arrived next season, you can be confident that he’d be an immediate impact player and aid their quest to challenge for a Champions League place. But both parties would have their reasons to be skeptical of the move.

Liverpool

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With the quadruple still in their sights, Liverpool are not in desperate need of any new signings. However, with several figureheads coming to the end of their contracts or winding their careers down, the Reds can begin to plan for the future. With Fabio Carvalho and Luis Diaz entering the door, the Reds are well set up to slowly ease into a new era within their attacking setup. But they’ve made little to no ground in the midfield department, with Jordan Henderson, James Milner and even Thiago soon to need replacing. Aurélien Tchouaméni should be at the top of the list for the Reds in preparing for the future, where he could play alongside Fabinho in a midfield three.

Klopp requires hard-working individuals to play in his Liverpool team, to which Tchouaméni certainly checks the box. Out of possession, he’s a hound, constantly trying to win back the ball. In possession, the Frenchman offers wise decision-making and a sense of composure that could be pivotal in Liverpool’s quest to break down a low-block. On top of these factors, the physicality shown by the Frenchman would be welcome, even paralleling that of James Milner. Encouragingly, an even better comparison for the Frenchman would be Liverpool’s Thiago, with both possessing a bag of tricks and hard-tackling ability. Capable of playing in either a midfield three or double pivot, Tchouaméni would offer Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool tremendous flexibility, and would have years to continue growing as one of the best midfielders on the planet. The only major downside would be in his potential to ride the bench more than start consistently in his first few seasons at the club. Liverpool may very well persist with Thiago, Fabinho and Henderson as their midfield three for the next few years, with Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones also pushing for a place. He’d have plenty of competition for a place, and at that rate, might as well stay at Monaco and continue to develop his craft.

Real Madrid

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Like most young players in the world, Real Madrid would be a dream destination for Aurélien Tchouaméni. While Los Blancos haven’t always made sensible transfer decisions in recent memory, they too need to begin to prepare for life without their illustrious midfield legends like Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Capable of being either the Modric type or even becoming a ‘Casemiro’-esque midfield destroyer in time, Real Madrid would thrive with a future French partnership between the Monaco man and Eduardo Camavinga. But there is a slight concern that should heavily impact his decision. Ancelotti rarely drops his veterans. Real Madrid for that matter have a long history of preferring and persisting with older, experienced players, whilst letting their young talents to develop elsewhere. Undeniably, Aurélien Tchouaméni is talented enough to play week in and week out at the Bernabéu. But if Ancelotti and Los Blancos continue to persist with Modric, Kroos and all their other plus-30-aged players, there would be little point in the 22-year-old wasting the next few years of his career.

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Famously, Real Madrid are another team that love a midfield three, whereas Tchouaméni has played his best football in a midfield two. The slower pace of Spanish football could however give him the chance to learn the system a little quicker than the high-intensity gegenpressing of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, but sitting on the bench won’t provide that opportunity. But if Los Blancos are willing to take a shot on the French prodigy, he could provide the perfect balance to combine with the elegant, yet fierce Eduardo Camavinga and Uruguayan pressing machine of Federico Valverde. If a move were to be made, all Madridistas would agree that the future of Real Madrid’s midfield would be in good hands.

RB Leipzig

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Since none of the previous options present the perfect opportunity for Aurélien Tchouaméni, we explore an outside of the box pick to be his next club. They may not have the full budget to make the move happen, but RB Leipzig could soon be without the likes of Konrad Laimer and Amadou Haidara if Europe’s elite are smart about their transfer business this summer. Another central midfielder should be on the cards, helping to provide stability to Kevin Kampl as he approaches his mid-thirties, or Tyler Adams as he grows into the game and learns his trade.

Tedesco has favoured a double pivot in his time at the club so far, floating in and out of a 3-4-2-1 to 3-4-1-2. The tough tackling, pressing machine in Konrad Laimer has been crucial to their success under the German manager, but Aurélien Tchouaméni would provide a noticeable upgrade on all of their other options – both in and out of possession. Providing more credence to the argument, Tchouaméni would play week in and week out for one of Europe’s elite clubs if a move were to be made to Leipzig, and instantly become a central hub in which the team can build their team around. The Bundesliga is already widely regarded as a safe-haven for young prospects to develop their game, and Tchouaméni’s physicality and desire to throw himself into challenges would immediately fit the transitional nature of the German game. Europe’s echelon of elite clubs should not let this move happen, but it would be a wise decision for all parties should Leipzig come in with an offer.

The Case for Monaco

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Rumours are swirling and every media outlet is preparing for his move elsewhere but in reality, does Aurélien Tchouaméni really need to leave? Monaco are on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League with a third place finish in Ligue 1 for the second season running. Further, he offers a balance in the midfield alongside Youssouf Fofana that allows the Monégasques to succeed, and would be staying at a club where is guaranteed to excel. In a similar vein to our Leipzig debate, Philippe Clement has built his Monaco side around Tchouaméni, making him a key figurehead in all phases of the game.

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Another couple of years at Stade Louis II and he could not only develop a strong relationship with the fans but earn himself a leadership role within the dressing room. Rather than this contest notion of progress and then regress, Monaco could finally build upon their squad from one season to the next, and make a claim to get back to the level they showed back in the days of Mbappe and Bernardo. With his contract up in 2024, Tchouaméni would have a natural exit in a few years, with only more clubs tracking his progress and desperately clamouring for his signature. Even if it’s just for one more year, AS Monaco will be doing everything in their power to keep hold of their star asset. For Tchouaméni, staying wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either.

Conclusion

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There are many options for Aurélien Tchouaméni to consider this summer and he certainly has the ability to take his talents to the top of the game. Surrounding his decision though, there is a lot of excitement and unfortunately, this also leads to unnecessary pressure. Going to the Premier League right now would be a risk worth considering, and the best way to continue his rapid growth could be best served in Germany. The lack of minutes at Liverpool and Real Madrid would be a concern for a man so clearly above the level of a rotation player, and United fail to provide a proper safety net for any new incoming player. Meanwhile, in his quest to continue to develop his game and play alongside some of the best in the world, RB Leipzig may provide the perfect landing spot. If Tedesco’s team can conjure up the funds to bring him to the Red Bull Arena, Tchouaméni could not only create a name for himself as one of the best in the game, but Leipzig would take one step closer to joining the group of European elites.


So there it is! Finding Aurélien Tchouaméni’s next club. Be sure to check out more from this series, and follow more of our Player Analyses, Transfer Market Analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also enjoy…
-> Finding Obite Evan Ndicka’s next club
-> Finding the next Fabinho – Tactical Analysis
-> Why Thiago has been Liverpool’s second best player this season
-> Why Declan Rice is perfect for Manchester United

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