After an electric start to the 2022 Canadian Premier League season, Diyaeddine Abzi has officially been transferred from York United all the way to Ligue 2’s Pau FC in France. After finishing 10th in Ligue 2 last season, Pau FC were in the market for reinforcements to their team, and Diyaeddine Abzi provides an excellent overall package to excel at his new club.
York United can celebrate knowing that they’ve played an important part in the development of an evidently talented footballer destined for the Canadian Men’s National Team. But they will also feel a sense of bitter regret that they couldn’t keep hold of their frilly-haired, expressive wing-back until the end of the campaign. Abzi has been York’s standout star so far this season, and currently ranks fifth inside our CANPL Player Ratings for the 2022 season – the top ranking defender. So with that, we examine why Pau FC took a chance on the Canadian youngster, and the potential for Abzi to excel at his new club.
Whilst covering ground as a capable 1v1 defender and strong-willed enforcer, Abzi excels in possession of the ball, and in attacking phases. Remaining a constant threat out wide as an up-and-down wing-back, Abzi is the main man that Martin Nash’s men funnel their play toward. The likes of Jordan Wilson, Dominick Zator and Noah Verhoeven will often float diagonal long passes into his direction as he holds the width out wide, where the frilly-haired wing-back can then go 1v1 against an opposition defender. He excels in tight spaces and wiggling his way out of trouble, but also frequently finds himself with acres of space due to his positional sense and ability to receive progressive passes down the line. Constantly looking to get beyond his marker and time his runs into space, the York defender generates much of his quality in the final third through intelligent positioning and timing.
He even understands moments where he can invert and make forceful underlapping runs instead of galloping on the overlap, particularly when Sebastian Gutierrez or another York left winger drifts into wide pockets instead of centrally. Abzi’s heatmap for the season so far showcases just how close he operates to the touchline in most circumstances, but how he will often drift inside to correspond with the movement of his mates.
As he advances into the opponent’s half, the York full-back will then often look for moments to cross the ball into the box, often from a deeper, less than advantageous position. This has led to many of his crosses being overhit, where he still lacks that refined technique to meet the head of his teammates with greater regularity.
Nevertheless, a 30% cross completion ratio still boasts well for the 23-year-old, as does his 2.1 key passes per game. Without Noah Verhoeven in the team, Abzi’s even been given set-piece duties, where his whipped delivery can become more cultured and purified. Just check out the precision by which he finds Osaze De Rosario in the box from his latest free kick, only to have the youngster thwarted by Nathan Ingham’s strong reflexes.
Beyond those set-piece deliveries, Abzi’s awareness of space in the final third has resulted in 1 goal and 2 assists in his 11 matches across all competitions, where his strikers could often do far better in bulging the back of the net to match his delivery. His quality is there for all to see…just watch this highlight video put out by the Canadian Premier League earlier today.
Abzi’s electric pace, and his constant willingness to drive his team on and create magic make him York’s most dangerous player and likely the main focus of any opposition report. For a fee of just €26,400, Abzi provides one of the greatest steals a Ligue 2 side could have possibly pulled off from the Canadian Premier League. He would have fit in well at any Major League Soccer side, particularly for the attacking gusto he provides in generating chances and receiving progressive passes for his team. A constant outlet on diagonal switches and an imposing fear factor, the 23-year-old could feature either as a full-back or wing-back for Pau FC, making him an incredibly useful option.
OUT OF POSSESSION
Whilst Abzi excels in attack, he also more than holds his own in the defensive side of the game. The York wing-back performs well in 1v1 situations, winning over 66% of his tackles this season and 55% of his duels, on 2.7 tackles per game. Defensively aware and sound enough positionally, Abzi will often angle his body in such a way that allows readiness for different types of passes, whilst inviting play into his opposite number (often the opposition’s right winger), where he backs himself to win the battle. In this sense, he will often hold his line and work to keep players off-side, allow the pass, and then immediately charge at the right winger upon their receival of the ball.
The former Futsal star possesses pace to burn and phenomenal strength to hold off speedy attackers, and will often make up for his lack of top tier positional sense by recovering with either a well-timed tackle or block. But often overzealous in stopping his opponent, Abzi also needs to refine his tackling. He’s been booked five times in nine Canadian Premier League appearances so far, causing him to earn a 1-match suspension – the only match he’s missed this season. While his intensive dribbling means he’ll always earn more fouls than he’ll give away, Abzi needs to be careful with his levels of aggression and eccentric spirit as he develops his game in France.
Finally, his adventurous mindset in attack means that a team like York or Pau FC have to adjust to his forward-thinking mentality, and provide enough cover in transition. York have generally achieved that feat through providing shuttlers in midfield that can cover ground out wide and break up the play immediately in transitional moments. Meanwhile, Abzi himself remains capable of recovering great distances in a short amount of time. As a result, this remains a side of his game that Pau FC can work to their advantage, so long as they provide the necessary cover in behind.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
All ends up, Pau FC have made an excellent addition to their team in signing one of the Canadian Premier League’s brightest talents. Diyaeddine Abzi should require little time to settle into his new team, and now has a full pre-season ahead of him before Ligue 2 kicks off. We will thoroughly miss watching a player of Abzi’s talent plying their trade in Canada, but hopefully this is a move that propels the 23-year-old’s career to new heights, one that earns himself that National Team call-up that he desperately deserves.
So there it is! A player analysis of Diyaeddine Abzi following his move to French Ligue 2 side Pau FC. Be sure to check out more of our CANPL content, Player Analyses, and follow on social media @desmondrhys to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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