Thomas Lemar could easily have been a Premier League player today. Back in the winter of 2018, his move to Arsenal or Liverpool fell through. Some months later, the Frenchman headed off to Spanish giants Atletico Madrid- a move worth €60 million. Since then though, Lemar’s career has only gone downhill.
A move to the Premier League could yet to be possible for the winger. Reports have been linking him with a move to Arsenal- two years after it was a distinct possibility. And perhaps, a move to England could help the Frenchman resurrect his lost career.
Since the move to Atleti in the summer of 2018, Lemar hasn’t exactly got going. Last season, he made a total of 31 appearances in La Liga for the Los Rojiblancos. While playing constantly as the club’s left winger in their trademark 4-4-2 shape, Lemar could get only two goals and three assists for the club.
In the Champions League, he made seven appearances for the club and got one assist only. This season hasn’t been too promising for him either.
He has made 21 appearances in all competitions for Atleti, failing to score or assist even once. He has played 947 minutes of first-team football, having started all four of the club’s La Liga games in as many outings.
That certainly is not a promising situation. But the problem does lie in how Atletico play. This is a player who was getting the freedom to play in an attacking system during his time at Monaco. Under Leonardo Jardim, he completed 1.5 dribbles per game in the 2016-17 season in Ligue 1. He had a tally of 2.2 key passes per game, scoring nine times and getting ten assists.
But since the Monaco exit, Lemar’s freedom has been bound to chains. He hasn’t been allowed to venture as much forward as he did in Jardim’s 4-4-2 system at Monaco. He is having to play deeper and in a more conservative system.
This season, Lemar is completing only 0.4 key passes per game, getting a tally of 1.1 dribbles per game. In fact, his passing stats have also come down. In the 2016-17 season, Lemar was completing 37 passes per game. But this season, that number stands at only 19- an example of how he needs a more attacking system to thrive.
This low productivity has seen his XG per 90 come down to 0.04 this season, with the XA per 90 at 0.03. In the 2016-17 season, these numbers stood at 0.22 and 0.30 respectively.
Atleti themselves have been hugely underperforming on their XG- an indication of how creative players are likely to underperform. They have underperformed by 10.79, having found the net only 22 times. It shows that attacking players might not be too encouraged to go to the Wanda Metropolitano.
As for the Premier League, they have a bunch of attacking managers. Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta comes from the lineage of Pep Guardiola, with Jurgen Klopp’s heavy-metal football making Liverpool the Champions of the World. These are teams that attacking players would like to play for.
Lemar needs a system in which he can get forward into advanced positions and get his feet talking. Arsenal, despite all their struggles have been overperforming on their XG by 0.26. And it is likely that this number will increase, as Arteta imposes his authority into this side.
Lemar is 24 and approaching the peak years of his career. He needs a move away from Atletico soon and Premier League clubs will be licking their lips.