Le50 2016: Clement Lenglet – AS Nancy
On paper, there can be few players with as exciting a potential as Nancy’s Clément Lenglet. At just 20 years of age, the central defender captains one of the biggest sides in Ligue 2 and his consistently strong performances in France’s second-tier have enabled him to become a regular feature in French international youth teams, in every age category from the U16s all the way up to the U21s. Having featured in over 50 first-team matches for his current side since his debut at 18, the Nancy number 2 is without a shadow of a doubt one of Ligue 2’s most intriguing prospects.
Watching Lenglet play, it is clear to see why he is such an exciting prospect. He has a level of composure when in possession that is way beyond his years, and this reassurance rubs off onto the rest of the Nancy backline. He is happy to deal with back-passes played towards him in his own final third, helping to take the pressure off the midfield. This calmness coupled with his cultured left foot has enabled him to develop into a centre-back whose technical ability allows him to push up into midfield and add to passing moves. Lenglet often delivers well-weighted long balls forward for the Nancy attack and in this regard he is a prize asset for Pablo Correa’s side.
As a result of his burgeoning reputation which has seen the likes of Juventus and Sevilla linked with his services, Lenglet is perhaps scrutinised more regularly and intensely than other players of his age in France. As a result, criticism has been levelled – fairly – at what what should be his primary role as a centre-back – his ability to defend. Despite being tall he has appeared at times to be slightly fragile in the air.
In a recent match against FC Metz, Lenglet was tasked with marking Christian Bekamenga and the younger player was often outmuscled by the imposing centre-forward. Questions have also been raised about his apparent lack of pace, with opposition sides often attempting to play ball in behind him for quicker strikers to run on to.
However, Lenglet is learning all the time and as a result he has been improving in the weaker aspects of his game. As a young man his physical development is continuing and the benefits of his added strength are gradually showing. Indeed Brest’s Simon Falette, a man who knows a thing or two about forceful defending, recently pointed Lenglet out as one of his favourite players in Ligue 2, describing him as a very rounded centre-back.
It is Lenglet’s natural intelligence and confidence that has enabled him to captain Nancy at such a young age, but these attributes should also allow him to overcome his apparent lack of pace with his innate positional sense and his ability to communicate effectively with his backline.
Nancy are blessed with an extremely strong squad, that includes the likes of Pape Diahkhaté, Modou Diagne and Michael Chrétien in its defensive ranks. It is a testament to Lenglet’s ability that he has become a permanent starter at such a young age in such a team. In the event of promotion, he will almost certainly adapt well to life in Ligue 1. However, holding on to him could be a difficult task for the club given his promise. A tall, intelligent and technically-gifted defender, Lenglet could be the next Laurent Koscielny.