Le50 2016: Marcus Coco – EA Guingamp
It was nearly the moment that Marcus Coco needed this season, but it ended up finishing as a move that captures the frustrating season the 19-year-old has had at EA Guingamp.
Within the opening seconds of the Breton derby game against Stade Rennais at Roazhon Park, Coco, playing upfront beside Jimmy Briand, is put through on goal, made possible due to his upper-body strength and pace – but his shot was weak and lacked a clinical edge.
He has admitted himself that he needs to become more clinical, but in just his second season in Ligue 1, he definitely has time to learn – it is perhaps a testament to his incredible rise up the ranks that he would already be critical of his own position.
Up until 2013, Coco was playing his football in the amateur divisions in Paris – first with JA Drancy and then AS Jeunesse Aubervilliers. Guingamp then signed him into their youth set-up, just a year after he left Guadeloupe to pursue his goal.
“Marcus is a real nice surprise, because when he arrived three years ago from Paris, we originally tested him as a defensive midfielder,” admitted namesake Michel Coco, former Guingamp player and now coach of the B team. “But we saw his potential and that he had been badly advised on his position on a team. He has the natural qualities, the explosion of a wide player, not someone who wins the ball.”
Coco made his debut during the 2014/15 season, starting against Bordeaux in Week 23. He would play twice again, but wouldn’t feature in the first three games of the new campaign.
Opportunities would come his way though. Guingamp had lost both Christophe Mandanne and Claudio Beauvue in the summer, taking away 28 goals scored from the starting line-up.
Jocelyn Gourvennec looked toward Jimmy Briand and Sloan Privat to carry the burden of the forwards, but in Coco he recognised that he had a player with an exciting future.
“He is relentless and extremely attentive. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will be able to hurt any defender,” said his coach, and in his first start of the season against Marseille, the youngster would battle well against Benjamin Mendy.
The OM left-back is one of France’s strongest and quickest wide players, he may not be known for his defensive duties, but you know you are up for a battle. Coco took that in his stride and caught the eye.
He challenged Mendy in the air, stopped the full-back getting forward and tried to get forward himself when he could. That performance was similar to his shift in the recent Breton derby. He ran himself into the ground, playing his role in a vital away win, but ultimately he would have loved to have been part of the success in a more tangible way.
This season, Coco has only managed a single goal and assist in 17 starts and nine appearances from the bench. One wants to see more from him in the final third and that development will be what makes or breaks his career.
Playing under Gourvennec, the teenager is in the right place to grow and flourish. He only has to look at the development of Beauvue to show what is possible under the coach’s guidance.
One can see similarities between the two players. Against Rennes, Coco played beside Briand in Guingamp’s 4-4-2. He made some excellent runs in behind, but his link-up play was lacking at times. This will take an increased understanding with his partner and better understanding of the role.
He looks instantly more comfortable with the ball in front of him, when he is able to run into space, drive at defenders and use the pace and power he possesses in the areas where he feels he can make a difference.
When wide, he doesn’t rush the cross, he waits for the right moment, gets his head up and tries to use the ball properly. Perhaps Coco can follow Beauvue’s example and transition from a wide player to a pacy forward, but to do that he will need to add goals to his game.
Coco’s rise to prominence hasn’t gone unnoticed, seeing him pick up two caps for France’s under-21s. He may feel a little homesick after leaving Guadeloupe three years ago, but driven by success and progression, his career is definitely on the right path to make his birth-country proud.