Le50 2016: Zinédine Machach – Toulouse FC
In most sports, when you are struggling for results or the situation becomes tough, coaches tend to lean on experience – not at Toulouse this season. Feeling the pressure, Dominique Arribage, before he was eventually sacked, turned to youth in order to save their ailing season.
Although he played in the final game of last season, it is in this campaign that Zinédine Machach has become a first-team regular, where he has now been joined in Le Téfécé’s youth spine by Issa Diop and Alban Lafont.
It was in Week 10 that the Marseille-born midfielder came off the bench for the first time this term as Toulouse lost 2-1 at home to Angers. Two weeks later he would earn a starting spot and rewarded Arribage by scoring an equaliser for the home side in the 1-1 draw against Montpellier.
Hovering about 20 yards out on the left side of the box, Machach picked up the loose ball and took a touch before firing a powerful right-foot shot beyond Laurent Pionnier. It was a superb way for the then 19-year-old to announce himself to the home fans – although his first name and the comparisons it undoubtedly brings had already made him an intriguing prospect at the Stade Municipal.
That goal would spark a run of starts in the first team: named in the line-up nine times in the next 10 games, he really started to do the name justice – yes, he was named after the French World Cup hero. Playing on the left of a midfield diamond, he might not have the direct pace to play as a winger, but he comes alive once he gets on the ball.
He can drift past players with his acceleration and close control, but he tries to keep his head up and spread the play. His strong upper-body helps him protect the ball well against faster players. Machach is deceptively tall for someone who is just over six foot.
Starting against Lille in Week 19, Machach picked up his fourth booking in seven games and Arribage had some words of wisdom for the youngster. “The coach told me I need to calm down a bit, but it’s better that I am aggressive than not at all,” said Machach. “It went well, I gained a lot of confidence,”
The coach, who was let go and replaced by Pascal Dupraz in March, was well aware of what the 20-year-old brought to the club and recognised that because of his style he always plays on the edge, but that he brought something to the pitch that the team lacked.
“Zinédine still has a lot of room for improvement, in terms of control and accuracy in the final third. That will come, he is already able to make a big difference.”
The dismissal of Arribage led to TFC gaining a glimmer of hope that they could survive in Ligue 1, but along with Brazilian defender Matheus, Machach has been a victim of the new regime. He had made 16 appearances with 10 starts, but the last minute he played came off the bench in their 2-1 defeat to Rennes at the end of February.
Apparently, Dupraz is less than convinced by the youngster following his first few training sessions. Machach has been moved to the CFA side and didn’t quite help his case, handed a straight red against Villenave-d’Ornon after just 25 minutes.
Adding this to the fact he missed the first four Ligue 1 games of the season after picking up a red card for the Under-19s, there are reasons to have caution.
Although he has not been called up for any of the France youth teams to date, Algeria and Morocco have made their interests known. It’s a difficult decision, but the player is keeping his cards close to his chest: “for now, I’m focusing on my club.”
Similar to Zidane in the fact that he obviously has talent mixed with temper issues, the player needs to address his attitude first, then he’ll have a case to force Dupraz into handing him a future role in this team.
Arribage called him a “unique player”, but now the midfielder has to prove himself to a new boss if he is ever going to have a chance of living up to the name and the pressure that his parents bestowed on him.