Le50 2017 – Almamy Touré
Mali-born Almamy Touré has been on the fringes of the first team in Monaco for some time. Having emigrated to France at a young age, the young right back still remains a bit of an enigma. He was handed his first appearance with the reserves at just 15, and he made his first team debut at 18 in a Coupe de France match; following this, he made a surprise start against Arsenal in the Champions League just a few weeks later. The youngster was impressive against the Gunners in that match, but he has since struggled to make a significant impact on the first team, held up by a variety of injuries in 2015/16 and with the arrival of Djibril Sidibé last summer. Having missed more than a month last season with a hip injury, he will be chomping at the bit to improve his standing at the club, even as the presence of Sidibé means his path to the first team isn’t necessarily open.
Although a right back, Touré can also play centrally – his preferred position and most likely his ultimate destination as he becomes more experienced. He is superb with the ball at his feet, both at speed and in tight corners. Like many similarly-aged players, he can be guilty of relying on his speed, leading to the odd positional error, but this is a minor quibble, as he is already better in this regard than Sidibé. Touré is also, unlike most younger full-backs, exceptionally strong, standing six feet tall and physically powerful. This does allow him to atone for his defensive mistakes, but he is sometimes prone to the odd foul. He was booked three times in ten starts last season, but impressively didn’t see the referee’s notebook this campaign, so this aspect of his game is improving. His combination of pace, power and size make him a good threat at set pieces, and this also allows him to find pockets of space on the counter.
His crossing is still lacking at times, but that, too, has generally improved season-to-season, as evidenced by his five assists in the season just ended. He did fail to score in the league after three goals in 2015/16, but what is being asked of him is quite different this season, as Monaco have played with two strikers, leaving the full-backs tasked with maintaining width. This has the knock-on effect of limiting Touré’s opportunities to cut inside and with it the number of scoring chances with which he is presented.
It can be argued that the arrival of Sidibé could have been a huge roadblock for Touré’s development, just as he seemed set to take over from Andrea Raggi, who is now playing more at centre-back, and Fabinho, who has moved to central midfield. While that has been the case to some degree, Touré has taken things in his stride, and looks impressive when he has featured, such as during a lengthy absence on the part of the French international due to appendicitis. He remains unlikely to displace Sidibé on current form, but the French international’s versatility has also seen him switching to left back, something that could be reprised if Benjamin Mendy makes his exit this summer. In all, Touré finished the season with more appearances for Monaco this season than last, healthy progression when factoring in the arrival of Sidibé, and his stock has continued to improve as result.