Who is Morgan Amalfitano, Arsenal’s new target?

Morgan Amalfitano

We are getting to that time of the year when transfer rumors start flying around faster than Harry Potter books can fly off the bookstore shelves. And while the usual Ligue 1 big names are always mentioned, some of the smaller names get thrown into the discussion as well.

This year, that smaller name has to be Morgan Amalfitano.

At the beginning of this Ligue 1 season, Amalfitano was just another name to most football followers. And to those who followed France’s top flight, he was a good, solid player that could knock in a few goal as well as distribute the ball nicely throughout the pitch. Yes, he was a good player, but nothing really made him stand out as far as being a possible top target for major European football clubs.

Even in the first 16 matches of this season, Amalfitano wasn’t extremely flashy. Up front, Kevin Gameiro was leading the charge for Lorient. Along side him was Lynel Kitimbala, who played solid in the first third of the season. In addition, Lorient liked to play the ball along the left side of the pitch, utilizing Sigamary Diarra and Arnold Mvuemba, who proved to be valuable tools for Gameiro last year, along with Marama Vahirua, who is now at Nancy.

But around the 17th match of the season, something changed. Kitimbala wasn’t looking as good up front as he did the start of the season, as well as getting banged up a little. It looked as if manager Christian Gourcuff could be looking for other options up front. He switched around the line ups a few times, but Kitimbala, who was still getting the starts, was being substituted early in matches to offer up a change in strategy . In addition, Diarra was having an average season as well.

At this point, the plan of attack seemed to move from the left side to the right. Morgan Amalfitano has proven during his time at Lorient that he is a productive player, both in distributing and goal scoring. Therefore, Lorient seemed to shift their priorities. And boy did it pay off.

This was kind of a switch from what they had done in the past. Last year, the ball would make its way either through the center of the pitch when Lorient were in a fast-break counter attack mode, or along the left side of the pitch, where the system of Diarra-Vahirua-Gameiro would work wonders. In this system, Amalfitano would push up more, almost in a “back up” role to Gameiro if the ball were to be out of Gameiro’s reach (when he was playing in the attacking right midfield position).

Now, it seems as if Gourcuff isn’t afraid to use both sides of the pitch, giving Lorient less of a predictable approach to their offense, with Amalfitano being a key to that unpredictability. And with Amalfitano being more of a “north-south” roamer, he can drop back as easily as he can push forward. In addition, Gourcuff seems to allow Amalfitano to dribble the ball as well, which is extremely interesting considering Lorient like to do the one-touch passes to create a fast flowing match which benefits Gameiro.

Another positive that Amalfitano has is that he can play forward as well. While this isn’t his natural position, he has been able to show that he is just as beneficial in that position as he is in the midfield. The interesting point is that when Amalfitano is playing up front with Gameiro, he seems to be there solely as support for Gameiro. But while playing midfield, he will actually dribble the ball in and take a chance on goal himself. Therefore, the traditional roles of the two positions are basically switched in the case of Amalfitano.

These are just the details about his time at Lorient, but what about before his arrival to Brittany? He was first part of the youth program for AS Cannes. Mostly known for the film festival, Cannes is also known for bringing the world some of the best football players the world has seen. Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira, Gael Clichy, Julien Escude and Sebastien Frey as just a few of the names that have come from that team.

After his time at Cannes, he played for CS Sedan where, in 2004, he started showing his passing talent as well as being a disciplined player, which made him a target for Ligue 1 teams as soon as Sedan were relegated to Ligue 2. It wasn’t until his arrival at Lorient that Christian Gourcuff was able to unlock his goal scoring potential.

Therefore, for any European team that is looking for a good right midfielder or a right forward in a supporting role to a higher profile striker who might not have the support behind him currently, than Morgan Amalfitano is your man…and for cheap as well.

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3 Responses

  1. I wonder if he’ll be as effective away the “home-field advantage” that is the plastic PES-worthy Lorient pitch…

    How long is the grass at the Emirates? More importantly, how often does the ball roll along the surface in English volleyba– … i mean… football?

    He does have the skills and the versatility to play forward, but just from watching his more recent matches this year, he does needs a strike partner.

    Gameiro fits the mold, and the Kevin and Morgan show, along with the plastic terrain, give Lorient so much of an advantage, because the rest of the league besides Nancy play on real grass and have to go out of their way to practice on fast synthetic pitches.

    I mean, these fields are good for aging overweight guys like me who need an easy rolling surface to play 5-on-5 football in urban environments.

    For footballers like Amalfitano, it’s almost an unfair advantage given his talent and skills, but then again, this is entertainment, and people love to watch Barca and their short grass, fast passing, even with all the shameful dives and play-acting and injury-faking that comes along with it.

    Marouane’s coming along at Arsenal, probably because life at Bordeaux prepared him for English volleyball, but for a passer like Morgan who is so good at getting the ball to Kevin, who knows?

    He could spend the summer practicing on real grass fields and step-right in to be the distributor for the next Arsenal star, or he could just launch a few more long-balls in Marouane’s direction and hope for some goalmouth mix-ups.

    Either way, the guy is a talent that could do well or could be wasted in the EPL. You never really know. Jose Anigo said it best when he criticised the English League for ruining ambitious young players from Ligue 1. He said something like, “these guys arrive in England with the allure of big money, mansions, girls, and then they step onto the pitch and see the balls flying over their heads all the time when they’re used to kicking things along the surface in France.”

    Morgan in England?…. his agent will certainly go for it. Then again, it could also be a big waste of perfectly-good talent, considering Arsenal already has experienced midfielders (including a former Marseillais)

    M.A. could be riding the pine as a sub…

  2. In response to Amalfitano relying on sythetic pitches, the majority (3 out of 5) of Amalfitano’s Ligue 1 goals came away from home, therefore on real grass, while of his 12 assists, 7 came away from home. If you look at the statistics, Amalfitano has in fact been more productive on real grass pitches than synthetic ones. Those are facts.

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