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06 Jul 2018

Who is Newcastle, Tottenham & West Ham target Alassane Plea?

Who is Newcastle, Tottenham & West Ham target Alassane
Plea?

All three clubs have been linked with a £27 million move for the Nice forward.

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Plea in history

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A winger/striker hybrid

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Key strengths

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Weaknesses

(Photo credit: Richard Humphrey)

The transfer market has been quiet. Too quiet.

Perhaps due to the World Cup dominating the back pages, transfers have seemingly taken a backseat to the dramatic action in Russia, but that hasn't stopped the rumour mill from churning out potential moves, the latest of which is Premier League interest in Nice forward Alassane Plea.

New Nice boss Patrick Vieira has expressed his desire to keep hold of the 25-year-old, but Plea has nonetheless been linked with Tottenham, Newcastle and West Ham.

Sky Sports reported that the Magpies have had a £27 million bid rejected by Nice, with the Hammers, too, making an offer of the same value.

But just who is the Nice forward attracting all the attention?

Plea in history

Beginning his career at Lyon, Plea made just seven senior appearances since his debut in 2012 before a move to fellow Ligue 1 side Nice, where he has resided since 2014 - following a loan spell at Auxerre, where he made a further 15 first team appearances.

Plea, though, has been steadily improving year-on-year with Nice, having scored three, six, eleven and, most recently, 16 goals in the French top-flight.

2016/17 was, perhaps, the season with the most potential, with a February 2017 knee injury keeping him out for five months at which point he was Nice's top league scorer (11) and fifth in the league's overall scoring charts.

A winger/striker hybrid

Given the new hybrid mould of winger, Plea is certainly desirable given his ability to play both on the left flank (LW) and through the middle (ST), effectively killing two birds with one stone.

ST  LW
Apps2516
Goals137
Assists42

Plea's record from 2017/18 - as above - is impressive, with the forward netting 21 times in all competitions. 16 goals in Ligue 1 was enough for him to reside tenth in the overall league scoring charts - scoring two less than teammate Mario Balotelli - whilst he also scored four goals in the Europa League.

KEY STAT: Plea contributed to a goal (scored or assisted) every 1.47 games as a striker, and every 1.78 games as a left winger.

What's noticeable, though, is that Plea is most effective playing through the middle as a striker. Although he made nine more appearances than as a left winger, he scored nearly double as many goals and made twice the number of assists.

Key strengths

As his goal-scoring record suggests, Plea is more than competent in front of goal, whether that be through the middle or cutting in from the left.

Long shots

From the flank, however, Plea's tendency is to cut inside and release a fierce long shot, and this is a particular strength of his, denoted by the fact that all three of his goals from outside the box in Ligue 1 came whilst playing as a left winger.

He scored only once from outside of the box as a striker, in the Europa League. This demonstrates Plea's long shot ability, though this isn't to the detriment of his close-quarters finishing, as 80% of goals came within the penalty area.

Hold-up play

Measuring under six foot tall, Plea's strength is not in the air, but what's important for any striker is to be able to hold the ball up and bring others into play. This is another area in which Plea is strong, with his ability to both pass and retain the ball under pressure.

For example, Plea successfully completed 80.8% of his passes across all competitions, whilst he was both dispossessed (1.7) and unsuccessfully controlled the ball (1.8) less than twice per game on both accounts.

For context, Newcastle forward Ayoze Perez mis-controlled the ball 2.4 times per game.

Dribbling

If put under pressure, Plea likes to dribble his way out of trouble if he can't find a teammate in support. This is supported by the fact that he completed 1.8 dribbles per game in all competitions in 2017/18.

Comparatively, this is better than West Ham's Andy Carroll and Javier Hernandez and Newcastle's Perez, Dwight Gayle and Joselu. Plea's record, though, are somewhat embellished by his appearances as a winger.

Weaknesses

Plea is a small striker, standing at under six foot, which means his strength is on the ground, as opposed to the air, denoted by the fact that he won less than one aerial duel (0.7) per game in all competitions.

As expected, this is a worse record than Carroll (4.6) and Joselu (4.8), but the same as Arnautovic (0.7) and better than Hernandez (0.5).

Therefore, Plea perhaps wouldn't be the best fit for Newcastle, given Rafael Benitez propensity for counter-attacking football and the subsequent need for an aerially dominate striker to challenge for long balls.

For the Hammers, however, Plea could fit Manuel Pellegrini's new attacking style of football well, given his preference to play the ball to feet on the ground.

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