Crystal Palace have announced Cheick Doucouré as their third addition of the summer, signing the midfielder from RC Lens for a fee of around €18m plus potential add-ons.
Welcome to the Palace, Cheick Doucouré ❤️💙#CPFC
– Crystal Palace FC (@CPFC) July 11, 2022
The 22-year-old Malian midfielder has enjoyed a strong season in Ligue 1, alongside Seko Fofana in the Lens engine room as his side moved to 7th, just four points off European football for the season.
But, for most Palace fans, pre-season will be the first chance they will have to watch their new signing in action, so what player have they really been rooting for?
At 22, Doucouré has plenty of time to rotate in whatever Crystal Palace see fit, but at Lens he primarily played as the more conservative option in a midfield two.
For the attacking French side, Doucouré was tasked with sitting deep, picking up the ball from the back three and finding either the wing-backs or fellow midfielder Seko Fofana, who was given too much freedom to move forward.
Unlike his teammate, however, Doucouré preferred to advance the ball with his pass rather than carry it directly, keeping his passing rate low. Last season, he averaged just 0.79 dribbles per completed 90 minutes, while he also attempted six “progressive passes”.
Helped somewhat by the style of play that Lens adopts, Doucouré manages 4.89 tackles and interceptions per match, slightly less than West Ham’s Declan Rice’s figure (5.06), and Arsenal’s Thomas Partey’s average (3.9) is more.
And Ligue 1 specialist Jeremy Smith believes the Mali international has all the tools to succeed in the Premier League.
“He’s always been appreciated but he’s always been a bit under the radar. He’s not a massive name, but he’s still only 22 and he’s got that experience, so I think it’s a good move,” he said. 101.
“Sometimes there are issues with the details and the position, but I think it’s the kind of position where you probably do it better with experience than anything else. I think it’s a good learning curve.”
How does he compare to Gallagher?
In short, they are very different players. Conor Gallagher became a fan favorite during his loan spell at Selhurst Park last summer, with his all-action style endearing himself to the south London faithful.
Doucouré can do the same, but in a very different way. He is less likely to come up with important goals (he has only 3 in 67 Ligue 1 matches), while as mentioned above he much prefers an important pass to a key dribble.
“I wouldn’t call it creativity,” Smith explained. “He’s a smart player who will free someone else so that player can find the key pass at that moment.”
Gallagher, on the other hand, was much more direct, and was given much more freedom than Doucouré was likely to be afforded by Patrick Vieira. Indeed, it is perhaps more appropriate to compare the Chelsea man to Seko Fofana, Doucouré’s former team-mate, the Mali international, with the Englishman taking plenty of shots and doing most of his best work around the penalty area, as him shows the handles in the box.
As Smith explains, “He doesn’t seem to have that much interest in being involved in attacks or anything like that, and I think he could still be a good outside defensive midfielder or continue in that more box-to-box role.
Doucouré may find himself better suited to Gallagher for a double pivot, and a deeper role, which may require another body forward or system shift to accommodate him.
However, Smith believes that changing his style of play shouldn’t be too difficult for Doucouré, who has already played in a number of systems, including the 3-at-the-back style that Lens uses.
“He has sometimes found himself playing alone in a 3-1-4-2, or he can play in a midfield of two, so I think he has already adapted to different systems.”
Indeed, Smith sees more of ex-Brighton man Yves Bissouma in Doucouré than making another Gallagher.
“It might seem like a lazy combination just because they’re both Malians, but it’s a bit like Yves Bissouma whose role at the moment is somewhere between a defensive midfielder and a right box,” he said. 101.
“I think he has the ability to push a little bit more, but at the moment he’s showing that he can do a little bit of everything, and it’s just a case of maybe finding that one position.”
Should Palace fans be excited?
Judging by the stats, and those he watched regularly throughout last season’s Ligue 1 campaign, it certainly seems so.
“Doucouré is a quality player who I think if he develops as he is, he can make it into a top 6 team”, claimed our expert.
“You can’t say for sure up front, but everything about Doucouré says he has the engine to do it in the Premier League.”
If he does, Palace will have a top player on their hands, and could fight off interest from bigger clubs in a few years.
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|5||Brighton & Hove Albion||0||0||0|
|19||West Ham United||0||0||0|
|Salah, Muhammad||Liverpool FC||23|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur||23|
|Ronaldo, Cristiano||Manchester United||18|
|Kane, Harry||Tottenham Hotspur||17|
|Wait, Sadio||Liverpool FC||16|
|De Bruyne, Kevin||Manchester City||15|
|Jota, Diogo||Liverpool FC||15|
|Vardy, Jamie||Leicester City||15|
|Zaha, Wilfried||Crystal Palace||14|
|Sterling, Raheem||Manchester City||13|
|Bowen, Jarrod||West Ham United||12|
|Maddison, James||Leicester City||12|
|Toney, Ivan||Brentford FC||12|
|Mountain, Mason||Chelsea FC||11|
|Saka, Bukayo||Arsenal FC||11|
|Mahrez, Riyadh||Manchester City||11|
|Pukki, Teemu||Norwich City||11|
|Watkins, Ollie||Aston Villa||11|
|The player||Com||Red Cards||Yellow Cards|
|Mings, Tyrone||Aston Villa||0||11|
|Xhaka, Granit||Arsenal FC||1||10|
|Tarkowski, James||Burnley FC||0||11|
|Firpo, Junior||Leeds United||0||11|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United||0||10|
|Gallagher, Conor||Crystal Palace||0||10|
|Brownhill, Josh||Burnley FC||0||10|
|Bednarek, Jan||Southampton FC||0||10|
|Bissouma, Yves||Brighton & Hove Albion||0||10|
|Moreno, Rodrigo||Leeds United||0||9|
|Neves, Ruben||Wolverhampton Wanderers||0||9|
|Romeu, Oriol||Southampton FC||0||9|
|Rudiger, Antonio||Chelsea FC||0||9|
|McTominay, Scott||Manchester United||0||9|
|Salisu, Muhammad||Southampton FC||0||8|
|Ronaldo, Cristiano||Manchester United||0||8|
|Toney, Ivan||Brentford FC||0||8|
|Dennis, Emmanuel||Watford FC||0||7|
|Pogba, Paul||Manchester United||1||7|
|The player||Com||It helps|
|Salah, Muhammad||Liverpool FC||13|
|Alexander-Arnold, Trent||Liverpool FC||12|
|Barnes, Harvey||Leicester City||11|
|Kane, Harry||Tottenham Hotspur||10|
|Bowen, Jarrod||West Ham United||10|
|Mountain, Mason||Chelsea FC||10|
|Robertson, Andy||Liverpool FC||10|
|Maddison, James||Leicester City||9|
|James, Reece||Chelsea FC||9|
|Pogba, Paul||Manchester United||9|
|Cancelo, Joao||Manchester City||9|
|De Bruyne, Kevin||Manchester City||8|
|Jesus, Gabriel||Manchester City||8|
|Kulusevski, Dejan||Tottenham Hotspur||8|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur||7|
|Saka, Bukayo||Arsenal FC||7|
|Antonio, Michael||West Ham United||7|
|Lacazette, Alexandre||Arsenal FC||7|
|Mbeumo, Bryan||Brentford FC||7|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United||6|