France has always been a nation creating footballing prodigies time after time. The Ligue 1 may not produce high-quality football like the Premier League or La Liga, and Paris Saint-Germain’s continuous dominance in the past decade has stolen the limelight of the other teams in the country, but every year we see several talented footballers making their mark in the league.
Aurelien Tchouameni was the latest French talent to seal a big-money move to the 14-time European champions, Real Madrid, and this year, a player of that caliber seems to be emerging from FC Lorient. A central midfielder by trade, Enzo Le Fee, at the age of 22, is already grabbing the headlines with his outstanding performances. This article discusses his profile, strengths, and the role he plays under Lorient’s new manager, Regis Le Bris.
Background and player profile
Enzo Le Fee began his footballing journey at the age of 5 in the youth academy of Keryado before moving to Lorient in 2008, when he was just 8 years old. He grew up in FC Lorient’s famous academy, where he also developed his technique and skills in the futsal courts. Le Fee made his debut for the club towards the end of the 2018/19 season against FC Sochaux in Ligue 2 but established himself in the first team under manager Christophe Pélissier in the following season.
Le Fee made 26 appearances (19 starts) in a campaign where Lorient finished 1st in the second division and returned to Ligue 1. After two years of improving his ability under the guidance of Pelissier, Le Fee has started this season with a bang under former Lorient academy coach Regis Le Bris. The 22-year-old is a regular in French under-21s and represented France in the Olympics last year.
During the Pelissier era, Le Fee was used behind the striker in the number 10 position, often positioning in between the lines before releasing passes to the runners from the wide areas. Lorient were defensive and had less possession under their previous manager, so Le Fee’s impact was minimal in his first season in the topflight. He has also played as a left midfielder when the Les Merlus lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, but it was clear that he was better centrally and in a deeper role.
The French midfielder is likened to Thiago and Verratti in terms of style of play. He is extremely skillful on the ball and positions himself in the second line, looking to drift into the spaces. Additionally, his ability to make line-breaking passes is excellent, and he also has a quick burst of acceleration which is useful for driving the team forward. For a player who is just 170 cm tall, Le Fee’s capacity to win duels against much bigger opponents are a notable feature as well.
Enzo Le Fee – Role under Regis Le Bris’ FC Lorient
FC Lorient are currently 3rd in Ligue 1 and just 5 points away from PSG. They also have the youngest squad in the league with the average age of the team being just 22 years and 174 days. So, they are punching above their weights at the moment and their form could well take a turn, but Le Bris’ side are certainly playing attractive and quick-flowing football that is easy on the eye.
Le Bris, like Pelissier, also employs a defensive style of football, but the difference is the current manager looks to play short and quick passes and likes to play out from the back. And Le Fee is at the heart of it as he is crucial for Lorient in terms of ball progression. Further, the Frenchman also has a huge influence on the final third. He has attempted the third most key passes (33) this season in Ligue 1.
In terms of position on the field, Le Fee plays in a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 formation and usually operates from the left half-space. But he is also given the freedom to roam around the pitch due to his marvelous ability in possession. Le Fee plays a pivotal role while Lorient looks to break quickly, as he often acts as the link between the defense and the attack. This is a critical reason the team scores plenty of goals despite having less of the ball.
The below passage of play is a perfect example of how Lorient utilizes Le Fee’s skills. They win the ball back from the opposition and the center-back quickly passes the ball to Le Fee, who receives it with his back to the goal. Lorient plays short and quick passes to drag their opponents and Le Fee threads an excellent through ball to the winger, who ultimately scores. As mentioned, the little Frenchman is central to linking the defense and attack before weaving his magic in the final third.
Additionally, as seen in the graph, his shot-creating action (the offensive actions directly leading to a shot, such as passes, dribbles, and drawing fouls) is especially high and states that he is one of the best youngsters in world football. His influence at Lorient during this campaign is illustrated by the number of touches he takes compared to last season. (47 touches per game in 2021/22, 79 touches per game in 2022/23)
When Lorient comes up against a team who allows them to have possession, Le Fee becomes central in finding passes through the blocks. He also likes to drop deeper in possession and receive the ball in the halfway line to switch the play with diagonal balls. This allows Lorient to stretch the pitch and use their wingers in a one versus one situation against the opposing fullback.
Le Fee’s close control, and his body feints are certainly Thiago-esque as he drags the opponent and creates a dilemma for his marker. He also likes to play quick give and go’s when outnumbered and this is where his sudden burst of acceleration helps. Combined with his solid dribbling ability (attempted the 5th most dribbles in Ligue 1 this season) he attracts opponents and creates space for others as well.
And not to forget his set-piece exploits. Le Fee is Lorient’s dead ball expert, and he has already scored a stunning free kick against Lyon this season. Having said that, the 22-year-old’s passing is undoubtedly his best attribute, and one could make a montage out of his through balls that lead to clear-cut chances for Lorient, especially in 2022.
Enzo Le Fée – Complete Midfielder pic.twitter.com/6zONl1Ja5R
— 27 (@189NlNE) October 18, 2022
While Le Fee thrives in attacking situations, he is also equally adept at winning the ball back and contesting for duels defensively. This is, of course, helped by the fact that Lorient set up in a low block against most oppositions, but Le Fee’s defensive stats are solid as well. He has won the most tackles in the middle of the pitch in the league (16), therefore setting the motion for Lorient to counterattack and is second in the league in terms of tackles won all over the pitch (27).
Moreover, he is surprisingly brilliant at winning duels. This part of his game has massively improved in the last three years and the numbers show it too. He won 5.1 duels per game last season with a 48 percent success rate, while he is already winning 8 duels per game this season with a 52 percent success rate. So, do not be surprised if he develops into a complete midfielder sooner than later.
Le Fée is showing his potential in both phases of play. His positioning and movements are excellent, and he seems in control throughout. He displays good tactical understanding and decision-making in terms of targeting and attacking the space. The Frenchman also has a good grasp of his role, and his ability looks to be paying off as he contributes in all areas of the pitch.
This season promises to be a defining one for Le Fee who, despite being just 22, has already made a name for himself among Europe’s best youngsters. A mature, sound, and consistent performer, he has shown no sign of fear and is slowly but surely making his mark this season. With his ability to be an all-round player, it is only a matter of time before big clubs come swooping in for the French talent.