Randal Kolo Muani – Player Report

Randal Kolo Muani is a 22 year old centre forward who is coming off the back of his breakout season with FC Nantes‘ first team, as he made 37 appearances in Ligue 1 over the course of the 2020/21 season. Having joined the club’s youth set up at the age of 16, Kolo Muani was a regular for the FC Nantes second string before signing his first professional contract in 2018. Following a couple of cameo appearances for the first team, he was loaned out to US Boulogne in the French third division and upon his return to Nantes became a first team regular during the last campaign, featuring in all but one of the team’s league fixtures.

Kolo Muani has represented France at under 21 level on several occasions, and he has also been called up to the France Olympic football squad for the Tokyo Olympics which are due to start later this month as of when this article is being written. The strength in depth of the French U21 squad makes a call up quite impressive and stands him in good stead moving forward. The striker is of Congolese descent, which could perhaps make him eligible for international selection from the Democratic Republic of Congo in future, though his recent outings as a French youth international may show where his priorities lie.

As mentioned earlier, Kolo Muani signed his first professional contract in 2018, and his current deal is due to expire in the summer of 2022. This may well worry FC Nantes, who would likely be keen to retain his services, whilst the situation may also alert other clubs to his potential availability. Since breaking into the first team set-up at Nantes and becoming an almost ever present over the course of last season, the forward’s market value has likely increased greatly and it will be interesting to see what unfolds in the near future.

Kolo Muani in action for France U21’s.

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 05/12/1998
  • Current Club: FC Nantes
  • Career: US Torcy (Y), FC Nantes, US Boulogne (L)
  • Position: Striker
  • Secondary Position: Right Wing
  • Preferred foot: Right

Physical

Kolo Muani is an imposing physical presence and a good athlete. The 6’2 striker has a fairly large frame and a strong build that allows him to compete in shoulder to shoulder duels and shrug off challenges from defenders. He uses his body well to cause problems for opponents, knocking them off balance and ensuring they’re aware of his presence and physicality. His height and build also allow him to pose an aerial threat and challenge for long balls adequately, and he possesses an impressive leap which allows him to better compete in the air.

He also retains a decent burst of acceleration and can reach high speeds when he gets into full stride. The striker is not the most agile when changing direction, and can appear quite clumsy on occasion, but he’s able to roll defenders well using his strong build and burst of pace, and he moves well for quite a large unit. Kolo Muani works hard for his side to close down defenders or make runs into channels, whilst he saw out the full 90 minutes in 22 of his 35 Ligue 1 starts.

Technical

Kolo Muani remains quite raw with respect to his technical ability in possession, but does show promising signs that he has a good platform to build upon. The French youth international does possess the ability to effectively receive the ball under pressure or on the turn, however, consistency can be an issue for him in this area, too often letting his first touch get away from him to lose the ball or put him under immediate pressure. He was only able to successfully receive 50.9% of the passes that were intended for him last season, which is a low figure that indicates a weakness in his ball retention ability, especially when playing as a lone striker (however, it’s worth noting that as a lone striker he often received the ball already under a great deal of pressure and often isolated from his teammates).

Although he may have his difficulties with getting the ball under his spell initially, Kolo Muani is one of those players that is very difficult to stop once he gets going with the ball at his feet. His powerful strides and actually quite impressive close control when dribbling at opponents can cause many issues for defenders, and he ranks in the 80th percentile for dribbles completed per 90 amongst strikers from the top five European leagues, and in the 77th percentile for progressive carries. This ability to drive his team up the pitch and deep into the opposition half was invaluable for Nantes at times last season, where he was able to relieve pressure and put his team on the front foot.

Kolo Muani has improved at playing with his back to goal. As mentioned earlier, he has work to do with ball retention, but his passing is becoming more accurate and decisive. As the lone striker, part of his role was to bring others into play and hold up the ball before finding a pass to a midfielder or winger, which he showed he was capable of handling. His pass completion rate of just 68.4% last season would indicate that there remains further room for improvement, yet there is the caveat that his team was often under pressure last term, which resulted in him frequently receiving the ball under a great deal of pressure. The Frenchman is primarily right footed, and made 75% of his attempted passes with his stronger side last term.

As well as posing a goal threat, he is also capable of turning provider. Kolo Muani registered 4 assists last season, underperforming his xA of 6.1 (which ranks in the 78th percentile amongst strikers from across Europe). He perhaps does not possess the greatest levels of vision, however, he is capable of being very direct with the ball at his feet, forcing defenders to commit before getting a shot off or finding a teammate with a cut back or short pass. His ability to draw defenders towards him can create openings and space for his teammates to move into and this all contributed to him instigating 2.6 shot creating actions per 90 in Ligue 1 last year.

As stated at the start of this section, Kolo Muani remains quite raw and inexperienced, and this can be seen in his game at times. His decision making is certainly one of the areas that requires improvement over the coming seasons, and it is a part of his game that will take him to the next level as he continues to develop it. When baring down on the opposition backline, he can often try to make a pass that isn’t on, or try to take on a defender when a pass to a teammate would be a better option. His final ball is where this is most evident, as he will do the hard work of beating a defender or covering the ground to get into a promising area, but will then pull the trigger too soon or try to overcomplicate matters. His goals last season mostly came from first time finishes when latching onto a loose ball or cut back, and this is an area he should really be looking to take to the next level in order to increase his goal tally.

Kolo Muani’s shot map from the 20/21 season with FC Nantes (Courtesy of understat.com)

He underperformed his xG last season, scoring 9 from 10.5 xG, illustrating that there is some work to do in front of goal, whilst he only ranked in the 16th percentile for shots attempted per 90, which will be due to him playing in a bottom half team, but also due to his tendency to overcomplicate opportunities. However, by finding the back of the net on 9 occasions in Ligue 1 last season, Kolo Muani has proven that he does possess a killer instinct, which is a vital attribute for a striker, and also something which is not easily coached. The 22 year old must now refine his ability and decision making to realise his potential as a goalscorer, and some individual coaching in this area would not go amiss to act as a catalyst for his development.

Randal Kolo Muani does possess impressive technical ability in some areas, certainly when he gets going with the ball at his feet he is very difficult to stop and he can force defenders to commit to a challenge. Whilst he also demonstrated last season that he is capable of providing a threat to goal and can turn provider when necessary. However, there are several areas of his game that could be improved upon as his development continues. His decision making in the final third is an obvious area, whilst the 22 year old must look to improve his ball retention in order to relieve pressure on his team and allow them to progress up the pitch. These ‘weaknesses’ are also a reason to be excited about Kolo Muani’s future, as despite being far from the finished product, he was able to contribute effectively for his team, scoring 9 and assisting 4 in the French top flight for a struggling side.

Tactical

Kolo Muani played almost constantly as a out and out striker for FC Nantes last season, aside from a couple of brief cameos out wide or as a slightly deeper forward. He was primarily deployed as a lone striker, being asked to either run the channels and latch onto long balls or to play with his back to goal and hold up the ball for his team. This was a difficult task for the striker as his team had the lowest average possession in Ligue 1 and lowest pass accuracy, so often he was being asked to do a lot of running and when Nantes did get the ball up to him, he was sometimes left isolated.

Although he is capable of playing this role effectively and bringing others into play whilst causing problems for the opposition defence on his own, like every striker, he is more effective when given the necessary support that creates space for himself and others. He was able to strike a productive partnership with Ludovic Blas at stages, as the midfielder would make runs beyond him or offer a short option that allowed Kolo Muani to retain possession. Furthermore, the striker enjoyed his best spell in front of goal towards the end of the season (four goals and an assist in the final three games of the regular season), when he was playing in a strike partnership with 6’6 target man Kalifa Coulibaly, as this freed up Kolo Muani to drift onto the full backs or make runs in behind, rather than having to operate as the main focal point of the team.

When playing as the lone striker, he was required to remain central in order to act as the point of the team’s attack, and in this respect he was quite a traditional number nine whose role was to hold up the ball and then get into the penalty area to attack crosses. Whilst in a pairing he was given more freedom to roam, and he would often pull off towards the back post where he could evade the attention of the central defenders and attack flick-ons or crosses. He was also then able to drop deeper or drift wide in order to pick up the ball and drive with it towards the opposition penalty area, and this is where he can be very difficult to stop.

Kolo Muani’s movement is intelligent and allows him to attack space in the penalty area. He times his runs well to attack dangerous zones in the final third, often delaying his runs until the last second where he is able to get a run on the defenders and carry his momentum when attacking crosses or cut backs. He frequently pulls off the shoulder of the defender, just out of sight, before making a darting run in front the centre back in order to get to the ball first, before utilising his first time finishing skills to find the back of the net (see below).

Kolo Muani gets across his man before slotting home at the front post.

Kolo Muani also displays good levels of defensive awareness, something that was very important for his team last season due to their lack of possession. He uses his height and build well to attack defensive set pieces and prevent any danger, whilst during open play, he cuts passing lanes effectively and applies pressure to his opponent where possible. He ranks in the 88th percentile amongst forwards for interceptions and in the 73rd percentile for tackles won. He uses his strength and speed effectively to close down defenders and force them backwards or into a mistake, although he can be a little clumsy at times, committing 1.9 fouls per 90 when battling for possession. He does put in the hard yards for his team and covers a lot of ground out of possession, a valuable asset and attitude to have, especially when playing as a lone striker.

Psychological

Despite not appearing to work that hard (perhaps due to his height and build that can make him look quite lethargic) Kolo Muani’s attitude and application are both impressive. He covers a lot of ground and continually makes runs into the channels or challenges for possession with defenders. He is not afraid to use his physicality when required and shows controlled levels of aggression, rarely showing much emotion. He uses his body intelligently to protect the ball, but as mentioned earlier, there is plenty of room for improvement with regards to his decision making.

In front of goal, he almost seems more effective when he must react instinctively or hit the ball first time, whereas when he has too much time he has a tendency to overthink situations and allow the opportunity to pass him by. Rather than scoring or assisting consistently during the course of the season, the Frenchman went through three main patches of good form, that were interspersed with quite barren spells, for example, the goal shown earlier was his first in 12 matches. So in that regard, you could say that he is a confidence player who scores in patches, but for his first full season in the French top flight, that is to be expected. The 22 year old’s understanding of the game will likely improve with age, as will his decision making and ball retention, but these are the main areas that he should look to develop.

The Future?

Having just broken into the first team at Nantes, and quickly established himself in the starting eleven, as well as scoring one of the vital goals that saw them win their relegation play-off with Toulouse, Kolo Muani’s confidence should be high heading into the new season. Aside from some promotions from the youth set up, FC Nantes have not brought any more strikers into the club as of yet, and with Coulibaly and Kolo Muani forming a good partnership towards the end of the season under new manager Kombouaré, the young striker has no reason to think he won’t be involved in the starting eleven once again in the coming season.

Throughout this article, it has been made clear that despite his talent and ability, there are areas of Kolo Muani’s game that will require improvement as he develops further, but his ambition for the coming season should be to kick on from where he left off at the end of the last campaign, and try to get as many minutes as possible in order to continue improving whilst hopefully continuing to get his name on the scoresheet to build his confidence.

However, Kolo Muani does now have less than a year to run on his contract with Nantes. French football in general has struggled through the pandemic, and the reign of Waldemar Kita as owner of the club has not been a pleasant one of late, with many fans calling for an end to his involvement with the club. As a result of this situation, there is a possibility that Kolo Muani may well attract interest from suitors before the end of the transfer window. Despite The Athletic reporting that Kolo Muani would like to see out his current contract, Premier League sides such as Southampton, Crystal Palace and Watford are said to hold an interest, whilst in Europe, there is reported interest from German clubs Bayer Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig.

Therefore, should an offer come in for the young striker, FC Nantes may find his head turned and the money too important to turn down in the current French football financial climate. Transfermarkt.co.uk value the Frenchman at £8.1 million, and although of course this may not be accurate, it seems a fair figure for the striker should there be concrete interest.

Personally, I think a move to the Bundesliga would suit him more than the Premier League at this stage of his career. His physical nature and ability to drive with the ball would suit the German first division whilst it may be a slightly more forgiving environment in terms of his ball retention, however, that’s not to say that I don’t think he would be a good addition for a Premier League side, and with the right coaching he could certainly be a success.

Closing Thoughts

In addition to Kolo Muani, FC Nantes have some other impressive young footballers on their books and they recently parted company with one of them in Imrân Louza who made the jump to the Premier League with Watford, whilst talented winger Ludovic Blas, who remains at the club for now, enjoyed one of his most productive seasons last year. Including this piece, I have now written detailed reports on all three of the aforementioned players, and I believe all three have the capability to play at very high levels in their careers.

I chose to write about Kolo Muani as he is an intriguing prospect. When I first watched him, I thought he looked very clumsy, but upon further observation, there are several areas of his game that can make him a real threat and handful for defenders. At just 22, he is someway off the normal age that strikers enter their prime, and as he irons out some issues in his game, he could become an impressive forward and a valuable asset wherever he ends up.

Statistics and player information from TransfermarktWhoScored and Fbref.

1 comment

  1. I was gutted when he had what would’ve been his first career goal disallowed for offside by the narrowest of margins in two matches early in the season. He kept going though and made some good contributions to our miraculous survival. Hopefully he and the club can kick on next season. Paul… married to a Nantes lady!

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