Illan Meslier: Is he ready to make the step up?

With recent allegations of racism made against Kiko Casilla, a lengthy ban could be on the way if he is found to be guilty. This will present the chance for Illan Meslier to make his first team debut and get a run of games, with Kiko potentially missing up to 12 games. The 19 year old keeper, who is on loan from French second division side Lorient, is highly rated in his homeland. He has played for France U18’s, U19’s, U20’s and was recently called up to the French U21’s squad but didn’t make an appearance. Whilst at Lorient, Illan and the club turned down a move to AS Monaco who made a bid in excess of 10 million euros. This alerted interest from Chelsea, who were later given a transfer ban so any move to the premier league side was out of the question. Many associated with Lorient were surprised that Meslier made the move to Leeds United and expected that any move away from Lorient would be to a club playing in the top division in the given country.

When he joined Leeds United in the summer, I did a little bit of research to see what sort of player Leeds were getting. Last season he played 28 games for Lorient in the second division in France conceding 1.1 goals per game. Compare this to Kiko Casilla last season, who played 17 times and also conceded 1.1 goals per game. However Kiko made 2.1 saves per game compared to Illan Meslier who made 1.9 saves per game. In terms of distribution, both racked up impressive numbers, but Kiko edged it making 22 accurate passes per game (77%) whilst Meslier completed 19.1 passes per game (74%). As you can see from the example below, Illan is very impressive with his feet and has the capability to fit into Bielsa style of playing out from the back and using the keeper as part of the build up process.

At 19 and only having played one season in professional football, Meslier is still unproven and inexperienced. He made 3 errors leading to goals last season according SofaScore, which is a slight concern. From what I’ve seen of him this season for the under 23’s, there has been no sign of this however playing in front of 35,000 people compared to a couple of hundred for an under 23’s game is a totally new experience. Like previous mentioned, one of his main strengths is his ability with his feet and his distribution as whole. The first time I saw him play I could instantly see why Orta and co liked him and how he would fit into our team in the future. His passing is very good, the stats back that up but also his throwing is impressive. He can be a little bit eager at times to get the ball back in play but for the most part, no complaints.

During his first five possessional games, he kept a clean sheet in all of them. Off the field Illan is quite character but is very hard working according to his former France under 17s coach, Lionel Rouxel. He said in an interview with goal.com that his has a good focus and knows what he wants but still has areas to improve on:

“He still has details to improve on his positioning and his communication, but he’s doing well and I hope he’s going to be a good goalkeeper for the national team. “

Clearly Illan is highly regarded by many in France, he’s a good shot stopper, has excellent distribution but needs to improve on his positioning and communication. He is still very young and like all young players, consistency is key. However if required in the first team, I’m confident he can make the step up. On current form, Leeds United barely conceded shots on goal and have a much more organised defence this season which will be a big help for Illan. Casilla would be a loss if he was to be banned after an impressive start to the season and I’m sure Meslier would prefer to make an impact at Leeds in difference circumstances. We wait to see what happens regarding the allegations but if Meslier is required, he is more than capable. After all, look at how good Ben White has turned out after a summer of bashing Leeds decision to sell Pontus Jansson and replace him with a young lad who’s only played in league one and two. Trust the scouting.

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