Presenter Joe Thomlinson has suggested that Julen Lopetegui should bring Rayan Ait-Nouri back into the Wolverhampton Wanderers starting lineup whilst Jonny Otto is suspended.
What’s going on with Ait-Nouri?
The Algerian left-back has made 26 appearances this season, but has not started any of Wolves’ last six league matches.
Jonny picked up a red card in their defeat to Leeds United and faces a suspension, and there is now hope that the 21-year-old will be selected to replace the Spaniard.
Speaking on Football Daily’s YouTube channel, Thomlinson praised Ait-Nouri’s talent by labelling him Wolves’ best under-21 product, and is excited to see him potentially return to the starting lineup.
He said: “Rayan Ait-Nouri is really highly rated. Manchester City were looking at this guy as a potential left-back option last season amongst Marc Cucurella, and I think we should have seen more.
“We haven’t really seen an awful lot of him under Julen Lopetegui, have we, which is a little bit of a surprise, but I think it’s two or three starts under Lopetegui in the Premier League – he’s obviously preferred Jonny, who is a little bit more solid in that position.
“Now, Jonny is banned – hopefully, we get to see a little bit more of Rayan Ait-Nouri, because I think he’s an extremely highly talented player.”
Should Ait-Nouri play more?
The £10k-per-week wonderkid has already made 77 appearances for the club since joining from Angers in 2020, despite having to compete with Jonny and Hugo Bueno.
His dribbling particularly stands out, ranking in the top 1% of fullbacks for successful take-ons in Europe’s top competitions over the past year as per FBref, whilst he also ranks highly for tackles and goals.
The stats suggest he is developing into a left-back who is strong on the ball and dangerous going forward, and this might be what attracted Manchester City last summer.
However, Jonny’s selection over him may be due to his senior’s defensive abilities. Ait-Nouri ranks in the bottom 1% of full-backs for blocks – a statistic where Jonny ranks in the top 6%. This stark difference may be what makes Jonny a more reliable pick for Lopetegui, and Ait-Nouri now has to wait for his chance.
The Spaniard’s suspension should mean Ait-Nouri slots straight into the side, and if he performs well, he could yet retain a regular starting spot ahead of the 29-year-old.
If Ait-Nouri can iron out the defensive deficiencies in his game, we agree that he can develop into an extremely well-rounded full-back.