When a cruciate ligament injury meant the Frenchman was out for eight months, the momentum that had prompted Didier Deschamps to summon Nabil Fékir for Les Bleus’ side had been lost.
For most of last season, Fekir struggled to recapture his form, with many asking if he could ever reclaim the heights that had set his early career ablaze.
However, he has answered the critics. With the departures of Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso in the summer, Fekir is now the Ligue 1’s undisputed star. He has netted sixteen goals already, flourishing as a deep-lying forward in Bruno Génésio’s 4-2-3-1 as Lyon sit level on points with Monaco in second.
The French club owner, Jean-Michel Aulas has made an art of rebuilding this Lyon team, and he might have to do it again in January. With Barcelona considering a move for Fekir as a cheaper alternative to Philippe Coutinho, Arsenal fans will be hoping that their club beat the La Liga giants to the signing of the France international.
But the questions remain, if he does sign for Arsenal, though, what would Nabil Fekir who’s odds-on to join Arsenal if reports bears fruit at all brings to the club? Let’s take a look at three things we think he might.
Goals, goals, goals
Playing behind Pedro Mariano, Nabil Fékir has been given the chance to turn and run at defence throughout the season, often with poor performances. With his effortless close control and nimble footwork, Lyon’s number 18 is able to commit and beat several defenders at once.
Fekir’s predatory instincts, meanwhile, were highlighted most obviously in a 3-3 draw with Bordeaux in August. Spotting Bordeaux’s goalkeeper off his line, he guided an effort over Benoit Costil’s head with his weaker foot – from the half-way line.
A loyal leader
With Lyon’s captain Maxime Gonalons and Alexandre Lacazette – the club vice-captain – both left in the summer, the Ligue 1 side faced a void of experience and leadership heading into the season. The player, however, was not a natural candidate to succeed the team.
Too often he had been peripheral in games, appearing not interested when things weren’t going his way. Génésio doubted his leadership credentials, experimenting with several captains in pre-season before appointing him on a full-time basis.
When he made the announcement, however, Lyon’s coach made his apprehension clear: “I expect that he will invest more and become more responsible in the group” he said. “He has to take over”.
His fierce brand of leadership was evidenced most plainly in a recent encounter against Saint Etienne where, after scoring the final goal in a 5-0 rout over their bitter rivals, he ran to the home supporters before taking off his shirt and holding it to the braying masses.
A move to North London would see one of French football’s most devastating partnerships rekindled. With PSG’s petrodollars flooding the league, Les Gones consoled themselves by admiring the performances of two players whose relationship blossomed on and off the pitch.
Cruelly, Arsene Wenger’s £54 million severed that bond. Fékir was magnanimous in the summer, admitting to French reporters that “we’re going to miss him [Lacazette] for sure. I really hope he flourishes at Arsenal”.
Come January, he might have a chance to help his former teammate do just that. With the futures of other stars at the club far from certain, their proven harmony would prove a wonderful boon for a club that so often seems lacking in cohesion.
Whether Fékir will prove his father’s prediction right, however, remains to be seen.