Having impressed throughout his second half cameo in the Europa League vs. Ferencvaros, AS Monaco manager, Philippe Clement, rewarded Maghnes Akliouche with his first ever Ligue 1 start against Reims.
"He has proven in recent weeks in training that he deserves his chance. He had already made a good entry against Paris. Yet it's not easy, because there is a lot of competition in this sector of play. But he deserved to play tonight, and he was dangerous. He made the right choices offensively, bringing his technical quality, and also provided defensive efforts," explained his Belgian manager following the Ferencvaros loss.
"He is a player who can become very important for AS Monaco in the coming years. Even if you have to give him time, like all those young people starting out in pro, and who need to express themselves and gain experience."
The gifted youngster didn't disappoint when handed his chance from the outset too, repaying Clement's faith handsomely with an extremely encouraging outing from his nominal right wing station.
Looking unfazed and at home with the level, the 20-year-old played with a maturity and confidence that belies his tender years and experience.
Lively, bright and full of invention, Akliouche's talents with the ball at his feet were frequently evident. Blessed with razor sharp ball control and a crisp first touch, this provided him with a sound platform to threaten on the dribble.
So good in tight spaces and so aware of his surroundings, there was a lot to like about how he twisted and turned away from danger, adapted his body position depending on nearby opponents and where the space was and how he remained calm under pressure.
Proving resistant to Reims' best efforts to unsettle and dispossess him, the balanced midfielder's ability to outfox adversaries with slick cuts infield, smart shimmies, electric changes of pace and direction and his capacity to stop on a dime further underlined his wizardry.
Passing the ball in a measured, coherent fashion, he did a fine job of connecting and breathing life into Monaco's offensive forays. Comfortable in tight, densely populated zones, his neat combination play was very impressive, allowing him to link play superbly and get the ball into forward facing teammates.
Whether hitting tidy one and two touch passes, plus nifty layoffs, his aptitude here was key in unbalancing the Reims backline, with him moving the ball swiftly and incisively.
It was also important how he found teammates with line breaking passes, calculated through balls and useful crosses, as his wand of a left foot came up trumps on many occasions.
Bringing everything together with his movement, this elevated his game even higher. Granted permission to venture infield to occupy dangerous central positions, Akliouche caused constant headaches for the home team when doing so.
Able to join forces with the likes of Wissam Ben Yedder and Breel Embolo, being in close proximity to them ensured he could overload these areas, quickly combine with them or subtly rotate to compound issues for his foes.
In addition, they could also pin or draw defenders out to create space for one another or open passing lanes, thus generating gaps within Reims' rearguard to be exploited. The example below, where Embolo pins his marker, which acts as the cue for Akliouche to surge in behind, illustrates how effective their dovetailing was.
Choosing his moments wisely when to drop deep into midfield and in between the lines, the way he knitted together moves gave Les Monegasques some extra impetus when building out from the back.
While he predominantly occupied infield areas, he'd crucially mix things up by hugging the touchline so he could be isolated 1v1 and make room for his nearby fullback to underlap, plus when he'd embark on crafty runs in behind and into the box to pose as an extra option.
Also adept at evading opposition cover shadows, the way the probing Akliouche varied his positioning, which essentially saw him play as mix between a 10, a winger and a false nine, was another integral aspect of his accomplished 65 minutes of work.
By the numbers, his seven duels won, five touches inside the box, four crosses, four ball recoveries, two successful dribbles, two shot assists and 23 accurate passes (of 30 attempted) demonstrated his excellent day at the office.
When Clement was asked in his post-match comments about his display, he was full of praise for the youngster, who he's integrated expertly into the first-team, explaining: "I was very happy with him. He had a good game, being very available between the lines and doing the defensive work that I ask of the wingers. As I said before the game, he is stronger in the duels compared to last season. He dropped a bit in revs from the 50th, 60th minute, but that's normal. The body must get used to the effort. He is a player with a great future."
Eager to build on his nine appearances from last season and truly stamp his mark at his boyhood club, his encouraging start to the 2022/2023 crusade will be a massive boost to him.
Moreover, considering he chose to stay with the club who developed him amid interest from the likes of Lille, Real Sociedad, Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen, he'll be feeling content that he made the right decision.
Ultra talented and set for an exceptionally bright future, all the signs are promising that the sky's the limit for the exciting Akliouche if he can continue on his steady upward trajectory.