In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Vålerenga’s 21-year-old winger Osame Sahraoui
Sahraoui burst onto the scene during the COVID hit season of 2020. He had been earmarked for success with some eye-catching displays in the build-up to the campaign and he duly delivered as a 19-year-old in the Eliteserien. His first full season at Vålerenga yielded 5 goals and 7 assists. He racked up close to 2000 minutes of action on the field which was very impressive for someone of his age.
He definitely lacked some strength and extra physicality back then, which was why he was primarily used on the left hand side in an inverted winger-type role. That probably still remains his strongest natural position but there is more than one string to the Sahraoui bow. He has become an accomplished attacking midfielder in all areas, both centrally and out wide. His right foot is his strongest, but he also has a more than serviceable left peg which has definitely improved in the last two years.
His biggest strength and the skill he has become best known for is dribbling. Sahraoui leads the Eliteserien with 172 dribbles this season which is miles clear of the next man who has 111. He has increased his dribbles per 90 mins from 7.93 to 9.36 compared to last season. Throughout his whole career, Sahraoui has always had a minimum dribble success rate of at least 53% which is more than satisfactory considering the number of overall dribbles he has. His exceptional agility, balance and flair make him the ideal candidate for dribbling.
This year he has definitely tried to operate higher up the field and become a greater offensive weapon. His touches in the penalty area have nearly doubled from 3.17 per 90 mins to 5.93. His crosses per 90 mins have doubled from 1.31 to 2.83 since 2020, with a steady increase in success rate from 24.1% to 40.4%. Meanwhile, his passes to the penalty area, forward passes and passes into the final third have all decreased.
There has been a clear attempt to become slightly less of a playmaker and take on more individual responsibility this season. Sahraoui has a combined xG and xA of 10.55 for 2022 in the Eliteserien, but that has only been converted into 2 goals and 3 assists. His shots per 90 mins have doubled from 1.18 to 2.45 since 2020 and his accuracy improved by 10% from 2021.
One area he can be criticized for, certainly, this season has been some poor finishing. He has been helped by a couple of recent goals but for much of this campaign, he has desperately struggled to find the back of the net. Sahraoui’s overall xG of 6.50 has only been converted into two goals. It is a bit of a mystery what the issue is.
This is a player who doesn’t lack the technical skill and he cannot be accused of having poor composure because he is a mentally sharp player. Perhaps his decision-making when in front of goal is the main problem where he over-complicates matters when just a simpler finish or even an extra pass would be more beneficial. He is probably at the stage of his career and club where he really wants to stand out with better numbers and metrics and naturally become slightly greedier.
The young starlet is perhaps underrated with his ability in offensive duels. Sahraoui ranks fourth best out of all attacking players with 19.86 per 90 mins. He also has an impressive success rate of nearly 43% in those duels. He ranks 12th best for recovering in the final third of the field (2.32 per 90 mins) and those are perhaps surprising statistics for a perceived flair player who loves to dribble all the time. He has always been a player willing to get stuck in thought with hard work. In no campaign has he averaged less than 16.41 offensive duels per 90 mins or dropped below a 40% win rate in them. Despite his small build, he has developed a good technical strategy to protect the ball and hold off players. His naturally quick acceleration also helps him pressurize opponents in addition to great anticipation.
The future for Osame Sahraoui is certainly bright but that future is unlikely to be at Vålerenga for too much longer. The player himself recently admitted that he has a ‘big choice ahead of him’ to think about. It wouldn’t even be a surprise if he left the club before the end of the August transfer window. It is more likely that someone will pick him up during the winter though.
His most probable destination certainly appears outside of Scandinavia with a Dutch or Belgian club favorite for his signature. He is a player who has developed well over the last 3 years and now it feels like he has outgrown the Eliteserien, certainly at a club such as Vålerenga anyway. To improve and develop further, he needs more specialized high-class coaching at a better level of football. There is no doubt a tremendous future ahead of this talented young man though.