You have to feel for EA Guingamp this season. They lost their coach in the summer, replaced him with a former Paris Saint-Germain and Aberdeen defender and sitting comfortably 10th in Ligue 1.
The town with a population smaller than what their stadium can hold, for EAG, merely surviving in Ligue 1 is an amazing story and one that would be picking up more attention if it wasn’t for the success of AS Monaco and OGC Nice at the top of the table.
It was believed that Jocelyn Gourvennec had taken the club as far as he could, that he would blossom away from the restrictions of the Stade de Roudourou. In fact, the opposite has happened, new boss Antoine Kombouare has sparked new life into the club and one of the biggest benefactors has been French forward, Marcus Coco.
Rather than rock the boat too much, the former RC Lens boss kept the formation 4-4-2, in line with the previous regime. That worked to begin with, with experienced centre-forward duo, Jimmy Briand and Slovan Privat, leading the line. The pace came from Coco and Yannis Salibur on the flanks.
Coco had impressed playing on the right, labelled Speedy Gonzalez by the French media, he showed on countless occasions the pace needed to power past the quickest and strongest left-backs. He may not have picked up the most impressive numbers in terms of goals and assists, scoring just once, but he caught the eye with his explosiveness and willingness to continue to drive at defenders.
“Marcus is a real nice surprise, because when he arrived three years ago from Paris, we originally tested him as a defensive midfielder,” admitted namesake Michel Coco, former Guingamp player and now coach of the B team. “But we saw his potential and that he had been badly advised on his position on a team. He has the natural qualities, the explosion of a wide player, not someone who wins the ball.”
— Kris Carpenter (@AFCfreddie8) 8 November 2016
Up until 2013, Coco was playing his football in the amateur divisions in Paris – first with JA Drancy and then AS Jeunesse Aubervilliers. Guingamp then signed him into their youth set-up, just a year after he left Guadeloupe to pursue his goal.
He made his Ligue 1 debut in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since. The 20-year-old leads the team in goals scored, which is impressive considering he only takes 0.8 shots per game, a whole shot behind Briand who has scored three times this term. With just one assist, you can see in his play that his final ball needs a lot of work.
That gets masked when he plays in a front three, his speed and desire to get into the right areas makes him a huge asset. Against Dijon, with his team chasing the game, Coco watched the play develop down the right, with the centre-backs too interested in Nill De Pauw, Coco made his move. Starting his run early, the covering defender couldn’t keep up and the youngster was unmarked and there to finish with his right-foot.
In-form French U21 international Coco cuts the deficit for Guingamp, now 2-1 down at Dijon. — FFW (@FrenchFtWeekly) 5 November 2016
On ball, when on the flank, he can too often run into trouble, losing the ball two times per 90 minutes. Compare that to the 3.2 dribbles he attempts, you can forgive him for losing possession, only Ludovic Blas and former Hull City target, Yannis Salibur, attempt more than Coco.
The danger comes from when he’s deep in his own half and tries to take on too much. Looking to beat defenders, where the simple ball would be the better option. He’ll improve that with time, and his recent call up to the French Under-21 set-up will help him take his game to another level.
“I am with player who play for big clubs, we talk, they give advice, it’s always beneficial to play for this team,” he said will on recent international duty.
“He’s at 50% of his potential.” the encouraging words of his former boss Gourvennec. “He can sometimes fail in one-on-one situations, mostly because he does not fully trust his ability.”
There is an element of Theo Walcott in his game. Gifted and speedy winger than shows a huge rawness about his ability. Now 27 years old, it’s only now that the Englishman has started to show maturity in his game. Coco has a seven-year head start on the former Southampton youngster, so they hope would be that he could still take his game to another level.
Last season, he admitted that he needed to become more clinical, and that side of his game has improved this campaign. Perhaps that belief really took effect in the 3-1 away win over Olympique Lyonnais at the end of October.
His first showed his anticipation and willingness to follow up the play. EAG attacked down the right, Briand got in the box and once his shot was saved, Coco was there to apply the finish.
The second was easily the pick of the bunch, a real glimpse into the potential that the forward has. Lyon were pushing on, looking to hit back after going 2-1 down. Karl-Johan Johnsson launched a long throw up field, it bounced and found Coco with space in behind the Lyon defence.
— OL_Plus (@OL_Plus) 22 October 2016
He turned inside Rafael, giving the former Manchester United right-back no chance, he seemed to drift past in slow motion. Coco had momentum and with Nicolas N’Koulou forced to push out towards him, the Guingamp man dropped his shoulder and left the Cameroonian for dead before smashing his shot past Anthony Lopes.
That was the game that Guingamp changed to 4-3-3 and never looked back. They haven’t lost since, beating SCO Angers and drawing away at Dijon and home to Gourvennec’s Bordeaux.
Rather than hedge his bets and look to make a move away from Guingamp at the first sign of interest, Coco showed his maturity and level-headedness by signing a new contract at the start of the season. Extending his deal until 2020. The pinned tweet on his account shows an image of the player with friends, citing that ‘It’s not only blood ties that define our brothers’ it shows his humble side, his respectful side. As much as his attacking attributes will attract suitors, so should his attitude.