Wahbi Khazri, Saint-Etienne
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Wahbi Khazri, Saint-Etienne's one to watch… once again!

Publish on 14/04/2021 at 13:08

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Wahbi Khazri celebrated his 200th Ligue 1 Uber Eats appearance with a hat-trick for AS Saint-Étienne against Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday. What else is there to know about the Tunisian attacker?

A former English Premier League operator who boasts career goals against Manchester United and Chelsea, one might have been forgiven for thinking 30-year-old Khazri's career was winding down in eastern central France, especially with only 10 league starts to his name.

 

Romain Hamouma and Adil Aouchiche have spent much of this season occupying Khazri's preferred two positions - leading the line or cutting inside from the left - but the veteran has now outscored both, in a fraction of the playing time.

 

Back story:

 

Born in Corsica to parents of Tunisian descent in in February 1991, Khazri joined SC Bastia's youth academy when he was 12, and after flying through their age group teams, made his senior debut for the club just two weeks past his 18th birthday.

 

Back-to-back promotions followed, and Sunday's victims Bordeaux secured his services in 2014, by which time Khazri had elected to play for Tunisia despite representing France at under-21 level. Two years in French wine country were followed by another two in England with Sunderland.

 

While Bastia climbed two divisions during his time there, Sunderland made the opposite journey, and when the Black Cats were relegated to the third tier, Khazri joined Saint-Etienne - via a loan spell with Stade Rennais FC - on a permanent deal in the summer of 2018.

 

Style of play:

 

Powerfully built but with a low centre of gravity, Khazri's combination of quick feet and thinking make him a nightmare for opposition markers. Almost completely right-footed, he would rather line up on the left if not the furthest man forward, where he can cut inside and unleash his impressive shot. He may be aging like a vintage Bordeaux, but Khazri's decision-making has always been on point, as 87 goals accompanied by 57 assists in his career attests.

 

Current campaign:

 

Former Southampton and Leicester manager Claude Puel has won 29 of Saint-Etienne's 39 points this season using a system with one central striker, more often than not as part of a 4-2-3-1 formation. With Hamouma one of the club captains, he was given precedence at No.9, with exciting youngster Aouchiche getting the nod on the left. Even when one of them has been unavailable, Puel's first-choice in their absence has been Denis Bouanga, the Gabon attacker who, like Khazri, has six league goals to his name.

 

Khazri has made it off the bench in 10 games, watching the full 90 minutes from the sidelines a further seven times. He is back in favour of late, though, his hat-trick against Bordeaux meaning he has had a direct hand in les Verts winning three of their last four Ligue 1 Ubers Eats games.

 

Watch: Khazri celebrates his 200th game with his first hat-trick

 

 

What they said:

 

"When I'm trusted it usually doesn't go too badly. I wasn't playing for certain reasons but that didn't make me a bad player. I've never been one. I haven't changed. I was sharp in pre-season. It's true it hasn't been an easy season for me, but I tried to have a good mindset and support my teammates. They're great for me. Like my family, for whom it's not always rosy when I come home!"

 

- Khazri on his recent return to the spotlight.

 

"Wahbi has made himself indispensable over the last two matches and I hope he'll be able to keep it up. He's worked hard in recent weeks, during individual training and in matches. It's important for him his teammates to find consistency in their performances. That's what we want, because this group wants to experience something good at the end of the season."

 

- Puel on Saint-Etienne's season goals.