Quentin Merlin: La Jonelière Gem by Calum Scullion
Name: Quentin Merlin
Place of birth: Nantes
Club: FC Nantes
Position: Left Back
Ligue 1 and French football in general seems like a never-ending talent factory these days, there is so many players in France with great potential and a bright future, I would like to highlight one of these players that I think can become a star in Ligue 1 and potentially play a part in the French national team in the future, Quentin Merlin.
Quentin Merlin was born in Nantes on the 16th of May 2002, his youth football career started with FC Goélands Samaritains in 2008 at the age of 6. He then moved to FC Nantes in 2012 for year before moving again to Pornic Foot, he stayed there until 2015 and then returned to the FC Nantes academy where he has stayed ever since.
Merlin made his first team debut for Nantes on the 10th of February 2021 in a 4-2 loss to Lens, his only appearance of the 20/21 season. In the 21/22 season, he had his breakthrough year making 28 Ligue 1 appearances for Nantes, scoring 2 goals, getting 3 assists and becoming a regular of the first team. So far in the 22/23 season Merlin has made 16 Ligue 1 appearances and got 1 assist during these games.
Quentin Merlin is a left back and he possesses most of the qualities of a modern day fullback. He loves to get forward and make forward runs to get into attacking positions, he interchanges between overlapping and underlapping runs to get away from his marker and get high up the pitch and into potential crossing positions. Merlin often sticks out wide, receives the ball and likes to take a second to pick out his target before crossing the ball into the box, he usually likes to play a fast, curved cross into the box hoping that attackers running into the box can get on the end of it.
Another positive of the attacking side of Merlin’s game is his passing ability, He can play a wide range of passes from short 1-2s to keep the game flowing to long cross-field passes out to the other full back or the winger when looking switch the play. He is very comfortable on the ball and doesn’t panic when under pressure, he will always look to play a forward pass and will only go sideways or backwards if there is no forward option available. Merlin seems to have a great passing relationship with the wingers and midfielders of the Nantes team, he loves to either play a pass up the line to the winger and then make a sprint to over/underlap and then receive the ball again or play inward passes to the midfielders. His vision and ability to make these off ball forward runs make him a very promising attacking full back and many transition and possession based teams nowadays look for fullbacks with these qualities so I think if he could just polish other parts of his game and add more goals and assists to his game he would not be short of options if he ever wished to leave Nantes.
As well as having these attacking qualities and great passing ability Quentin Merlin is also pretty good defensively. He is very strong in the air and wins most of his headers comfortably, he is very good at cutting out high balls over the top and stopping dangerous passes. Merlin also is good at tackling and making interceptions, he is very good in 1v1 defensive situations in the wide areas, he likes to show the attacker to the outside and then make a well timed tackle with his stronger left foot. He likes to step out of the defensive line at times and make an interception, if successful he will then look to progress the ball as quickly as possible.
There is a couple of noticeable current weaknesses/drawbacks in Merlin’s game, he is very good at getting forward and it seems to be his main goal whenever on the ball, however this can sometimes lead to him being caught out of position when the team loses possession and is in the transition phase. Merlin also sometimes rushes out to make an interception and mistimes it or commits a foul which can lead to the opposing team being successful in their attack or giving away a free-kick in a potentially dangerous area. Although these are weaknesses in his game right now I don think they are anything to worry about and I think they will iron themselves out as he develops as a player and keeps playing football at such a high level.
Overall review and career future:
Quentin Merlin is a very good young left back with a good mixture of attacking and defensive abilities, a good physical profile and over 60 first team appearances for Nantes at the age of 20, he is a very impressive player that can definitely be a key asset for a big European team in the future.
Although I think he is a promising player with high potential who needs to add some things to his game in order to take his game to the next level and attract interest from top clubs around Europe. He needs to try and add more assists to his game, he gets forward a lot and puts a good amount of crosses in per game and I would like them to result in more goals but this may be down to a lack of clinical finishing from the attackers rather than poor crossing and chance creation from Merlin. Also he is a good defender but does have a mistake in him, I think over time this will improve but he does need to eradicate it from his game in order to go to the top.
Overall, I don’t think Quentin Merlin will be France’s number one left back anytime soon due to the sheer number of high quality players all over the team and in almost every position. I think Merlin will develop into a very good champions league quality player and his attacking attributes are very appealing to many top teams, he was linked to Aston Villa last summer and I could definitely see him playing in the Premier League in the future but I think he should stay at Nantes for another couple of seasons where he is getting regular first team football and developing really nicely as a player. Don’t be surprised if you see Merlin moving to a top team over the next 3-4 seasons as he has the skillset to do so, it will be very interesting to see how his career plays out and if he can fulfil his potential.