Alphonse Areola and Hervin Ongenda Diverging at Bastia

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentFebruary 23, 2015

HALMSTAD,SWEDEN - OCTOBER 14:   Alphonse Areola of France in action during the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifying match between Sweden and France in Orjans Vall Stadium on October 14, 2014 in Halmstad, Sweden.  (Photo by Ludvig Thunman/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain's French goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, 21, and French left/right attacking midfielder Hervin Ongenda, 19, are headed in different directions on loan at Bastia.

If you are to make a snap judgement, Areola is impressive, but you cannot say the same about his teammate Ongenda, who is trying to stay afloat at Bastia.

Areola's Path

Armando Franca/Associated Press

In the last two years, Areola has proven he is a goalkeeper who possesses world-class potential.

Sure, Areola was beaten to the 2013 FIFA U20 World Cup Golden Glove award by Uruguayan Guillermo de Amores.

But there was marginal difference in quality between the two because Areola featured prominently in the technical report, which outlined his outstanding displays, per FIFA.com:

[Areola is a] reliable goalkeeper with excellent reactions, good anticipation and the ability to command the penalty area.

...

Areola had to be on his toes to pull off some outstanding reflex saves, in particular from [Ghana's] Frank Acheampong and Michael Anaba.

... 

A narrow but deserved victory over Uruguay gave France their first-ever U20 World Cup title, with goalkeeper Areola the hero in Istanbul's Ali Semi Yen Arena by saving two penalties.

Loaned out to Lens for the 2013-14 season, Areola displaced No. 1 Rudy Riou, starting 35 of 38 league games and was named the Ligue 2 Goalkeeper of the Year.

Paris Saint-Germain rewarded Areola's form by extending his contract until 2019.

"I carried on from the very positive experience of the U20 World Cup. My season at Lens gave me the chance to play, to show what I can do and prove myself," Areola said, per PSG.fr. "I am very happy to extend my contract here."

Naturally, you assumed Lens would have renegotiated Areola's loan with Paris Saint-Germain for a second campaign.

Though, Lens were fighting a legal battle in response to the League's National Directorate of Management Control (DNCG) barring Les Sang et Or's promotion to Ligue 1 due to financial irregularities, per Sky Sports.

Following the French Olympic Committee's findings, the French Football Federation reinstated Lens' place in Ligue 1, but recommended the DNCG supervise Les Sang et Or, per Ligue1.com.

The restrictions meant the loans of Monaco pair Edgar Salli and Marcel Tisserand were not renewed, thus explaining why Areola did not return to Lens.

Instead, then-Bastia manager Claude Makelele, a former Paris Saint-Germain assistant manager, helped recruit Areola on a loan deal.

Areola immediately separated himself from Jean-Louis Leca and Thomas Vincensini to win Bastia's starting job.

Instantly reacting to an errant headed back pass from Bastia centre-back Sebastien Squillaci, Areola read play perfectly to rush out and block Toulouse centre-forward Martin Braithwaite's shot.

Taking advantage of a lucky bounce, Metz central attacking midfielder Sergey Krivets swivelled away and unleashed a fiercely struck shot, only to be denied by Areola.

Getting past Squillaci, Lorient centre-forward Jordan Ayew zipped down the right wing and took an angled shot, though he was thwarted by Areola. 

Racing across goal, Areola completed an acrobatic save stopping Monaco central midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia's hefty shot.

Reims central attacking midfielder Gaetan Charbonnier must have momentarily thought his daisy-cutter was destined for the bottom-right corner, however Areola came to Bastia's rescue.

Throughout this season, Areola's hands have proven to be the bearer of bad news for opposing shooters.

Goalkeeper, Club, AgeSavesSaves Per GameSaves Per Goal Conceded
Timo Horn, Koln, 21763.53
Loris Karius, Mainz, 21753.63
Alphonse Areola, Bastia [1], 21652.72.3
Mickey van der Hart, Go Ahead Eagles [2], 20644.62.8
Mouez Hassen, Nice, 19502.21.9
Alessio Cragno, Cagliari, 204231.6
Sergio Rico, Sevilla, 21192.72.1
Sergio Rochet, AZ, 21182.31.6
Maxime Dupe, Nantes, 211222.4
Pierluigi Gollini, Hellas Verona, 191052.5
[1] On loan from Paris Saint-Germain.
[2] On loan from Ajax.
Credit: Transfermarkt.com and WhoScored.com.

To give you an idea of how tough it is for young goalkeepers to break through in Europe's top leagues:

  • There are just five goalkeepers 21 years or younger who have made 50 saves or more this season from the Bundesliga, Eredivisie, La Liga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A.
  • Statistically speaking, Areola is the third-most productive European-based young goalkeeper.
  • Only Timo Horn and Loris Karius have accumulated more saves than Areola

Areola is providing a cogent case as he prepares for the end game: making a name for himself at Paris Saint-Germain.

Ongenda Struggling

Darting in behind Bordeaux's defence, Ongenda latched on to Paris Saint-Germain centre-forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic's clipped pass, and slid the ball home for an 82nd-minute equaliser.

Ongenda's goal precipitated a comeback as then-Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Alex later scored five minutes into stoppage time to win the 2013 Champions Trophy.

France is a source of youth talent for Manchester City, so they actively pursued Ongenda, per John Drayton at the Daily Mail.

  • Seko Fofana (Lorient; 2013).
  • Thierry Ambrose (Auxerre; 2013).
  • Olivier Ntcham (Le Havre; 2012).

Opting to rebuff Manchester City's advances to stay at Paris Saint-Germain, Ongenda's father Felix believed it was the right choice.

"[Ongenda's] start to the season confirms that he made the right choice by signing a contract with Paris Saint-Germain," Felix said, per Le Parisien (h/t Mark Rodden at ESPN FC). "In front of goal, he fears no one."

A year and six months later, Ongenda is on a 21-game run without a goal in Ligue 1 stretching over 903 minutes.

His combined output for Paris Saint-Germain and Bastia means he is 0-13 in goals scored-shots taken.

Ongenda's 30.8 shooting accuracy percentage tells you he is bereft of confidence, lacks concentration and is in a rut.

Maybe Ongenda has given up on Bastia.

He only signed having bought in to Makelele's sales pitch.

"Claude is very important [to me]. I worked really well with him last season in Paris," Ongenda said, per L'Equipe (h/t PSG.fr). "I found out he wanted me and I know I will keep progressing under him. I will do everything I can to have a good season in Corsica."

Taking on a tough assignment, Makelele failed to produce results, hence why he was replaced by Ghislain Printant, who was later promoted from interim coach to full-time manager.

Hervin OngendaClaude MakeleleGhislain Printant
Games Started/Games Played3/83/8
Minutes Played386309
Minutes Per Game48.338.6
Credit: WhoScored.com

Going by the lacklustre performances of Ongenda, you would deduce he was a regular starter under Makelele and a bit-part player under Printant.

That is a wrong assumption.

There is only a 9.7 minutes-per-game difference from playing under Makelele to Printant.

During the January transfer window, Benjamin Mokulu (Mechelen) and Joao Rodriguez (Chelsea) had their loans terminated, sparking speculation that Ongenda was also on his way out, per L'Equipe (h/t Get French Football News).

When queried on Ongenda's stagnant progress, Paris Saint-Germain manager Laurent Blanc presumably viewed the experience as a learning curve for the teenager.

Blanc wanted Ongenda to see out his loan, per a tweet from French football writer Jonathan Johnson.

Ongenda needs to provide more effervescence like Bastia right attacking midfielder Francois Kamano.

On the opposite flank, Ongenda has not shown he can release an incisive pass like Bastia left attacking midfielder Gael Danic.

Bastia centre-forward Giovanni Sio, centre-forward/left attacking midfielder Floyd Ayite and central attacking midfielder Ryad Boudebouz can all produce match-winning momentsOngenda can't.

Ongenda has had more unsuccessful touches of the ball (23) than shots taken (10). 

What is Ongenda's problem? 

Wasteful on the ball, low-percentage shots from outside the box and no end product.

Projecting Areola and Ongenda

  • Salvatore Sirigu: Undisputed No. 1 who "is a symbol of the Paris Saint-Germain project", according to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, per PSG.fr.
  • Nicolas Douchez: Seasoned veteran who has accepted being a backup role at Paris Saint-Germain since 2011. Conceded four times (4-2 defeat to Bastia) in his only Ligue 1 start this season.
  • Mike Maignan: Nineteen-year-old French youth international who has been called up at irregular intervals by Blanc.

Areola has a higher upside than Douchez and is more experienced than Maignan.

Douchez signed a one-year contract which enabled Paris Saint-Germain to void the possibility of him exercising his Bosman right to a free transfer at the end of the season.

"We wanted Nicolas Douchez, an experienced goalkeeper and important member of the squad, to continue with us," Al-Khelaifi said, per PSG.fr. "He is much more than just a second-choice 'keeper and we are very happy with his performances."

Here is a hypothetical plan:

  • Douchez is retained for another season as a backup.
  • Areola is loaned out to a mid-tier/top European club next season (2015-16).

You are inclined to believe that Areola is the heir apparent to Sirigu at Paris Saint-Germain, a la Thibaut Courtois usurping Petr Cech at Chelsea.

What about Ongenda? He has a contract at Paris Saint-Germain until 2017, but this season has been squandered.

Ongenda is on course to be another Bartholomew Ogbeche, once one of the brightest prospects in the world, per BBC Sport:

At just 17 years of age, Ogbeche, the Paris Saint-Germain striker's name, will join that of Norman Whiteside, Solomon Olimbe, Samuel Eto'o and Pele as one of the youngest players to appear at a FIFA World Cup.

...

"It's been a great season for me," Ogbeche said. "I played friendlies for my country ... and I began my professional career with Paris Saint-Germain."

Two fruitless loans (Bastia and Metz) later, Ogbeche was let go by Paris Saint-Germain, which kick-started a journeyman career.

At 30 years of age, Ogbeche is finally showing life—think Jeremie Aliadiere circa Lorient—at Cambuur, scoring 11 goals in 21 Eredivisie games this season.

Bottom-line grades:

  • Areola: A | For the second successive season (Lens, 2013-14; Bastia, 2014-15) Areola has won the starting goalkeeping job as a loanee. Trending upwards.
  • Ongenda: F | Bad, uninspiring, shaky, timid.

+allanjiang.

When not specified, statistics via WhoScored.com. 

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