Ahmed Jahouh: The midfield strongman who makes FC Goa tick
Written by: Ajay A K
After two matches the Gaurs' midfielder is already the highest in the league in terms of pass completion.
There was a moment in FC Goa’s encounter against NorthEast United when every single eye was fixated on the ball as it floated in the air, over the defence and landed perfectly for Goa defender Mourtada Fall to head into the box. Unfortunately, the move did not produce a goal, but it served as a reminder of the danger posed by Ahmed Jahouh.
The Moroccan midfielder arrived at FC Goa before the start of 2017-18 ISL season on a loan deal from native side FUS Rabat and has delighted fans since. Goa head coach Sergio Lobera had previously worked with Jahouh when he was the manager at Moroccan side Moghreb Tetouan and was impressed with what he brought to the table.
During his first season at Goa, Jahouh dominated opposition midfielders with his sheer presence and control over both the ball and the game. He pulled the strings for Lobera’s attack-minded side and his towering presence in the middle of the park allowed more freedom for the likes of Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote to ghost ahead for attacks. FC Goa ended up scoring the most number of goals in ISL 2017-18, with their offensive-oriented game, keeping fans entertained.
Watch: The midfield general received the Man of the Match award for his display against Chennaiyin
At the heart of Lobera’s system is Jahouh. When FC Goa have the ball, he is always where he is needed. He is a regista, a deep-lying playmaker who ignites attacks from the defensive side with impeccable short passes or simple lobbed passes, similar to the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Miralem Pjanic and Jorginho. He links-up with his defenders and manages to thwart opposition pressing, with simple passes to the free man.
His composure on the ball is brilliant and his ability to hold onto the ball and release it when needed has helped the Gaurs on numerous occasions. He is a vital figure in FC Goa’s system of playing out from the back and while upfront he always provides an option for retaining possession, in case the attack runs out of steam.
Jahouh had a league-high of 1625 passes last season for Goa, eclipsing the second highest by more than 400 passes. His long balls are also a threat, with his ability to pick out a player from his half being another facet of the Goa attack. On the ball, Jahouh is a delight to watch. The former FUS Rabat player is one of the pivotal reasons why the Gaurs are able to dominate oppositions with their fluid passing and movement.
The Moroccan midfielder is also the main figure leading the Goan defence. Last season, Jahouh led the league in tackles won, with his 105 tackles being 20 more than the second best. His physical presence acts as an anchor for the back four, who are prone to quick counter-attacks. The midfielder is present as a strong deterrent to the threatening counters and has also come good with 30 interceptions, thwarting opposition forays into his side of the field.
The 2017-18 season showed how important Jahouh was to Lobera’s tactics and it came as no surprise to see his loan period at the club extended. This campaign, the Moroccan looks all set to continue from where he left off. After two matches, the Gaurs' midfielder is already the highest in the league, in terms of passes completed. He was vital in FC Goa’s victory against Chennaiyin and was adjudged as the Hero of the Match, despite not registering a goal or assist in the 3-1 win. He dominated the midfield giving very little breathing space for the Chennaiyin midfielders – Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh. He also paved the way for the third Goa goal as his cross was flicked on by Coro for Fall to tuck in.
Jahouh is not the fastest player on the field. Nor is he the most technically gifted. He plies his trade by doing the simple things efficiently and has a very good sense and understanding of what happens around him on the field. His mere presence facilitates the attack and also helps the defence to hold fort and resist intrusions. With the likes of Coro, getting the plaudits for his goalscoring exploits, one could easily forget the hard-working midfield general on whose shoulders the whole team functions as a unit. FC Goa have the capability to push for the title this season and it depends largely on the form and solidity of Jahouh.