PARIS (AP) — After an unexpected slump last season, forward Amine Gouiri is finding his form again with an improving Rennes side.
The team's four-game winning streak, with 11 goals netted during that spell, is also linked to his upsurge in form. Gouiri looks to score for a fifth straight league game when fourth-place Rennes hosts Montpellier on Saturday.
“I'm feeling good and I'm starting to go up a level,” Gouiri said after scoring against Angers last Sunday. “I hope to carry on like this.”
Gouiri joined from Nice in the offseason for 28 million euros ($28 million). He was Nice's best player — and one of the best forward in the league — during the first half of last season. The technically gifted Gouiri reached 10 league goals by the end of January.
But then, inexplicably to many observers, he endured a huge slump in form and a goal drought that lasted 20 matches, until he ended it with his first goal for Rennes against Auxerre in September.
The team's attacking style of play, using a high pressing game, width and speed, is well suited to the 22-year-old Gouiri. So is the fact he's playing under coach Bruno Genesio — voted the French league's best coach last season with Rennes.
Genesio is also the coach who nurtured Gouiri's talent when he broke into the Lyon side in 2017, and was confident he'd bounce back from his slump.
“Ability and talent doesn't just disappear overnight,” Genesio said. “He's a lad I know very well, who I was lucky enough to know when he started with Lyon. I think he just needed to find a climate of confidence and a style of play that suits him better, with two strikers and where he's positioned closer to goal.”
He has five goals in his past six league games for Rennes, and the varied manner in which Gouiri has scored them reflects his all around ability.
He scored one after closing down a defender; another after a neat one-two with fellow forward Arnaud Kalimuendo; netted a header, and used a clever dummy to elude a defender.
He's comfortable in a central striker's role, where Genesio prefers him, but can also ghost in from wide or probe from deep, making his runs very difficult for defender's to read.
Gouiri's silky play also makes him easy to combine with on rapid attacks. He's building up a good understanding with forward Martin Terrier, who netted a career-best 21 league goals and has seven so far.
Attacking midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud blends a high-octane game with long-range shooting and excellent crossing. Lovro Majer had a fine first season and is looking increasingly confident. As both a provider and a classy finisher, Majer will look to make a name for himself with Croatia at the World Cup.
Playing off Terrier or Kalimuendo, and with Bourigeaud and Majer operating as creators around him, Gouiri should get plenty more scoring chances as Rennes pushes to finish in the top three and qualify for next season's Champions League.
Rennes is three points behind third-place Lorient and second-place Lens, who are separated by goal difference.
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Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press