22 Appearances (as of 3/16/09)
Signed from St .Etienne in 2006 for a mere 200,000 pounds!
BACKGROUND BEFORE LFC
Nabil El Zhar was DEFINITELY an unknown player as he arrived at Anfield, as the 200,000 pound purchase indicates. The Moroccan international winger, like David Ngog from PSG, did not play a whole lot for his club before coming to Liverpool. He was bought by Rafa much more as a project than the current “real deal.” In 2005, and this is really all I could find about him, he was voted as the second best player in the Youth World Championships. So that is an honor that solidifies why Rafa bought him.
SIGNING FOR, AND SETTLING INTO, LFC
El Zhar signed for Liverpool at the beginning of the 2006-2007 season from St. Etienne’s youth set-up. In his first season, he only played in three matches, all of which were as a late substitute. The following season, though, saw more appearances and a VERY special goal on his first full start for the club as Liverpool defeated Cardiff City 2-1 in the League cup. Over the three years El Zhar has been with us, he has rarely had any starts. Rather, he has been a substitute in almost every match… which means he hasn’t EXACTLY settled yet. Either that or he is biding his time!
STYLE OF PLAY
Nabil El Zhar dribbles at people with his pace and never-say-die attitude. He is an attack first, defend if I feel like it type of player. El Zhar’s “impact player” style is one that is useful as a sub later on when people’s legs are fading. In that sense, he has almost dug his own grave as a potential starter, as his style almost locks him as a “SuperSub” type. El Zhar could do well to work on the defensive part of his game, especially given that it makes Rafa happy. Just look at Babel!
With only 22 matches under his belt, you have to say that the goal is probably his best moment from a supporter’s point of view. And what a goal it was. From about 25-30 yards, he found himself unmarked and thought, “what the hell, why not” and absolutely ripped a diagonal strike off of the post and in. Cardiff were stunned, and Liverpool won the match. It was a brilliant moment for Liverpool’s tiny Moroccan winger, and his DJ celebration was quite memorable, as well!
El Zhar’s career has been one as a sub so far, and perhaps that can be considered frustrating for him. But it all depends on perspective. Would he rather be starting for St. Etienne and playing against lesser players, or would he rather win matches with Liverpool and come off of the bench quite regularly and try to make an impact? He’s probably a better player for playing with the likes of Gerrard, Alonso, Torres, etc. but would probably say he would like to play more if he was honest. Another tough time was the Middlesbrough loss in this season where he had a chance to level the scores at 1-1, but skied his shot when it would have been much easier to score.
2008-2009 SEASON VERDICT
For a substitute, I’m quite pleased with how El Zhar has done when called upon. Although I feel like he slightly underperformed in his start against Boro in the league, I feel like his sub appearances were inspired and full of energy. He came onto the pitch several times in the autumn period and did fantastically, often times putting the opposition at a state of unease because he was willing to run at defenders and make things happen. He may not have the best ability in the world, but his determination and confidence are fantastic assets.
LFC CAREER VERDICT
El Zhar has started to develop into a decent little player. In 2007-2008, I was a bit unsure about why we were giving him chances. His lack of tactical prowess seemed to be a bit of a problem, but in 2008-2009, he has shown a tremendous amount of growth. He now seems to think he belongs out there, whereas before he had too much of a point to prove and tried a bit too hard. Composure is probably his next best step, as well as defensive positioning and effort, but he’s still a work in progress and a great option to have off of the bench if we are struggling to get a goal. Perhaps he can keep coming on to the pitch late on in order to create difficult situations where the likes of Torres and Kuyt can pounce. Time will tell, but for now he’s definitely doing OK and is worth having as a project.