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Angel City FC 2022 Player Postmortem: Clarisse Le Bihan

Veteran brought cultured two-way game to Angels.

Nikita Taparia

Clarisse Le Bihan was signed by Angel City FC in April for their debut season, the French international joining after the Challenge Cup.

The 27-year-old joined from Montpellier, and she is one of a small group of French internationals who have yet to play for one of the big two in D1F, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain. But with Vanessa Gilles joining from another “smaller” team in that league, Bordeaux, and succeeding immediately, I think ACFC saw that there were quality players in France who can be snapped up and meet the level of NWSL right away.

That was the case for Le Bihan as well, and while I won’t put her quite in the “pushing world class” status that Gilles inhabits, Le Bihan did a good job in playing on both sides of the ball in Angel City’s midfield.

Here are Le Bihan’s competitive stats with Angel City in 2022:

Clarisse Le Bihan Angel City FC 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Challenge Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Regular Season 20 10 1,099 0 0 11 3 3 0
Total 20 10 1,099 0 0 11 3 3 0

Looking back, I’m a bit surprised to see Le Bihan only started half of the games she played in, so even though she played in pretty much every game once she arrived, she wasn’t a starter straightaway. Some of that was adjusting to new surroundings — she started one of her first seven games for ACFC, but she did start her last five games, so she was a fixture down the stretch.

It’s worth noting how versatile she was in the midfield. After starting her career as a forward, Le Bihan moved back and mostly played as a defensive midfielder at Montpellier. At Angel City, she did a bit of everything — d-mid, attacking mid, forward, playing on the left and right flank of midfield.

As a result, it’s hard to really evaluate her ability at a given role, considering she played all kinds of roles, but her scouting report graph on shows she’s very good in the defensive aspects of midfielders across the top leagues in women’s soccer.

In contrast, Le Bihan really did not offer the production as an attacking midfielder — she had no goals or direct assists, but that doesn’t quite tell the story. Le Bihan was clearly the Angel City player tasked with making the “pass before the pass before the shot,” and she was quite good at that. She ranks in the 85th percentile in shot creating actions from live play and the 83rd percentile for throughballs. There were certainly times in which she had a peach of a pass, that led to a penalty or what should have been a penalty, or a shot that didn’t end up scoring. So she was playing a role.

But again, if she’s hitting good passes but there’s no end product to show for it, how good is it? I think it could be that Le Bihan has a shot to be a truly lockdown defensive midfielder, and maybe should focus on that moving forward, with Angel City perhaps looking to get another player to shoulder the attacking midfield duties. Given the talent in attack (when healthy) it’s certainly true that the offense never really got humming except in fits and starts. In a league of parity like the NWSL, even if the attacking players all get healthy and play together in 2023, they’re still going to need a better link in midfield to progress the ball and effectively set up the forward options at hand.

Still, I think Le Bihan had a good debut season in the NWSL and she signed a two-year deal with Angel City, so I expect her back in 2023. Her versatility is useful, to be sure, and hopefully next year she can get in the goals a bit, but I think if she specializes in a particular role in season two, maybe she can find more traction in the given role. Either way, I think she’ll remain a key player for the Angels after a solid debut campaign stateside.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.