Rayan Ait-Nouri has started the 2021/22 season out of favour at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Frenchman, whom the club spent around £10 million to sign permanently after his loan spell (Express & Star), is currently playing second fiddle to Fernando Marcal.
That has come as a surprise to some.
Ait-Nouri finished the 2020/21 campaign as a regular in the side, starting eight of the final nine games.
He then enjoyed a fairly productive pre-season under Bruno Lage, and was one of the better players out in Marbella.
But despite looking good in the off-season, the new head coach has largely plumped for the experience of Marcal so far.
Ait-Nouri has featured just twice this term. He played against Tottenham Hotspur for six minutes in the Premier League and started the last Carabao Cup game against Nottingham Forest.
There’s a good chance he’ll be starting tonight as Lage rotates from the weekend. It would certainly be a surprise to see Marcal again given his fragility.
The 20-year-old therefore needs a strong showing.
If he’s able to do that, he might well give Lage something to ponder going forwards.
Ait-Nouri needs to capitalise on Marcal’s error
The 2-0 defeat to Brentford was the worst team performance of the season, and Marcal’s individually.
His manhandling of Ivan Toney to concede the penalty was stunning to watch, and Lage spoke of his disappointment after the game.
He’s been fairly decent on the whole so far this term, but Marcal can be overly-aggressive at times.
It was poor from him against the Bees, and one gets the feeling that Ait-Nouri may soon come into contention.
A great performance tonight will absolutely boost his starting prospects going forwards.