Serge Aurier 20 Defender Toulouse Ivory Coast
2013 has been...
The natural progression of a fantastic prospect. Serge Aurier is attracting persistent attention from Arsene Wenger and it’s easy to see why. Aurier’s Gunners jersey selfie has nothing to do with it; the Ivorian defender has Arsenal full back written all over him.
Aurier’s family moved from Ivory Coast to Paris when he was a youngster and he joined Lens at 13, signing professional terms at 16 and making his first team debut in January 2009. Now 20, it’s a trajectory that’s showed little sign of changing despite Lens’ relegation from Ligue 1 in 2011. Aurier moved to Toulouse to join up with coach Alain Casanova in January 2012.
Physically, Aurier has the lot. Strength, pace and power mean he looks the part, but he’s a fine footballer too. Typically regarded as a right back, he is full to bursting with attacking intent, a frightening prospect for the opposition flank men as he launches his intimidating frame up the wing like the ground is falling away behind his every step. The crosses at the attacking end are well worth the effort.
But Aurier’s carving out a niche as a central defender in Toulouse’s back three at present, testament to his maturity, disciplined positioning and defensive ability. He’s a player blessed with excellent timing and tackles superbly as a result. He also knows when to stay on his feet and is generally an imposing obstacle for the opposition to face.
Experts debate his best position. Casanova is clearly happy enough with Aurier in central defence and many agree, while others point to his swashbuckling full back play as a skillset wasted. Still, it’s not like even playing at centre back prevents him surging forward when the chance presents itself. Without putting too fine a point on it, Aurier is a machine.
Wherever on the field Aurier lands permanently he’s an exciting prospect. There are negatives, of course. It sometimes seems as if the communication in the Toulouse back-line is a little lacking, for example, and his touch can be heavy enough to allow nippy opponents to pinch the ball off him. But these moments are few and far between, and outweighed by asured footwork – enabling him to extricate himself from tight spots – and even a trick here and there. Nothing too risky, mind you. Frivolity doesn't live here.
Despite being on a frankly monstrously long contract at Toulouse, Aurier is likely to be on the move before too long and TFC’s coffers will be boosted significantly by his sale. The Premier League seems the probable destination. Arsenal are favourites but Everton were mentioned in the summer too, along with Monaco and Marseille closer to home.
If he continues to produce such reliable form then Aurier will have no trouble securing a cushy career for himself at club level in the near future. His horizons are broader, though, and Brazil will be graced with his presence next summer. He made his Ivory Coast debut in June and has picked up seven caps since, featuring heavily as his national team defeated Senegal over two legs to qualify for the finals.
He’s played at left back for Ivory Coast and did so in the playoffs, a demonstration of the kind of player Aurier can be. He’s an asset anywhere in the defence and, probably, a couple of other positions besides. Defining his role between the two obvious best – right back and on the right of a back three – is a big decision, but it might not be the next big decision he has to make.
"Amazing to believe he's only 21. Strong, quick, determined. Can play anywhere in the defence. Shocked if he's not in the Premier League in 12 months. Wonderful talent." - Andrew Gibney, French Football Weekly
"Since the start of last season, Serge Aurier has laid on seven goals in Ligue 1; more assists than any other defender in the competition." - Opta
C+ A class act with a big 2014 ahead of him