21 Midfielder Olympique de Marseille France
2014 has been...
Frustrating for advocates of Florian Thauvin’s swaggering, ambitious brand of football. The 21-year-old Frenchman should be exciting. He should be effective. He should be making an irresistible claim on the big time. But there’s just something that isn’t quite right. He doesn’t quite do enough, and, with the way Thauvin carries himself, not doing enough is going to make him stand out by a mile.
He has all the ability one could hope for in an attacking midfielder. He can also be used out wide as a winger or as a wide forward, useful versatility in a club now coached by the famously unorthodox Marcelo Bielsa. Marseille have begun well this season and it would be unfair to pretend that Thauvin hasn’t played a part in that.
When it all clicks, Thauvin is a fantastic passer with good range and execution. He’s a competent technical player who dribbles well and has lovely footwork, great balance and a deceptive burst of pace. He believes enormously in his own ability, a trait evidenced by his willingness to take on some very ambitious shots. He can even hold the ball up quite well, showing surprisingly good strength with his back to goal.
To his credit, he’s usually heavily involved. Shyness isn’t part of his make up, not even slightly.
In amongst the innate good, there’s some hopefully coachable bad. His decisions could use some work and his end product isn’t good enough. In some games it can be lethal, but too often he’s not able to have the kind of influence a player of his ability could be having, even at 21. The quality of his set pieces is mixed and he could be more clinical in front of goal, where he is too often rushed into a rash effort.
Thauvin is more than a little selfish and he has an abrasive attitude that has already come to characterise the early part of his career. He’s chippy and physical, a ball of emotion who shows his frustration easily. Players with his kind of baggage need to be more effective and have a bigger say in the outcome of matches. Without that, they tend to gain an unfortunate reputation. Thauvin’s ability deserves better in the coming years.
There is already a black mark against Thauvin’s way of doing business. Born in Orleans, he graduated into senior football at Grenoble and quickly moved to Bastia, where he was very impressive and caught the eye of Lille, who signed him and loaned him back.
He would never play for them upon his return. Instead, he fussed his way to OM, apparently unhappy with the way his time at the club had been handled. Unsurprisingly, such brass balls from a kid so young went down badly in many quarters.
Thauvin’s past doesn’t seem to have put off too many prospective buyers. He’s the subject of constant transfer speculation; this year alone, he’s been linked in the media to Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Fenerbahce and Atlético Madrid, as well as claiming himself that Internazionale made a bid in the summer.
He is apparently open to a move in January and the Arsenal chatter continues, though one would think he’d need a good run of form to secure the type of transfer he presumably thinks he deserves. It certainly seems like the Premier League is full of clubs that fancy giving him a go.
Thauvin was, back in late winter, said to be dreaming of a World Cup place. It was a call-up that didn’t come, and a cap for the full French national team must be his next big target. If it were up to us, he’d focus his efforts on that and do so at Marseille for at least the remainder of this season. Time’s on his side and Thauvin should use that time to focus for now on translating his Under-18, Under-19, Under-20 and Under-21 representative caps into an appearance for Les Bleus.
Either way, Thauvin has work to do. He isn’t backing his attitude with an impact and he needs to get his head down, keep working hard and gradually improve his end product and decision-making in the final third. He looks every bit a player who will mature and blossom into a thrill-a-minute livewire. But how many similar players have wasted that potential before him?
"Thauvin hasn't blossomed at OM as they might have hoped. End product is missing, doesn't control games. Looks short of that vital spark he showed at Bastia." - Andrew Gibney
"Florian Thauvin was the youngest player to be involved in 10+ Ligue 1 goals last season (scoring eight and assisting three)." - OptaJoe
D The biggest improvements must be in attitude and maturity.
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