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Name: Florian Thauvin
Date of Birth: 26/01/1993
Position: Attacking midfielder
Height: 5ft 11in (180cm)
Weight 11st 0lbs (70kg)
Preferred Foot: Left
As Steve McLaren continues to make his mark at Newcastle, he saw fit to spend £12m on the spiky Marseille forward Florian Thauvin, sending Remy Cabella in the other direction. Along with Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic, Thauvin is another exciting talent coming into St.James’ Park and everybody associated with the club will be hoping that he can hit the ground running as they look to leave their troubles from last season behind them.
As a young footballer, Thauvin played in the youth teams at Ingre, Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle and his hometown club Orléans before he was snapped up by then Ligue 2 side Grenoble in 2008 aged 15. After spending three years developing in the Grenoble academy, he was awarded a professional contract in January 2011 in addition to a promotion to the first team squad. Thauvin would go on to make three senior appearances for Grenoble in the 2010/11 season, before the club were relegated to the CFA 2 (Championnat de France Amateur 2), France’s fifth tier after their liquidation that summer. Bastia, also in Ligue 2 at the time, took advantage of Grenoble’s financial difficulties and swooped in, signing the teenager on a free transfer.
Thauvin’s first season at Bastia (2011/12) saw him feature 13 times in Ligue 2, but as more of an option coming off the bench when the team were in need of a creative spark. As he was only 19 years of age at the time, this was understandable as he yo-yoed between the first team and Bastia II, the club’s second team. The 2012/13 season would be an eventful one for Thauvin, as he started the season well scoring twice an unlikely win against Bordeaux, followed by one more away at Reims as the new year approached. On January 29, 2013, Thauvin signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Ligue 1 club Lille for a reported fee of €3.5 million, but was loaned back to Bastia for the remainder of the season. Les Bleus ended up finishing 12th, and the then 20 year-old ended his campaign scoring ten goals in 32 appearances, as well as being named the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year.
After such a positive season, things began to sour that summer for Thauvin as he refused to attend training sessions at Lille due to disputes over a new contract, which saw him lose €1500 a day through the accompanying fines. On September 2, 2013 he finally forced through a move to Marseille for a fee reported to be around €15 million. His first season at the Stade Velodrome saw him find the net ten times in 41 appearances, but despite visibly improving as a player and gaining valuable experience in the Champions League, he was often seen as a villain in France due to his questionable actions at Lille. After once being described as “one of the great hopes of French football” by Arsene Wenger, this was quite a fall from grace.
The 2014/15 season would see Marcelo Bielsa take over at Marseille, and there are always fireworks when he’s around. Thauvin was still very much a regular for Marseille as he made 38 appearances in all competitions for the side. Despite a winning run which saw Marseille top Ligue 1 for an impressive 13 weeks, they ran out of steam, a common theme for many Bielsa sides, and finished 5th. Thauvin ended the campaign with five goals and three assists, disappointing numbers when you consider his ability and tallies from the past, but he still produced some moments of magic to show everybody why he was and is so highly rated.
Without a doubt, Thauvin’s greatest strength is his dribbling. During the 2014/15 season, the 22 year-old completed 9.7 dribbles per 90 minutes, a statistic only bettered in the whole of Ligue 1 by Monaco’s Yannick-Ferreira Carrasco, now of Atletico Madrid, who averaged 10.3 dribbles. Thauvin also completed 2.95 successful take ons per 90 minutes last season, a rate better than Tottenham and Bournemouth new boys Clinton N’Jie and Max Gradel on 2.26 and 1.85 respectively, as well as Paul-Georges Ntep on 2.60 and former Marseille teammate Romain Alessandrini on 1.35. The one player able to better Thauvin’s rate was PSG’s Lucas Moura on 4.28, who coincidentally is the only player in France’s top flight since August 2012 to complete more successful dribbles than the Newcastle man. An example of the Frenchman’s dribbling ability can be seen against Caen on August 8, 2015, where he controlled a bouncing ball with a smart turn infield as he escaped the clutches of his marker Dennis Appiah. The 22 year-old then dropped his shoulder, before deceiving veteran captain Julien Feret with a stepover, spraying a lovely pass out wide to Lucas Ocampos with the outside of his left foot, retaining possession and launching a counter attack for his side.
Another area in which Thauvin excels is his creativity and decision-making in the final third. He created 53 chances for Marseille last term, an average of 1.90 per 90 minutes. This was the third highest average in Ligue 1, superior to the likes of Javier Pastore and Nabil Fekir, but narrowly losing out to Monaco’s Joao Moutinho on 1.96 and former teammate Dimitri Payet, now of West Ham on a mammoth 3.95. The forward also produced 49 key passes last season, which is an average of 1.76 per match. This was the ninth highest total recorded by anyone in the French league last season, and he was also the youngest player in that top ten list. Thauvin’s average pass length throughout 2014/15 was 18.56m, which highlights his ability to play all kinds of different passes. Smart, quick interchanges are where he excels but he is also able to switch the play regularly with considerable accuracy. Having the ability and vision to execute an array of different passes will only be a benefit to himself and Newcastle, as you can adapt and influence the game when the opportunity arises. An example of Thauvin’s playmaking abilities can be seen against Lille on December 21, 2014 where he had the ball out on the left hand side, but was being closed down quickly by Simon Kjaer and Idrissa Gueye. After one quick glance, he faked a cross into the box causing Kjaer and Gueye to both flinch and look away for a split second before picking out the unmarked Michy Batshuayi on the edge of the box with a perfectly weighted pass. His Belgian teammate took one touch, before turning and rifling the ball into the top corner to put Marseille ahead.
Surprisingly, Thauvin has a bit of grit to his game too and has shown that he can get stuck in when needed. The 22 year-old completed 19 interceptions over the course of last season, which is an average of 0.68 per game, one of the highest averages of any attacking midfielder in Ligue 1, second only to Javier Pastore on 0.72. He also made 0.07 blocks and 0.5 clearances per 90 minutes, only picking up three yellow cards for his troubles. Thauvin can sometimes be guilty of fouling opposition players unnecessarily in dangerous situations, which is a trait of his game that he will need to curb as set pieces are often capitalised on in the Premier League. Nevertheless, the Frenchman made no errors that lead to a goal last season which is something that Newcastle and Steve McLaren fans will take comfort in.
Thauvin is at an age now where he must deliver. No longer is he a youngster bursting onto the scene, no longer is he one for the future, his time is now. After playing for one of France’s top clubs in Marseille, as well as flirting on the fringes of the French national side with Euro 2016 around the corner, making an impact at Newcastle this season could elevate his game and his reputation. Where have we seen this before? A silky, creative left footed midfielder coming from Marseille to Newcastle? This move shares a strange amount similarities to that of Hatem Ben Arfa’s move in 2011, but we all know how that one turned out after initially promising so much. Thauvin has all of the potential to be everything Ben Arfa wasn’t and more, but he needs to grow up and put his questionable attitude problems behind him. Turning up for training is definitely a step in the right direction.
Are you a fan of Thauvin? Will he be the creative spark that Newcastle need, or a £12m overspend with an attitude? Write to us:[email protected]