Tactical Twins: Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa and Lille's Florian Thauvin
In our latest edition of Tactical Twins, we turn our attention to some of the burgeoning prospects currently showing their skills in Turkey.
The FIFA U20 World Cup is well under way, and France are heavily favoured to reach the latter stages of the competition. One glance at their squad and you'll understand why.
Among those stars is Florian Thauvin, a 20-year-old attacking midfielder who spent last season with Ligue 1 club Bastia. After scoring an impressive 10 goals in his debut season at the top level, he's expected to move back to parent club Lille and compete for a place in the starting XI.
If you're just catching him for the first time in Turkey, there's no doubt you'll be impressed. Thauvin combines immense speed and imagination with a clever footballing brain, making him an extremely difficult attacker to handle.
He's capable of playing anywhere across the advanced midfield line—be it left, right or central behind the striker—and mixed his role with ease while playing for Bastia.
For France, he's stuck to the right, playing opposite Jean-Christophe Bahebeck in an inverted winger role. His strong left peg enables him to cut inside, play off his centre-forward and utilise the centre of the pitch.
He's clever, though, and doesn't cut inside too often. Far from a one-trick pony, he divides his attacks equally between venturing centrally and steaming down the outside.
He hits the byline as often as possible, which stretches the defence and makes him unpredictable as far as full-backs are concerned. With immense quickness in tight areas and perfect close control, you don't want Thauvin weaving into your box from any angle.
In terms of established comparisons, he has startling similarities with Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United.
Ben Arfa is a game-changer, a game-winner in some scenarios, and it doesn't matter where he's deployed, he's going to cause you problems.
Left, right or centre, the former Marseille man can hurt you with his direct running and positive play. He draws fouls, outpaces full-backs and goes on dazzling runs.
Thauvin may not have developed the long-range shot that Ben Arfa boasts, but the technique is there, and that will come as he grows and grows in confidence.
The 20-year-old Lille playmaker should look at Ben Arfa and set his sights on emulating his play on the pitch at an absolute minimum for his career.
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