There hasn’t been too many complaints for Marseille fans this season. Sitting alone in first place through 40% of the season doesn’t lend too much to criticism, especially when one takes into account how disappointing last season was both domestically and in the Champions League.
This iteration of Marseille has been one of the more eye pleasing to date. Marcelo Bielsa has brought an intoxicating style to the Veledrome through a combination of a high pressing tempo and reinvigorating the likes of Andre Pierre Gignac and Dimitri Payet to levels we haven’t seen in years.
Marseille have scored the most goals in Ligue 1 this season, are tied with PSG for the most shots on target per game and are shooting the most in Ligue 1 in terms of all total shots.
You can count on one hand the amount of games where Marseille haven’t been proactive attacking wise. Almost every player to a fault is playing up to the potential of their skill level. There’s however been one individual who hasn’t quite done the same.
Florian Thauvin is a compelling character. He is in his third season playing regular minutes in Ligue 1 and he hasn’t been a stranger to controversy in his short career, with the infamous move Thauvin facilitated from Lille to Marseille last year.
He’s an incredibly skilled attacking midfielder who’s already had one season of scoring double figures in goals at the age of 19. A talented dribbler with a penchant for great goals, his goal versus Nantes was just another example of the talent he possesses.
Thauvin has all the gifts in the world to be yet another example of France’s ability to churn out great young talent, which makes it frustrating at times to see how Thauvin’s game has been more or less Jekyll and Hyde this season.
Thauvin’s penchant for the spectacular has led to games where he does too much, shooting from difficult areas or over dribbling when he cuts into the central of the midfield.
One would only need to look back at the Bordeaux match to see instances of Thauvin trying to take on the world, both good and bad. Playing as the left attacking midfielder in Bielsa’s fluid 4-2-3-1, Thauvin was everywhere: nine dribbles completed, five chances created and four shots.
Taking the stats on face value would indicate a grandiose performance but watching it was a bit more murkier. More than anything Thauvin gave off the impression of a man trying to force the action, to produce a stunning moment that would reaffirm the status Thauvin holds. It was trick or treat Thauvin, for lack of a better phrase.
Now the counter to all of this is simply to jut point at the age of his birth certificate and just chalk this whole thing to a massive overreaction to another talented winger experiencing inconsistent form. That’s a fair point and probably in the long run will hold up as the correct way of looking at this.
Florian Thauvin is only 21-years-old and 21-year-old players are supposed to have ups and downs like Thauvin has had this season. Paul-Georges Ntep arguably has had to carry more of the load for his Rennes side but we’re starting to see him mature into an all out dominant winger, something that Thauvin will hopefully become one day.
For the time being, Thauvin’s form hasn’t been too detrimental to Marseille’s pursuit of their first league title since 2009-10 when they did the double.
In a season of inches and maximizing the most of talented attackers, perhaps Thauvin being able to become a more consistent producer could be the extra spark Marseille will need when the dog days of January and February rear its ugly head.