One 2 Watch – Mapou Yanga-M’Biwa

Mapou Yanga-M’Biwa | Montpellier HSC

21 | France (Central African Republic) | Right Back

Towards the end of the 2010 summer transfer window, Arsenal were linked with a number of different defenders as they tried to bolster their numbers before the transfer deadline. They ultimately settled for one Frenchmen, Sebastien Squillaci, but another Frenchman who was heavily linked with a move to the English Premier League slipped through the net. For now.

Montpellier full back Mapou Yanga-M’Biwa has been a consistent performer for the French side since he was 18-years-old, rapidly developing into one of the finest defensive talents in French football. The towering right back has been a starter for the club since the 2007/08 season, when the club were in France’s second division. The season previously, Montpellier had finished a disappointing fifteenth position and after a mixed start to the next campaign, Yanga-M’Biwa was promoted to a starting position in the side by September. By the end of the month Montpellier had just fifteen points from nine games, and the poor form continued until January before the club began stringing wins together.

After his introduction into the side, Mapou made all forty-one appearance in all competitions for the club – including all Coupe de La Ligue and Coupe de France ties, scoring a single goal. Montpellier’s inconsistency defied them a position any higher than eight, but it was a major improvement on the previous season’s form.

In the following 2008/09 season, Rolland Courbis’ side greatly improved their consistency, finishing second in the league and scoring a phenomenal sixty one goals. Although Yanga-M’Biwa missed a few months of the second half of the season, he returned to play the final four games of the season and help his side guarantee promotion into the top tier of French football.

In their first season back in the Ligue Un, Montpellier finished a phenomenal fifth place, earning qualification for the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League with Mapou influential throughout, playing in thirty-six league games and helping the side rack up a solid thirteen clean sheets.

Yanga-M’Biwa was born in the Central African Republic, but moved to France as a toddler. As a full French citizen, the full back could have played for either nation. Having never appeared at youth level for either team, he was called up to the French U-21 side by Eric Mombaerts. He has gone on to play eight times for the team to date, scoring  a goal, and may be knocking on the door of a full French cap with Anthony Réveillére, the most recent back-up to Bacary Sagna, having just turned 31. Laurent Blanc may look fondly on the young full back, having come through the Montpellier ranks himself in the early eighties.

For a full back, Mapou has superb physical strength and his blend of height and pace makes him a difficult defender to target against. Pacey, which so he can handle attacking speed merchants, with the height added in to scupper long balls his side. His height advantage is also beneficial at set pieces and in acting as an extra line of defence for his centre-backs. Whether in defensive or attacking situations, he is noted for the physical impact he can provide. Despite his young age, Mapou is developing rapidly as a defender and, with the help of the experienced Emir Spahić alongside him, is continuing to gain priceless knowledge and know-how as a defender.

As a prospect, Yanga-M’Biwa is one of the brightest in Ligue 1. He’s still learning, this is only his second season in the top flight of French football, but this year has the extra experience gained from European competition. Will we see him make a move to a bigger club? Quite possibly, whether it’s a switch to one of France’s bigger teams, or abroad – possibly to England if Tottenham, Arsenal or Liverpool if they feel the need to invest in a younger full back to what they currently have.

The Author

Kevin Coleman

Founder and co-editor of Back Page Football and current host of our 'Three At The Back' weekly podcast.

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