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Florin Thauvin is only 22, but he would have already learned just how fine the margins in football are. The French winger, making his Newcastle debut against Manchester United as a 69th minute substitute, was agonisingly close to registering immediate heroics as he was inches away from meeting Papiss Cisse’s teasing ball into the box in the dying moments.
The studs of Thauvin’s right boot so nearly connected and if they did Newcastle would have come away with only their second league victory at Old Trafford in 43 years.
Good first impression
It wasn’t to be but Thauvin, who came on for Gabriel Obertan, had already given indication that the £12 million paid to Marseille to bring the player to Tyneside may be money well spent. His first moment of inspiration came in the humbling of Luke Shaw, Thauvin’s quick-feet leaving the United left-back stumbling on his knees as he rounded him by the near-touchline. Shaw had no choice but to haul Thauvin down and in doing so attracted a yellow card.
He did however enjoy more tangible reward for his efforts in his first start for his new club against Northampton Town of League Two on Tuesday, converting Massadio Haidara’s third minute cross for a goal on his home debut, then assisting three more goals as the Magpies ran out 4-1 winners.
It was a wondrous demonstration of what the 22 year old can do, albeit against lower league opposition.
McClaren tasked with his stability and consistency
Steve McClaren, his new manager at Newcastle, will be tasked with drawing these moments from Thauvin with consistent regularity, but that fact he has had to move to the north east of England will suggest why that challenge will be difficult.
The signs of his talent have been obvious before, in Bastia’s promotion from Ligue 2 in 2011-12, which convinced Lille to sign him, and the form he displayed for the same club whilst on loan the following year, which saw him named as Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year.
Thauvin failed to make a single appearance for Lille but his showings for Bastia earned a move to Marseille after a long drawn-out saga concluded with a €15 million switch in the September of 2013, the same year in which he helped France’s under-20 side win the World Cup.
Career at Marseille
The winger made 79 appearances across two seasons with Marseille, scoring 15 goals and tallying 14 assists, but his promise was arguably laid dormant. French newspaper L’Equipe named him in a Flop of the Season XI for the last campaign and with manager Marcelo Bielsa suddenly departing, Thauvin eventually chose to accept Newcastle’s advances.
“Newcastle followed me for a while and absolutely wanted me” he said, a product of the scouting of Graham Carr that works with extensive knowledge of French football. “It’s really a pride for me to work here in England and play for Newcastle. The fact that there are a lot of French players here will also help me settle in.”
Thauvin, Newcastle’s fourth acquisition of the summer as the spending moves to just short of £50 million in McClaren’s maiden transfer market as coach of the Magpies, becomes the 8th French player in the squad that still retains the mainly Francophone influence that existed in the days of Alan Pardew.
Cabella to Marseille; challenges for Thauvin
One of Newcastle’s French talents, the ex-Marseille attacker Remy Cabella, moves to Marseille on loan as part of the deal that has taken Thauvin to St James’ Park. Cabella was a £12 million signing but would only make 21 starts in his only season on Tyneside, falling out of favour with Pardew who raised doubts over his ability to adapt to the physical demands of the Premier League.
Thauvin, a diminutive attacker with a similar stature to Cabella although slightly taller, will face the same challenge but Newcastle will hope the individual coaching skills of McClaren will aid the 22 year old in his new surroundings.
If he is successful Thauvin will bring his blend of pace, trickery and close control to Tyneside to refresh an attacking supporting cast that, embodied by the player he replaced on Saturday Gabriel Obertan, has been found lacking for inspiration and creativity in recent seasons.
Hatem Ben Arfa could have fixed that issue, but patience over his petulance and apathy finally snapped last year. Thauvin has been compared to Ben Arfa in terms of playing style but those at Newcastle will hope that his attitude and application couldn’t be more different.
Perhaps a more favourable comparison has come in the form of Franck Ribery although that came from former Toulouse manager Alain Casanova back in 2013 before the stagnation in his form set in. If McClaren can get Thauvin to reproduce the kind of performances that drew such accolades then Newcastle will have another French winger to adore after previously dining out on David Ginola and Laurent Robert.
McClaren’s forward options of Emanuel Riviere, Ayoze Perez, Papiss Cisse and Aleksander Mitrovic will be hoping Thauvin can forge the type of chances they can gobble up and with new signing Georginio Wijnaldum settling in well whilst Siem De Jong prepares to return from his long-standing injury, there will be optimism that Newcastle’s new regime that can move on from the standard of football that had grown stale in recent years.
“He’s a player we believe that, in terms of end product, in terms of crosses, can give us what we’ve not had” said McClaren.
Thauvin’s late chance at Old Trafford desperately passed him by on Saturday but against Northampton the end product McClaren talked about was in abundance. Ample opportunity will come at Newcastle to produce it more often and if Thuavin takes his chances, he will take great delight in proving the doubters wrong.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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