Key Stats – Games: 31 / Goals 10 / Assists 8
Håland, Kluivert, Weah, Reyna, even Maldini (third gen). Young players with famous, footballing fathers suddenly seem as on trend as 3-4-3 or daily press briefings. One name that stands out, even amongst the illustrious list, is Marcus Thuram – son, of course, to World Cup 1998 winning right-back Lilian, of France and Juventus.
Marcus Thuram is currently in his debut season at Borussia Monchengladbach (my new German team of choice). He has formed one of the most exciting strike partnerships in Europe with countryman Alassane Pléa. Gladbach are enjoying one of their most successful seasons in recent memory under the excellent management of Marco Rose and are deep in the title race. They play an exciting high-pressing style that sees the ball move quickly forward to ‘The French Connection’.
Granted, Thuram is not Håland. I’m not even sure what Håland is. Some sort of phenom, monster, deity hybrid. But at 22, Thuram looks like a player destined for big things. Doing some research for Jogo Bonito on our dubbed ‘Bundesliga Brats’, Thuram caught my eye in three ways, physicality, maturity and being cool as flip.
Thuram is 6ft 3in and plays on the wing. Let that sink in. Someone built like Didier Drogba playing as a winger. This is important because it means that Thuram often comes up against physically inferior full-backs who he is able to out-muscle and out-pace. He likes to operate near the left touchline and run at defenders with the ball. He does this whilst maintaining superbly close-control, which his Clairefontane coaches say he has possessed since his time at the academy. There is not a lot defenders can do to stop this combination. One caveat to this is his ball retention numbers taking a slight dip to .33 this year – perhaps a product of the fast-pace Gladbach style or frequent risk taking, but it is still often devastating and something that is only likely to improve with experience.
In the Bundesliga this season, Thuram has an impressive aerial duels percentage of 47.5%. Again, this is winger. This isn’t normal. Let’s look at other wingers from the BL: Sancho 10%, Nkunku 30%, Gnabry 26.5%. It is rare to see a winger/inside forward that will be a big threat to come into the box and compete in the air with defenders, but take a look at his heat maps and it is clear that this is a stat that benefits Gladbach throughout the pitch. A peachy perk in a high-pressing team.
As seen here on SmarterScout’s heatmap, Thuram positions himself in space so that he can use his stamina and pace to beat his opponent and is comfortable creating his own shot as well as finding a killer bass for the assist. One skill that he has particularly developed under Marco Rose is the ability to play an outside of the right-foot cut back. Robert Pires, eat your heart out.
Another reason that Thuram has such success operating as an inside forward is his timing and quality of runs. He is a majestic horizontal runner and uses intelligent timing and clever angles to get between full-backs and centre-backs, forcing them to make quick decisions or watch Thuram do some damage.
This season, he has increased his shot accuracy from 0.88 to 1.45. He is also shooting from better areas, improving his shots on target from 37.6% to 63% of total shots. This speaks to him working well in the Gladbach system but also is a great sign that he is continuing to work and improve on his game. Both of these point to Thuram being able to adapt to new systems and play more effectively within better teams. Pay attention Ed Woodward.
The main takeaway for me spending time watching Thuram was the enjoyability factor. He is an incredibly fun player to watch and one that is so unique in so many ways that you can’t help but like him. It didn’t matter who you supported growing up in the 2000s, Thierry Henry was a full blown icon just dripping in suave. From ludicrous on-the-turn volleys against my beloved Manchester Red Socks, to running through the entire Spurs team and neatly slotting home. I’m not saying Thuram is going to be Henry, but he looks capable of moments like this and even moreso, capable of looking nonchalant and beyond stylish when doing so.
Do yourself a favour and brighten up your lockdown with some magic from Marcus.
Since writing this article, Marcus Thuram scored his ninth and tenth goals of the season. Yes his season has been remarkable, but what is so much more remarkable is his immense level of maturity, bravery and awareness. Thuram did not celebrate after his first goal against Union Berlin. He instead chose to follow in his footsteps by taking a stand against institutional racism. Please read these exceptionally poignant and important words from Musa Okwonga on Stadio.Football for more on this.