‘Wonderkid Watch’ is committed to bringing the world’s best young talent to the fore. In this debut Ligue 1 edition, we take a look at Yann M’Vila — a young Frenchman.
Name & Age: Yann M’Vila, 21
Club & Position: Rennes, Defensive Midfielder
There was a time, not too long ago, when France was spoken of for all the wrong reasons. The World Cup 2010 debacle left a bad taste in the mouths of persons who were once very much in love with the country.
Since Laurent Blanc took the reins, however, he has gradually turned the tide. Order has been restored to the national team setup and Les Bleus look set to cause quite a stir in the upcoming Euro 2012 tournament. Set to play a big part in the country’s bid for the trophy is Yann M’Vila.
The Frenchman has been ever-present for Laurent Blanc’s team since making his debut in a friendly versus Norway in August, 2010, and has earned rave reviews for his impressive displays. For Rennes, he has been a regular in the first team since making his debut versus Nice in August, 2009. Club manager, Frédéric Antonetti, like Blanc, has been hugely impressed by the midfielder. What is all the hubbub about, though?
— Tackling — In his debut season back in 2009, M’Vila led Rennes in tackles made per game with 3.1.* For the last 3 seasons combined, he has averaged that said amount of tackles per game. Not only that, M’Vila is very neat and tidy in his efforts to regain possession. The concession of just .9 fouls per game over the last three years is outstanding for a player of his position on the field.
— Marking & Positioning — Over the last three years, M’Vila has averaged 2.3 interceptions per game in central and defensive midfield — not bad at all. He is also not easy to dribble past. His excellent positioning only sees him dribbled by opponents a mere .8 times per game. This shows that, mentally, M’Vila is very well developed. At 21, this is very impressive. Great positioning and marking are hallmarks of a top notch defensive midfielder.
— Work rate & Stamina — In addition to his willingness to tackle, he has made an average of 2 clearances per game. This statistic can be attributed to work rate because it means he is willing to drop even deeper or pull out wide to help out the defense rather than leave them to fend for themselves — all part of a defensive midfielder’s job, but M’Vila does it consistently well. In addition to work rate, determination, mobility, and his belief in team work are evident here.
— Aerial Duels — M’Vila stands at around 6 feet. His height has enabled him to win 62.5% of his aerial battles over the last three years, averaging 1.2 won aerial duels per game over that period.
— Passing (short, through ball) — In a Euro 2012 qualifier for France versus Luxembourg on March 25, 2011, M’Vila completed an amazing 92.5% of his passes in the heart of midfield, better than any France player in an international match since 2006 — an outstanding feat.
M’Vila has led Rennes in average passes per game since making his debut in 2009. He has averaged 59.3 passes per game over the last 3 seasons. This season alone, he averages 69.1 passes per game and has a completion percentage of 81.7.
His eye for a through ball isn’t bad either. Over the last three seasons, M’Vila has managed a through ball completion percentage of 38.9 — 21 successful out of a possible 54. This is quite good.
M’Vila is also very neat and miserly in possession — miserly in the sense that he rarely gives the ball away. He gave the ball away an average of 1.1 times per game in his debut season, but cut that down to an average of .7 per game since then. In addition, he is dispossessed an average of .7 times per game — less than once!
— Long Passing — While M’Vila is very good at making short passes, his execution of long balls leaves a tiny bit to be desired. One would argue that defensive midfielders usually play a short-passing game, but M’Vila is a player who likes to diversify — he attempted the most long balls per game at Rennes for the last 2 seasons and has averaged 5.2 per game since 2009. Since making his debut, he has an average long ball completion percentage of just 61.2, however. If he really desires to effectively broaden his passing range, he has to improve this aspect of his game.
M’Vila’s expert tackling, precise positioning and marking as well as his work rate and stamina make him stand out as a natural defensive midfielder. He has featured there more often than not since 2009. There is room for some versatility, however.
M’Vila’s strength in the air combined with his other well developed defensive qualities make him capable of playing in central defense. He hasn’t featured there this season, but if need be, M’Vila can be relied upon to do a job at the back.
In addition to being able to play at the back, his vision coupled with his passing ability make him capable of playing in central midfield — slightly more advanced than his usual position. His current passing ability is well suited to a possession-based game. M’Vila, very comfortable and tidy in possession, is able to keep things ticking and is quite capable — as we looked at earlier — of releasing an advanced player with a through ball. He has already featured 3 times in central midfield this season for Rennes and has done quite well.
Even in his natural deep position, M’Vila has the potential to fulfill another role — that of a deep-lying playmaker. In fact, one may argue that he can fulfill that role right now. That is true to an extent. As aforementioned, M’Vila is very capable of dictating a game’s tempo — a very important aspect of a deep-lying playmaker’s game. However, his long ball completion percentage will cause a bit of a problem.
It’s one that can be easily fixed, though, as the problem doesn’t lie with M’Vila’s vision, which is quite immaculate. The fact that he is attempting these long passes shows that he has in mind what he’d like to do as opposed to just booting the ball aimlessly up the pitch. One problem is his execution. A bit of extra training will help improve his technique. He also tends to force passes that aren’t on. Thus, he needs to be a bit more composed and patient. Once these problems are addressed, M’Vila will be a top notch deep-lying playmaker. He certainly isn’t far off.
Natural: DM, CM
Potential: DM (Deep-lying Playmaker)
Estimated Transfer Value
Rennes will be skipping to the bank this summer. The club’s manager confirmed that the coveted M’Vila will be sold in the summer. With top clubs very prepared to battle for his signature, Rennes look set to demand a hefty sum for a player who is a full and regular international with a contract through to 2015.
Thus, expect Rennes to demand at least £25 million for M’Vila. In today’s market, that is not a bad price for a player of his calibre who has such a long career ahead of him. Of course, if a deal isn’t done before Euro 2012 kicks off, and M’Vila impresses in the tournament, expect the price to rise to around £30 million. Should a bidding war ensue — which Rennes expect (and want) — expect the price to rise beyond that.
In an age where even top clubs lack midfielders of genuine quality, Rennes can count themselves fortunate to have such a gem of a player on their roster. M’Vila has already established himself as a top quality midfielder and will add much to the club he decides to join in the end. He may not be a household name just yet, but he certainly isn’t far from people’s lips. It’s important that he choose his next destination wisely, however. It’d be a real shame if, after doing so well thus far, he falls well short of being the player he seems so destined to be.
*- Stats courtesy of whoscored