Club: OGC Nice
Position(s): CM, AM, DM, LM
Preferred Foot: Right
Strengths: physicality, dribbling, flair, tackling, mobility, passing
Development Areas: Attacking output (G/A), shot volume
At 22 years of age, Khéphren Thuram has emerged as a bright light in Nice’s ninth-place finish, and he looks set for a move away from the Allianz Riviera with Liverpool closing in on a deal. Deployed further forward at times as an LCM, Thuram is similar to a young Paul Pogba, with a bit less flair but more defensive ability. Some thought Pogba was a DM but he never showed enough defensive understanding to be elite there, it was always his attacking ability that separated him from the rest. With Thuram, it’s both.
Khéphren is the younger brother of Marcus (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and the son of former Barça, Juve & World Cup winner Lilian Thuram. Being raised by an elite player obviously shaped his mentality and the support group around him will be key in him achieving his immense potential.
At 6’4” it’s clear to see why Thuram was initially played as a DM. His physicality is elite & his height & strength allows him to win duels, but his role is actually more similar to Granit Xhaka at Arsenal, something that requires top stamina for lots of runs into the box to score goals, good long shooting to offer another threat & defend next to the 6 in a double pivot on the defence. Thuram checks all of the boxes and is a quicker player than the Swiss international, but it seems that Arsenal will have to look elsewhere in their midfield hunt with the Gunners reportedly pursuing a deal for West Ham’s Declan Rice.
Thuram’s main strength is his ball-carrying. He has 3.25 progressive carries p/90 (top 6%) & 1.63 successful take-ons (top 8%). His long legs give him a huge stride length that can help him quickly glide past his opponents, and when he wins the ball, he often carries it first before passing the ball wide or to a more advanced player. He’s the player who’d get the ‘pre-assist’ due to his role being all about transitional play, but his dribbling and flair stand out in all of his qualities.
Although he hasn’t scored a lot of goals, he’s shown he can finish well in a small sample size of goals. The main problem has been he’s played at DM a lot. With such long legs & such power in those legs, there’s one thing Thuram does excel at – ball striking.
Khéphren Thuram 🇫🇷(2001) 🥵✨pic.twitter.com/tUcCwH2tKj
— Football Report (@FootballReprt) April 16, 2023
Nice aren’t a possession-heavy team as they averaged a possession of 51.8% in Ligue 1 this season. This means fewer opportunities to have the ball and fewer opportunities to shoot. Despite that, Thuram took 1.34 shots per 90, which is still a decent amount.
— AS Monaco EN (@AS_Monaco_EN) February 20, 2019
The best goal scoring 8’s take several shots p/90 eg. Kevin De Bruyne (2.42), Martin Ødegaard (2.68), Bruno Fernandes (2.45), Jude Bellingham (2.21), Seko Fofana (2.40), Jamal Musiala (2.51), etc. All of these players play for teams who tend to dominate possession so they have more opportunities to shoot.
If Thuram was played as an advanced 8 for a possession-based team he could increase his shots p/90 to 2+ and that would likely result in him adding more goals to his game. If given more freedom and in a higher, more dominant team surrounded by better players, we’ll see him have more chances to make runs into the box and take shots from outside the box too. His height also offers a great aerial threat in set-pieces, both attacking and defending them.
It is clear to see why Liverpool are in for him — compared to Jude Bellingham, he is cheaper and less injury prone and has a similar physical and technical ability and offers plenty of dynamism driving forward with the ball as well as carrying out an aggressive press after losing possession, and at 22 years old, he has what it takes to play a transformational role in Liverpool’s midfield rebuild under Jurgen Klopp.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Agence Nice Presse / Icon Sport