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Adrien Rabiot

Paris Saint-Germain

Despite being born in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, Adrien Rabiot hopped between a number of clubs throughout his youth career, including even a brief spell with Manchester City in 2008. He eventually returned home to join Paris Saint-Germain, however, working his way into the B team and then finally breaking into the senior squad at the tender age of 17 during the 2012/13 season.

Assisted by a brief loan spell with Toulouse, Rabiot quickly established himself as a permanent member of PSG’s senior squad, and is now considered a vital cog within PSG’s central midfield unit. He has also worked his way up through the international ranks, representing France at every age group from Under-16 to the full senior team. Having not been initially selected as part of Didier Deschamps’ ultimately victorious World Cup squad this summer, he was put on the reserve list – a position he controversially refused, prompting Deschamps to suggest he had made “a huge mistake”.

Tactical analysis
At PSG, Rabiot has been used mainly as a central midfielder, but he can also play in a more defensive role as either a single or double pivot. The Frenchman is perhaps most suited to playing in a central midfield trio, offering as a deep-lying playmaker responsible for progressing the ball from defence into attack. He will take up positions within the inside channel, providing a passing link between his central defenders and the wide players – which at PSG is usually the full-backs (above). Should opponents look to counter-attack while the full-backs are out of position, Rabiot’s deeper positioning allows him to cover and thus slow down his opponents while teammates recover back and press the ball.

In his career to date, Rabiot has been neither a prolific goalscorer nor creator of goals. He rarely breaks into the opposing penalty area as supporting midfielders sometimes do – in six seasons at senior level, he has only once reached double figures for combined goals and assists. That said, he is more than competent at dribbling away from pressure, particularly when counter-pressed within his own half (below). With a little bit of work on the training ground, there is no reason why he can’t replicate this skill to some effect in the attacking half.

Despite this, the 23-year-old can get into trouble when receiving possession. He prefers to turn without touching the ball, allowing the pace of the pass to run across his body. However, without the appropriate checking in behind (below), he can lose track of both opponents and the appropriate spaces in which to turn, which can lead to unnecessary losses of possession in the midfield third.

Role at potential new clubs
Rabiot has been linked with a host of English and European clubs in recent months, particularly as he could be available on a free transfer next summer.

Should Liverpool look to bolster their central midfield further, Rabiot could be the ideal central midfielder to complement the energy of captain Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita (below, left). Georginio Wijnaldum has been used in the deeper role so far this season, with summer signing Fabinho not yet sighted, but Jurgen Klopp could definitely do with another composed figure capable of consistently maintaining possession in that area. James Milner seems to be enjoying his football more than ever, but he will be 33 in January, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a long-term absentee and Adam Lallana is increasingly struggling with both fitness and form.

Tottenham Hotspur have been another club mentioned with an approach for Rabiot. The Frenchman would fit quite nicely into their 3-4-2-1 structure, allowing both Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli to remain higher in support of Harry Kane. Rabiot could then play alongside either Mousa Dembele or Eric Dier in a double pivot (above, right), as Spurs look to maintain their possession-dominant style. Rabiot could also provide solid defensive cover on the transition, should either wing-back get caught out of position after a loss of possession.

A third potential destination for Rabiot could be current Premier League champions – and his old club, sort of – Manchester City. Unlike at Liverpool and Tottenham, Rabiot would most likely fill the defensive midfield role (below, left), allowing Pep Guardiola to free up the likes of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva to move higher in attack, often running in behind the last line of defence. Rabiot doesn’t fit that mould at all, but he could comfortably be viewed as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho, who at 33 is entering the veteran stage.

Away from the Premier League, Barcelona are also said to have identified Rabiot as a future signing. However, the Spanish giants currently have a brimming stock of central midfielders in their classic 4-3-3 structure. With recent signings Arturo Vidal and Arthur adding to the likes of Phillip Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic in front of Sergio Busquets, Rabiot might be struggling for minutes at the Camp Nou. As with the Man City link, then, he would most likely be seen as a long-term replacement for the 30-year-old Busquets.

Adrien Rabiot

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