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Adrien Rabiot

Paris Saint-Germain to Juventus, free

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 had long been considered a vital cog within PSG’s central midfield unit. He has also worked his way 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 last 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 was 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, 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. 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 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 – though he is more than competent at dribbling away from pressure, particularly when counter-pressed within his own half (below). With some work on the training ground, there is little reason he can’t replicate this skill to some effect in the attacking half.

Despite this, the 24-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.

Without the appropriate checking in behind (below), he can lose track of both opponents and the appropriate spaces in which to turn, something that can then lead to unnecessary losses of possession in the midfield third.

Role at new club
Rabiot will face fierce competition at Juventus, where Aaron Ramsey, Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi, Sami Khedira, Emre Can and Rodrigo Bentancur are all pursuing roles in midfield. Under their new manager Maurizio Sarri, Juve can be expected to be organised into a 4-1-4-1, in which Rabiot would be suited to the withdrawn role Jorginho was given at Chelsea last season in between defence and midfield, demonstrating his creative qualities from deep positions. His height can also potentially provide further protection against direct play.

He can also compete for one of Juve’s more advanced midfield roles. At PSG he showed an ability to thread attacking passes through small spaces; another common move is the penetrative run into the half-space after a pass has moved to the winger outside of him, before receiving possession and either playing it across the area or cutting it back to the penalty spot. These runs, incidentally, were encouraged by Sarri at Chelsea last season.

Rabiot’s defensive positioning and mobility are also strengths. Cristiano Ronaldo is perhaps unlikely to be used as a central striker if Sarri remains committed to his long-term philosophy, so the Portuguese may be used on the left.

To keep Ronaldo fresh and a threat on the counter, his defensive responsibilities may be reduced, which would require an industrious individual operating near him. Rabiot may therefore be considered more suited to those demands than Can or Khedira.

Adrien Rabiot

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