Whilst the vast richness of Monaco’s new ownership has brought them stars from across the globe, we often forget that AS Monaco youth system is virtually unparalleled in France, with perhaps Rennes and Lyon being the only other sides in France who can challenge with ASM in that department. A player brought through those very ranks has attracted a lot of attention this season for his excellent displays.
At 21 years of age, Layvin Kurzawa has made the left back position his own for the title chasers in denial AS Monaco. Despite playing little last season, his performances in the first half of this campaign were enough to convince the ASM owners not to splash out to sign a world-renowned left back during the January window, who would have consequently forced young Kurzawa out of the team.
His game-time was sporadic over his first three seasons in a Monaco shirt, despite making five appearances in his first season in Ligue 1 at 18, he didn’t fully break into the side. With several difficult seasons and changes of managers for the club, Kurzawa didn’t really manage to establish himself until this season.
So far over this 2013/14 campaign, Kurzawa has been involved in all but two of Monaco’s 25 Ligue 1 games and has helped his side rise to second in the table behind leaders Paris St-Germain. He has also contributed to the third-best defence in the league with just 17 goals conceded and 12 clean sheets, whilst also being a part of the joint third-best offence with 38 goals.
Layvin Kurzawa has played a significant part to all of the aforementioned statistics and Monaco have responded appropriately. Kurzawa’s future has been tied to Monaco until 2018 after signing a new contract in September. He told the clubs official website after signing the new deal: “I am very pleased with the confidence the club has shown in me, It was very important for me to continue to learn in my club and in this fantastic project.”
There is also a little fight brewing for his international allegiance having represented France at every youth level but is now being asked to play for Poland. Despite not having a passport for the country, he qualifies through his mother and would follow players such as Ludovic Obraniak’s switch. He is however planning on concentrating on his performing to the best of his ability at Monaco for the time being.
Kurzawa is the definition of the new breed of full back that is now expected to do a little bit of everything. He is full of attacking endeavour down Monaco’s left hand side. His regular bursts forward to support his winger have helped him score four goals so far this season and create two assists for his team-mates. It’s a necessity in today’s footballing world to have an enterprising left back like Kurzawa, who offers another option in the final third and he excels in that area of the field.
One reason for the success in the attacking third is his crossing ability, with him being willing to put a ball in whether from deep or from the by-line. Much like players such as Patrice Evra or Marcelo, he likes to be in the area to create space for the attackers by drawing opposition defenders towards his sometimes ‘dummy’ runs but there is also this hunger to score, rarely seen in a left-back.
Added to this is his ability in front of goal proving that he can finish off some of Monaco’s moves as well as aiding in building the attack. Having played upfront as a youngster, it is clear he has crafted a cutting edge to his game when in the box to finish chances, evidenced by his goals against Toulouse and Lorient. He has also shown real quality in the air, with his goal against Guingamp showing the power and direction he can get from a cross into the box which is an added bonus for set pieces.
But there are two parts to being a left-back and Kurzawa is one of the better defenders in that position. He has the most interceptions in Ligue 1 this season, showing that when he does get back into position he has the awareness to spot where the ball is going and cut it out. His speed also helps in this area, he can get back sharply and it’s also never easy for a winger to get past him purely with pace.
However, like any young defender, he still needs to improve in certain areas of his game. His tackling isn’t the best or the strongest, he can tend to lunge a little which gives a winger an opportunity to go past him but that can be taught. He also can be caught out too high up the field, leaving the left side exposed to a quick counter-attack and again that us something he will learn from experience to better judge the situation.
The future for Kurzawa, should they continue to improve behind their wealthy backers, is at Monaco. So long as they are competing at the top end of French football and soon-to-be competing in the Champions League, Kurzawa will remain as a sign of the team’s ability to produce players as well as buy but if they were to stumble, there will be plenty of vultures ready to take the talented left-back away from the principality.