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TALKING POINTS: Week 38: Rolán & Fabinho stake claims to play big roles at Copa America

You are reading the Get French Football News Talking Points Column, written by Eric Devin.

While Fabinho had initially been cast as a defensive midfielder whilst in his native Brazil, his subsequent moves to Rio Ave and loans to Real Madrid B and Monaco had seen him, by dent of necessity, move to right back. A deft passer of the ball, and more than able defensively, and with the ball at his feet, the Brazilian was certainly capable as part of a back four, with solid anticipation if not great pace. With manager Leonardo Jardim always one to value versatility, the first leg of Monaco’s saw Fabinho moved back to central midfield, owing to the suspension of Jeremy Toulalan and the injury of Tiemoue Bakayoko.  

The result, as they say, speaks for itself, as Fabinho did a marvelous job against the Gunners. He ably protected a somewhat makeshift back four which included the 18 year old Almamy Toure at left back, not only limiting the dangerous Arsenal attack but also allowing the rampaging Geoffrey Kondogbia to get forward at will. With Bakayoko still injured and Toulalan and Kondogbia also spending time on the trainer’s table, the experiment continued, seeing the player do well in the league and also receive a call-up for Brazil ahead of their friendlies with France and Chile. While he failed to receive a cap as either right back or as part of Brazil’s two-man midfield, the ages of first-choice pairing Elias (30) and Luis Gustavo (28 in the summer) and David Luiz (28) mean that a younger replacement should eventually be groomed.  

Now named in Brazil’s Copa America squad, Fabinho may not receive a great deal of game time, but his continued inclusion in the national team exhibits a clear preference on the part of Dunga to develop the player. As he has previously shown in initially picking a then-unheralded Ramires, who made his debut at a similarly young age owing in part to his versatility, the Selecao manager values a utility-type player. With a relatively limited squad approaching a major international tournament, it is easy to see why Dunga would favor a player who can do a job at different positions, as Fabinho would also give cover to Danilo at right back. That said, while Ramires and Fabinho are far from being similar in terms of the way in which they play, the hope here is that the Monaco player can enjoy a similarly fruitful career with Brazil. 

Despite the prominent role that Fabinho has played in Monaco’s run to third, he is not the only player whose breakout season in Ligue 1 could be key to playing at the Copa America. Admittedly, the inclusion of Diego Rolán in Uruguay’s recent squads has been, at least in part, down to the lengthy suspension of Luis Suarez and the retirement of Diego Forlan, but with Suarez’s ban likely continuing through the tournament, the lanky Bordeaux forward also has the opportunity to make himself a fixture for La Celeste in the years to come.  

Having become Les Girondins’ main striker since injury felled Cheick Diabaté in December, Rolán has become a real force in the season’s second half. Playing alongside another striker in a 4-3-1-2, often the hulking Isaac Kiesse-Thelin, the wiry Uruguyan has done quite well to record ten goals in 2015, capping off the season with a superb brace against Montpellier. His performances in propelling Bordeaux to European qualification have been superb and perhaps, with Suarez absent for the tournament, Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez might take a page from Willy Sagnol’s tactics. With Edinson Cavani partnering Rolán up top, Uruguay would have the balance of an imposing target man and a sylph-like “second striker”, albeit one with a dangerous shot.  

While the team lack the kind of play-maker that Bordeaux have in Wahbi Khazri, upon Suarez’s return, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see all three employed in a similar system to the one that saw all of Forlan, Suarez and Cavani included in the World Cup. Despite the formidable reputations of the latter two, if Rolán continues to demonstrate this kind of form, beyond this summer, the resourceful Tabarez may have to initiate the kind of tactical re-think which has seen the country do so well in major tournaments in the recent past.

Perhaps the more static Cavani could be used as a target man, with Suarez and Rolán cutting in from the wings, their ability with the ball at their feet setting up potential return passes to the PSG man. However Tabarez decides to set up his team in the near future and for the long term, he is surely enjoying seeing another promising forward develop, and whatever Rolán’s role going forward, he, like Fabinho, is providing another reason aside from the PSG contingent for fans of Ligue 1 to follow the Copa America this summer.

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