After playing in France’s Under 18 side, Chris Mavinga was seen as one of the hottest young prospective defenders in French football. Last summer, a race was on to sign the full back before he had been tied down to a full time professional contract in France. Paris Saint-Germain had coached the youngster from a young age through their youth ranks but it was out of their hands when larger European clubs became involved in signing the youngster. Like any young French prospect, Arsenal were interested in signing the player and Gilles Grimandi, Arsenal’s scout in France, had already told Arsene Wenger about the youngster’s abilities.
It was a tremendous surprise then, back in July, when Liverpool secured the signing of the French under 18 international full back. It was seen as a tremendous achievement for Rafa Benitez as he had taken the play right under the noses of the London club. The Reds had to pay compensation to PSG for acquiring his services, but it was seen as a small price to pay for securing the signature of one of the most exciting young defensive prospects in France.
At 18, Mavinga was put straight into the Liverpool reserves at Melwood rather than being sent to the Academy at Kirkby and he has proceeded this season to establish himself in the reserves starting eleven. Not speaking a word of English, Mavinga has had to settle in rather quickly, and on top of this he has had to cope from moving from his favoured left back position to playing centre back. At 6ft, Mavinga has the physical attributes to play the position and during the current reserves season, he has more often than not played in the centre of defence.
Reserve team coach John McMahon has been tremendously impressed with the young French defender and he has emphasised that both his attitude and consistency have made him one of the stand out players as Liverpool reserves sit top of the Premier Reserve League North at the winter break:
Chris has shown a lot of good things in his game and he has been fantastic all season. He is new to this country and he couldn’t speak a word of English at the start but he has worked really hard to adapt here and learn the language quickly. What was really pleasing for me was he was constantly talking in English against Everton.
His performance especially against Everton reserves in the “mini-derby” at the start of November has been the high of Mavinga’s season so far and brought praise from David Fairclough who nominated him the man of the match after the 1-0 win. Playing alongside Victor Palsson, a makeshift centre-back for the night, the pair made it very difficult for Everton to break through and Mavinga’s qualities shone through during the match. A good tackler, he covers the pitch very well using his pace, strength and determination. He also has a good range of passing which is essential for any modern day defender, and if he keeps working hard, he will certainly been knocking on the door of the first team.
Whether his future will be at centre-back is another question. McMahon believes that his preferred position of left-back maybe where his future still lies:
Playing at left back might be his position. He is comfortable playing at centre back or left back.
In either position though, Mavinga’s combination of physical attributes such as height, speed and tackling ability, combined with both his attitude and determination, make the likelihood of him progressing quickly and moving towards first team action much greater and we will see in the next year or two whether he develops into a consummate left back or centre half.