World Cup One to Watch: Benjamin Pavard – France
Benjamin Pavard was unheard of across Europe 12 months ago. Now the Frenchman is Stuttgart’s key defender and on Bayern Munich’s radar in the run-up to Russia.
Few outside France and Germany had even heard of the youngster when his call up to the France squad was made in late 2017.
Since then, Benjamin Pavard has been in the spotlight and made the most of it.
Didier Deschamps may have initially called the ex-Lille defender up to plenty of surprise from the media, but Pavard’s eventual inclusion in the World Cup squad was no surprise to anyone.
Primarily a centre half, Pavard’s versatility has been cited as one of his biggest talents. He will operate mainly as a backup to full back Djibril Sidibe in Russia, but many rate him more highly than fourth choice centre half Adil Rami, if reinforcements in the middle are needed.
For Stuttgart, the Frenchman has been playing in the centre of defence and has been among their best performers this campaign as they finished seventh in the Bundesliga.
Pavard was the only outfield player to start every single game of Stuttgart’s season. Having turned 22-years-old in March, it is impressive that the defensive mantle fell on such an inexperienced player.
Despite his age, though, Pavard has not looked even slightly out of place.
Following his second full season in the Bundesliga, he is already in the sights of German giants Bayern Munich. Most young talent in the Bundesliga is eventually hoovered up by Bayern, and the Frenchman could fit right in to the German champions’ team if the rumours are true.
Benjamin Pavard’s Bundesliga by numbers:
- 147 clearances
- 93 aerial duels won
- 90 interceptions
- 83% passing accuracy
- 40 tackles
- 22 blocks
In the German league this campaign, Pavard was in the top 10 players for number of blocks per game, clearances per game and interceptions per game.
His importance to Stuttgart cannot be understated: only Bayern Munich conceded fewer goals than Die Roten in 2017/18 and as the only ever-present player alongside goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, he was integral to that statistic.
Pavard’s disciplinary record was also impeccable. The Frenchman received only two yellow cards in the entire season, committing only 24 fouls. Typically, at a young age players can be prone to rash challenges, but Pavard is already showing wisdom beyond his years.
Pavard’s first call up to the national team came as something of a surprise to most of France. A player based away from his home country is always tougher to track, but Didier Deschamps was confident about his decision over the youngster.
As well as Pavard’s potential, France’s dearth of right backs was key to his first cap. Sidibe is Deschamps’s preferred pick for the position, but the Monaco man has serious defensive flaws in his game.
It speaks volumes about France’s options that former Arsenal outcast, and current Saint Etienne player, Mathieu Debuchy is the reserve full back for Les Bleus.
He has only played three games for the national team, but Pavard has echoed his Stuttgart form for France, with his debut coming against Wales as he rose from the bench at halftime in a routine 2-0 win.
Since then, he appeared against Germany as a substitute, and Russia, where he earned his first start. As of those three games, Pavard is undefeated.
As mentioned, Pavard’s native position is centre half, but Deschamps initial motive for including the 22-year-old was his ability to play wide in defence. Those who might have questioned his versatility have been silenced as Pavard has not put a foot wrong so far.
Pavard ranks first within the Stuttgart squad for passes attempted per game and is the fourth best in his squad for pass accuracy. He is a player who is comfortable having plenty of the ball.
This will be beneficial to him should he play in Russia as France will be expected to go far in the tournament and dominate teams on the way.
Pavard rarely gets himself on the scoresheet, with only two league goals to his name in 82 matches. He also is not very prolific in his chance creation either, providing only two assists since his arrival in Germany.
Granted that this is not essential for a defender, but his compatriot Sidibe is someone who excels in the offensive department.
When France’s first game rolls around on 16th June against Australia, Deschamps should be at the least tempted to start Pavard. Sidibe easily forgets his defensive duties and can be a target for other teams to exploit.
Despite being three years his junior, Pavard is a more rounded player and deserves to show the world what he can do in Russia this summer.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group D in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.