Monaco’s hot prospect Kylian Mbappe has been beeping insistently on the radar of most of European’s top clubs this season. The young striker is in outstanding form, having scored 11 goals in his last nine games and 19 altogether for Monaco this year. But it is not just the numbers that have drawn attention towards him. It is his explosive style reminiscent of one of football’s best strikers: Thierry Henry. It is no wonder then that Arsenal are one of the interested teams in signing the 19-year-old.
This article will examine the similarities and differences between the two:
Football is an athletic game, so it is no wonder that players with better physical qualities often are the better players. Both Henry and Mbappe have long legs that can help with explosiveness and making long strides.
But while Mbappe is 1m78cm tall and weighs 68 kilograms, Henry is taller at 1m88cm and weighed 76-78 kilograms when he was 20. So in that regard, Henry had better physical attributes, and consequently better burst of power and longer strides. In a word, he was faster.
Verdict: Henry wins this.
Both Mbappe and Henry have it. It’s the ability to calm the ball down only to nudge it forward at the right time with a burst of energy and overcome the defender with the next two or three strides.
You can easily distinguish such players because their strides cover more ground. From the stands, it looks like a slow Michael Jonhson racing a prime Usain Bolt. One moves a lot and spends a lot of energy, the other utilises it all in his strides. One makes a stride while the other makes two or three.
A master of body movement, Bruce Lee describes the feint as a way “to deceive the opponent into reacting to the motion of your hands, legs, eyes and body.” It requires a good understanding of the psychological aspect of the game. It involves playing a game with the mind of the opponent. The best players knew this and used it to their advantage.
Thierry Henry had it. Mbappe seems to have it too.
The similarity between the two comes from their choice of skill move – an exaggerated change of direction with one leg and a nudge of the ball in the opposite direction with the other leg. The difference between the two may be that the feint is probably Mbappe’s strongest weapon currently, while with Henry, it was just a part of the package.
In his time, Henry was probably the fastest player at Arsenal – faster even than teenage Theo Walcott. At Monaco, Mbappe is of similar quality. Given free space he can be very dangerous with the ball in his feet. He may not have the stamina yet but his acceleration in the first two or three meters is very similar to Henry’s.
Mbappe has a very similar ball control to Henry. He seems to know when to nudge the ball forward and when to keep it close to his feet.
Just like Henry, Mbappe is adept at playing through the centre and cutting inside from the left. He’s got a strong right foot and his ability and willingness to challenge oppositional players in one-on-one situation on the dribble makes him very dangerous, even to tactically well organised defenses.
In his prime Henry could break deadlocks in a matter of seconds by dashing inside from the left. Mbappe is very similar but not yet near the standard Henry was in his prime, which is understandable.
Despite the height difference, Mbappe seems to be better in heading the ball. Henry scored eight with his head out 228 goals at Arsenal while Mbappe has scored three already.
Both Henry and Mbappe come from the internationally acclaimed Clairefotnaine football academy. The academy has produced football talents such as William Gallas, Nicholas Anelka, Blaise Matuidi, Louis Saha, Hatem Ben Arfa and Abou Diaby among others.
The difference is that Mbappe was already more popular than Henry at 14 years of age, placing him on the radar of French football rather early.
Before being signed by Monaco, he had already attracted interest from Real Madrid and Valencia. He would break two Henry records at Monaco – for youngest debutant and youngest club goal-scorer – and would score the first club hat-trick since Sonny Anderson in 1997.
While Henry had a close relationship with Wenger at Monaco in his younger years, something which helped him decide in favour of Arsenal later on, Mbappe probably does not know Wenger personally.
In fact, he has revealed he holds admiration for Cristiano Ronaldo and that can observed in the way he is trying to emulate him in his game. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say.
This, and Zinedine Zidane’s previous courtship attempts might prove a bigger lure for the young player than settling for Arsenal. What might play in Arsenal’s favour though is the promise of less bench time.
In March 2017, Mbappe received his first international call-up for France. He is one of football’s hottest rising stars at the moment and Arsenal might do themselves a favour by bringing him in sooner rather than later even if it means spending cash – likely to be in excess of 80 million.