Ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in January, we're delivering weekly scouting reports on our Caltex Socceroos abroad.
This week the spotlight is on former Adelaide United winger Awer Mabil, a man coming into his own at Danish powerhouse FC Midtjylland.
Name: Awer Mabil
Caltex Socceroos record: Uncapped
Club: FC Midtjylland
Division: Danish Superliga
Mabil made his name in the Hyundai A-League as a classic wide-man who wreaked havoc through pure pace and dribbling ability.
But after signing for Midtjylland in 2015 Mabil has worked tirelessly to evolve into a more rounded attacking player.
“When I went to Denmark they brought me to do what I was doing in Adelaide. But then I slowly started to realise that you need more than just one thing to your game,” Mabil recently revealed to www.socceroos.com.au.
“When I stay wide in Europe defenders will read me easily so it was about putting in the hours with some people at the club, watching videos and trying to see where I can add on to my game.
“In the last year I’ve added on that position of being able to play as a number 10 or a winger that comes inside, collects the ball and then makes something from there.”
Loan spells at Esbjerg and Portuguese side Paços Ferreira have aided Mabil’s path to the first team at Midtjylland, where his newfound versatility has seen him deployed from both flanks and in a roving central midfield role this season.
Midtjylland have lost just one match this season with their Kenya-born flyer in the squad – a UEFA Europa League second leg qualification tie against Malmo in August.
In the Danish Superliga, Mabil has started four matches and made one substitute appearance, and his bid for more consistent first team minutes is growing week by week.
Mabil notched his first Midtjylland goal against Randers a month ago and recently completed 85 minutes and supplied a key assist in the team’s 3-1 win against title contenders Copenhagen on Monday morning.
That could prove to be a landmark moment for Mabil, who is coming off contract with Jess Thorup’s side at the end of the campaign, but has demonstrated his value emphatically in the season's fledgling months.
It was both a sign of Thorup’s faith in Mabil and testament to his development that he was handed a starting role in Midtjylland’s top of the table clash against Copenhagen on Monday.
That loomed as arguably the biggest test of the attacker’s first team credentials to date, but one he passed with flying colours.
Mabil was fielded on the left side of an attacking three and turned in an eye-catching performance that showcased his pace and constantly-improving combination play in the final third.
A fine showing against Midtjylland’s title contenders was capped by a second half assist for front-man Paul Onuachu, who headed home a Mabil cross to put The Wolves 2-0 up.
"When I have so many skilled players in my squad, I have to look at how they perform on the training course. Awer has done crazy good, got the chance and grabbed it really well, I think,” said Midtjylland boss Thorup after the match.
"There is a hard fight for places, as it is supposed to be in FC Midtjylland, so it's about performance.
"Awer likes to be here, and he's struggled hard to be here. He’s earned praise and it’s fully deserved – let’s hope it goes on.”
Caltex Socceroos chances
Graham Arnold has made re-wiring the Caltex Socceroos front-line one of his chief priorities as new Australia boss, and Mabil has emerged as a wildcard option in this font third rejig.
He faces stern competition from the likes of Robbie Kruse, Mathew Leckie and Daniel Arzani, but Mabil’s newfound versatility and commitment to improving his craft should hold him in good stead as Arnold weighs up his 2019 AFC Asian Cup prospects.