Monday, July 29, 2013

Manchester United Scouting Reports: Cesc Fabregas

David Moyes has made some rather large news as of late. Two bids for Cesc Fabregas have been put up in recent weeks, with a much rumored third, and supposedly final, bid being lined up for him. Some say that he is more than willing to move to Manchester United while others argue that he is far too loyal to Arsenal to join United, and others say that Barcelona need him, especially after the departure of Thiago, so why let him go? Yet there must be a reason as to why David Moyes would go after such an unlikely transfer target. Nonetheless, if Fabregas were to join United, could he be the solution to Manchester United's midfield woes?

Performance from Last Season:

Cesc Fabregas has been very good at Barcelona this previous season, and there are key points which make him an appealing option for United. Over 32 league appearances in the previous season (2 as substitute), he had a passing completion rate of 88.6%. That would put him higher than Michael Carrick in Manchester United's current team and lower than Tom Cleverley, but this is where the difference comes into play. While Cleverley may only make 49 passes per game, Cesc Fabregas makes an average of 70.7 passes per game. Having such a high completion rate with these many passes puts him on par with Michael Carrick in the midfield; their ball retention abilities will prove crucial to Manchester United being able to dominate matches. Another key facet of Cesc's playing style is his ability to thread a killer pass. Over the past season with Barcelona, he made an average of 1.6 key passes per game, which would place him above Manchester United's current batch of midfielders. He also provided 11 goals and 11 assists, statistics that are slightly inflated due to the fact that he played several matches as a center forward. As a central midfielder, he scored 7 goals and set up 9 more, well above the output of his potential Manchester United counterparts. Defensively, he is okay, making an average of 1.4 tackles per game, 0.6 interceptions, and committing 1 foul a game. He is dispossessed 1.4 times a match and turns the ball over to the opposition about once a match. 

How Would He Fit In?

He would very likely slot in right next to Michael Carrick, partnering him in the midfield. If Rooney were to stay and Nani were to become first choice, a potential lineup could feature Rooney starting on the left, Kagawa playing through the middle, and Nani playing on the right wing (or Valencia or Zaha, insert who you feel is right). Carrick would be allowed to do what he does best: dictate the play from a deeper position in midfield. Fabregas would be allowed to push the ball forward and help out in attack, giving an additional creative presence to the already powerful front line. Kagawa, Rooney, and van Persie would all interchange with one another, leaving the opposition defenses either completely befuddled or non-existent out of fear of being humiliated. His passing numbers may have been slightly increased due to playing in a possession based system, but any form of drop-off will likely be very minimal. He is able to rival Carrick in playing the long passes, in completing the passes and in sheer number of passes, and beats him in the amount of key passes he creates. His tackling and interception stats show his defensive prowess, which may not be the best in the world, is not a step down from Cleverley at all. In fact, the defensive statistics are likely influenced by the fact that he has both played as a center forward for several matches, causing a decrease in his defensive influence, and by the fact that Barcelona simply hold onto the ball for so long, defensive statistics tend to go down.

The Key Problems:

At the age of 26, he in entering his prime years and will only get better, and with Carrick getting older, he can most certainly take over Carrick's role as a deep-lying playmaker thanks to his fantastic vision and passing skills. He is valued by to 40 million pounds, and while certainly not cheap, he is very much worth the investment. If he were to be signed, however, two key problems remain. What will happen to the likes of Powell who is arguably going to be replacing Carrick in the near future? Even then, this does not fully answer the question of the enforcer who can stamp his authority in matches. While both he and Carrick would be very effective at winning the ball back, the full physical presence in midfield will be missing and this could easily be exploited by the likes of Bayern Munich, similar to what happened to Barcelona's midfield in the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final, where the dominant presence of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez completely overwhelmed the Barcelona midfield. It would mean that an additional, enforcer-type player must be acquired by the team in order to prevent the midfield from being overrun like what happened to Barcelona in both legs of the Champions League Semi-Final.

The Ideal Signing Then?

To be frank, signing Cesc Fabregas would be one of the biggest coups pulled by Manchester United in the transfer market, bigger than when Robin van Persie was bought, simply because this transfer looks so unlikely. The fact of the matter is, he is absolutely worth the 40 million pounds that he is quoted for, because it would provide such a powerful creative presence in the midfield that the opposition defenses would be absolutely terrified of the attacking possibilities, helping United raise their game in European competition. The one fear is if United were to come up against physical, yet technically gifted opposition, the midfield would be overrun, and all that attacking prowess would be rendered useless. But then again, one must remember that David Moyes has to plan appropriately for each match and likely knows how to deal with this, but still, if Fabregas were to be signed, another presence would still be needed.

Likelihood: 5/10

Impact: 9/10