Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Manchester United Scouting Reports: Marouane Fellaini

One player who is rumored to be wanted by David Moyes at Old Trafford is the Belgian powerhouse Marouane Fellaini. Having been bought by Moyes during his tenure at Everton, and by having a very good season with Everton, many people expect Moyes to bring Fellaini over to Manchester United. With Manchester United also needing a powerful presence in midfield, will Fellaini be the right choice for United?

Performance from Last Season:

In his previous season at Everton, Fellaini proved to be a very important player in David Moyes' (old) side. He made a total of 31 league appearances for the club, but only 4 came as a central midfielder. More often than not he was deployed as a target man up top. In addition, he scored 11 goals and provided 5 assists, though had none in either category in his four matches in central midfielder. He made a good amount of passes per game, at a rate of 52.5 passes per game, through only 79.3% of them actually reached their target. In comparison, Tom Cleverley made an average of 49 passes per game and had 90.2% reaching their target. The lower accuracy could be simply down to Fellaini playing in a higher position, deeper in opposition territory, causing him to be more susceptible to losing the ball, as reflecting in his dispossession rate, 2.4 times a match, and his turnover rate, 2.5 times per match. He makes an average of 2.9 shots per game, putting him much higher in shots taken per match than Manchester United's current midfielders, but then again, this is likely down to his playing in a forward position. One key statistic is that he makes 2.6 successful tackles per game, higher than all of Manchester United's current midfielders and makes 1.2 interceptions per game, though he does give away an average of 2.6 fouls per match.

How Would He Fit In?

More likely than not, Fellaini will come to partner Michael Carrick in the center of midfield, replacing Tom Cleverley who currently occupies that position. An important aspect of his play is the fact that he is big and physical, exactly the type of presence that United need in the midfield. His 2.6 tackles per game put him at a level above Manchester United's current midfielders, and this was at a forward position, so expect that number to rise if he were to move back to midfield, something he says he wishes to do. His interception rate is not as high as Carrick's but that can again be put down to not playing in a midfield role. In moving back, he will be able to read the game more and force the opposition into making mistakes thanks to both his positioning and physical ability. His heading ability will allow Manchester United to become more dangerous from set pieces, as the injury problems of Nemanja Vidic have reduced United's offensive threat on set pieces. In addition, a big, physical presence on the defensive set pieces would be something that is very important, as United's defending on set pieces has been relatively poor as of late. Far too many goals are conceded as a result of set pieces, and Fellaini's size and strength in the box will aid United's defending. His defensive abilities will allow Michael Carrick to have near complete freedom in orchestrating the play from a deep-lying position, similar to how Andrea Pirlo is allowed the freedom to orchestrate play from deep thanks to the hard work of his midfield partners Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio (though Paul Pogba seems ready to take over). In addition, the safety net he provides to the defense will allow United's front four of Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney, Nani, and Robin van Persie to have near-complete freedom to interchange and absolutely destroy opposition defenses if they are to be on song. All in all, Fellaini will prove to be a key, powerful presence in the United midfield.

The Key Problems:

While Fellaini's size and strength prove to be great and potentially key in improving Manchester United's midfield, the problem lies in his technical abilities. He makes only 1.8 long balls per game, less than both Tom Cleverley and Anderson who make 3 and 3.9 respectively. While it may improve by moving backwards to midfield rather than such a forward position, his passing success rate is too low at 79.3%. It needs to improve much more in order for this transfer to be really successful. The passing rate would have been fine had he been making many more passes than he currently does, which is just 3.5 more than Cleverley, and Cleverley's completion rate is at a much higher 90.2%. Most of the time this will not prove to be too big of a problem, as his physical strength and powerful presence will prove important to letting the creative juices of the team flow, but against stronger sides such as Juventus or Bayern Munich, giving the ball away that often is simply suicide. Particularly Bayern Munich's blend of physically dominant yet technically brilliant duo of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez will prove to be a very big problem for Fellaini and Carrick.

The Right Signing?

Marouane Fellaini will prove to be a handful to most midfields that Manchester United will face in the coming seasons. His physical style allows for the rest of the team to have much more creative freedom and destroy opposition defenses. A worry comes with his technical skills, as he does not complete as many passes as he should nor complete as many long balls as the other midfielders. While these two statistics may improve with him moving back to midfield, there is certainly a worry that if against a strong and technically skilled midfield, United may be overrun as he may unintentionally give the ball away too often. Nonetheless, at 25, he is just entering his prime years and will only be improving. But will he take United to the next level and is he worth his reported fee of 23 million pounds? It is a bit of a risk, but most certainly worth it as it would provide the steel that Manchester United have been lacking since Roy Keane left the club.

Likelihood: 7/10
Impact: 8/10