Monday, August 5, 2013

Manchester United Scouting Reports: Luiz Gustavo

The arrival of Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich along with those of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara has left Bayern's midfield rather crowded, thus prompting some to suggest that at least one of the midfielders are open to a move. One who is most likely to be moved out to accommodate these new signings is likely going to be Luiz Gustavo, a great player who is unfortunately in a squad who has midfielders who are simply better than him. Considering Manchester United's desperate need for a midfielder, would he not be the perfect choice?

Performance from Last Season:

Luiz Gustavo proved to be an important rotation midfielder for Bayern Munich in their treble winning season. He provided important quality backup to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, allowing them to take rest before important matches such as before Bayern Munich's thrashing of Barcelona over two legs in the Champions League Semi-Final. But it was in the FIFA Confederations Cup that he truly shone, providing dominant performances in the midfield with his partner in crime Paulinho. Together, they allowed Brazil's forwards to have complete freedom and their hard work in both winning the ball and keeping it moving culminated in Brazil's 3-0 smashing of Spain in the Confederations Cup Final, allowing Brazil to lift the trophy for the third time in a row and for the fourth time overall.

In the Bundesliga, Gustavo made a total of 22 appearances, with 6 of them coming as a substitute. Throughout this, he averaged 42.7 passes per game, a number which is about 6 lower than Tom Cleverley at Manchester United, but he had a higher pass completion percentage when compared, with 93% of his passes reaching their target. While certainly being able to hold onto the ball, he does not quite have the ability to play a killer through ball with him only making 0.3 key passes per game, lower than all of Manchester United's current midfielders. Defensively, he will be very solid, as he completed an average of 2.5 tackles per game while also having 1.5 interceptions per game, both of these statistics being an upgrade from Tom Cleverley and his tackling number being higher than that of Michael Carrick's. He is also certainly able to play the long balls, completing 3.7 on average per game, thus showing he is able to spread the play and help to provide different options when attacking. Furthermore, he averaged 0.7 successful dribbles per game, a number which would make him the highest in United's current squad along with Anderson, displaying his ability to push the ball forward and force the game when needed. He does commit an average of 1.7 fouls per game, however, and also is dispossessed 1.4 times per game, highlighting a tendency to maybe struggle a little under pressure, though it is made up by his ability to win the ball back quickly and easily thanks to his tackling and interception abilities. He only turns the ball over 0.3 times per match, again showing that he makes clean and simple passes to make sure the midfield is ticking and moving around, thus allowing the more creative players to have much more freedom. He also scored 3 league goals and provided an assist, which only furthers the point of him sitting back and helping control the midfield allowing for the others to have more freedom to play how they wish. Added to the fact that he is 26 and is likely entering his prime, he will only get better.

How Would He Fit In?

Luiz Gustavo would more than likely slot in right next to Michael Carrick in the heart of the Manchester United midfield. He would play simple passes, while occasionally pulling off a long ball out to to the wings or forwards, thereby allowing United to push forward quicker when needed. His ability to both put in a tackle as well as position himself in order to intercept the ball both mean that Carrick will be given much more creative freedom, meaning that he will simply be allowed to orchestrate attacks from a deep lying position without having to worry as much as he currently does, giving him a role similar to Andrea Pirlo's at Juventus. By also knowing when to burst forward and when to stay back, Gustavo would provide both an additional presence when Manchester United choose to press forward as well as a player quick to get back and take the ball as soon as it is lost by other players in the team. His defensive prowess will prove integral to giving the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney, and Robin van Persie freedom to roam, particularly if he were to help protect the left wing. Why would he be helping protect the left wing? Simply because if either Kagawa or Rooney were to be playing on the left wing (as the formation sheet would show), they would not help the defense out as much as Ashley Young or even Nani. This would leave Patrice Evra completely open to being exploited down United's left hand side and a strong presence will prove to be integral to aid Evra when faced with quality wingers, in an addition to shoring up the defense by helping ease the pressure on the defenders, allowing them to simply concentrate on their defensive duties while not having to face a relentless wave of opposition attacks, like what happened in the previous season. Gustavo also has a powerful long shot, one that will certainly give the opposition an extra worry when Manchester United are to attack. Not only do they have to worry about the abilities of Rooney, van Persie, Kagawa, and most likely Nani, they will also have to be aware of the possibility of Luiz Gustavo sneaking up from behind and providing an extra option in the attack. His ability to be strong and hopefully dominate matches will prove to be very important for Manchester United in the coming years as Michael Carrick will be slowly eased out of the first team with one of the youngsters or a creatively minded midfielder coming in to replace him.

The Key Problem:

Any problem with this signing likely stems from what appears to be a lack of creativity in him. While he most certainly is able to pass the ball around and move to the right spots to pass it on, he appears to be rather conservative on his passes, thus likely leading to his high completion rate. This creativity problem is very unlikely to crop up in many matches that United play in, but if against top tier European opposition, questions will arise on what would happen if Michael Carrick were to be marked out of the game. Sure Gustavo would keep on playing his passes but if Carrick's extra creative threat were to be taken out of the game, Manchester United would surely have problems. While Gustavo may be able to push the ball forwards and provide it to United's front line, his apparent inability to play a key pass may be a worry should Carrick be shut down in a big game, likely against the likes of the very club Luiz Gustavo would be coming from: Bayern Munich. As was seen in their match against Juventus, Marko Mandzukic hounded Andrea Pirlo and simply prevented him from conducting the orchestra as he usually does so majestically, thereby causing the Bianconeri to lose a vital part of their play, not having their main playmaker available to them. While this is an issue that is unlikely to crop up, it can be exploited by the best, likely being the barrier between United and being the Champions of Europe for a fourth time.

The Ideal Solution?

More likely than not, yes, he will be a very good signing if he were to be picked up by David Moyes and co. Able to both win the ball back easily while also being able to keep the midfield ticking and playing the long balls to the forwards to allow them to completely express themselves with creative freedom, Luiz Gustavo will prove to be an integral part of the Manchester United midfield if he were to join. At the age of 26, he only has his best years ahead of him, and will help bridge the gap as Michael Carrick is slowly taken out of the first team and a newer, younger face takes over his creative duties. Worries about his inability to orchestrate play do remain and might be exploited by the best in Europe, but at a reported price of only 16 million pounds and likely being open to a move thanks to Bayern's very crowded midfield, Gustavo will be a fantastic addition to Manchester United's current team.

Likelihood: 7/10
Impact: 9.5/10