Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Manchester United Scouting Reports: Toni Kroos

Pep Guardiola's arrival at Bayern Munich has led to some upheaval in the team of the German and European champions. The arrivals of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara in particular has led to the Bayern midfield becoming very overcrowded so the question arises: who will be shipped out in order to make space for all of Bayern's talented players to get playing time? While Luiz Gustavo seems certain to go, with reports stating that he is about to join VFL Wolfsburg, there are some rumblings about Toni Kroos also possibly being removed in order to clear up some space in the Bayern midfield. A player of his talent should surely be gaining consistent playing time, and with Manchester United having troubles in their midfield, would Kroos United's savior?

Performance from Last Season:

Toni Kroos was a crucial cog in the Bayern team that won both the UEFA Champions League and the Bundesliga in the previous season. He proved to be a critical outlet for passes and was always setting up teammates, creating chances, and wreaking havoc on the opposition defense. He was also not at all afraid from getting back and helping out to defend with the rest of the team, though he consistently proved to be the brains behind most of Bayern's attacks. He used both his fantastic vision and technical abilities to both set up his teammates and bag a few goals for himself. In the Bundesliga, he made a total of 23 appearances, one of which came from the bench as a substitute. Over these 23 matches, Toni Kroos averaged 52.8 passes per game, 89.7% of which reached their target, showing his ability to easily make and complete passes to his teammates. Any accusations of him simply making backwards or sideways passes is negated by his key passes statistic, which shows that he made 2.8 key passes per game, displaying his vision to pick out his teammates and give them the ball. Furthermore, thanks to these abilities, he was able to score 6 goals and create 8 more for his teammates in the Bundesliga, again highlighting the fact that he is able to provide a creative goal scoring threat to the opposition. He also takes 2.2 shots per game, once again highlighting the fact that he provides an extra threat for the opposition defense to worry about. The fact that he makes 3.8 long balls per game further diminishes the notion of him only making very safe passes while also showcasing his vision to pick out his fellow players from a large distance as well as his superb technical abilities. He can also carry the ball forwards when necessary as he completes 1 dribble per game, a number which is higher than all of Manchester United's current midfield options. Even while making these many risky passes and pushing the ball forwards, Kroos was only dispossessed 1.3 times per game and he turned the ball over 0.9 times per game, both numbers being slightly higher than United's current midfielders. Nonetheless, despite having such a high offensive output, he is not at all afraid to get back and defend, making an average of 1.6 tackles per game and 0.6 interceptions per game in the Bundesliga, both numbers being only 0.1 less than that of Tom Cleverley's. He did, however give away 0.9 fouls per game, but nonetheless, these are very good defensive statistics for such a creative player.

How Would He Fit In?

While Toni Kroos most certainly shines playing as an attacking midfielder, he is more than capable of playing in a deeper, more creative role for the team, as demonstrated several times for Bayern Munich in the previous season. He would more than likely either replace Tom Cleverley or Michael Carrick in the first team, more than likely replacing Cleverley as the partner to Carrick. He may also quite possibly play up front with the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney, and Robin van Persie, but for the sake of this article, it will be assumed that he shall replace Cleverley as partner to Carrick in order to ensure that at least one winger is consistently playing in the team. If Kroos were to be bought by United, he would significantly help out Carrick in his creative duties by being able to do what Cleverley already does but only better. Kroos plays more long balls per game. makes more dribbles per game, more shots, more goals, more assists, more passes, a completing 0.5 less passes per game, though being dispossessed and turning the ball over more, this can be put down to Kroos playing the majority of the season for Bayern in a central attacking midfielder position. Same can be applied to his defensive statistics, which are only 0.1 lower than Cleverley despite playing in a much more forward position than Cleverley. Should he join and partner Carrick, Kroos would shuttle up and down the field while Carrick would conduct the play from a deep lying position. He would both come back and defend when necessary and go forward and provide an additional creative threat to aid United's already talented attackers. His ability to play long balls and key passes to create chances for his teammates while also maintaining a high passing completion percentage will not only ensure that the midfield will keep on running and Manchester United will always have the ball, the team will also be able to provide a solid threat to the opposition from both the deep as well as from the front lines. His genius vision and technical abilities will not only help United when the team is dominating the match and having full control, it can also be used to quickly launch counter-attacks by moving the ball upfield quickly from a set piece to one of the forwards and thus set up a chance for United themselves. All in all, Toni Kroos will provide a very solid creative threat from a deeper position for United and will only serve to get better as the years pass by, especially considering he is only at the age of 23.

The Key Problem:

While signing Toni Kroos will prove to be a fantastic addition to the squad, he will not be able to provide a strong, physical presence to aid Carrick should United be facing stronger, more physical midfielders. The front line needs to be based off of a solid midfield partnership in order to allow complete freedom to the forward players. If there is no solid midfield behind them, the forwards are unable to roam freely and destroy opposition defenses as they will be forced to come back and defend should they lose the ball. While Kroos will certainly aid United when attacking, when faced against a powerful midfield pairing, he and Carrick will likely be shut down; he is simply not physical enough. While his tackling and interception numbers should certainly increase if he is moved back to a deeper position, one has to worry about the fact that the midfield will still be overrun much in the way that Bayern overran the Barcelona midfield this past season. The midfield will simply be too lightweight to deal with the likes of Bayern, Real, and Juventus. While Kroos will be able to play a key role from the deep both now and in the future by replacing Carrick, he needs someone who is more physical and can provide cover to allow him full freedom to play the way he wishes, much in the way Sami Khedira allows Xabi Alonso to control the Real Madrid midfield by taking care of the dirty work and simply getting stuck in.

The Perfect Signing?

Simply put, if Toni Kroos were to be signed by Manchester United, the team would gain a huge, talented player who will only get better and better in the future, especially as he is only at the age of 23. His vision, passing, and creativity are all fantastic and if partnering Michael Carrick at the heart of the United midfield, the options and potential to create are simply limitless. There is a rather large worry of him simply not being physical enough to aid United against much bigger and stronger midfield players. While a majority of the time this should not be a worry, against the better sides in Europe and in England, it is simply asking for trouble. Should he be signed, however, United will have gained one of the brightest prospects in Europe, though an additional, more physical yet technically proficient presence will still be needed by the club. At the reported price of 28 million pounds, and the age of 23, he will be a pricey yet very good improvement for the club, but the question remains as to whether or not he will actually leave Bayern Munich, and if so, United will still have a problem on their hands, no matter how good Kroos may be.

Likelihood: 4/10
Impact: 8.5/10