A statistical look at potential Manchester United midfield transfer targets

This writer is quite fond of Javi Martinez

With the long-term unavailability of Darren Fletcher and Anderson, and also because of the general uninspiring performances at times from Manchester United's central-midfield, the transfer talk has heated up in anticipation of the upcoming January transfer window. There are questions whether United can even afford a big January purchase but that topic can be discussed in other write-ups. For simplicity's sake, I've decide to use the Guardian's recent piece showing potential midfield transfer targets in pictures as a basis to discuss which players United might pursue.

It's important to keep in mind the obvious fact that midfielders come in all sorts of different styles and roles. In a three-man midfield, it's typical to have a ball-winner, a tidy distributor, and an incisive playmaker. In a two-man midfield, these roles tend to get blended within the duo but one is generally still more conservative while the other is more attack-minded. However, there is certainly gray areas as well in player's roles, depending on a team's tactical system and personnel.

Sir Alex Ferguson's sides over the years generally have had two main sources of creativity: (1) a withdrawn forward that drops deep and operates in the space between the lines (e.g. Wayne Rooney, Eric Cantona) or (2) from their wingers providing incisiveness in attack (e.g. Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, etc.). The role of their central-midfielders has generally included operating from a relatively deep position -- if they got forward into attack, it typically was due to well-timed late-arriving runs into the box. With that simple description in mind, here's a table below providing a statistical (from 2011/12 season through December 15) look at potential midfield targets mentioned by the Guardian. Following that, I've provided a brief comment on each player.

Player

Club/League

PPG

Pass %

KP

C

LB

TB

TKL

INT

Jack Rodwell

Everton/England

30.4

87.5%

0.7

-

2.9

-

1.3

1.6

Nicolas Gaitain

Benfica/Portugal (UCL)

42.5

75.3%

2.2

0.8

2.3

0.5

2.0

1.7

Luka Modric

Spurs/England

64.0

87.2%

2.3

1.2

8.0

0.7

2.0

1.8

Ganso

Santos/Brazil

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Wesley Sneijder

Inter/Italy

52.8

84.5%

2.5

1.5

6.2

0.8

0.5

0.2

Sneijder

UCL

44.7

84.3%

3.0

1.3

4.3

0.3

1.0

0.7

Cheik Tiote

Newcastle/England

57.9

81.6%

0.6

0.2

3.0

-

3.2

3.0

Javi Martinez

Atletico Bilbao/Spain

52.1

85.8%

0.5

-

5.7

0.1

3.1

4.4

Yann M’Vila

Rennes/France

66.7

81.2%

1.1

-

6.5

0.5

2.9

2.2

Yohan Cabaye

Newcastle/England

41.1

80.0%

1.7

1.2

2.8

0.3

4.3

1.7

Daniele DeRossi

Roma/Italy

68.9

88.2%

1.0

-

10.5

0.5

2.5

3.8

Mario Gotze

Borussia Dortmund/Germany

34.4

76.9%

2.4

1.8

1.1

-

2.2

1.2

Gotze

UCL

32.3

78.4%

2.2

1.0

0.7

0.3

1.5

0.8

Bastian Schweinsteigr

Bayern Munich/Germany

80.6

85.9%

1.7

0.6

9.2

0.4

2.8

1.5

Schweinsteigr

UCL

71.0

89.4%

1.3

-

7.0

-

2.8

1.5

Claudio Marchisio

Juventus/Italy

51.3

85.3%

1.5

0.3

3.6

0.2

3.0

2.4

Javi Garcia

Benfica/Portugal (UCL)

50.4

89.4%

-

-

3.6

-

2.4

3.2

Christian Eriksen

Ajax/Holland (UCL)

55.8

86.6%

3.0

0.3

1.3

0.3

1.0

1.7

The Busby Babe

Statistics courtesy of: whoscored.com

KEY: PPG = passes per game, Pass % = pass completion percentage, KP = key passes per game, C = accurate crosses per game, LB = accurate long balls per game, TB = accurate through balls per game, TKL = tackles per game, INT = interceptions per game

* Statistics for Gaitain, Garcia, and Eriksen were only available for their UEFA Champions League matches this season and not for their domestic leagues.

** For Sneijder, Gotze, and Schweinsteiger, statistics are provided for both Champions League and domestic league.

* Rodwell: The 20-year-old is rumored to be have been monitored by Fergie for quite some time. Initially considered a defensive-midfielder, but he has shown the ability to get forward as of late. He's in the mold of a box-to-box midfielder.

* Gaitan: The Argentine has recently been linked with United as Fergie got a close-up of him during their two recent Champions League encounters with Benfica. In both matches, Gaitan was deployed out wide but he was narrowly positioned. He's considered to be more a creative player that operates between the lines as opposed to being a true winger.

* Modric: Perhaps a perfect system fit for United: someone who can dictate from deep with tidy distribution and with long, accurate diagonal balls to the flanks. Harry Redknapp likely won't be selling though in January.

* Ganso: No statistics available for the Brazilian. He's been compared to Kaka and he's scouted to be a number ten or trequartista type of player. His club, Santos, faces FC Barcelona on Sunday in the FIFA World Club Cup final -- that should provide opportunity to get a good look at him.

* Sneijder: Rumored to be coming to Old Trafford last summer and those rumors will likely persist in the upcoming transfer window. The Dutchman likes to operate in the space between the lines, similar to where Rooney is most comfortable currently. His form has dipped in the past year.

* Tiote: The combative midfielder is currently battling a knee injury but he can provide bite and ball-winning to any midfield. Ideally, he should be partnered with playmakers.

* Martinez: Arguably the most impressive in the Spain U-21 side that won the European Championships this past summmer -- a squad that included Juan Mata. A deep-lying playmaker -- with both fantastic technical skill and positional awareness -- that can play both as a midfielder and center-back. United need another deep-lying playmaker when considering Michael Carrick is the only one in the squad currently.

* M'Vila: A player whose stock has risen recently and he even has established himself in France's national team. A ball-winner who is solid in distribution from deep.

* Cabaye: A standout player for Newcastle that provides clever distribution from the center of the park. His defensive statistics are impressive as well.

* De Rossi: Another player who is thought to have been long monitored by Fergie. Perhaps another ideal fit at United: a deep-lying midfielder who is both superb in his ball-winning ability and with his range of passing. He's Roma through-and-through but with the changes at the club, and with his contract up in 18 months, he could make a move. Roberto Mancini is an admirer of him though too.

* Gotze: Quite simply, Germany's brightest prospect. A versatile attacking-midfielder who is showing flashes of potential world-class ability.

* Schweinsteiger: Another player who is long-rumored to have been admired and targeted by Fergie. Also, another player who would provide a perfect fit in the Modric mold. The ship has likely sailed though in regards to a possible move to Old Trafford.

* Marchisio: A perfect compliment to the silky, deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo. This is the first I've heard of his name linked with United.

* Garcia: A solid holding-player that positions himself well and is calm when distributing out of the back. Has good size too and he likely could acclimate well to the Premier League.

* Eriksen: A between the lines playmaker who shined nearly a year ago in a friendly for Denmark against England. United will get a good look at him in February when they face Ajax in the Europea League.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join The Busby Babe

You must be a member of The Busby Babe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Busby Babe. You should read them.

Join The Busby Babe

You must be a member of The Busby Babe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Busby Babe. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9353_tracker