Once regarded as one of the best exponents of his art, now at the age of 31, Patrice Evra is entering the twilights of his career.
Although the Manchester United left-back is curiously enjoying the most productive spell of his career in front of the opposition’s goal since his first year as a professional footballer, the France international is losing his midas defensive touch, perhaps the more pivotal aspect of his play.
Currently on loan to Queens Park Rangers, Fabio Da Silva is often touted as the heir to Evra for United’s left-back role. Alexander Buttner might also be an alternative, but the Netherlands international hasn’t played enough this term to allow one to make a clear judgment on the 23-year-old’s skills and potential.
Hence, what follows is an analysis, using EPL Index’s Stats Centre, of Fabio’s loan-stint at Rangers until now and whether he has developed enough to challenge for a starting XI spot at the Old Trafford next season.
Note: There will be two segments to this topic - the first will contain the main goals, that is, comparison about the two players’ defending and possession skills, while second part will contain the comparison about the two players’ attacking contributions and passing skills (will be published in the coming days).
Although many football pundits feel that Evra has shown a spiral downwards is his defending over the past 24 months, the stats seem to suggest that the ageing veteran is still a more effective defender than the ‘upcoming’ Fabio.
Evra is relatively less error-prone as compared to Fabio, whereas the former also have a better tackling success rate, albeit he lacks behind in the 50-50 ground duels.
Even though Fabio is more involved in defensive duties as he takes part in a ground duel every 9.66 minutes (Evra-11.93 minutes) and in a tackle every 22 minutes (Evra- 36 minutes), the reason behind this are QPR’s tactics, particularly under Harry Redknapp.
Out of the 840 minutes of Premier League football Fabio has played this term, about 65% (533 minutes) of that playing time has come under Redknapp. Since taking over the managerial helm at the Loftus Road, the former Tottenham Hotspur manager has deployed a relatively deep back line and his side have also “parked the bus” in several games to stop leaking in goals, a negative and dangerous trait of the R’s under Mark Hughes. Fabio, in these games under Redknapp has consequently played a very defensive role and has been more ‘involved’ in his defensive tasks.
The below two tactical maps of Fabio’s average position during two different games, one under Hughes and one Redknapp, produce a similar analysis (Note: Fabio is No 20).
The game against Swansea City (under Hughes’) shows Fabio’s average position to be a little ahead of the halfway line.
However, in the tie against Spurs (under Redknapp), Fabio’s average position is much behind the halfway-line, just some yards away from being parallel to the two centre-backs’ average position in the Swansea game. For this reason, with a submerged position, the lad is bound to participate in more defensive battles.
Another avenue where Fabio has been lacking is his aerial threat.
Evra is 1.73 metres tall, just 0.1 metre more than his Brazilian counterpart, yet the former Monaco star has a better success rate in aerial battles. Frankly, winning just 55% of your headers is an embarrassing stat for a defender and makes it quite evident that Fabio can’t mitigate high balls and can easily succumb under pressure when coming up against a physically astute player.
Ironically, Fabio’s twin, Rafael is equally horrendous with his aerial abilities.
In terms of keeping hold of the ball, Fabio proves out to be a better commodity than Evra.
Despite that he likes to dribble and bombard more often into the final third as compared to Evra, Fabio still loses possession only every 105 minutes, whereas his counterpart concedes possession every 71 minutes.
However, it also be needs to taken into account, that as aforementioned, due to Fabio’s more deeper style of play under Redknapp, Evra has perhaps been the more attacking full-back in the recent weeks, but that still doesn’t make up for huge stat difference.
In terms of winning back possession, however, Fabio is still lacking behind a little – winning possession back for his team every 20 minutes in comparison to Evra winning the ball back every 18 minutes.
In a few days I’ll be bringing you Part 2 which will be looking at the attacking qualities of both players…
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