Originally published on LiverpoolScout.com
This here is Fabio Borini, a 21-year-old full Italian international striker currently plying his trade at Serie A side Roma. The Italian was rewarded for his breakout season in the top flight, securing a permanent move to Roma who purchased the remaining 50% of his contract for €5.3million from Serie A side Parma to diffuse a co-ownership agreement between the clubs.
Since Brendan Rodgers was appointed as Liverpool manager, Borini has been heavily linked with a £10million reunion with his former boss at Anfield. The forward worked under the new Liverpool boss during his youth career at Chelsea (when Rodgers was a coach) and when he was on loan at Swansea during the 2010/11 season.
In the last week alone, both Roma’s Sporting Director Walter Sabatini and Borini’s agent Marco De Marchi, have confirmed that “there is a real interest shown by Liverpool for Borini” and that the young Italian was “seriously considering” the switch to Anfield respectively.
Fabio Borini Career Statistics
Over the course of his short career, Borini has made 90 appearances in all competitions and has scored 39 goals, equating to a goal return of 0.43 goals per game or more specifically, a goal every 157 minutes. The hype around the young Italian is well founded, as his high goal return places him in the same goal scoring echelon as the likes of Edinson Cavani (0.45), Wayne Rooney (0.44), Robin van Persie (0.42) and Spanish legend Raul (0.42).
Yet, Borini’s goal scoring proficiency is distorted by way of a high substitute (averaging a low 10 minutes per game) count, which is also counteracted by a high number of appearances and goals in less competitive competitions such as the Premier Reserve League where he scored 17 goals in 21 games and youth level international games.
To ascertain a more accurate illustration of Borini’s performance data, I reduced his appearances and goals to returns from the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup, nPower Championship, Serie A and Copa Italia. In these competitions, Borini returned 16 goals from 45 appearances, at a rate of a goal every 0.36 games. The change in performance is well worth noting once the less competitive performances are removed. The Italian’s goal return reduced from 0.43 to 0.36 goals per game and goals per minutes reduced from a goal every 157 minutes to every 175 minutes, i.e. he was taking more games and minutes – as expected – to score each goal.
With such a small career dataset available due to his limited appearances, it is difficult to ascertain with any certainty how the Roma forward will develop, but at 21 years of age, the following strikers had these respective scoring rates (converted into “Premier League currency” using a discount factor developed by The Tomkins Times):
• Ajax’s Luis Suárez: 0.49 goals per game, a goal every 144 minutes.
• Atlético Madrid’s Fernando Torres: 0.48 goals per game, a goal every 169 minutes.
• Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney: 0.43 goals per game, a goal every 195 minutes.
• Chelsea’s (& also Bolton’s) Daniel Sturridge: 0.36 goals per game, a goal every 145 minutes.
• Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck: 0.30 goals per game, a goal every 209 minutes.
• Stuttgart’s Mario Gomez: 0.22 goals per game, a goal every 173 minutes.
• Palermo’s Edinson Cavani: 0.16 goals per game, a goal every 373 minutes.
As always, it’s exciting to see a current Liverpool player topping the charts, this time for 21-year-old goal scorers!
As ‘goals per game’ is easily distorted by substitute appearances and due to the fact that a “game” can range anywhere between 1 and 90 minutes, I prefer minutes per goal as a more accurate measure to compare goal scorers. In terms of goals per minutes, Fabio Borini outperforms Edinson Cavani, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney as 21-year-old goal scorers, whilst he is roughly on par with Mario Gomez (173 minutes) and 6 minutes short of Fernando Torres.
For a brief overview of his performances and to skip a comparison discussion, watch the following video summary:
In the Serie A this past season, Borini scored 9 goals (seven from his right foot and 2 from his left) from 20 starts and 4 substitute appearances. During the 2011/12 season, Fabio Borini faired quite well for an ~£8million, 21-year-old striker, especially against the likes of Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge, Demba Ba and Steven Fletcher, as shown below.
Remarkably, Borini contrasts synonymously with Wolverhampton’s Steven Fletcher, maintaining the same conversion rate, shots per game and goals per game ratio. Is the Italian thus the younger version of one of the most clinically underrated forwards in the Premier League?
Moreover, Borini (18.75%) was more clinical than both Suárez (10%) and Sturridge (15%), but marginally less potent in front of goal than Fletcher (19%), Ba (20%) and Premier League Golden Boot winner Robin van Persie (21%). Borini was also in the low bracket for shots per game, with the lowest per game in the above class. Over the past season however, Roma adopted a system involving a three-pronged frontline, meaning the opportunities to shoot for each striker were shared more so than a conventional 4-4-2, with Borini’s especially limited playing more often than not on one of the forward wings. Further, Rodgers is also likely to adopt a similar 3-manned attack at Liverpool, with Fabio Borini playing as an inside forward from the wing (if Carroll stays) or as the pivotal centre forward (if Carroll goes). Borini can reasonably only expect to have more chances in front of goal if he’s awarded the centre forward role as the focal point of our build up play.
So what can we expect? In the 2011/12 season, Fabio Borini only featured in 63% of Roma’s games, averaging 70 minutes per game but still managed 9 goals. Extrapolated over a full 38 game season (at the same average minutes per game), Borini would have scored 14 goals, not a bad return for a 21-year-old. However, the Italian’s involvement in build up play is relatively ineffectual, as he made only 16 key passes over the duration of the season, none of which resulted in an assist.
Style of Play
The Italian’s involvement in build up play was relatively small; making only 16 key passes over the duration of the season (0.7 per game), none of which resulted in an assist. This figure is stereotypical of a centre forward (i.e. Carroll with 1.2 KP per game) rather than a wide player (Suárez with 2.1 KP per game) but having played the majority (67%) of the season on the wing, one would expect a higher contribution from the Italian. Further, his passing accuracy was a lowly 75.7%, which generally attests to poor key pass accuracy in the final third.
Borini is an exciting young forward, who empirically, has an array of finishing techniques. For Roma this season, the Italian scored 7 goals with his accurate, yet semi-powerful right boot, whilst the remaining two came from his left foot. Of his 7 right footed goals, two were goal mouth tap-ins, the result of acute passes from the wing precisely aimed at the perfectly positioned forward. Many discredit tap-ins as “easy” or “non-miss-able” chances, but I believe it testifies to the forward’s instinctive ability to be in the right place at the right time. This is in stark contrast to Liverpool’s forwards this season, who were more often than not, caught out of position, either too deep in the play or having pushed out wide to create the chance themselves and leaving goal chances begging. In other words, his instinctive and disciplined positioning is a feature we lacked.
Furthermore, Borini was able to score from acute angles and difficult positions, such as:
- Cutting in from the right wing before power shooting across the body of the ‘keeper into the bottom left of the goal;
- Receiving the ball on the left wing before making a penetrating run into the box, turning an opponent before shooting again across the ‘keeper, this time into the bottom right of the net; and
- Breaking the offside trap to receive the ball inside the opposition box, using his strength to fend off the oncoming defender before shooting a low bouncing shot under the body of the opposition ‘keeper into the bottom left of the net.
Carlo Ancelotti once attributed his versatile attacking ability up front as an “angry” nature that translated into a “desire to always be the first on the ball”. But it was also more than that. Without the ball, Ancelotti recalled that Borini was “a nuisance like [Filippo] Inzaghi”, constantly pestering the opposition defenders in order to cause a spillage of possession – a feature synonymous with “tiki taka” and Brendan Rodgers’ general style of football.
Furthermore, his determinism to pressure the opposition off the ball is coupled with his hunger when he’s on the ball, manifesting itself into a multifaceted goal threat. Borini can score with either foot, has the confidence to take on opponents and the ball control to beat them but also the “anger” on the field to succeed.
The Final Note
There are no certainties in football, but as a 21-year-old, Fabio Borini is well placed with the skills required to succeed in the Premier League and under his former boss Brendan Rodgers. Despite his nominal impact and involvement in build up play, his clinical finishing is something that Liverpool severely suffered from over the past year.
Further, his natural reluctance to be involved in build up play may actually put him in good stead at Liverpool, with Rodgers historically playing a static forward (i.e. Danny Graham), whose sole occupation it is to remain at the focal point of the attack to ensure an incisive attacking passing play does not go wasted.
For the reported £10million transfer fee, the risk of the Italian’s transfer is relatively small in the current marketplace. The most exciting aspect of this transfer is that it affirms the passing – rather than long ball – style of play we hoped Brendan Rodgers was looking to adopt, although consequentially it may result in Andy Carroll’s departure.
Fabio Borini is a talent to be excited about.