Reports in the media suggest that Arsenal have activated the release clause in Marouane Fellaini’s contract, said to be £22 million. Considering Arséne Wenger’s transfer policy, this may sound a little outrageous but with a £70 million war-chest, nothing can be ruled out. Although Fellaini was employed mostly as an attacking mid-fielder by David Moyes in the 2012-13 season, he has gone on record to say that he’d prefer to play in a more deeper role.
Ever since the departure of Alexandré Song to Barcelona before the start of last season, Arsenal have struggled to fill the void left by him. Abou Diaby was expected to play the role of a defensive mid-fielder, allowing for the likes of Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey and Cazorla to play a more creative role. After the long-term injury sustained by the injury-prone French-man, Arsenal have missed the physical presence of somebody like Alex Song, which also hampered the chances of the team in big games. With an in-depth comparison of Stats of Marouane Fellaini and Alex Song, lets try to find out whether or not he is worthy of the £22m price tag (something that Chelsea or City would give in an instance, just for fun).
Let us first compare how Fellaini (of 2012-13 season) compares to Alex Song (of 2011-12 season) in terms of defensive performance with regards to clearances, ground duels, ariel duels and tackling.
Although, Fellaini played in a more advanced position, he was effective in stopping the opposition’s advances through-out the season and also defended the corners very well (for this you may need to watch a compilation of highlights of the Toffees’ matches). It may surprise a few to see that Fellaini has cleared more balls than Song and also won nearly 6 times more aerial duals. Alex song is marginally ahead in terms of ground duals and tackles but that could also be because of the fact that he played 214 mins (in 2011-12) more than Fellaini (in 2012-13). Considering these stats, one thing is clear that Fellaini can provide the much required physical presence in the defensive mid-field, something that Arsenal sorely missed in the last season. By no stretch imagination, can Fellaini be a direct replacement of Song but with his impressive ability in the air, chest-control and decent speed, he could fit in perfectly in Arsenal’s defensive mid-field and also provide assistance to the defenders.
II. Passing / Crossing:
Let us now compare the passing and crossing of the two mid-field players.
As Alex Song started in a more deeper role compared to Fellaini, it is not surprising that his stats in terms of passes completed is a lot more but one should not overlook the fact that Fellaini has a fairly decent percentage of passes completed. As Fellaini played in a more attacking role, he has put in more crosses into the box. With age still on his side and if groomed well alongside the likes of Arteta and Cazorla, Fellaini can learn the spanish art of passing and settle quickly. As he has proved himself in the role of an attacking mid-fielder, he can provide cover for our attacking mid-fielders and press forward whenever the situation demands. The prospect of having the likes of Cazorla, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Chamberlain and Fellaini to choose from will be mouth-watering for the manager and envy of every other team in the league.
III. Creativity, Goals & Assists:
One of the reasons why Arsenal finished in the top-4 in 2011-12 was the effective co-ordination between Alex Song and now disgraced former captain Robin van Persie. In all, Alex Song created 46 chances, 11 of which resulted in goals for the team, most of which were scored by van Persie. He may not have pressed forward enough to create goal-scoring chances for himself but was exceptional when it came to setting up our attackers.
Fellaini, who as I said has mostly been employed as an attacking midfielder has had a more fruitful season in front of the goal. In all, he managed more than 6 times more shots, on and off the target and scored 11 goals in the premier league, 10 more than what Song could manage in 2011-12. In terms of creating chances and assists provided, Fellaini isn’t too far behind Song.
Statistically speaking, Fellaini has an edge over Song in the overall comparison. He has all that it takes to be a very successful footballer, no matter where he plays. Being dubbed ‘unplayable’ at times, he is a versatile footballed who possesses excellent technique and is a presence both defensively and offensively – regardless of whether being played as a holding midfielder or in more advanced positions. He may not be a direct replacement for Alex Song but one can expect Arséne Wenger to get the best out of this very talented mid-fielder who is still young, has loads and loads of potential and is very hard-working – all the qualities that Wenger looks for in a player. Sceptics may not be sure about his value for money but I believe that if Arsenal can sign him, he could very well play a vital role in deciding the outcome of our season in all competitions in the times to come, like he did for Everton in 2o12-13. Personally, I’d love to see him play for Arsenal than to go to Manchester United but the man Wenger plays his cards very close to his chest and we will have to wait and see what happens in the weeks to come.
Please note that comparisons are strictly on the basis of Statistics, which may not always represent the actual performances of the players. Some of you may have a different point of view, so feel free to share it with me here or on twitter. Until next week, this is me signing off hoping to see at least a couple of good signings from the Gaffer to write about.
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