Transfer Window Worries: Central Midfield

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WATFORD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Nemanja Matic of Manchester United and Abdoulaye Doucoure of Watford in action during the Premier League match between Watford and Manchester United at Vicarage Road on November 28, 2017 in Watford, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Welcome to the first installment of Transfer Window Worries. This column will highlight issues in the current squad shown in the first half of the season. Additionally, it will present three possible players who could be brought in to address the problem. The first will be an elite player who, if signed, would be the ideal fit. Secondly, a star-quality player ready to take the next step in their career. Finally, a safe signing who would bring much needed depth to the team.

Transfer Window Worries: Central Midfield

The Issue

Completing the signing of Nemanja Matic in the summer transfer window seemed to sure up a prevalent problem in the Manchester United team. When the Premier League season began, the Serbian along with Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan formed a formidable midfield three. Contributing with goals, assists and defensive ability, this trio was pivotal to the Red Devil’s rampant start to the campaign.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase has come to an end. Pogba has missed numerous matches through injury and suspension. Matic is playing nearly every match with an injury as Jose Mourinho can’t afford to rest the 29 year old. Mkhitaryan has fallen off the face of the earth, having failed to register an assist after five in his first three games. The supporting cast has been unable to fill the void when either Pogba or Matic aren’t in the team. Manchester United need to bring in a player effective in all aspects of the game to bridge the gap between defense and attack.

The Superstar Signing

A player who Manchester United courted heavily in the summer, Monaco’s Fabinho would still be a terrific fit in Jose Mourinho’s team. The Brazilian has continued his eye-catching form from last season’s Ligue 1 triumph.

While Fabinho predominantly operates as a defensive midfielder, his unique skill set makes him very mobile on the field. He is currently averaging 3.6 tackles and 1.6 clearances per match, constantly breaking up the opposition’s play. However, he also contributes offensively, having registered three goals and two assists in Ligue 1 this season. Fabinho also has the ability to play right back – another area Manchester United needs to address.

Additionally, there are many reasons for Fabinho to leave Monaco. He has already watched fellow stars Kylian Mbappe, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Bernardo Silva leave for bigger markets. Monaco currently sit 9 points behind Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain and crashed out of the Champions League, finishing fourth in their group. All this followed a tumultuous summer which likely damaged his relationship with the club.

Fabinho’s signature would see him slide in alongside Nemanja Matic and push Paul Pogba further up the pitch. Despite standing at 1.88m tall, the Brazilian would be the smallest of that midfield three. A midfield of that size and quality would intimidate many an opponent.

The Top-drawer Transfer

While Napoli have been the talk of Serie A this season, Lazio have quietly been very impressive. The Roman outfit may be 11 points behind the league leaders, but they are just two points outside the top four and nine points above sixth placed Sampdoria. A key component of their start to the season has been the play of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

While the young Serbian is at his best as an attacking midfielder, his physicality would see him adapt well to the Premier League. He averages over two tackles per match, which dwarfs the Premier League statistics of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. A very powerful runner, Milinkovic-Savic is capable of picking up the in deep positions and driving play forward – Manchester United noticeably lacked this during Paul Pogba’s absence. He is just as effective in the offensive third, scoring seven and assisting two goals across all competitions this year.

Lazio also failed to qualify for this year’s Champions League. This means that Milinkovic-Savic would be able to aid Manchester United’s cause in Europe’s elite competition. At just 21 years of age, he has the world at his feet and a big money move to the Premier League could pry him away from Italy.

The Safe Solution

One of the most impressive teams in this season’s Premier League has been Watford. The Hornets may sit tenth, but have put in some eye-catching under new manager Marco Silva. The consistent play of midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure has been pivotal to their success.

Doucoure’s most impressive attribute is his ability to contribute in every aspect of the game. Defensively he averages 1.9 clearances and tackles per match, as well as 1.5 interceptions. In the offensive third, the 24 year-old has scored six times this season. This is in addition to contributing 1.1 key passes, 1.3 shots per match and a pass completion percentage of 84.2%.

Such well rounded statistics would give Manchester United much needed depth at multiple central midfield roles. While he lacks Pogba’s creativity, he provides a very capable physical replacement should the Red Devils’ star get injured again. He is defensively sound enough to give Nemanja Matic much needed rest; or could play alongside Matic, pushing Pogba up the pitch.

 

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