Reports from on the continent this week are suggesting that Manchester City will make a move for 23 year-old PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot. Both French outlet RMC and Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo have reported that Pep Guardiola met with Adrien Rabiot this week to talk about a potential move. We will today look at Rabiot’s statistics and judge whether Rabiot is the man to replace Fernandinho at City.
Fernandinho was undeniably the lynch-pin that held together Manchester City’s midfield last season. He played 34 games in the Premier League at the age of 33 years old, which is no mean feat given the high intensity of the league. To add to the 34 games in the league, Fernandinho played 8 Champions League games, 3 FA Cup games and twice in the League Cup.
47 games in a season is a hell of an ask for a player who is approaching his twilight years.
City have been less than discrete with their desire to find a long-term replacement for the Brazilian midfielder given their pursuits of Fred and Jorginho in January and the summer respectively.
Previously on the site, we have looked in depth at Weigl and Neves and what they may bring to City and they seem like very attractive options.
In today’s piece however, I will take a more in-depth look at Rabiot and how he compared to Fernandinho last season.
Is this the man who Pep feels can replace Fernandinho?
Looking at the stats on the Squawka comparison matrix we can see that Rabiot fares very well when compared to Fernandinho.
He bests his Brazilian counter-part in tackles won, the percentage of aerial duels won, and the percentage of total duels won, all per 90 minutes. This is very promising. Obviously being a defensive midfield, one must have to defend and the stats appear to show that Rabiot is equally as competent as a defensive midfielder as Fernandinho is.
Pep likes his team to counter-press effectively and by the looks of things, this is certainly something that Rabiot is capable of doing. By besting Fernandinho in tackles won per 90 and only marginally losing out in interceptions per 90, Rabiot shows that he is effective at winning the ball back proactively, something which is one of Fernandinho best attributes.
It is no surprise that Rabiot beats out Fernandinho in terms of winning a greater percentage of aerial duels. Rabiot is 6’3” and although he is not as physically imposing as, for example, Paul Pogba or Raphaël Varane both fellow members of the 6’3” club, he is certainly adept at winning headers against his opponent. Pep Guardiola has emphasised the importance of winning the second ball in the Premier League in the past and has also previously bemoaned the fact that the ball spends more time in the air than on the floor in England all of which points to the importance of having a sizeable player in the middle of the park like Rabiot to win the initial ball and give City more chance of securing the second ball.
As we all know, Pep loves having the ball and as such his players must be good on the ball. I will now look at Rabiot’s ability on the ball using the Squawka comparison matrix in tandem with the stats provided by Wyscout for some added detail.
Rabiot appears to have a very attractive passing profile and not too dissimilar to that of Fernandinho.
The first stat, successful passes per 90 highlights that Rabiot is busy when he’s on the ball. He likes to take the ball and move it on quickly and regularly, which is something quite desirable in the Manchester City system. In addition to this, Rabiot makes 52.39 forward passes per 90, this shows that he likes to be progressive with his passes rather than simply moving the ball backwards and sideways.
Furthermore, according to Wyscout, Rabiot attempted 9.59 passes into the final third per 90 minutes in the league last season, completing 87.5% of these attempts. Fernandinho does, however, attempt more of these kind of passes with 13.95 attempted, completing 86.8% of these. This is to be expected, as overall Fernandinho makes more passes per 90 in general so it is only natural that Fernandinho bests Rabiot in this category.
Rabiot completed 92% of his passes in the league last season, a higher rate than Fernandinho highlighting the fact that Rabiot takes great care with the ball.
Analysis of Champions League Performances
I think, however, that these stats are to be expected. PSG won the league last season by 13 points. They rarely had to stretch themselves to secure wins against their domestic opponents. In order to truly get a read on Rabiot’s ability I think it may be more beneficial to have a look at how he got on against a better calibre of opponent in the Champions League.
Rabiot made 8 appearances in the Champions League last season, playing against Celtic, Anderlecht, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. For further analysis, I will look at Rabiot’s performances against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
When looking at how Rabiot performs in the Champions League some big question marks arise.
Rabiot himself was rarely selected as the deepest midfielder in a midfield 3, as he often was in the league. This is potentially an issue as if Rabiot is to replace Fernandinho this is the position in which he would be selected to play.
In PSG’s home tie vs Bayern Munich in which they won 3-0, PSG opted for Thiago Motta as the defensively minded midfielder in a 3-man midfield. Rabiot played more like a traditional 8. He did make 7 interceptions in the game, which is quite an impressive number but he only managed to win 1 of his 6 defensive duels.
Rabiot somewhat failed to stamp his authority on the game with the ball. In 95 minutes Rabiot only completed 27 passes which is a measly amount for a central midfielder.
In the return fixture in Munich, Rabiot operated in a double pivot with Marco Verratti which didn’t work very effectively for PSG as they went down 3-1.
Rabiot registered 14 interceptions in this game, which is an impressive number and reflective of the high amount of defending the PSG side had to do. Rabiot also used the ball more carefully. He completed 94% of his 70 passes, yet only 15 of these passes were forward passes, which suggests he was very conservative with his passing and rarely took many risks with the ball.
PSG met Real Madrid in the 1st Knockout Round of the Champions League and Rabiot again played both legs. In the 1st Leg Rabiot again featured in a double pivot alongside Verratti, with this again proving unsuccessful as PSG lost 3-1.
Rabiot again somewhat failed to stamp his authority on the game with ball, only completing 39 passes in 95 minutes. He only managed to complete 11 forward passes and only 7 passes into the final third. Admittedly, going away to Real Madrid is always going to be a tough ask and a side may be expected to struggle to dominate the ball and thus their players will make fewer passes. However, PSG only made 6 passes less than Real Madrid in the game with 463, meaning Rabiot was only responsible for 8.4% of the French side’s passes in the entire game, I don’t feel that this is good enough.
Rabiot also struggled defensively. The midfielder only managed to win 1 of his 10 defensive duels in the game, making just 1 interception to add to that. Rabiot didn’t have much luck in the Second Leg either. He only won 2 of his 9 duels with just 3 interceptions as the Spanish giants again beat out their French opponents. His overall passing was more impressive. He completed 72 passes at an 89% completion rate. However, he only managed 17 successful forward passes in the game, with only 7 of his 72 successful passes being into the final third.
In short, I don’t feel that Rabiot is the answer.
While his statistics in the league are impressive, his Champions League performances leave something to be desired. That isn’t to say that he can’t develop into a better defensive midfielder, he is only 23. On top of this, I feel he could do a job in roughly 80% of the games in the Premier League when City will dominate the ball and be rarely threatened defensively. However, when it comes to stepping up for the big Champions League games, I think Rabiot is currently lacking. The Champions League is so far the trophy that has eluded Manchester City and the hierarchy have made it clear that this is the title that they desire.
City would probably be able to pick Rabiot up for a relatively low-risk fee if they are to approach him in January. However, it is very rare that City simply settle on a signing due to him being available at a low price. To me, this is what it seems like with Rabiot. I don’t feel as though Rabiot is City’s first choice signing for this position and if the rumours are true of Pep meeting with the Frenchman it may simply be that City are exploring their options in the market.