A few days ago, the Daily Mirror ran a story, which was later picked up by the Mail and Guardian linking us to 24-yr old Marouane Fellaini-Bakkioui. I suppose most of you have seen him play for Everton FC. The ever-reliable Dan Levene has tweeted he isn't sure if the stories are correct but has acknowledged the fact that Fellaini might be a replacement for Essien. I couldn't find much discussion among the WAGNH community about Fellaini, possibly because the links to Chelsea aren't strong enough. However, I thought I would try my hand at writing something up about the young Belgian midfielder.
Marouane Fellaini started his senior career at the age of 17 at Standard Liege in 2006, after coming through the academies of various Belgian clubs, most notably Anderlecht.* He went on to make 84 appearances for the club, scoring 11 goals in the process and winning the Ebony Shoe in 2008. During his time at the Jupiler League, he was considered as one of the best box-to-box midfielders because of his stamina and pace.
*You'll be surprised to know his first love in the world of sports wasn't football but track, with 10,000 metres being his favorite.
In September 2008, Fellaini signed on a 5-yr deal for Everton with the transfer fee being around £15m, a record transfer fee for the Merseyside club at that time. In the up-coming seasons, he went on to establish himself as an important component of David Moyes' side.Now, I am going to try to look at his strengths, weaknesses & what he might bring on the table for the Champions League winners.
Fellaini favors the Central Defensive Midfield position. As he is a strong tackler[he averages 2.9 tackles in each game] & good on aerial duels, he makes strong interceptions. However, this tendency of his makes him commit around 2.6 fouls per game. When he first came to England, he was booked 10 times in his first 17 appearances. The biggest hindrance in him being a lone holder in front of the back 4 is that he likes to move up the pitch & make surging runs forward while the team attacks. His mobility, on the other hand, though makes him a great candidate for a box-to-box midfielder. Fellaini is also very strong on set-pieces & a threat to the opponent's goal because of his afore-mentioned quality of being strong in the air.
Fellaini likes playing short passes to his team-mates. According to Whoscored, his successful pass percentage is 79.7%. Fellaini can hold onto the ball and is usually calm under pressure. However, he makes only 1 key pass for every 3 games he plays. That, along with the fact that he just put one succesful through-ball in the entire 2011-12 PL season, somewhat confirms that he is not the best candidate for the "regista" role.
The biggest asset of Fellaini is that he is versatile and can play almost all the positions in the midfield. Last season, he was employed high up the pitch by Moyes behind the CF and he did a decent job. He can play a high-tempo game if needed & can push up the field if we chase a game and also sit back & defend if we want to protect a lead.
Fellaini has twice suffered malleolar injuries[ankle fracture in simple words] in the last 3 seasons. In both occasions, the injuries kept him sidelined for around five months. So, there is always a risk factor that his ankle may give away & make him compromise his abilities.
Before I move on to the important aspect of whether he fulfills our requirement of a deep-lying playmaker, here is a compilation of his touches & shots from Everton's match against Manchester United:
Now, lets move on to the kind of player we need for our double pivot. As it has been discussed over the last few days or weeks, Chelsea needs someone who can link up the defense to the attack. Is Fellaini creative enough to fulfill that role?? Honestly speaking, NO.
Does that mean it will be a waste of money if Chelsea buy him?? Again, NO. He's an utility player. Someone you want to have in your ranks when you are a top club and play upward of 50 matches a season. Fellaini is a player who can step in & contribute to the greater cause if your regular starter is injured and you are going to play an important match. Essien is no longer the force he used to be. And Fellaini can definitely be an upgrade over the current Bison. [I terribly miss THE old BISON]
Another thing which is to be considered is that he is a part of the up-coming talents of the Belgian national team and would fit in well with the Belgo-Brazillian influx we are currently having at the Stamford Bridge. He is skillful* on the ball, has got a decent work-rate, is young and has PL experience under his belt.
*Talking of skill, you should watch this teaser:
Lastly, the price being thrown around is £20-22m. It seems a little expensive to me, because he is not going to solve our CM problem and to be a regular starter, he has to overcome Mikel, who has been terrific in the last quarter of last season. But, if you say, we buy him after we get the best Central Midfielder in England and make him a long-term replacement for Essien, I won't mind.