Quite a few of us were caught off guard this morning by the surprise announcement that Chelsea had come to terms with Werder Bremen over the transfer of Winger/midfielder Marko Marin. At a reported £6.5 million, this deal has the potential to be an incredible value for Chelsea. I imagine many of you are unfamiliar with the young Bosnian born German international though, so we'll take a little deeper look at what exactly Marin brings to the table as far as skills and how we can potentially expect to see Marin deployed for Chelsea.
At just 5'7" tall and with a fairly smallish build, Marin will never be a physically imposing player. His lack of size shows up in his two greatest deficiencies, his poor tackling and his lack of any sort of aerial threat. He does have some real positive physical characteristics though, as he has very good speed and his change of direction skills are absolutely world class. Combine that with excellent balance and a willingness (and the physical ability) to cover a lot of ground during the course of a match, and you have a pretty decent physical skillset if deployed correctly.
From a technical standpoint, Marin brings some interesting things to the table as well. First and foremost, Marin is absolutely fantastic with the ball at his feet. He's got a fantastic first touch of the ball, and he is awful tough to tackle due to his incredible ability to change directions with the ball at his feet at top speed. He'll immediately be in the discussion of our best dribblers, and his ability to drive at a "parked bus" and beat defenders one on one is something that we were clearly lacking this season.
His vision and passing ability make Marin a bit of an enigma. He's clearly very capable of both seeing his teammates making runs and delivering the ball to those teammates, but often times he seems to put too much pressure on himself to make the highlight pass as opposed to simply moving the ball quickly. That's a correctable habit though, and combined with his ability to beat a defender off the dribble could lead to a very troubling player to mark.
Marin has had a rough year finishing the chances he's created, but outside of this season he's generally been noted for being an excellent finisher. He's a pretty solid shooter from outside the box, and he's capable of launching one with either foot. Defensively speaking, there is some potential there as well. As I noted earlier, Marin is a pretty poor tackler. That doesn't mean he's entirely worthless defensively, as he seems to be a pretty effective player when his team is using high pressure. He's shown a knack for reading passing lanes and creating havoc that way, so utilized correctly he could be a very useful part of a defense.
Enough talk for now, let's get a look at Marin in action. Here's all of his touches from a game against Frankfurt this season, both good and bad:
There's certainly things to like, but you can definitely see his tendency to take a little too much on himself. Still, he just turned 23 so that's somewhat to be expected. Here's a little more generic highlight package from Marin, but it pretty much hits on his dribbling and passing ability:
I'm not as much a fan of those types of highlight packages, as they tend to feature only the "wow" moments. The wow factor is certainly there with Marin though, and it's one of those things that we should probably expect in the early days of his stay in London.
Positionally speaking, Marin is a fairly versatile player. He's capable of playing on either wing, but is probably best suited to a roll which will see him with the freedom to drift all around the pitch. He's much like our own Juan Mata in that regard, even if whta he tends to do with the ball after he gains control is very different. As a guy who's best skill is his tight control and ability to beat a defender on the dribble, the wing would seem an ideal place to use him. He's really got to improve defensively to start regularly on the wing though, as he doesn't provide much in the way of support for his fullbacks at the moment. At just 23 though, that's something that can definitely be worked on.
He's also an intriguing guy to have in the center of the midfield. What he adds is another guys that will be difficult for opposing defenders to mark, as his excellent first touch and speed do make him an important guy to keep from finding space. He'd be less of a liability defensively in this regard, as his ability to cut passes out would be best utilized in this are of the pitch.
Initially I'd guess Marin becomes an offensively oriented substitute who makes the occasional start either on the wing or in the midfield. His dribbling skill and ability to break down a defense by himself is something we lack outside of Daniel Sturridge currently, and that will certainly help when teams decide they just want to run two lines of four in the 18 yard box to eliminate any space.
With some improvement defensively I could see Marin eventually taking on a larger role, but I'd certainly be a bit hesitant to expect that he'll ever be more than a squad player at this point for Chelsea. That's not a knock on Marin, but simply a fact of life at a club of this stature. The fact that he does have a skill which he performs unbelievably well does ensure he'll certainly have his uses, even if that defense never does improve. His addition combined with the likely return of Gael Kakuta this summer should give Juan Mata the occasional breather, as well as allow us to alter our style of play more than we currently do when we rotate the squad.
As I've mentioned several times, this move caught me completely out of left field. That said, I'm a big fan. The price is an absolute bargain for a player of his quality (we paid the same for Yossi Benayoun), and his age ensures that he's still likely to improve. While he's not an ideal starter at the moment, he's certainly going to be an offensively oriented sub that brings us a different skillset. That unique skillset also offers the potential to be a truly elite player as he adds some polish to his game, and training with the Chelsea first team should help him in that regard. Let us know what you think of the move by voting in the poll and leaving your comments below...