Expert analysis on why Sofyan Amrabat may be a great fit for Antonio Conte’s Tottenham side
When rumours of a move from Tottenham Hotspur for out-of-favour Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat surfaced, they were met with a mixture of apathy and derision from the fanbase. Understandably, given that the Moroccan international has made just one start for La Viola this campaign, and seems to have lost his place to Arsenal loanee Lucas Torreira.
Tottenham know they’ve to be fast for Sofyan Amrabat deal too. Fiorentina have been approached by other clubs while they wait for Spurs to submit loan plus buy option proposal. #THFC
Tottenham are working to offload Ndombele and/or Dele Alli in order to sign a new midfielder.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 28, 2022
One stat, in particular, turned the fans further off the prospect: Amrabat has committed more fouls than he has made successful tackles in the last three seasons in Italy’s top flight.
Sofyan Amrabat has committed more fouls than he has made tackles in each of his three seasons in Serie A
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 25, 2022
And while seemingly damning on first sight, the company that he keeps with this stat suggests that it is in fact not as worrying as first thought. Nicolo Barella, Tottenham target Franck Kessie, Rodrigo Bentancur and even Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka all hold the same unenviable record.
So, what makes Amrabat a player that Tottenham, and Antonio Conte, deem worth chasing? 101 sat down with Serie A expert Nima Tavallaey Roodsari (@NimaTavRood) to find out.
Expert analysis on Sofyan Amrabat
To understand the potential role that Amrabat will have in the Tottenham side should he sign, it is important first to gauge how Conte’s ideal system plays out. And this ideology is summed up best by Goal.com writer Alex Keble, who writes:
‘On the ball, the idea is sharp, vertical football played in the transition, and while this includes plenty of long balls forward and incisive dribbles through the lines, it is also about distributing as fast as possible into a narrow front three, who turn and run directly in behind.’
This idea, known in Italy as Calcio Verticale, is the central philosophy of an Antonio Conte side. Key to the system is the midfield, covering every blade of grass and acting as the players to play the first long ball to the front line or dribble through the lines.
So, how does Amrabat profile?
‘Similar to Kessie, but better with the ball, much better with the ball and a much safer passer’, Nima explains. ‘Since the 19/20 season, only Ismail Bennacer has a higher dribble success rate than Amrabat. His safe passing and his ability to progress with the ball is really really good.’
Indeed, Amrabat’s success rate of 70.3% is dwarfed only by Bennacer’s 79.6%, but is second in Serie A across the past three seasons and, perhaps crucially, is ahead of the current in-favour Tottenham midfielders this season, led by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who manages 1.22 dribbles per 90 minutes at a success rate of 62.2% [as per FB.ref].
Meanwhile, in long balls, another key attribute of a Conte system, Amrabat excels too:
‘In the period he was in Serie A, only Marcelo Brozovic and Fabian Ruiz had better long ball accuracy than Amrabat’, Nima reveals.
This once again puts him clear of Tottenham’s current midfield options, while in the 2020-21 campaign, his long ball accuracy stood at an astonishing 87.8%.
Best long ball accuracy in Serie A since 2019/20 (300+ attempted)
Fabian Ruiz – 81.2%
Marcelo Brozovic – 78.7%
Sofyan Amrabat – 76.7%
A look at the strengths and weaknesses of apparent Tottenham target Amrabat https://t.co/AfPTvXBKJw
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 25, 2022
During this period, Brozovic was of course a key component of Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan side. So, how does Amrabat stack up? Not too badly, according to Nima:
‘Nobody runs on a football pitch as much as Marcelo Brozovic. Him, Barella and Dejan Kulusevski (when at Parma) were in a league of their own totally when it came to distance covered totally, distance covered per game, they just outran everyone,’ he reveals.
‘Amrabat is not quite there but he runs a lot and Conte wouldn’t have wanted him otherwise.’
‘He will be his Brozovic at Inter, pretty much. I think he’ll use him in that role.’
But despite potentially being utilised in the same role, they aren’t exactly the same sort of player, with Amrabat slightly deficient on the technical side of the game but far more physical than his Croatian counterpart.
‘I’d say that he’s a different kind of player to Brozovic. I really don’t like doing comparisons because some people think I mean he is as good as these players, but stylistically he’s like a mix of Kante and Brozovic. He’s a very physical player, he’s strong and he knows how to put in a tackle and he doesn’t get bullied off the ball.’
Of course, his lack of football this season has been a cause for concern among the Tottenham fanbase, with their potential new signing having made just one start for La Viola. However, Nima explains that this is down to a system and style change under new manager Vicenzo Italiano more than anything else, and that at Hellas Verona, he was very accomplished in front of a back-three formation.
‘He hasn’t played a lot this season because Vincenzo Italiano (Fiorentina’s new coach) plays a completely different game to his predecessors and absolutely different to Hellas Verona under Ivan Juric, who played a 3-4-2-1 high-pressing, high-intensity game. He relied a lot on Amrabat to build and create, and be the focal point of that midfield, especially in the first season.’
And while concerns continue among the Spurs faithful, the Lilywhites supporter base have been urged to trust their manager.
“They shouldn’t be upset or think this is a panic buy because Conte doesn’t do panic buys’, Nima reasoned. ‘He has no problem saying that he doesn’t want players, but if he’s sanctioned Amrabat and said yes, Spurs fans should take comfort from that because that means he is a player he wants, and he likes.’
Perhaps most importantly, Amrabat could be a facilitator for the use of different options in midfield. While both Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele have been linked with moves away on loan, should they stay, Amrabat could provide the perfect foil.
‘For Conte, its about finding the right balance in his midfield, and he’s looking. I think that someone like Amrabat and Ndombele could work with one of Skipp, Winks or Hojbjerg’, Nima suggests.
‘I think someone like Amrabat could also allow Dele Alli to play further up and put him into better positions’
But, as a caveat, while the Fiorentina man may be a useful addition, he warns not to expect the Moroccan to transform the side, which is perhaps the sort of addition that Tottenham fans were hoping for.
‘It depends on your expectations. He’s a player that will function under Conte and will function in a Conte System.’
‘He’s a player that will want revenge too, after his move to Fiorentina didn’t go the way he wanted it to, he will want to redeem himself so you’re getting a hungry player and a player that wants to do well. He’s doing really well in the Africa Cup of Nations. You’re getting a very good player, and you’re getting a player that your manager wants which is always a good thing with Conte.’
‘So there is reason for optimism, but again, middle of the season move, going to a new country and a new footballing culture, he will need a few weeks to find his feet.’
Of course, the transition from Serie A to the Premier League is a major one, and one that not all players make successfully. However, if Amrabat can, then this deal could prove far more beneficial than Tottenham fans seem to believe.
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