Talking Tactics

Why combative Amrabat can resolve Man Utd's midfield issues

9 Sep 2023
Amrabat, Man Utd

Adrian Clarke says Moroccan's ball-winning and stamina can ease the strain on Casemiro

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Player analysis: Sofyan Amrabat (Man Utd)

Manchester United’s poor away form against the leading sides has in part been down to a lack of midfield steel across the last 13 months.

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Over-reliant on the defensive capabilities of Casemiro, and sometimes short on mobility too, stronger opponents have taken advantage of that weak spot within Erik ten Hag’s starting XI.

World Cup star Amrabat’s loan move from Fiorentina has the potential to be a problem solver for United.

Hard-working, aggressive, and accomplished - both in and out of possession - the 27-year-old is likely to form a solid-looking partnership with Casemiro inside the middle third.

In their toughest tests, especially away from Old Trafford, that pairing can provide a more solid base.

Releasing Rashford and Hojlund

Amrabat’s exploits in Qatar last year outlined his credentials as a natural ball-winner, but he is also a quality passer.

Across last season’s Serie A, the Moroccan’s pass accuracy stood at a supremely impressive 89.3 per cent, and many of the balls he played were over long distances.

Four out of every five long passes Amrabat made were successful in the Italian top tier last season, completing a league-high 134 in total.

Sofyan Amrabat Fiorentina Long Passes 2022/23

While many of those balls were switches of play to the flanks (see above), he does have the ability to drill lengthy passes in behind opposition defences, too.

That strength will be music to the ears of Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund.

Those two Man Utd stars love to use their pace to make runs in behind.

So whenever the Red Devils gain possession inside their own half, look out for Amrabat clipping early passes aimed in their direction on the counter.

He has the range of distribution to release them with a penetrative 40-50-yard pass.

Incredible stamina

Amrabat played seven full matches for Morocco at the World Cup and covered more ground than any other player at the tournament, running 81.4km in total and averaging 11.6km per match.

That outstanding stamina will certainly ease the strain on midfield colleagues Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes.

No midfielder made more than Amrabat’s 57 regains or 26 recoveries inside the defensive third at the World Cup.

And while his numbers at Fiorentina, a possession-base side, were more modest, his desire to press and make tackles is obvious.

That fits in well with Ten Hag’s evolving tactical approach, and it should set up a greater number of moments where his team can hurt their rivals in transition.

The number of shots faced by Andre Onana so far this season will be a big concern for Ten Hag.

Compared to rivals Manchester City and Arsenal, his side are affording opponents far more chances to score.

Shots faced 2023/24
Premier League Total
Sheff Utd  85
Bournemouth 79
West Ham 71
Man Utd 66
Arsenal 38
Man City 25

A combative axis of Amrabat and Casemiro will surely help to solidify United when they are out of possession.

Also in this series

Part 1: Gravenberch's versatility can help balance Liverpool midfield
Part 3: How Johnson will help accelerate Spurs' attack
Part 4: How Nunes can bring new dimension to Man City's play

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