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Talking Tactics

How Sabitzer can reinforce Man Utd midfield

Adrian Clarke 7 Feb 2023

Adrian Clarke analyses the qualities Austria international will bring to Erik ten Hag's side

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 23.

Marcel Sabitzer (MUN)

Casemiro’s suspension for Manchester United’s home match with Leeds United, should pave the way for Sabitzer to make his full Premier League debut.

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However, the 28-year-old loanee from Bayern Munich, who made his debut in the win against Crystal Palace, is not a direct replacement for Casemiro.

The team’s principle defensive-midfield duties will fall on Fred’s shoulders, with Sabitzer asked to fulfil the box-to-box role belonging to Christian Eriksen prior to his ankle injury.

Used as a central midfielder by his parent club, Sabitzer has also shone in an attacking midfield role and, at his previous club RB Leipzig, out on the right.

On Wednesday, he could be directly up against former Leipzig team-mate Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, who was recently signed on loan from Juventus.

Long-range threat

Sabitzer will create chances, but he is more renowned for the quality of his long-range shooting.

The Austria international has found the back of the net from distance with high frequency during his career.

In open play, his powerful right foot is a danger for opposing goalkeepers from anywhere inside the final third, while he is also an excellent free-kick taker.

Man Utd have only scored three goals from set-pieces this term, so his arrival could help them in that department.

Since moving from Leipzig to Bayern at the start of 2021/22, Sabitzer has been less of a goal threat, but across the past five campaigns, he has always shown a willingness to shoot from distance.

Sabitzer ave. shot distance & goals*
Season Club Shots/ 90 Ave. shot distance (yards) Total goals
2022/23 Bayern 2.15 21.7 1
2021/22 Bayern 1.99 19.8 1
2020/21 Leipzig 2.49 25.1 8
2019/20 Leipzig 2.52 21.5 9
2018/19 Leipzig 2.41 19.8 4

*Stats from Fbref

Very few midfielders register more than two shots per 90 minutes, so Man Utd fans can expect their new arrival to push on and attempt the occasional strike at goal from long range.

Knowing his role

Having spent seven-and-a-half seasons in the Bundesliga and impressing in the UEFA Champions League, Sabitzer will have no problem adjusting to Erik ten Hag’s tactical demands.

He is a versatile, intelligent footballer who always understands his role within the side.

Sabitzer behind the scenes 

At times Sabitzer will drop deep to receive passes from the central defenders, but when necessary he will also take up more advanced positions.

In tight areas, Sabitzer has the technique and composure to look after possession. He recorded 87.7 per cent pass accuracy in the league with Bayern this term.

Tough tackler

Off the ball, Ten Hag knows Sabitzer can be entrusted to play his part in winning the ball back.

He is happy to press opponents, likes to intercept and pick up second balls and his main strength out of possession is tackling.

According to Fbref, Sabitzer, has won 149 of the 198 tackles he made for Leipzig and Bayern, a success rate of 75 per cent.

Since playing in a central position for Bayern, he has averaged 2.65 tackles per 90 minutes.

Man Utd will hope he can bring this combative style to the Premier League.

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