14 July 2012

On Fabio Borini

Rather than pretend I have any great insight into Borini's abilities, I'll link to a few articles I've found enlightening and add a few thoughts.

• The official site is unsurprisingly all over this, with approximately 15 different articles, but the interview with Borini and Rodgers' take on the player are the only required reading. I especially liked Borini's answers for "what kind of player are you?" and about working with Rodgers.

Liverpool Offside did the necessary, concise biography on Thursday.

• EPL Index – specifically @LiverpoolScoutexamined his attacking statistics, focusing on Borini's conversation rate and minutes per goal. Which are promising, especially considering Liverpool's inconceivable profligacy.

Roma blogger Blogistuta has some interesting insights from last March, when Borini was on a run of seven goals in eight games. The article focuses on Borini's well-rounded abilities, but what stood out at me was a paraphrased quote from then-manager Luis Enrique: "Borini gives 100% even when sleeping." Which coincides with what both Rodgers said about Borini and what Borini said about himself. And it's a necessary trait in Rodgers' system. Gabriele Marcotti hit a similar note on Friday, tweeting "[He's] not naturally uber-gifted, but very bright on the pitch. Coaches love him. Greater than sum of parts."

• Finally, here are highlights of all his goals for Swansea and Roma (Soccerclips has seven of his nine league goals if you'd prefer to avoid compilations). He scored six in 12 league appearances for Swansea (playing 908 minutes) and nine in 24 for Roma (1685 minutes), an average of 151 minutes per goal for Swansea and 187 minutes per goal for Roma. If you include his one Coppa Italia goal in two matches (both as a sub), it's an average of a goal every 174.5 minutes. Any of those numbers would beat Liverpool's best from last season: Maxi averaged a league goal every 200 minutes, Bellamy every 207, Suarez every 232, Gerrard every 242, Carroll every 516, and Kuyt every 1001 in the league. Factoring in the cups, Suarez's average drops to 192 minutes per goal; no one else breaks the 200 barrier.

Borini was mainly a goal poacher at Swansea, a typical, cliché fox in the box. Five of his six goals were scored with his right foot. Five of six came inside the penalty area – the lone exception a direct free kick against Norwich. Three were scored from rebounds, either inside the six-yard box or just outside.

His league goals for Roma were similar, although Borini usually started from wider positions: all nine from inside the box, seven of nine with his right foot, with the majority less than ten yards from goal, many from rebounds. A handful came from through balls or chips over the top where he hangs off the shoulder of the last defender and beats the offside trap. Interestingly, none of his goals for either Swansea or Roma were headers, but this against Germany, his first for the Italian U-21s, shows he's capable of doing so – a well-placed strike and well-timed leap.

His predilection for close-range strikes is even more apparent when you plot his goals.



Finally, over to WhoScored for a few more statistics than what's presented in the above EPL Index article.



In his 20 starts for Roma, seven came as a left-sided forward, seven as a right-sided forward, and six as a central striker. That versatility will come in handy, especially since Luis Suarez has similar qualities, able to play anywhere across the front line. However, Borini started as a central striker in 11 of his 12 appearances for Rodgers' Swansea. I expect that will be his main position at Liverpool, but his versatility can still be of great benefit.

Second, he fits snuggly into Rodgers' ideal of defending from the front. Borini's 1.8 tackles per game were third-most for a forward in Serie A last season; only Udinese's Albi (started as a forward just six times) and Catania's Barrientos averaged more. And that was in a Roma side which completed the fewest tackles in Serie A. Borini also averaged 0.9 interceptions (again one of the higher totals for a Serie A forward) and 1.4 fouls committed. His defending statistics dwarfed those from Roma's other forwards: Totti, Osvaldo, Bojan, and Lamela. While Borini remains primarily a goal poacher, he will put himself about, vital to the way Rodgers wants to play and again similar to Suarez. Who also averaged 1.4 fouls committed per match, as well as 1.1 tackles and 0.4 interceptions. And that was in a Liverpool side which rarely pressed in the opposition half.

This certainly isn't to say that Suarez and Borini are wholly similar. They aren't. Borini's a better finisher, Suarez a far better creator. Few players attempt more dribbles than Suarez, Borini rarely does so – completing just 21 last season (Suarez completed 76). But the similarities – versatility, defending from the front, and that never-say-die, never-even-think-die work ethic – make the potential partnership (well, more likely two-thirds of a three-man front line) incredibly promising, especially considering Rodgers' style of play.

As LiverpoolScout noted, Borini's passing leaves something to be desired, completing just 359 of 474 passes for Roma (75.7%) – a lower percentage than any other Roma player except the goalkeepers and a forward with just two substitute appearances. He completed just 16 key passes (0.7 per match) and tallied zero assists. Despite usually playing as a wide forward, Borini only attempted 36 crosses, completing just five – fewer than Roma's other four strikers.

Of course, he isn't being bought for his passing. He's being bought for his scoring, his defending from the front, his relatively young age, and Rodgers' experience with the player. All of which bode well for his Liverpool career. £10m is a pittance compared to some of the fees Liverpool has paid out in the last 18 months, especially for a top-tier prospect, already involved in the Italian national side (the youngest player for the Euro runners-up, in fact). And it's not as if Liverpool are lacking in homegrown players, but Borini also counts as one having spent four seasons with Chelsea.

Here's how Liverpool's squad currently looks in what I suspect will be Rodgers' preferred formation.



Obviously, some can play multiple positions even where not listed, especially the midfielders and wide forwards, but this gives you the gist of it. There's definitely some promise there, but there also seems a fair bit of business required. The addition of Fabio Borini is an intriguing start.

9 comments:

Jay Wright said...

One of the problems last season was that new players were just handed their positions in the starting line-up without having to prove that they deserved to usurp their predecessors. Thus making it even more difficult to drop them when they proved to not be up to the challenge, without indicating that the manager had lost faith in his own signings.

As another relatively unproven young player, I would prefer to see Borini start the season on the bench and work his way into the starting lineup, rather than just be handed the starting berth from day one. He very well may be a better fit than Carroll, but he should have to prove that that is the case on the pitch.

Stephen said...

Nate,

Another great post! Thanks so much for pulling this together. OYB is such a valuable resource for LFC supporters!

Loved the Roma blog from March & Borini's reply re Youth FA Cup visit to Anfield (I remember we lost!). Sounds like a winner to me. The attitude, instincts, smarts & work-rate of a Dirk Kuyt.

Anyone that watches us play last season knows we need a poacher on the pitch to clean up the shots of others.

nate said...

Jay,

That's all well and good in theory, but he's Rodgers' first signing after evaluating the squad, a clear target for the new manager, and with talents that Liverpool desperately lacked last season. I expect he'll pretty much walk into the line-up. Especially since Liverpool will be without both Suarez and Bellamy for the beginning of the season (thanks, Olympics!).

He won't start every match, and he won't assuredly take Carroll's place (although the Carroll exit rumors are incredibly disconcerting). There's every chance he starts as a left-sided forward just as often, if not more so, as he did at Roma. But I'd be willing to wager he's in the starting XI early on and often.

Stephen,

Much obliged. I've seen the Kuyt parallels mentioned before, but I still view him as more of an out-and-out striker. Although Kuyt had that billing when he was signed as well. The other comparison most often mentioned, aside from Kuyt, is a less-gifted, harder-working Pippo Inzaghi. Nationality makes that somewhat facile, but that's a comparison I can get behind.

Jay Wright said...

@Nate - I totally forgot about Suarez and Bellamy's absence for the Olympics. It's almost like there was a conspiracy to unsettle Liverpool's preparations for the new season, by keeping the squad apart as much as possible!

I'm only kidding about the conspiracy thing btw - I get enough delusional tags for stating my optimism that Liverpool won't be a mid-table team forever more...

john toher said...

Hi Nate.
Very impressed by your blog articles, would you like to exchange links?
I have a PR Rank 3 & my link address is:

Friends Of Liverpool

Hoping to hear from you,

John

john toher said...

e-mail me at: johntoher@eircom.net for follow up

Balfy said...

Nate, looking at that preferred formation sways me toward Dempsey as he is proven and should provide a couple of decent seasons. If we achieve Champions league in the next couple of seasons we can upgrade with youth for the future. Dempsey and Borini flanking Carrol at the start of the season. A defensive midfielder becomes urgent also as spearing is better suited vying for a place with henderson IMO. Finally, left back needs addressing desperately too - someone attack minded. That could be a good start!

Stephen said...

Balfy,

Agree w your left back comment ... Enrique offers little value in attack ... A problem for the system that Rodgers wants to play

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article Nate - great stuff.

That left forward position is looking a little 'brittle' at the moment.
I particularly have a concern with Downing's skill set to play in this system and Cole's fitness, pace and defensive work ethic must be questionable.

I'd also fancy that Shelvey and Aquilani could be swapped around in the midfield slots with Aquilani being a good possession recycling midfielder; but of course thats to be seen as between Gerrard, Aqua, Shelvey and Henderson we have a handful of midfielders who can operate in multiple positions including changing the expected 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 if required.

My shopping list would ideally see a left forward, a defensive midfielder who can pass the ball and another centre back if Kelly/Wilson are not going to be trusted there.