Loan Report: James Garner 21/22

A 4-0 thrashing at the hands of rivals Liverpool, Matic announcing his departure, Pogba getting injured and out for the reason, the sacking of 2 leaders in the scouting system, Erik Ten Hag’s announcement as new manager, Maguire’s family getting a bomb threat – just another week for everyone’s favourite club in red, Manchester United.

Amidst all the chaos, sticking to matters on the pitch, it wasn’t hard to notice that the absence of Fred and McTominay (a pair often slandered on social media for not being good enough) has led United to field midfield combinations that have featured Pogba, Matic, Lingard, Bruno and even Mata, in a midfield 3 in the last 3 games. 4 of those players could be leaving in a month and Bruno is hardly a midfielder strictly speaking. Such is the dire need for midfielders in this United squad.

But where there is management chaos and squad planning failure, there is opportunity. The monumental midfield gap, coupled with requirements in other positions, means that transfers won’t be enough to plug all the holes. How fortunate it is then that United have a 21-year-old midfielder on loan, who has been developing consistently and is now ready to play a part in the senior team.

James Garner has been impressive for Nottingham Forest this season and there are many rumors flying around about Nottingham wanting to keep him and Leeds United wanting to buy him. In this article, I explain why the Red Devils should integrate Garner into Erik Ten Hag’s plans this summer. I analyze Garner’s movement, passing, defending and his fitment into Ten Hag’s system.



Garner’s movement: An engine-like B2B

There has been some debate about Garner’s best role in recent years. He played for a few years at the U23 level for Manchester United as the deepest player in midfield – a classic deep-lying playmaker who dictates the game and shields the defence. This prompted many Manchester United fans to hail him as the second coming of Michael Carrick. 

While he was okay in that role for a while, it was the shift to a more aggressive box-to-box role in 2019 that really saw him come to life. He combined with Greenwood, Elanga and Shoretire to devastating effect for the U23s that season and proved that he had more to offer in an attacking midfield role.

Since then, on his loan spells at Watford and Nottingham Forest, he has retained a similar role often playing as a linker midfield player or a box-to-box locomotive with license to run, roam, create and press, instead of playing a holding role in midfield. His 21/22 season with Forest has confirmed the same movement. Here’s a viz of this season.

Forest have lined up in a 5-2-3 for most part this season with Garner and Yates forming the midfield pivot when fit. Garner usually takes the left-sided CM role with more license to move up and connect with the front 3, while Yates takes up the more defensive RCM role often holding to provide cover when Garner and the wingbacks are caught up. 

Garner’s all actions heat map confirms how active he is all over the pitch. He barely has a red hot zone on the pitch but a lot of blue all over it, showcasing the freedom he gets to roam around the pitch, whether it’s to create in the final 3rd, put pressure in the middle 3rd or defend in his own 3rd. This is a midfielder who isn’t bound to any zones on the pitch and loves to constantly run up and down and also go wide for support.

His pass reception map gives us a stronger clue to the areas he likes to get into when he has to receive the ball from his teammates. There is a clearer insight of his left-leaning role with almost an even split of the red hot zone between receptions in his half during the build up phase and receptions in the opponent half when the team is attacking. The latter zone especially being spread out and including wide areas on the left shows how ready Garner is to go to the wings to provide support during the attack. During attack, he loves drifting into the left half-space area and receiving from his wingback or winger to then turn his body towards goal and obtain the angle to pass or shoot almost like a creative no.10 player.

In summary, Garner’s movement indicates how he doesn’t sit or hold in midfield, but loves to run all over the pitch. This includes build up receptions in his half and almost AM-style wide and high receptions during attack. If we had to assign a name to this role, it would be: box-to-box midfielder.

Garner’s passing: A set-piece demon

Even if his role did change, the fact that Garner is inherently creative hasn’t. What has caught the eye of social media followers are Garner’s videos of an assist or goal which often includes a set piece. It’s unsurprising that both his assists and 3 of his goals this season have all come from set pieces. He is a real threat when it comes to dead-ball situations.


Let’s take a look at his pass maps.

Other than the 2 assists, Garner has created many chances, most of them coming from set pieces. The dozen corners are visible in the viz while some of the balls into the box are also from free kicks.

Other than dead-ball situations, his chances created from open play often originate from the left side of the pitch where he angles in a diagonal ball into the box or towards the right wing, once again confirming his preference to create from the left or central zones like a left-leaning AM during attack.

Moving to the map of his progressive passes, it’s clear to see the variation Garner has. His passing range is good. He is able to provide switches to the opposite wing, through balls to the wide players and long balls to the attackers, when he has time and space. Garner’s progression isn’t the metronome deep-playmaking kind containing short passing and central penetration, but is more like the spreading-the-play kind, where a team moves forward or gets into empty spaces thanks to his game-progressing balls into good advanced areas.

This once again ties in well with our theme of Garner being a box-to-box midfielder who prefers to open up the game and help his team advance, rather than progress from deep and help build up. His set piece threat and creativity in the final third from a left-leaning angle are his main chance creation weapons.

Garner’s defending: Intense and willing participant

From his movement and passing if you expected Garner to be defensively shy, you couldn’t have been more wrong.

The best word to describe Garner’s defending is intense. His constant running isn’t limited to when his team has the ball. He puts in a hard shift when his team doesn’t. What’s particularly impressive is the number of recoveries and the spread of them. Garner is constantly picking up second balls across the pitch. He has a host of clearances in his box and many aerial wins outside the box as well showing one area of his game that has improved massively – his physicality. He’s not shy to get into an aerial duel anymore. 

His tackles, interceptions and challenges especially in the middle third are also impressive, once again showing how far ahead he is willing to go to win the ball back. Garner is a constant presser and is prepared to hunt high and wide for the ball.

If there was some doubt about which type of box-to-box player Garner was – the attacking kind like Pogba or Gundogan or the defensive kind like Fred or Kante – though Garner is capable of playing both roles well, it might be safer to assume given his intensity and ball-winning focus, that he’s closer to the second kind. His days as a DM in the academy have given him a good sense of defensive awareness. While his positioning might not be enough for a holding role, it helps him note the flow of the attack, get stuck in and win the ball back for his team consistently. 

In summary of this section, Garner is a constant presser, runner, tackler and ball-winner in defence, boasting a wide area of operation and various means to win the ball back – something which would fit really well with Erik Ten hag’s pressing ethos and midfield demands.

One aspect that hasn’t been covered so far is his goal-scoring. Most of Garner’s goals are either long-range shots from a left-sided AM position or direct free kicks from distance. He has managed to score 8 goals for Nottingham over the past 1.5 years. 

Fitment for Erik Ten Hag tactics

We have already written a detailed article on Erik Ten Hag’s tactics here. To summarize his formation, he enjoys a sweeper keeper, progressive defenders with 2 fullbacks who invert, holding DM who shields the aggressive defence, 2 intense CMs who offer support to the attack, 2 inverted wingers who provide width and one CF capable of linking play with the front 5. Assuming Ten Hag recreates much of the current Ajax tactic to United next season, the main candidates for the B2B CM role (Gravenberch currently) and AM role (Berghuis currently) are probably Fred and Bruno respectively. The anchor man DM role (Alvarez currently) is a real head-scratcher and probably needs a new signing instead of risking McTominay there.

Among these 3 midfield options from all that we have discussed so far, Garner would fit best in the B2B role. He has the pressing intensity, ability to link play from defence to attack and movement to connect with the front 3, to pull off that role to perfection. The AM role could be a nice second option since Garner additionally has the creativity and shooting threat to contribute there as well. The DM role needing high levels of positioning, transition defence and physicality, makes that a far 3rd choice option in case of an emergency need. 

So, in summary a rotation option for Fred and Bruno would probably suit him the most. In an ideal world, McTominay and Mejbri also should be competing for the same 2 roles as backup as well. This leads to the major ask for the window to be the DM United have been crying out for for 2+ years now. If United can buy a consistent DM and integrate Garner for the advanced midfield roles, the current paper-thin midfield could start looking strong really quick.

What happens next

A lot still depends on whether Manchester United include Garner in the squad next year. Garner still has a contract until 2024, with the option of an extension, so there is no danger of losing him for free or cheap anytime soon. A few weeks ago, Phil Hay of the Athletic mentioned the possibility of Leeds signing Manchester United’s James Garner, despite the rivalry between the clubs.


“It’ll be interesting to see who Leeds target. James Garner, the Manchester United midfielder who’s on loan at Nottingham Forest in the Championship and having a very good year, is someone I’ve heard mentioned recently,” Hay told The Athletic.

This is the latest rumor in a line of many over the past few months with outlets like Telegraph and DailyMail carrying stories of strong interest from Leeds United to bolster their midfield in the coming summer with James Garner.

In an interview with Footballleagueworld, transfer guru Dean Jones reflected that the Englishman would intend to continue as starter wherever he goes next. “Garner’s having a great time this season, and he doesn’t want to be on the fringes anywhere else at the moment. He’s shown his value, and he wants to kick on next season and be a big part of a team, wherever that is.”

If United are unable to convince one of their brightest academy midfield prospects of the last decade to be a part of the senior team setup, especially when their midfield badly needs some bodies and he fits really well in Ten Hag’s philosophy, it would be a real shame.

Search for a RB: Summer 2022 Shortlist

The Search for a CM series has so far covered a Winter 2022 shortlist and scout reports on Locatelli, Guimaraes, Kamara and Tchouameni. It seems like Manchester United don’t really want a CM anytime soon, or at the very least are pushing this key decision until a new manager (mostly Erik Ten Hag) is confirmed and our Champions League status is sealed.

So, we move on to the other problem areas of the squad. The next 3 gaps appear to be CF, RW and RB. Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s woeful form and unsuitability to a progressive or attacking role means that United probably need one player there, whether it be competition for Dalot or a clear upgrade. While CF and RW might require more understanding of what a new manager wants in that role, RB is something we can take a shot at. The trait requirements for a top team RB are fairly consistent for us to create a shortlist.

In this article, I will analyze right-sided defenders who can play in a back 4 or 5 from Europe’s top 5 leagues, create a shortlist using their 21/22 metrics and provide mini scout reports of the top 5 candidates United should go for in the coming summer 2022 window.


A few notes before we start:
1. Only players from the top 5 leagues have been considered. If you have a request for a non T5 player, please inform us and we’ll try to cover them in an individual report
2. The filters are taken based on what I feel is needed most for United’s RB. More will be explained below, but a different shortlist could emerge for a totally different profile. This is simply my idea of what United need most
3. All stats are from Fbref.com (via Statsbomb)

The Role

Before we get into the process, let’s understand the role we are going for. What top team RBs like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James are delivering on that Aaron Wan-Bissaka isn’t able to, is a good starting point.

Progression is the major gap that comes to mind. Both are able to progress well through passing & carrying which AWB struggles with and that remains one of the greatest responsibilities of a modern full-back. Dalot is also good in this aspect, already beating AWB for progression in the deep right zones and making our top 4 progressors even after playing much lesser than everyone else (See viz below).

After progression, the second main criteria would be creativity. A modern fullback needs to bear some load of chance creation which indicates some requirement of final ball delivery and final third decision-making. This is an aspect both AWB and Dalot lack. A better example might be Shaw who is much better at carrying into advanced areas and providing key passes. Shaw is our 2nd best chance creator behind Bruno for the 2nd year running. We need someone of his final 3rd threat for our new RB.

Finally, we need some level of defending and safety from the RB. While hardcore defending metrics like tackles and aerial wins aren’t a necessity, a basic level of trust in the form of ball control, ball retention & difficulty in getting dribbled past needs to be maintained.

With these 3 buckets in mind, let’s dive into the process.



The Process

STEP 1: Cleaning data

I downloaded all passing, defending and carrying stats per 90 for all top 5 league players from Fbref.com. Using Transfermarkt’s position data we first filter out all players except Right backs and Right Midfielders (Some right wingbacks appear in the latter category). Credit to @jaseviz, @NinadB_06, @exceedingxpuns for the position dataset.

Next we filter out all players who have not even played 12 90s this season. Most teams have played 30+ league games so far, so expecting our man to at least rack up 40% of his team’s gametime seems fair. Anything lesser indicates he might not be ready for a step up to United or is too injury-prone.

Here’s the first look at the list.

STEP 2: Choosing the relevant stats


Remember the 3 buckets we spoke about before? I have picked the following metrics for them:

Progression (High Priority): Progressive Passes, Progressive Carries
Creativity (Medium Priority): Key Passes, xA
Safety/Defending (Low Priority): Miscontrols, Dispossessed, Dribbled Past

These are the 7 stats we are going to focus on. We create Possession-adjusted versions of these stats to better reflect them when everyone has the same 50% possession to deliver in.

STEP 3: Filtering what we need

Next, I convert the 7 stats we just narrowed down on into percentiles. This means that if someone is a 100 percentile on Possession-adjusted Progressive passes per 90, he is the leader for that stat in the list we just made of RBs/RMs with >12 90s. Percentiles are a good way to judge how far/close the stat is to the leader stat.

I also create a ‘Weighted Overall Score’ which combines our 7 stats into one score giving 25% weightage each to Progressive Passes and Progressive Carries, 15% weightage each to xA and Key Passes, 10% weightage to Dribbled Past and 5% weightage each for Miscontrols and Dispossessed, based on the priority explained earlier.

When sorted by this score, we are starting to get good results.

Almost there. The obvious issue here is age. We don’t want players like Cuadrado and Candreva. Let’s set our age filter to be born after 1996 i.e. aged 25 or lesser. That seems like a fair age below which we can get realistic targets that are peak or potential. Here are the results:

That looks like a shortlist. Since we kept things a little vague here, we have a longer shortlist to work with. But there is a way in which we can judge more specifically who’s good at what.

STEP 4: Picking the top targets

I make a ternary plot using the 3 brackets we discussed, to check what our shortlisted RBs are better at. I have kept a minimum Overall score of 51% (Same list as shown in image) to limit the list to 20 options. Here’s the result:

As we can see, the likes of Alexander-Arnold and Reece James look good here. They are balanced for the 3 brackets we were going for and also appear at the top for Overall Weighted Score. That is a good reference point for the RB we are looking for.

Seeing the bottom-left, some RBs like Lirola, Lamptey and Hakimi lean heavily towards chance creation which can be confirmed with their on-pitch style. They play RWB in a back 5 and almost function like right wingers at times.

Looking at the right-top, we see Dalot, Aarons, Celik and Pierre-Gabriel who are good at Progression and defending but not chance creation. This goes in line with what we have said before about Dalot and his performances this season. We probably need to avoid another of the same type.


So, combining what we saw from the Weighted Score and the Ternary Plot distribution and removing a few players that seem impossible at this point (like Reece, Hakimi and Trent), we arrive at the 5 top candidates:

Name Squad Age Overall Score Ternary Plot Reading
Kyle Walker-Peters Southampton 24 82.1% Balanced
Nahuel Molina Udinese 24 71.4% Balanced
Jeremie Frimpong Leverkusen 21 65.2% Slightly better chance creation 
Riddle Baku Wolfsburg 23 64.0% Slightly better chance creation 
Tariq Lamptey Brighton 21 59.1% High chance creation 




Scout Reports

Usually, I would have stopped here, like our previous shortlist articles, but in the interest of going one step further and providing details about the 5 targets, I dive into their mini scout reports below.

Before we look at the main list, here’s a percentile chart snapshot of what we are upgrading on, so that the comparison is easier.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka



Wan-Bissaka didn’t really turn any heads even during his slightly positive time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But since the sacking of the Norwegian and Dalot’s emergence, AWB looks really far from the required standard for a top team RB and probably needs urgent replacing in the coming summer.

Strengths: AWB is a strong man-marker rarely letting people get past him as indicated by his stat in the pizza chart, Dribbled Past. He’s also a good dribbler attempting many carries with good success.

Weaknesses: His progressive carries and Carries into penalty area aren’t great, indicating a lack of drive to actually get into good areas. His passing and chance creation is where it starts going into woeful territory. AWB is below the Europe average mark on most of these stats with Crosses, Progressive Passes and Passes into penalty area being the worst – this is what we drastically need to upgrade on.

Now that we know the problem, let’s look at the 5 solutions in order of Weighted Overall Score.


Kyle Walker-Peters

Club: Southampton
Nation: England

Age: 24
Positions: RB, LB, RWB

Foot: Right (89%)
Contract Expiry: June, 2025


Tottenham selling Walker-Peters to Southampton for £12m is starting to look like a steal every passing year. Since he joined The Saints in Jan 2020, he’s only been growing from strength to strength. Last season he started 35 times at RB in a back 4, while this season he’s started 24 times already with 16 of those coming at LB, showcasing his versatility.

His first England call up and debut against Switzerland during this March International break has been well deserved. His call-up ahead of Wan-Bissaka is a correct reflection of where both stand and United should also think of making the same upgrade.

Strengths: Our Ternary plot had him as a very balanced profile for the 7 metrics we chose, but even upon expanding into the 16 metrics in the pizza chart, Walker-Peters continues to look balanced. His greatest strength is his dribbling where he notches 90+ percentiles on most stats easily. But he’s no slouch as a passer either, dealing in the high 80s for progression and final 3rd entry. Defensively also, he looks very strong in terms of not being dribbled past (almost same as AWB) and Pressure Success %.

Weaknesses: The only stat he looks slightly weak on is Crosses which is partly a reflection of him playing at LB this season but even last season from RB, he was in the lower percentiles. Hopefully, his progression and chance creation from other means can cover that aspect. He is also aerially weak, standing at 5’8’ and not having a physical presence in general, so it would be a risk to assign him as a marker on set pieces or leave far post crosses for him to deal with alone.

Final Devil’s DNA Score: 10/10


Nahuel Molina

Club: Udinese
Nation: Argentina

Age: 24
Positions: RWB

Foot: Right (91%)
Contract Expiry: June, 2026

Molina moved from Argentina to Udinese at the start of last season, and after taking some time to settle, has established himself as a nailed-on starter for the club. He’s already crossed the 19 starts of last season with 24 in this season. The major caveat around Molina is that he has consistently played only RWB in a back 5 in both seasons.

Strengths: Unlike Walker-Peters, Molina shines in his crossing. He crosses 70 percentile for Key Passes, Crosses and Passes into penalty area which showcase a strong final ball threat. He is also a decent dribbler often prioritizing safety but his final 3rd entries show promise.

Weaknesses: Molina isn’t the best progressor in the world. He just about crosses the average for our progressions needs. Additionally, there is a huge question mark over his defending thanks to the back 5 role. His aerial and ground duels are largely untested and have been weak on the few times he’s been challenged, while his pressure success % stat is very grim. Probably, he’s the one from our shortlist who has suffered the most after the expansion from the initial 7 stats.

Final Devil’s DNA Score: 6/10

Jeremie Frimpong

Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Nation: Netherlands

Age: 21
Positions: RWB, RB, RW

Foot: Right (88%)
Contract Expiry: June, 2025

Originating from the Manchester City Academy, Frimpong found his footing in Celtic, where he played a lot of RB in back 4. This led to a transfer to Leverkusen in the winter window of last season. He took time to settle, starting just 6 times before the season ended. But after a pre-season with the club, he’s come out smashing this season starting 33 times establishing himself as a key starter at RB.

Strengths: Frimpong is all about drive and energy. His dribbling is already at an elite level, boasting league leader percentiles. He also has a decent final ball but prefers to carry into good areas and create a clearer chance, which his high xA highlights. His energy & physical excellence makes him an amazing tracker back, great presser & very tough to get past which is why his dribbled past stat is also close to the league leader. He also has age on his side to improve further, compared to the other targets.

Weaknesses: Frimpong cannot be called technical or creative. His passing leaves a lot to be desired which is highlighted by his poor Progressive passes and Passes into final 3rd stats. He often prefers to dribble out of situations than pass and doesn’t have the vision and technique to execute great forward passes. His high energy style also leads to low pressure success.


Final Devil’s DNA Score: 8/10

Ridle Baku

Club: Wolfsburg
Nation: Germany

Age: 23
Positions: RWB, RB, CM, RW

Foot: Right (82%)
Contract Expiry: June, 2025


Rising through the youth ranks of Mainz, Baku established himself as a starter for the senior side and played a key role for them for 2 years before Wolfsburg came calling in last season’s summer window. Since then Baku has been an important cog starting 34 times last season and 28 this season. Baku’s versatility is immediately noticeable – capable of playing anywhere on the right side of the pitch and even as a central midfielder. His most senior appearances have been at RB then RWB and then CM.

Strengths: Baku often feels like a box-to-box midfielder who prefers right-sided areas. Another one who has boundless energy, he’s a fierce presser and tackler which make him very useful to win the ball high and support an aggressive press. His dribbling skill means he possesses a strong drive with the ball. His passing entries into the penalty area and his final ball are also very good, making him a very high-impact final third player.

Weaknesses: A lot of his weaknesses can be directly correlated to work in deeper areas or actions related to safety and retention. He isn’t a great progressive passer from deep and doesn’t help much in build up. He’s the guy making runs for a playmaker to pass to, not the one making the pass. His defending metrics are also weak, having a low dribbled past and pressure success, thanks to his tendency to press very high and leave space. Baku might be best utilized as a very attacking wingback or fullback with low defensive and build up duties and high final 3rd freedom. This could work as a complimentary profile to Dalot.

Final Devil’s DNA Score: 7/10

Tariq Lamptey

Club: Brighton
Nation: England

Age: 21
Positions: RWB, RB

Foot: Right (75%)
Contract Expiry: June, 2025

A Chelsea youth prospect, Lamptey moved to Brighton during the start of the 19/20 season. His integration has been gradual, getting 7 starts in his first season and 11 in his 2nd. The last 2 seasons saw him feature regularly as a trusted starter under Graham Potter whether it be at RB or RWB. 2 injuries over the last 2 years have made him miss 33 games, which is the main reason for his low number of starts.

Strengths: Lamptey is a brilliant attacker. His dribbling is world class while his final ball is also excellent for a player of his age. He constantly gets past his man, dribbles into good areas and provides penetrative crosses for his teammates. He also has some solid numbers for not getting dribbled past easily. He has age on his side to develop more.

Weaknesses: What he has in terms of final ball and crossing, he lacks in terms of progressive passing. He needs to be used as the wide creative outlet instead of the build up option. His dribble success is low because he attempts to beat his man a lot – an issue that can be mitigated if his attempts are high and wide up the pitch. His injury issues are also a concern and a team interested in him might want to see him remain fit longer before taking a plunge. Lamptey has to be seen as a wide creative force and again presents a complimentary option to Dalot.

Final Devil’s DNA Score: 8/10



Summary

We can now rearrange our final 5’s table with these updated final scores and thoughts.

Name Squad Age Final DDNA Score (on 10) Comments
Kyle Walker-Peters Southampton 24 10 Well-balanced high-performing RB/LB, Almost no cons
Jeremie Frimpong Leverkusen 21 8 Physical RB/RWB, Great carrying & creation, Not technical. Not build-up friendly
Tariq Lamptey Brighton 21 8 Attacking RWB/RB, Elite dribbling & final ball, Not build-up friendly, Injury issues
Riddle Baku Wolfsburg 23 7 Attacking RWB with good carrying & passing, Weak at defending
Nahuel Molina Udinese 24 6 Attacking passing-heavy RWB, Weak at defending & carrying

One caveat I must highlight is that, just like how Molina’s rating reduced when we went into his detailed report, alternatively, other players from the shortlist (like Livramento for example) who were low on Weighted Overall Score, could increase on final score, once we take a more detailed look at them. If we ever do a second round of this, we can probably do detailed reports on the next 5 players who looked good on Overall Score and Ternary reading.

Thanks for reading so far. Apologies for the slightly long-ish piece, but I wanted to detail the targets, for those interested in that as well.

Who are you most excited about?
Is there someone who got missed?
Any scout report you’d like to see beyond the names mentioned?

Tell us on Twitter and we’ll get to it!

Search for a CM: Aurelien Tchouameni

United’s insistence of passing up window after window without buying a specialist DM has now gone from a tale of incompetence to one of utter indifference to the team’s needs. So far, as a part of this series, we have written a summer 2021 shortlist, a winter 2022 shortlist and scout reports on Locatelli and Guimaraes. The result has seen none of the shortlisted CMs even be linked to United while the 2 scouted ones have been picked up right after we released the articles. So far, only pain.

But, enterprising and hopeful as ever, today we bring you another edition of this series. Our focus is on Aurelien Tchouameni, the latest midfielder from France’s talent factory. We discuss his playing style, tactical fitment for Manchester United & summer transfer chances below. 


Career History

Born in Bordeaux in January 2000, Tchouameni spent 9 years in the Bordeaux academy racking up appearances at every level, before finally getting his senior team debut in July 2018 as a then 18-year-old. He turned up 19 times that season for the side and followed it up with another 18 appearances in just half a season, which was enough for Monaco to shell out €18m for him in the January 2020 window. After taking some time to settle in that season, Tchouameni emerged as a key starter for the club from the following summer. He made 42 appearances (36 in the league alone out of 38 possible games) in the 20/21 season at the heart of midfield and was a big reason for Monaco finishing 3rd. He has racked up 34 apps (22 out of 24 in league) in the ongoing 21/22 season signifying his importance and growth.

Having made 52 appearances for France at youth levels, he also got his senior team call up in August 2021 and has been ever-present since then, appearing 7 times in every available game. His monumental rise and obvious quality, even after having just turned 22 last month, have been turning heads this season, as many top clubs circle him for the upcoming summer window.

Profile Details

Name: Aurélien Tchouaméni
Position: CM, DM
Age: 22 (DOB: Jan 27, 2000)
Foot: Right (88% usage)
Height: 185 cm
Nationality: France

Strengths & Weaknesses

In our winter shortlist article, Bruno Guimaraes took the top spot since we weighted the score towards passing metrics and considered only 7 key stats. Interestingly, if I include a few more metrics like Progressive Pass distance, Dribbled Past, Dribble Success % and Miscontrols and then take an equal weight average of all the stats, this is the result:

Tchouameni looks really nice here. This is a good place to start to explain his strengths. Tchouameni’s biggest strength is that he’s very well-rounded. He’s the only one in the shortlist who clocks 60+ percentile on all 11 metrics. This is a midfielder who can do everything well, which is also why multiple reports of him assign different roles to his profile – deep playmaker, destroyer, anchorman etc. The truth is that he’s capable of pulling off most of these roles thanks to his well-roundedness and any team acquiring him at the age of 22 this summer can develop him into what they need at his peak. 

Let’s go further into his stats by looking at his Fbref pizza percentile chart for the 21/22 season:

It’s hard not to immediately notice Tchouameni’s defensive traits. He’s in the 90+ percentile range for most of them, showing him to be an adept ball-winner. As explained earlier, United probably don’t want a high-pressing ball-winner given Fred and Scott already offer that. Tchouameni’s profile suits the need. His pressures aren’t that high, but his interceptions, Pressure Success % and Dribbled past percentiles are excellent. That’s exactly what we want. It shows his great positioning and ability to sense danger without committing in a gung-ho manner. Tchouameni wins the ball a lot, but does so while prioritizing success and retention. His main weapon to that end is his immense physique. He bulldozes attackers into coughing up possession and isn’t shy to tackle them, but is so imposing and accurate with it, that he comes out with the ball most of the time. His reach is also excellent, often stretching or sprinting back to catch a dribbler and nab the ball off them in time, rarely getting beaten in midfield.

His massive aerial strength (thanks to height and agility) is another defensive pro. He often wins his aerial duels in both boxes. In possession too, Tchouameni is no joke, averaging 70+ percentiles on everything relevant. He is able to pass and carry under pressure and put his head up and pick some really good switches, through balls and diagonals. If Tchouameni does come to United he would take the deepest role that Scott McTominay currently occupies for us in Rangnick’s 4-3-3. Let’s compare them for this season to get an idea:

It’s pretty clear that in terms of passing & defending, Tchouameni offers a huge upgrade on Scott. It’s only carrying & shooting where Scott does better. Those are largely unimportant traits for the DM role and actually confirm how Scott’s strengths are also better utilized further ahead on the pitch. Tchouameni’s signing would probably allow Scott to compete with Fred for the B2B CM role once Pogba leaves.

On weaknesses, as ridiculous as it sounds, Tchouameni has none. At the very least, none for his role as a deep-lying defensive midfielder. He probably lacks the carrying, final 3rd creation and shooting to justify an advanced CM or B2B role. The only other “weakness” one can probably pick out is that he isn’t at 90+ percentiles on passing to be called an elite playmaker. In our CM shortlist, the reason players like Bruno Guimaraes and Maxime Lopez jumped ahead of him were due to their high metrics for progressive passing and pass % which Tchouameni couldn’t match. But that’s not to say Tchouameni doesn’t have room to improve on that. He’s already made a big jump from a season ago, when his passing metrics were only as good as McTominay and he seemed more like a ball winner (earning ‘next Kante’ shouts in France) but he’s really developed his passing and build up traits to be considered as a top team DM since then.

In summary, Tchouameni is probably the best U25 DM available in Europe if you want a balanced DM who is strong at defending and good at build up and progression. From the POV of what United want, it can’t get better than this. I’m cutting 1 mark just for the fact that he isn’t an elite level playmaker yet, but he can probably bridge that gap soon at the rate at which he’s going.

Technical Fitment: 9/10


Tactical Analysis

Let’s see how all of this translates to the pitch. This season, AS Monaco got off to a very troubled start with manager Niko Kovac employing a number of formations at the start of the season (3-4-2-1, 4–2-3-1, 4-4-2 and 4-3-3) to no good effect as the team struggled to find any rhythm or consistency. In all these formations, Tchouameni would be a regular and often start as the deepest midfielder. Kovac was eventually sacked after managing only 24 points and 6 wins in 17 league games. Since the arrival of Phillipe Clement in January, things have been more stable. The team has consistently played a 4-3-3 and managed 15 points and 4 wins in his 9 games at charge. Tchouameni has continued to be a regular feature at the base of the mid 3 with 2 of Volland, Jean Lucas and Fofana rotating in the CM slots ahead of him.

One thing our stats did not cover and is usually a big need for a DM, is the ability to show oneself during build up and progression. The DM needs to make himself available to the back line during the first phase and also constantly be in good positions to support wide players and midfielders in the next phase, so that the team can progress smoothly. This is something United have badly lacked. Scott is a very poor shower of himself often getting covered in the shadows of opponents and rarely being in good positions to demand the ball during build up. While Fred is better at making himself available, he lacks the ball control & strength to play out of pressure when facing his goal in DM areas.

Tchouameni is a master at this art as shown below:

We can immediately see his major pass reception is in the DM area or Zone 14 slot where he smartly moves to always be an outlet through the center during buildup. His rankings for the relevant metrics also show how important he is in receiving the ball for his team. The 2nd best zone of reception being further up the pitch on either side is a clear indicator of how he moves up with the team and offers himself on either side during second phase build up on the flanks as well. That is exactly what we need our DM to do. His involvement in the 3rd phase or attacking third progression is negligible, showcasing how he prefers to stay as a guard dog in the center to protect the team against transitions when they are up high – another attribute we sorely need.

We touched upon Tchouameni being a good passer and probably not an elite level playmaker. But with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Fred and Bruno Fernandes in the team, United already have enough chance creation and final ball material and just need a midfielder from deep to constantly find them in the attacking 3rd – and that’s exactly what Tchouameni does!

Tchouameni’s progressive map helps us understand 2 things:
1. The typical progressive pass he makes is exactly what we need – the mid 3rd to final 3rd ones. We have Maguire and Lindelof who are good at progressive passes from the defensive 3rd while Dalot, Telles and Shaw are adept at progression from deep wide areas. The only missing clog is completed with this kind of progressive map, from the center of the pitch to the wings, half-spaces and AM areas in the final 3rd.
2. His range of passing and uniformity across the pitch is perfectly balanced. He doesn’t have a favorite pass like a cross-ball diagonal to one side or a certain area of the pitch where the angle suits him. This is a player who can progress anywhere from the areas he operates in and that’s a very huge pro for a central DM in a mid 3 for a possession based team.

Defensively, Aurelian is an ever-present imposing figure in the middle of the park. His recoveries and interceptions highlight his amazing positioning. On the very few occasions he is far away from the ball, he makes it up with a display of acceleration and reach to get in a successful tackle. He rarely gets dribbled past thanks to a combination of awareness and physical dominance. Imagine Matic’s positioning combined with Fred’s ball-winning energy – that’s how Tchouameni feels like in defence.

Another noticeable trait is his aerial presence. Whether it’s clearances in his box or chances in the opposition box, he usually wins his aerial duels with strength and jumping ability. Among his 5 goals & 6 assists in the last 2 seasons, 3 goals and 2 assists have come from headers in set piece situations alone. This is another aspect United will benefit from.

Let’s look at some examples on the pitch to confirm what we have discussed so far:

In the 1st example, I highlight Tchouameni’s ability to receive when back to goal, turning to beat his man, giving himself a chance to look up and picking a great through ball that releases his winger behind the defence.

The example below is one where Aurelien is given a pass in a very bad situation. We have seen such incidents many times at United recently where a defender under pressure puts in a poor pass to the CM who is dropping deep, leading to a blame game on whose fault it really was. With DMs like Tchouameni, even poor passes are dealt with well. He receives this one on the edge of his D and is able to body-block the oncoming tackle, turn into the space behind, spot his teammate and release them on the break. 

In the 3rd example, Aurelien closes in on the man he’s marking, putting good pressure on his back as he is receiving. Again, the main highlight here is how Tchouameni doesn’t need to tackle or slide in (another bad habit of United players) and instead stays up and pressures the opponent with his physicality. Upon getting the ball, he has the awareness to turn into space and pick out his teammate to kickstart a move.
The final example is a simple one as Aurelien picks out the striker run with an inch-perfect through ball. The move led to the striker squaring it to his LW for a tap in.

Rounding off our tactical segment, it’s hard to pick any fault here. Tchouameni is what United exactly lack on the pitch – a DM in a mid 3 who helps in 1st and 2nd phase but stays back in 3rd phase to defend transitions, strong defensively without lunging into tackles, able to receive well in tight DM areas with good positioning & ball control, progressive enough to pick out anyone in the final 3rd with uniformity and a strong aerial presence in both boxes. This segment is a clean sweep.

Tactical Fitment: 10/10


Transfer Chances

Contract Start: Jan 29, 2020
Contract End: Jun 30, 2024
Weekly Wage: £19,000
Quoted Transfer Fee: £83m
Expected Transfer Fee: £60m-£70m

By now you must have realized that Aurelian is a wanted man. Last year, it could have been argued that he was still a wonderkid with a few gaps, but this season he has emerged as a well-rounded DM showing off his skills with excellence. His strong and consistent displays for Monaco and France have elevated his demand. Most top clubs know they are getting a guaranteed starter for many years, if they move for him this summer.

Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Barcelona have all been strongly linked to the Frenchman. Barcelona’s financial issues and Arsenal and United’s doubtful Champions League status have apparently put Chelsea and Madrid in the lead, with Chelsea especially seemingly desperate to acquire either Aurelien or Declan Rice, given the age and fitness issues of Kante (30) and Jorginho (30).

In terms of transfer fee, Tchouameni’s contract runs out in 2024, which has made Monaco slap a £83m price tag on him for the coming summer. Even assuming that’s just a negotiation tactic, it seems hard for anyone to prize away the wanted man for anything less than £60m.

This segment is where United face the biggest issues. The recent draw to Watford has put a huge dent on our top 4 chances. Coupled with intense transfer competition, especially from Chelsea who have the need and the means, this might not be an easy deal for the Red Devils, further complicated by a new manager arrival.


Transfer Chances: 6/10


So, that rounds it up! Tchouameni is probably the most well-rounded DM in the U25 category that any top club can hope for. With the right mix of role and traits, he ranks very highly for technical and tactical fitment for Manchester United’s needs, but the intense transfer competition is a big roadblock for a team that has often struggled to beat top clubs to signings.

Technical Fitment: 9/10
Tactical Fitment: 10/10
Transfer Chances: 6/10
Overall Devil’s DNA Score: 8/10

Whom would you like to see covered next from our shortlist?

Bruno Guimarães – 8/10
Maxime Lopez
Ismaël Bennacer
Florian Grillitsch
Aurélien Tchouaméni – 8/10
Cheick Doucouré
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa

(Notes:
1. All playing stats are from Fbref.com
2. All contract information is from Transfermarkt.com
3. All viz are made using Opta data
4. All images are from Getty Images
5. All screenshots from video footage of Ligue 1 and Monaco’s YouTube uploads
6. All mentioned data is accurate for the Feb 28th, 2022 to Mar 2nd, 2022 duration)

Opposition Analysis: Atletico Madrid 21/22

After the haywire UCL re-draw, Atletico Madrid were picked as Manchester United’s opponents for the upcoming Round of 16 Knockout game in the UEFA Champions League. In this article, we take a look at the Spanish giants’ 21/22 stats, strengths, weaknesses & playing style to understand what Man United can expect.

1. Overview

At the time of writing, Atletico are 5th in Laliga behind the likes of Betis & Sevilla. Even in their UCL group this season they were far behind Liverpool & barely managed to grab 2nd spot ahead of Porto & Milan. It hasn’t been a great campaign so far. But interestingly, their xGD per 90 puts them at 3rd in Laliga just behind the usual suspects, Real Madrid & Barcelona, which suggests that they aren’t doing as badly as it seems and some underperformance is at play.

Let’s dive into each aspect of their game now.

2. Formation & XI

Oblak
Trippier-Savic-Gimenez-Hermoso-Carrasco
Llorente-Koke-De Paul
Suarez-Correa

This is Atletico’s most played formation involving the players with most 90s. A 5-3-2 with Koke sitting deep & 2 CMs ahead of him is their standard setup. Koke is their most important player in buildup boasting 5th best xGBuildup in Laliga so far. Lot of their game in possession goes through him while the 2 CMs ahead of him (Lemar & De Paul usually) focus on open play chance creation.

Since the departure of Trippier, Simeone has reverted to a 4-4-2 in recent games. They lined up in that shape in their last 4 games at the time of writing. The principles remain largely the same. Marcos Llorente or Vrsaljko play as a RB and allow Carrasco to play further ahead as a winger. The 4-4-2 often takes the shape of 5-3-2 when Carrasco tracks back on the left, Llorente provides width on the right and Hermoso tucks in like a LCB, so in terms of build up and defensive structure, it remains the same largely.

A more classic Simeone 4-4-2 is also possible with Vrasljko and Lodi as fullbacks and Carrasco and Lemar as wingers, which is also a tactic that has been used once since the departure of Trippier.

3. Goal scoring
(All stats from here onwards are per 90 unless mentioned otherwise)

Goals: 1.74 (3rd in Laliga)
xG: 1.45 (5th)
Shots: 13.0 (3rd)
Shots on target: 4.4 (3rd)
NPxG/Shot: 0.11 (2nd)

Atletico have actually overperformed on their goal scoring. Griezmann (+2.6 G-xG) and Correa (+5.8) are overperforming in all competitions while Suarez’s differential is 0, scoring as expected. 2 of these 3 have lined up in a 5-3-2 & mostly delivered (10, 8 & 11 goals from Suarez, Griezmann & Correa respectively in all competitions). Marcus Cunha has chipped in with 6 goals but no one else has crossed 3 goals – only 17 more goals combined from 9 other players. Last year’s Llorente goals have completely dried up – he’s scored 0 so far. De Paul, Felix, Lemar are underperforming.


4. Chance creation

Chances created: 9.7 (5th)
xA: 1.0 (5th)

Atletico haven’t been really creative. De paul (27 key passes in Laliga), Carrasco (35 Key Passes), Lemar (29 Key Passes) are their main creators but none are in top 10 of Laliga (Leader Muniain has 57 Key Passes). For United, Bruno Fernandes already has 66 Key Passes in the League.

We dive deeper into the 3 main chance creator’s areas of creation in the below viz. These are the key passes for Carrasco, De Paul and Lemar in the league so far. As you can see, Carrasco is largely on dead balls, many of his key passes coming from corners and free kicks and a few from the LWB position when he cuts in and looks for the diagonal to the far post. Lemar and De Paul play the LCM and RCM positions respectively and their roles as chief creators in open play shows. Lemar is a bit more aggressive often dribbling up to the left half space and playing through balls, cutbacks and short crosses into the box while De Paul attempts more long range defence-splitting passes from a deeper right side position.

5. Defence

Goals Allowed: 1.1 (8th worst)
xGA: 0.9 (Best)
PSxG/Shot: 0.31 (3rd)

This is where the differential issue comes to light. The underlying numbers of Atletico’s defence are actually good. They concede the least xG & the 3rd lowest quality shots but are still shipping lots of goals. This immediately points to a goalkeeping issue. Let’s dig further.


6. Jab Oblak’s dip

PSxG Differential: -0.45 (2nd worst in Laliga)
Save %: 44% (Worst in Laliga and worst in top 5 leagues)

Shockingly, Oblak has been Laliga’s worst keeper so far and in serious contention for the worst goalkeeper in the top 5 leagues as well. For Atletico, he’s conceded 12 more goals than expected (33 conceded from 21 PSxG) in the league alone and has conceded all 5 penalties he’s faced. This is the worst shot-stopping form of his life and a stark dip from last season as seen below.

7. Pressing

PPDA: 11.6 (13th worst in Laliga)
Pressures: 129 (7th worst)
Pressure Success %: 32.3% (2nd best)

Another big change from previous Atletico sides is that they don’t press intensely or high anymore. If you had a decade-long perception that a typical Simeone side is all about intense pressing and defending, then that might have to change. This 21/22 Atletico sits back & stays organized to concede less. Their high pressure success % is proof of them being measured in the press and prioritizing turnovers while remaining compact.

8. Creation Style

Possession: 53% (8th)
Shot creating actions: 19.7 (5th)
Shot creating actions from dead ball: 2.2 (3rd)
Set piece xG: 10.3 (1st)
Crosses: 13.6 (7th)
Switches: 188.5 (3rd)
Through balls: 0.96 (4th)

Atletico rely more on switches, through balls & set pieces for creation. All signs point to a deep-sitting counter side that thrives more on transitions. But this doesn’t mean they don’t like to build up passing sequences. The team style comparison plot from theanalyst.com below will give us more clarity.

 

 

 

 Atletico still boast 5th most passes per sequence showing their on ball quality. They are right at the average for speed of attacks though, insisting they aren’t as slow and intricate as most of the top teams.

 

 Key takeaways for United:

Among the pros, United can take hope from the fact that this Atletico isn’t as intense & pressing as many sides that have troubled United in the league recently. Atletico aren’t really creative, are over-reliant on over-performing strikers and set pieces and their goalkeeper Oblak is in terrible form.

Among the cons, United have struggled to break down organized deep sides that ask United to be patient & creative and set up with the aim to hit United on the transition with direct balls, which is exactly what Atletico do. United’s transition defence will be tested once again as it has been recently versus Southampton and Burnley.

(Credit to fbref.com, Understat.com and theanalyst.com for all stats)

Search for a CM: Bruno Guimaraes

 

We re-launched our “Search for a CM” series last month thanks to United’s inability to close the much-needed midfield gap for a long time. Here is the article where we used data to come up with a shortlist of 7 mids who are perfect fits in United’s midfield. Today we are going to analyze the top option in that shortlist and judge whether he really is the best option in the market or not. Is another Brazilian to partner Fred the elite solution for us? Is a transfer from Ligue 1 to United a bigger step up than expected? Does he have some glaring weaknesses we need to be wary of? We’ll answer these doubts and more in this detailed scout report of Lyon’s Bruno Guimaraes.

 

  

Career History


Bruno was born in Rio de janeiro in Brazil in 1997 and spent his formative years there playing football from a young age. His first big break came when he started for Brazilian league 2 club Audas at the age of 17. He was promoted to their main team the following year in 2017. By the end of that season he had impressed enough for Brazilian Serie A club Athletico Paranaense to pick him up on loan in May 2017. He impressed the club so much that they bought him mid-season and signed a deal with him till 2021. He became an undisputed starter under coach Tiago Nunes and renewed his contract again at the age of 20. His displays in Brazil’s top league caught the eye of Lyon who secured his services in 2020 for €20 million (and a 20% sell-on clause) on a 4.5-year deal. He has been plying his trade for the club ever since becoming a key starter in 20/21 when they finished 4th in the league. His 21/22 has also got off to a good start and at the age of 24 is now being rumored to be tracked by the top clubs of Europe.

  

Strengths & Weaknesses 

The main reason why Guimaraes topped our shortlist in the first place was thanks to our extra weightage on passing progression stats. The idea was to look for a top playmaker in that bracket and that’s exactly what Guimaraes is. As per the calculations on our data set, (which negates players with low 90s) he boasts a whopping 95 percentile each on Passes into final 3rd & Progressive passes. Only 5 midfielders in Europe (Kroos, Thiago, Modric, Parejo, Gastien) better him on both metrics and none are younger than him. If the next best passer in Europe is the aim, you probably won’t get anyone better than Bruno G. Not only that, his progressive dribbling stats (Distance & number) are bested by only 2 players in Europe in Verratti & Modric showcasing his strength in carrying progression as well. He is probably the best young midfield progressor in the world.

 He’s no slack defensively either and has actually been described as a very combative midfield general. This is backed up by his 83 percentile on tackles won and 84 percentile on successful pressures which are also supported by a decent 53 percentile on pressure success % (as per Fbref). So far, so good.

  

While his strengths seem to be jaw-dropping, Bruno isn’t without weaknesses. Glaringly he is just 10 percentile on Dribbled past. In our data set, this number further dropped to 5 percentile after cutting out low 90s players that Fbref doesn’t. Connecting this to the eye test, Bruno has the tendency to rush into tackles and 50-50s which often leads to him being beaten by his man especially on transitions. This is an issue that coincides with United’s problem on defensive transitions (Explained here). We already have players like Fred who lunge into tackles and get beaten on transitions so ideally the new midfielder shouldn’t. This is probably one box Bruno does not tick but the silver lining is, that at his age, this can be coached out of him. DLPs like him usually mature and become more stand-up tacklers and positionally aware, especially when they move to big teams. Rodri is a good example as he also had this tendency and would often be beaten in transitions in his first year at Man City. But he’s currently overcome that issue and has been one of City’s best players and the ideal Fernandinho replacement. One can trust Bruno to do the same if United move for him soon.

 

Overall, Bruno fits our progression needs to the letter and would solve a lot of build up, progression and creativity needs while being tenacious in his pressing and tackling. Only his weakness of lunging in and getting dribbled past will need to be worked on and prevents him from getting a full score on technical fitment.

 

Technical Fitment: 8/10

 


Playing Style


Now that we know what he’s good at, let’s see how his traits translate on the pitch in terms of role and tactics. Lyon have mostly lined up in a 4-2-3-1 this season with Caqueret & Guimaraes making up the pivot with Auoar ahead of them. In some cases they also shift to a 4-3-3 with the same 3. In both scenarios, Guimaraes plays as the deepest player in the mid 3. The 4-2-3-1 is far more prevalent and suits Guimaraes better as well since he enjoys the dynamism and work rate of a pivot midfielder rather than the static nature of a central DM. He has lined up as LCM often this year due to Caqueret’s preference for RCM, but Bruno is also capable of playing RCM. Guimaraes is the one responsible for the build up, progression from deep & often carries or passes from deep to kickstart the team’s moves. This is exactly what United want in their pivot as well.

 

One aspect of play that is a clear Guimaraes strength is his through ball ability. That special pass threaded through like a needle is always in his locker and he regularly spots attacker runs and plays them in from deep. Here are a few examples:

  

 

 

 



In the above 2 examples, Bruno threads inch-perfect passes between the defence line to put his striker 1-on-1 on goal. But even from large distances he has that ability as seen below:

 

 

  

 Or if its from the outside of his boot as well:

 Bruno’s second biggest strength is his carrying. In a combination of great ball control, Dribbling ability and upper body strength, Guimaraes constantly goes on bursting runs into the heart of midfield without losing the ball until he can create a gap to find a good pass. Here are a few examples.

 

 In the above example Bruno picks the ball from a deep right-sided midfield area and immediately turns to take on his man, beating 2 men successively with a strong drive and taking another out with a quick pass thus progressing through 3 opponents in a flash.

 

 Again Guimaraes picks up from a RCM area and drives, beating 2 men before sliding across a pass to his winger effectively taking out 4-5 opponent players and creating the space for his winger to get a shot from.

With this unique combination of vision, passing ability, dribbling & strength, it almost becomes impossible to stop Bruno from progressing. If you give him space, he picks out runners and strikers easily and if you press him, he can dribble past you to create space, making him the ultimate press-resistant tool for progression.

 Tactically speaking, Bruno’s best role might not be a RCM DLP yet. A pairing beside a left-sided attacking LCM like Fred/Pogba might not be most ideal in his current form. One could even argue letting him roam as the attacking CM in a pivot alongside a sitting DM could work well. Here’s where coaching and what he’s trained into in the next 2-3 years becomes really key. Many DLPs like Carrick/Matic developed positioning and understanding of a deeper progressive role later in their careers and Bruno G has that ability for sure. We’re cutting 3 marks because of this reason. Mostly Bruno can develop into what United need, so overall, it’s still a terrific fit. It’s just not a readymade one that’s all.

  

Tactical Fitment: 7/10

 

Transfers News

Current contract: Jan, 2020 to June 2024 (2.5 years left)
Current wage: £46,000 per week
Market value: £27m
Rumored Transfer fee: €45m (£38m)

Fabrizio Romano recently tweeted that Lyon want at least €45m for Guimaraes which is a pretty reasonable ask for such a talented player who has more than 2 years left on his contract still.

 Arsenal have been the club linked most to the Brazilian but as of January 6th, Guimaraes had this to say: “Arsenal approached my agent, but there was no offer. My aim, and I made it clear to Juninho, is to win a title with Lyon. My aim is to win a title here, but I have never hidden my desire to play in the Premier League.”

This probably rules out a winter move unless a very compelling offer comes in. It also opens up the playing field for other clubs, especially in the PL. Given the high competition for his signature and low United link, we might have to cut some marks, but overall his openness to the Premier League and the rumored transfer fee make this a very attractive and realistic proposition for United.

Transfer Chances: 8/10


This brings our final scores to:

Technical Fitment: 8/10
Tactical Fitment: 7/10
Transfer Chances: 8/10
Overall Devil’s DNA score: 8/10


So there you have it. Guimaraes looked like he was the best option among our shortlist, but further inspection has uncovered that he might not be the 10/10 target that we had hoped for, thanks to his defensive transition weakness, doubts over a deep holding role and transfer competition. Overall, he still offers a huge upgrade on what United have, is probably the best young progressor in Europe and could fix United’s progression issues immediately all at a very modest transfer fee, which still make him a top transfer target.

Whom would you like to see covered next from our shortlist?


Bruno Guimarães – 8/10
Maxime Lopez
Ismaël Bennacer
Florian Grillitsch
Aurélien Tchouaméni
Cheick Doucouré
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa