New Transfers - Shinji and Eden


Shinji Kagawa

Following much speculation, Manchester United announced the signing of Shinji Kagawa for a reported fee of £17 million, thus becoming the club’s first ever Japanese player.

Kagawa first made a name for himself when he joined local Club Cerezo Osaka at the age of 17. After a successful four years at the club he was picked up by Germany’s Borussia Dortmond for 350,000 Euros… in what would turn out to be an absolute bargain!

Kagawa arrives at Old Trafford following a spectacular season at Dortmund, helping the club achieve a domestic double (League and DKB Pokal) for the first time in their history.

Anyone remember Mario Gotze? Another brilliant young sensation at Dortmund but then he got an Injury in January that kept him out for most of the season. Step up Shinji Kagawa. I bet Dortmond fans barely noticed Gotze’s absence, with Kagawa hitting the back of the net on 17 occasions while also bagging a respectable 8 assists. This along with his brilliant work rate, vision and technique made him a crowd favourite.

Positioning

Kagawa can play across any of the attacking midfield slots, but usually plays in two main positions – left wing and behind the central striker. While playing at Dortmund they usually adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Kagawa slotting behind Poland’s Lewandowski. This system worked perfectly with the two forming a lethal partnership, capable of causing havoc to any defence.

When he plays for the Japan National Team he is mainly used on the left wing. In the recent World Cup Qualifiers he was played there and managed to score a couple of goals.

How will he fit into the Man United System?

This question has been subject to much debate.  If played as a central midfielder in the traditional 4-4-2 he may struggle to cope, unless it’s against weaker teams.

Many seem to think that United may switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation, one in which Kagawa is familiar with and excelled at in Germany. In a recent press conference Kagawa himself said that he wants to play in the “hole.”

Kagawa said:

“I want to play in the hole, I feel that’s where I play my best football. I plan to work hard so I can win my place in the position.”

This would mean pushing Rooney up as the lone striker with Kagawa behind him, with Nani/Young and Valencia on either side of him.

As a result of this the game time of both Welbeck and Hernandez will be dented – would Sir Alex actually go through with that? Welbeck fully grabbed his opportunity to shine last season scoring 12 goals and showed a good understanding in partnership with Rooney, while Hernandez is known for his knack of scoring goals and being at the right place at the right time.

Stats and fantasy potential

In last season’s Bundesliga Kagawa scored 13 goals in 29 starts and became Dortmund’s second top scorer. A 13 goal haul is a job well done for any midfielder but what makes it even more impressive is that it is ahead of the likes of Bayern duo Ribery and Robben (12). Described as a player with the ability to make defence splitting passes his 8 assists are not to be taken lightly either as he averages 2 key passes per game.

Unlike his Asian counterpart, Ji Sung Park, he never drank “Frog Juice” to increase his stamina but nonetheless he still has a big tank which he uses to constantly pressurize defenders and run at them too – averaging 2 dribbles per game (in comparison United’s top dribbler last season was Nani at 1.8 ).

Fantasy points comparison for the 2011/12 season

Player Goals (5 points) Assists (3 points) Fantasy Score
Hazard 20 16 128
Dempsey 17 7 106
Bale 10 14 92
Kagawa 13 8 89
Silva 6 17 81

Many of United’s recent scoring threats have come from the wings but with Kagawa, the Red Devil’s now have a menacing threat through the middle! There are some concerns about how quickly Kagawa will adapt to the Premier League, in particular – how would he cope with the physicality of the English game? However we must not forget that he arrives from the Bundesliga which is often regarded as the closest to the Premier League in terms of physicality.

I do believe he will get plenty of game time to prove himself and with the likes of Rooney, Nani, Young and Valencia all set to rise in price – Kagawa may offer a slightly cheaper route into the United attack.

Eden Hazard

Chelsea announced the signing of ermm… actually on second thoughts – scratch that! Eden Hazard himself announced that he would be joining Chelsea via his Twitter account. Subsequently a few weeks later Chelsea confirmed they had agreed terms for his transfer. Does the order of that seem wrong to you, or is it just me?

Ha, so we’ve established the lad’s a bit cocky but make no mistake, Chelsea have landed an absolute beast of a player. The Blues beat off competition from several clubs including United and City, to land the young star.

Hazard said:

“I’ve always said I wanted to play in England. There was a struggle between Chelsea and United, but according to me Chelsea has the best project.”

Hazard joined Lille in 2005 and spent a few years further developing his game, before he signed a professional contract for the French club in 2007.

By the 2008/9 season he had secured a regular spot on the team and his returns on the pitch have steadily improved by the year until last season – where he went absolutely bonkers scoring a massive 20 goals and 15 assists in just 38 appearances! Not to mention he’s already won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year for two seasons in a row!

Positioning

At Lille the standard formation was 4-3-3 with Hazard usually operating on the left wing but he can play effectively in any of the attacking midfield positions.

Despite being mostly played on the wings at Lille his best performances have come when played in the hole. Hazard seems to have realised too that he is far more effective when played there and has publicly stated that he wants to play in the No.10 role.

“Certainly I could not have made such a decisive contribution had the coach at Lille not changed my position. It is all down to that. I have always dreamed of playing the No 10 role, and wearing that number on my back, and you can see what a difference it makes from how many goals I have scored and set up for others.”

Di Matteo deservedly nailed down the full time job after the winning FA Cup and Champions League and his continued stay means that the blues are expected to stick to their 4-2-3-1 formation. With Drogba gone Torres is expecting to lead the line and if Hazard is to slot behind him, then Juan Mata is likely to be pushed out wide again.

Stats and fantasy potential

As mentioned Hazard’s returns from the pitch have improved season by season. He is not afraid to have a crack on goal with a very healthy 107 shots on goal and amassing a solid 20 goals (third highest).

Hazard is also a wonderful dribbler of the ball, averaging 2.4 dribbles per game, while his ability to thread through balls and deliver key passes to his team mates is not to be taken lightly either. His 15 assists being the highest in the French League last season then, comes as no big surprise. He also took many free kicks and other set pieces at Lille too, so he may well get his fair share at Chelsea.

Hazard’s returns steadily improved over each season

Season Goals Assists
2008/09 4 1
2009/10 5 8
2010/11 7 10
2011/12 20 15

Before making his final decision on what club he would join, Hazard stated that “game time” would be a large factor. So it’s quite clear that Hazard will get regular starts to prove his worth.

Di Matteo said that several players from his squad competing in the Olympics, including Mata, was not an ideal situation – further ensuring that Hazard should start straight away.

Di Matteo said:

“How long we give him [Mata] off depends when they go out of the Olympics and how he feels physically and mentally. It is not ideal.”

With a Chelsea Double Gameweek (DGW) straight away, his pre-season performances and price tag will be keenly watched.