The twenty-five year old Belgian was booed off at Goodison Park this weekend, taking the brunt of the Everton fans’ dismay at a hugely underwhelming performance against Wigan.
The feeling must be unusual for the temperamental Toffees star having been a golden boy for fans and media alike for the entirety of the season. With Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and even Real Madrid reportedly interested, it begs the question, where would Fellaini be best suited? Which in turn leads to the question, could he realistically improve the midfields of these clubs?
On paper a move for Fellaini would be a no-brainer for a top European club, heading towards the peak of his powers age wise, physically imposing, a threat from set pieces, and in terms of goals the 6’4 central midfielder has been in good form this season; 11 Premier League goals in 23 appearances is certainly impressive by any midfielders standard. But I believe a move for Fellaini may not be in the English club's best interests.
Take Chelsea for example, arguably the most heavily linked to the player. While there would be no place in the attacking three midfielders for Fellaini, many would point to the two holding positions in the 4-2-3-1 adopted by the Blues this season. But that isn’t Fellaini’s natural or most productive position.
Moreover, at their best - as proved in the second half at Old Trafford on Sunday – Ramires and Mikel form an impressive partnership, combining dynamism with positional sense, interceptions with tackling and the ability to start an attack with the ability to drop in and cover. Fellaini’s skillset is arguably ill-suited to a Chelsea squad whose summer signings were indicative of a change of style from the notoriously powerful style of old.
With Chelsea ruled out on that basis, Manchester City would seem the likely alternative. On first glance they appear a good fit for Fellaini, with the Citizens playing the same 4-4-1-1 as Everton frequently this season. However there is a significant stumbling block for the seemingly suited pair.
Despite the formation potentially allowing Fellaini to flourish, it would require displacing Yaya Toure from the first team to achieve it. The Belgian can give Jack Rodwell a call if he has any illusions about the difficulty of that task. Again this season Toure has proven just how important he is to the current champions, proving their source of inspiration once more against Chelsea in their recent Premier League clash. Seemingly City are an unlikely destination for the Everton man.
The final realistic opportunity for Fellaini to make a move in England would be Manchester United. With the same 4-2-3-1 formation used by Chelsea, once again Fellani would find himself played out of position.
United are most lethal when they use wide men to stretch the game against opposition defences (how often do Carrick and Giggs play a diagonal ball to a wide-man out of the reach of his opposing fullback?) and Rooney in the middle of the three. Despite the recent fiasco, Rooney would certainly not be displaced in favour of Fellaini, and clearly the Everton man couldn’t play the wide roles.
So once again, we look to the holding midfielders to find a place for Fellaini, and once again, in my opinion there is no place for him. Carrick and Cleverley in those positions for United and rely on a neat passing game between one another and Rooney when the play is narrow, and the ability to arrow a pass to Young, Valenica et al. with intricacy when required.
While Fellaini may be able to achieve the initial objective, his pass success ratio of 78% is significantly lower than Carrick and Cleverley (88% and 90%) and he lacks the range of passing of the United two.
Don’t get me wrong, Marouane Fellaini is undoubtedly an excellent footballer and possesses and range of attributes that in theory are well suited to any team. His importance to the Everton team is demonstrated in the fact that he took a large amount of the condemnation from the Everton fans on Sunday. Whether he could reproduce that importance at a ‘bigger’ club though, in my opinion, is debatable.
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