Prior to his move from Athletic Bilbao, I must admit that I didn’t know much about Ander Herrera. Sure there were some rumors here and speculations there, and even word went round that United had begun talks over him during the Moyes era. For some reason though, I didn’t particularly feel compelled to dig deep and find out what the fuss was about him. After a while though, due to increased media attention, I eventually caved into the pressure. I therefore took to the great depths of the internet (Thank God for YouTube) and finally got some glimpses of him. Online Fan Scouting, if you prefer. 😀
True to the hype, I actually liked what I saw. He was pretty much above average. Wasn’t too sure about the figure being attached to him but meh, we’re the mighty Manchester United (
f*ck FFP). The first thing I noticed about him was his overall awareness and concentration. Herrera’s head was up every time he received the ball, and was alert to the danger when called upon to defend. He seemed a purposeful lad and although I wasn’t too convinced that he’d be a perfect fit for United, I felt that he could contribute something, at least even if it was from the bench. Mind you at the time, Pogba and Toni Kroos were also being linked with the club so I was kind of hoping that he’d be an impact player at the very least.
21 games later, Herrera is beginning to justify his £28.8m price tag. Preseason went pretty well for him, but a bout of injuries coupled with some poor performances forced Van Gaal to relegate him to the bench.
2015 seems to be Herrera’s year though, as he has managed to cement a starting position in the squad ( I know you all enjoyed his wonder-strike against Yeovil Town). The reason for this is quite obvious, Herrera is proving to be a midfielder capable of various roles. As per the stats below, he is comfortable in defence as he is in attack
1. Dropping Deep
This, for me, is his strongest asset. Herrera is very adept playing as a defensive midfielder and is capable of turning defence into attack within a split second. According to Squawka, Herrera averages a total of 1.95 interceptions per game, which is way higher than some of his Premier League counterparts including Fabregas (0.72), Silva (0.52) and Cazorla (1). He also registers 0.29 blocks per game, which is above Nemanja Matic (0.20) and Fernandinho (0.18). He’s not afraid of tackling too: Herrera wins 2.02 of his tackles per game. This is only bettered by Francis Coquelin (3.43) and Matic (2.83) in the league. These qualities come in handy especially when we suffer injuries to players who perhaps are better than him in a defensive midfield role such as Michael Carrick and Daley Blind. He proved against Chelsea that he’s more than capable when his defenders need him.
2. Moving Forward
Herrera has also proved to be valuable in attacking, as his passing and finishing has been precise. He completes more passes (63.96 every 90 min) than Nasri (62.34), Cazorla (55.06), Ramsey (60) and Matic (55.68). Despite playing less games, he also has the best assist average per game (0.19) as compared to other midfield heavyweights such as David Silva (0.15), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (0.05), Christian Eriksen (0.06) and Stevie G (0.04). Herrera has also bagged 5 goals in the premier league, and perhaps what is remarkable about this is the fact that he has scored with every shot he’s had on target (5). His shot conversion rate is 33.3%, which is absolutely remarkable for a midfielder. (These stats DO NOT include blocked shots. They don’t count). To put this into perspective, We’ll compare it with the league’s top scorers. Sergio Aguero’s is at 20.6% while Harry Kane’s is at 29%. This proves that not only is Herrera accurate, but he’s also quite efficient in front of goal.
The silky Spaniard is quickly winning over the United faithful. I’m really beginning to enjoy his performances and hope he can keep his form up for the remainder of the season and beyond. Currently, I believe he is quite instrumental to the balance of the team and it would be a big shame if he was to suffer any injury between now and the end of the season. I said it before and I’ll say it again; this fella displays the true grit and determination that all special midfielders posses. If he can keep up this hunger, determination and willingness to succeed, then it’s only a matter of time before we bestow on him the title of “next Paul Scholes” even though he insists otherwise.
Image credit: Panoramic | by Antoine Giannini (Le Figaro)
See you on the pitch!