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Stats dive: Amrabat is more than just a Pulgar upgrade

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The Moroccan midfield general has very few weaknesses in his game.

ACF Fiorentina v Hellas Verona - Serie A
Best friends.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

The Serie A transfer window doesn’t officially open until September 1st and because of this bizarro year we are experiencing it won’t close until October 5th. We’ve seen a litany of rumours thus far but I’ll attempt to dive into a statistical analysis for players that we actually sign. I won’t be going over every stat but more trying to see what sticks out about the transfer and hopefully provide some context.

Let’s begin with Fiorentina’s newest arrival: Sofyan Amrabat. I’ll compare him side by side with our two favorite midfielders, Erick Pulgar and Gaetano Castrovilli, to see how his stats shape up against theirs. Let’s begin:

I’ll start with Pulgar because I think most of us have assumed that due to their similar positions last season that Amrabat will replace him in the starting 11. Right away we can see that these two are very different players. Amrabat brings some wicked precision with his passing especially if we narrow it down to his long passing (measured as a pass longer than 25 yards). Amrabat finished 3rd overall amongst Serie A midfielders with a 85.4% completion percentage on 514 attempts. Eric Pulgar, who led the Viola midfield in this category, attempted 590 long passes last season but only connected on 65% of them.

Pulgar, though, does his damage on set pieces on an arguably elite level which helps explain the huge discrepancy when comparing their Expected Assists. Can Fiorentina afford to bench Pulgar in place of Amrabat? Considering how accurate Sofyan is with his passing it seems reasonable to expect him to strengthen that part of his game but at this point you’d be taking away a huge weapon.

They’re different types of defenders too. Pulgar is better at intercepting and pressuring the ball but is bad against dribblers. How bad? He ranked in the 3rd percentile for Dribble Past Percentage. Amrabat was about average statistically.

Don’t worry friends, by no means am I skipping that huge “successful dribbles” category. It just seemed fitting to bring it up in this part since we all enjoyed Gaetano Castrovilli weaving in and out of the midfield this past season. Dribbling past players just isn’t part of Pulgar’s game at this point.

I’ll be honest, when Amrabat was first signed I had no idea that he liked to carry the ball and dribble past folks. I was under the impression he was parked in front of the defense and started counter attacks with his precise passing. Since he’s a converted winger you have to imagine the lad likes to put people on skates still and it shows up statistically.

Castrovilli had a smashing first year in Serie A. He finished 2nd overall in Serie A on Successful Dribbles with a 69% success (nice) on 135 attempts but right behind him in 3rd was our new man Sofyan with 75% success on 111 attempts. No team in Serie A had two players in the top 10 in this category so we’re talking about a potentially entertaining midfield here. They both need to get better with learning how to get rid of the ball quicker as they were both poor with their Times Dispossessed.

At this point in their careers they are similar defenders statistically. Castrovilli is above average at applying pressure but is poor with interceptions comparatively. They both bring a little bite to their defense having each earned 10 yellow cards this past season.

Recap

But what does it all mean, right? Like I mentioned in the first part with Pulgar my automatic assumption was that Amrabat would start right in that holding midfield position. How does Fiorentina replace that elite level of set play delivery though? You could also see Amrabat filling in Castrovilli’s position due to their similar elite dribbling ability.

With a midfield group of Amrabat, Pulgar, Castrovilli and Duncan there are options to play around with now. Beppe has a good challenge ahead of him to incorporate and rotate these guys in. Any combination of the three should work very well together. This unit has huge potential for Fiorentina heading into next season and I can not wait to see how it unfolds.