The World Cup in Qatar this winter is one surrounded by controversy, yet it is one that has produced some of the best individual and team performances were seen in quite some time.
One player who has caught the eye of many under the radar is Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat, brother of Morocco legend Nordin Amrabat. Sofyan’s ability to be the engine of the Moroccan midfield is a huge contribution to Morocco’s historic journey to become the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final.
Born in the Netherlands with Moroccan heritage, the 26-year-old came through the Dutch football education with his time at FC Utrecht and Feyenoord before ending up in Italy with Hellas Verona and now Fiorentina.
We will now look at the qualities that Amrabat brings to Fiorentina’s and Morocco’s midfield, due to his Dutch education, and how he is used in two different ways, as well as the areas where he needs to improve in order to take the next step and reach his full potential.
Sofyan Amrabat has made 13 appearances so far for the La Viola so far in the 2022/23 season, ten of which he has started, but with no goals or assists, it could appear to many that his contribution is nonexistent.
However, the pizza chart above shows the overall stats of the player in comparison to the percentile rank with other defensive midfielders in Serie A, where it is clear to see that Amrabat is comfortable receiving the ball and dictating the play with his passing game.
The most impressive ability Amrabat possesses is his instinct to pick out the right pass at the right time in order to keep the momentum of his team flowing. The 26-year-old displays this key element taught in the Dutch academies by averaging 40.2 passes a game with a 91% pass accuracy and attempting about 4.8 long ball distributions per game with an 83% accuracy.
From the pass map above, it is clear to see that Amrabat spreads the ball all over the park like butter on bread, but with 0.5 chances created on average, it is safe to say that Amrabat is a man who knows when to release the ball to the more creative players in the side but can keep the ball and move the opposition around the pitch.
Under Walid Regragui, Amrabat is seen as the protector in front of the back four when he plays for his national side, Morocco. From the pass map above, you can see how Amrabat’s presence in the final third of the pitch is vastly less than for his club, with most of his passes originating in the centre of the pitch and the first third of the pitch.
Still, Amrabat averaged an 85% pass percentage per game with an average of 30.8 passes a game and roughly 1.9 long ball attempts, drastically fewer than those attempted for his club, further cementing the steady hand in midfield he is for his country.
Breaking up opposition play
One quality that Amrabat possesses is the ability to repossess the ball high up the pitch to break up the opposition’s play after its dispossession by him or his teammates. It is important to notice from the map above that most of Amrabat’s successful attempts at regaining the ball come between the middle of the pitch and the final third, most of which are recoveries when his team has lost the ball and is being counter-pressed.
If there is one underestimation of Amrabat’s talent in the midfield, it is his ability to carry the ball from deep very comfortably, with the ability to drift past opponents in the process. Though he is no silly dribbler of the ball, it should be known that so far this season, Amrabat has completed 56% of his attempted dribbles successfully.
Weakness in the air
In my opinion, Amrabat needs to improve not only in his goal and assist output but also in his ability to win the aerial duels in those important battles that happen in the middle of the pitch. As you can see from the stats collected on the Transfer Lab, Amrabat is in the lower percentile of aerial duels with a 22% success rate, which is very poor and can be seen as a weakness that opposition midfielders will look to exploit.
If his World Cup performances for Morocco are anything to go by, then I believe Sofyan Amrabat will have gained the attention of some top clubs who feel they can pinch him away from Fiorentina. His ability to not only carry the ball comfortably but also dictate the tempo of the game with his passing range as well as protect the back four makes him the real deal.
Visuals via TFA data viz engine