With the departure of Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez from Toronto FC during the winter, the 2017 MLS Champions’ team seems considerably weaker. But with a designated player spot opened up from Giovinco’s departure, the club’s management have an opportunity to bring in a new big-name signing to lift fan spirits. With title holders Atlanta United losing Miguel Almiron, the league is open for the taking. One name linked with FC is Algerian midfielder Sofiane Hanni from Spartak Moscow. But what kind of impact can we expect to see from Hanni if he does make the move to the Canadian side, who struggled last year?
Considering his position, Hanni is unlikely going to be a direct replacement for Sebastian Giovinco, despite his designated player status. Instead, some may expect to see the Algerian take up a more offensive position within the midfield, replacing Victor Vazquez. But while the midfielder has experience playing in the midfielder for his Moscow club, he prefers to play on the left side. In 14 starts for Spartak this season, Hanni has played seven from a left forward position, and four from left midfield. Hanni’s ability to dribble, and his lack of defensive contributions, make him an ideal candidate to play on the wing. Vazquez, on the other hand, played 16 games in the midfield from the 19 games he started.
Vazquez averaged 43.4 passes per game with an 82.3% pass success rate in the MLS. Sofiane Hanni’s passing statistics tell a much grimmer story. Averaging only 25.8 passes per game in the Russian Premier League and UEFA Europa League combined, with a 73.2% pass success rate, Hanni is nowhere close to Vazquez. In all competitions, Hanni only averages around one successful longball a game. In the MLS, Vazquez averaged 2.8 long balls per game.
Even when it comes to shooting, Vazquez trumps Hanni. The Spanish midfielder scored eight league goals last season for Toronto FC, seven coming from the midfield. Hanni has two goals this season, one in the Russian Premier League and one in the UEFA Europa League. Both goals came from a left forward position. One area where Hanni slightly beats Vazquez is in shots per game, with the Algerian recording 1.8 shots per game to Vazquez’s 1.4.
If Toronto FC fans are hoping to directly replace Victor Vazquez with Sofiane Hanni, the may be disappointed. The Algerian’s inclusion in a Toronto FC side will likely result in a complete change in the system. Over the last few seasons, we have seen Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney setup with two strikers and high fullbacks. Hanni, as a comfortable left forward, could provide a more natural attacking width. Instead of breaking lines with passes like Vazquez, expect to see Hanni come into Toronto FC and break lines with key dribbles instead.