The big dilemma: Real Madrid have to address transfer target’s positional situation

Serie A 19-20: Napoli vs Hellas Verona - tactical analysis tactics
With the shapes perfectly matching when Napoli had the ball, Hellas Verona were free to aggressively press man to man. Dropping midfielders were pursued by their opposite man and the back three were given little time on the ball.

Fabian Ruiz is known to be one those Spanish players who will carry forward the nation’s legacy. Him, Dani Ceballos and Saul Niguez are few those who are seen as the heir to the thrones of players like Xavi and Andres Iniesta. While that isn’t an easy task by any means, their unquestionable abilities make it easier. But things haven’t exactly been smooth sailing for Fabian in recent months.

As recent as last week, reports did link Fabian with a move to Real Madrid. They said that the Los Blancos are monitoring his contract talks with Napoli. They also talk of interest from Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City.

While the reports are welcome, but things have gone wrong for Fabian this season. And clubs should look at that with caution too.

Not all of it is Fabian’s fault. The partenopei got rid of Carlo Ancelotti some weeks ago, leading to Rino Gattuso’s arrival at the Stadio San Paolo. This change has seen Napoli break their winless streak of eight games. This run saw Napoli slip away from being anywhere near the Betway favourites for Serie A this season, as reflected in the latest Betway soccer betting odds. But the changes that have been going on at the club haven’t been helping Fabian, which Betway have noted.

Ancelotti would use a 4-4-2 shape during his second season. This saw Fabian get used in a double pivot or as the defensive midfielder when Allan out due to an injury. This lack of stability at the club has meant that Fabian hasn’t had the best of seasons. And he doesn’t know what his main position is.

Throughout his career, he has either played as the central midfielder or the attacking midfielder. Sometimes, Ancelotti would also use him as the right or left-winger who would take up central positions many times. The Italian’s system demanded Napoli to be tactically flexible and that has left Fabian with problems.

This season, the 23-year-old has been dribbled past 1.7 times per game- the highest in a single campaign in his career. He is playing only 1.5 key passes per game- lesser than the tally of 2.3 last season. While that part is suffering, he gets more of the ball playing deeper too.

He is playing 71.1 passes per game- more than he ever has in any league season. That is also the highest at the club this season. It allows him to spread the play to wide positions, playing 4.1 long balls per game. He also has a very good passing percentage of 90- the third-best in the side.

And there clearly are two sides to this coin. He gets more time on the ball while playing deeper. It allows him more time and space than usual. He can use his vision better. But his lack of physicality leaves him exposed when teams attack. It doesn’t help the partenopei at all either.

His versatility and ability on the ball is certainly a good thing. But his situation is a lot like Ceballos. If he plays deeper, he is prone to make errors and not getting stuck in. If he plays further forward, the game is too fast for their liking.

Napoli’s lack of a proper ball-winning midfielder isn’t helping either. Their links with Sander Berge and Sofyan Amrabat show that they are working towards improving that. But if there’s anyone who will benefit most from it, then it is Fabian. He will not have as much burden of playing deeper to defend. He will have the guarantee of someone who can do that job.

It is a feature that Real Madrid would have to look at. This is a player who could well have a release clause of €100 million and they can’t afford to get it wrong. But having said that, they have the setup to get Fabian working. Casemiro is one of the best ball-winners in world football and Fabian would enjoy playing in front of him.

It will aid in his development to become a better player.