As the summer transfer window opens, Manchester United look to make some brief changes to their current squad, as many new obstacles come their way in the 2017/18 Premier League campaign. Despite a trophy finish to a sub-par season, the red half of Manchester are undoubtedly looking to get back to the top by the means of Jose Mourinho. With a quick goodbye to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United seem to be in the market for a new number 9.
Andrea Belotti has been an outstanding player to watch this season in the Serie A. Being just 23-years-old, scoring 26 goals for the northern Italian side, Torino, he has proven he can be a major threat to any side.
Though his career has just blossomed, he has been seen as a prospect striker since his short run with Palermo, where he had moved to when the side was in Serie B. Helping the Sicilian side to the top and being promoted to Serie A, he proved in his two-year spell at Palermo, that he was not be ignored. Now, being part of a middle of the pack Torino side, the young striker has yet to fail in personal achievements, gaining him the respect and credibility amongst Europe’s biggest clubs.
But how could one of Europe’s biggest and most successful clubs use the traits of the young Italian to his utmost potential?
As many may know, Manchester United have struggled to find the back of the net all year, costing them what seemed to be easy wins. Although Ibrahimovic saw a good 28 goals in all competitions before picking up a knee injury, his 17 in the Premier League wasn’t enough to see United secure a win in many games.
Throughout this season, Andrea Belotti has established himself as an outright finisher. Defining him as more of a traditional centre forward, Belotti is an amazing goal scorer, as well as a key piece in creating attacking plays for his teammates. Demonstrating he can score in a variety of ways, the young Italian would be an enormous contribution to Manchester United’s dry goal spell.
The video series above is an example of how Belotti can score, from multiple angles and in any way on the pitch. Whether it is a good link-up from the middle or a simple touch from a poaching position, he exhibits how to get open or move defenders to find a scoring situation. In doing so, Belotti distracts or bypasses defenders in order to find open space. With this, he or his teammates can distribute the ball intelligently, creating a finishing chance.
Finding open space and getting past the back wall of opposition teams has been a slight issue for United. Although Andrea Belotti is only just beginning to reach his full potential as a striker, he already shows he has the pitch smarts and knowledge in goal scoring, having that one up on the likes of Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial.
The relationship between a striker and his midfield is just as important as any in football. That specific link-up is involved in creating chances and overturning the ball from the opposition. The quick thinking of a number 8 and number 10, results in generating the attack for the striker. A position the Red Devils have had next to no problem with in recent years is their talent in the middle. Not to say that Ibrahimovic or Rashford haven’t engaged themselves with the midfield, it became natural for Zlatan to drop down to a false 9 in order to help the progression of the ball into the opposition’s 18-yard box. As for Rashford, since familiarising himself with an outside winger role, he would interact with even the fullbacks to build up a play. One thing that has been a little skeptical with United is the proper use of dropping back and moving away from the defense in order to create opportunities.
Shown above, Belotti is a key factor in what goes on for Torino’s attacking build up. Not only is he mainly the target for scoring, he also assists in helping initiate an attack. For example, in the first and last clip, he is seen dropping down and supporting the midfielders in beginning an attack. By doing so, he allows, not only himself but his teammates to find open areas of space or to switch the play on the pitch. Dropping back himself also brings a defender with him, allowing a brief open window for someone like a winger to speed up on a break and get past his own man.
On, as stated previously, he is seen as a distraction. As a defender, knowing Belotti is a major threat, they would expect him to receive the ball but not let it go through him. In an example in the video, Belotti steps away from his defender to just barely tip the ball to a player he knows is behind him. Without looking he is able to assist his teammate and distract a defender all in a split second of time, resulting in a goal scoring chance.
As stated above, Belotti has a very intelligent link with that of his midfield. To expand on that, his passing should be a major talking point when examining his abilities to contribute to buildup play.
When looking at a team like Manchester United, passing is just another example of something they have been relatively good at over the latest campaign. With outstanding passers of long and short balls, like Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, it leaves the viewers at ease knowing the distribution of the ball is not usually a problem. What would help immensely, would be the addition of a number 9 who is comfortable enough to leave his post and know when to intelligently make a pass. Someone who sees opportunities, not only for himself but for his teammates in general. In United’s case, knowing you have that extra key passer in your striker is vital.
In the examples overhead, the young striker is seen making a variety of significant passes with the intentions of either continuing the attack or setting up a chance. When he sees his run can go no further, he takes a split second to look up for a passing lane. In the process of this, not only is it surprising for the defenders to react to but allows the quick thinking of the attacking players to come into action. The ability for any player on the pitch to know and predict where their teammates will be or could possibly go is so important for a quick attacking play. The proper development of this at an early part in Belotti’s career could result in seeing him being used in a number of situations and roles that would not only benefit himself but, for his fellow players alike.
Andrea Belotti has quickly become a very intriguing player to watch throughout his most recent time in Serie A. There is no doubt he would be a great addition to any side in any league. What Manchester United need most, is an outright goal scoring striker who is not afraid to drop back to help his midfield, whether it be for attack or assisting of some sort. Though United may not have had the season they would have liked to, the fans and more importantly, Jose Mourinho, knows what needs to be done in order to improve for the next time around. A traditional striker hasn’t necessarily been a weakness of theirs, most attributes of Belotti would only help to further advance United in said position. Looking ahead to the next campaign, they need to prioritize in what would help them, not only for the season to come but down the road. Adding Andrea Belotti would not only do that but bring some life back into what seems to be a dull period in Manchester United’s history.