The Amateurs
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The Amateurs

What Were You Thinking, United?

Odion Ighalo (manchestereveningnews).

This season’s winter transfer window provided some interesting player traffic across the globe. From Christian Eriksen finalized his move to FC Internazionale Milano, to Paco Alcacer returning to his homeland to join Villareal, as well as Arsenal signing Pablo Mari from Brazilian giants Flamengo. Manchester United also join the global search for players by getting Bruno Fernandes from Portuguese club Sporting CP as their marquee signing.

Not only Fernandes, but United also brought another player in this transfer window. The Red Devils secured 30-year-old Nigerian forward Odion Ighalo from Shanghai Shenhua in a six-month loan deal just hours before the deadline hit. United fans’ eyebrows are raised when reading the news of the striker’s arrival. Why Ighalo? Even more, who is Ighalo?

For those who follow the Premier League closely, Ighalo’s name is not strange. Back in 2015/16, he formed a good attacking partnership with Troy Deeney to help Watford in their first season after promotion. That season, Ighalo scored 18 goals, including four against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur. On top of that, he also made four assists in the campaign; helping his partner Deeney to get 13 Premier League goals.

Ighalo is an aggressive center-forward, as shown by his 3.9 shots per game rate last season; seventh-highest in the Chinese Super League. Looking at the statistics, he made an average of 3.0 shots per match from inside the 16-yard-box; making it his favorite area of playing. Due to his aggressive nature, Ighalo often gets fouled. On average, he gets fouled 2.8 times per game; tenth-highest across the league. From those numbers, he successfully managed to get 10 league goals for Shenhua last season. For comparison, the club only made 43 league goals in 2019; allowing Ighalo to contribute almost a quarter of their goals.

But, why Ighalo? He is already thirty and won’t have much to offer compared to United’s much-younger forwards. Not only that, Ighalo was more known as a mid-table journeyman rather than an elite-level forward. Before playing for United, Ighalo only played for Cesena, FK Lyn, Udinese, Granada, Watford, and now-relegated Changchun Yatai. His biggest tournament was the 2018 FIFA World Cup where he averaged 1.7 shots per game for Nigeria, and managed a grand total of … zero goals.

Is it because there were no top-quality forwards available on the January market? Probably no. Big names like Edinson Cavani and Olivier Giroud were rumored to be unsettled with their situation at their respective clubs. So far, Cavani has only enjoyed less than 400 minutes in Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League for Paris Saint Germain. Giroud’s situation is worse; per today he only managed to get roughly 200 minutes on the pitch for Chelsea.

In 2018/19, Cavani managed to make 2.5 shots per game for PSG. That number helped him to get 18 goals and five assists in Ligue 1 despite only starting in 20 league games. Cavani would probably get more if only PSG didn’t land Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting from Stoke City in that season’s summer transfer window.

Later that season, Cavani got bigger numbers when playing for Uruguay in the Copa America. In that tournament, Cavani averaged 3.8 shots per match as well as winning 1.8 aerial duels per game. Furthermore, he ended the tournament with two goals in four appearances. With those numbers, Cavani successfully helped his country to lead their respective group before bowing out to Peru on penalties in the knock-out stage.

Now we are moving to Giroud. To be honest, Giroud was a beast in last season’s Europa League where he scored 11 goals in 13 appearances. He achieved that by putting an average of 3.3 shots per game; tenth-highest in the competition. Giroud is also very strong in the air, as proven by his rate of 2.6 aerial duels won per match in the same campaign.

Giroud’s aerial strength is also utilized by his country, France. In last year’s UEFA Nations League, Giroud averaged 3.0 successful aerial duels per game for Les Bleus. This number alone almost helped France to top the group; where they went inferior to the Netherlands because of goal difference. Not only that, but the 33-year-old also got some good feet in his armory. For a fact, he made 1.4 successful key passes per Europa League game; which helped him to make four assists in the competition last season.

Yet, United picked Ighalo for unknown reasons. Some reports say United will pay the Nigerian a staggering £150,000-per-week for the remainder of the season. That number is only a half from his regular £300,000 weekly wage, which partly will be paid by his parent club. On top of that, both Cavani and Giroud are staying in their respective clubs this winter, despite the frustration and lack of playing time they have.

Whatever Ed Woodward and Solskjaer have been smoking, I want some of it.

Credit: mirror.co.uk, transfermarkt.com, whoscored.com.

I’m Petrick Sinuraya, a 22-year-old football writer based in Indonesia.

Currently, I work as a freelance writer at Ronnie Dog Media; mostly writing match analysis pieces for totalfootballanalysis.com

For inquiries, please contact me at petricksinuraya@gmail.com.

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