Tag Fabio da Silva

Tag Fabio da Silva

Fabio departure leaves Evra unchallenged

April 18, 2012 Tags: , Reads 17 comments

Fábio da Silva’s impending departure on loan to an as yet unnamed destination is likely to remove the last challenge, if there ever genuinely was, to Patrice Evra’s supremacy in the Manchester United left-back slot. This will necessitate that Sir Alex Ferguson dips into the transfer market this summer, both for the good of his squad and, indeed, the French defender.

In confirming that Fábio will leave the club on loan next season Ferguson has once again placed faith in one of his most enduring lieutenants. After all, Evra has averaged almost 48 games a season over the past five years, and is now coming towards the end of his seventh season with the club, with 288 appearances in all competitions.

Yet, the Frenchman could benefit greatly from increased competition at Old Trafford. Certainly, only Evra’s most staunch supporters will deny a decline in the left-back’s form post 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Indeed, data on Evra’s performances supports the proposition that the left-back suffered a slump in form during the 2010/11 campaign. The Frenchman made fewer passes, touched the ball less often, completed fewer crosses, shots of goal diminished, and he created a quarter of the goals of the previous campaign. Evra also covered less ground in 2010/11, dribbled less frequently and spent less time in attacking areas than in the previous season.

Away from the data, many United fans believe Evra is, or was in 2010/11, far from the buccaneering left-back who was widely accredited with being the finest in his position in the world for two years previously.

Yet, there have also been encouraging signs in recent months of an improvement in the Frenchman’s form – most prominently since the drama of the ‘Luis Suarez’ affair died down in the early new year. Many of those data points have returned to pre-World Cup levels, suggesting that the mental and physical fatigue brought about by five years of incessant football had taken their toll on the defender, and a long rest last summer helped.

But not all of Evra’s performance data is where it once was – the Frenchman is spending less time in the final third, making fewer attacking passes, the number of shots have diminished, and he is putting in less crosses than two years ago.

It is also common sense that the Senegalese-born defender is unlikely to improve in the coming seasons. After all, with Evra so heavily used in the past, and turning 31 in May, Ferguson will soon begin the process of winding down his reliance on the Frenchman. Burn out, with Evra likely to travel to Euro 2012 with the French squad this summer, is quite possible if Ferguson uses Evra for more than 40 games once again next season.

Many supporters, and most likely Sir Alex too, had hoped that Fábio would provide both the challenge to Evra’s hegemony – and the boost in performance that competition often brings – together with a well-earned respite for the senior man. It hasn’t come to pass, partly because of Evra’s ongoing endurance, and also thanks to the younger man’s frequent injuries.

The young Brazilian has played just 53 games – 36 starts – for United since making his début over three years ago. And while the Fábio claimed United’s right-back berth in time to start last season’s Champions League final, he has made no progress this season, starting just twice in the Premier League.

This regression has prompted a club rethink, with the youngster no longer seen as Evra’s heir-apparent, but instead requiring the match hardening only regular football will bring.

“I hope that Fabio will develop the same way as his twin [Rafael] and, to help him, he will go out on loan next season to give him concentrated first-team experience,” Sir Alex wrote in Sunday’s programme notes.

“I have already talked to him and he understands the value of playing regularly at a higher level than we can give him at the moment.”

By contrast twin brother Rafael – once considered the lesser of the siblings – has now appeared in 88 matches for the club, having claimed the right-back slot for his own during the run-in. While United is seemingly likely to bring in Nathaniel Clyne from Crystal Palace to provide Rafael with competition, the Brazilian will surely start next season as Sir Alex’ first choice at right-back.

Meanwhile, United is likely to welcome suitors for Fábio with open-arms, although the player has already spoken of a move to Benfica this summer. Ferguson though is more likely to prompt the young Brazilian to join a Premier League club, where United’s coaches can more easily monitor the 21-year-old’s progress. Moreover, stories of Fábio becoming a make-weight in a potential deal for Benfica’s Argentinian midfielder Nicolas Gaitan are almost certainly wide of the mark.

“I am excited about the opportunity to play for Benfica, being a famous and great team,” Fábio reportedly told Portuguese paper O Jogo.

“I feel very honored by the interest of Benfica, but my transfer now depends on Manchester United completing negotiations.”

Fabio’s departure leaves Evra as United’s only left-back, with youngster Ezikiel Fryers likely to leave in the summer when he is out of contract. But Ferguson is also unlikely to be handed millions for a new left-back, with spending on a new midfielder and, possibly, a striker a priority. This will leave Evra to play almost every fixture next season – save for injury – unchallenged.

Speculation is already rife that United will bring in a new man though, with club scouts having been seen watching the excellent Spanish youngster Jordi Alba of Valencia, Costa Rican defender Bryan Oviedo, Granada’s Brazilian Guilherme Siqueira, Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre, and Lyon left-back Aly Cissokho among others in recent months.

There will undoubtedly be another dozen names thrown into the hat before the summer ends. Indeed, some coveting Evra’s place have taken to openly courting the club.

“Aly wants to play in the Premier League because he feels it suits his game,” Cissokho’s agent Ali Barat said earlier this month. “He has already turned down interest from AC Milan and Juventus because he wants to move to the Premier League and his preferred destination would be Manchester United.”

Honduran Izaguirre went so far as to claim “it’s 100% true that Manchester United were following me and were interested in me. It was Alex Ferguson directly who made contact with the Celtic directors. If I have the chance I welcome the move with open arms.”

Fábio’s departure does not mean the end of the youngster’s United career, even if a new man comes in. It is more than likely that United will go shopping a the bottom-end of the market this summer. Whether that provides Evra with any genuine competition is open to question.

Evra’s decline and renaissance?

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Double exposure

April 26, 2011 Tags: , Reads 11 comments

On Sunday night’s Match of the Day 2 a man previously mooted as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor spoke candidly on his admiration for what he believes is the makings of Ferguson’s next and possibly final great side. Despite Everton defending resolutely for 83 minutes against Manchester United at the weekend, David Moyes admitted that the Reds were far superior to the rejuvenated Merseysiders, and that despite the criticism United’s squad has received this year this could be the start of something special for United.

United’s current crop of players may not be collectively the most talented side Sir Alex has ever had at his disposal but it is not talentless. United’s current league and European standings are evident of this. However, United is a team in transition, this isn’t a side that could challenge for honours at home and abroad for years to come; not as it is anyway. With players such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Wes Brown edging towards the end of their wonderful careers now is the time for a new generation of ‘Fergie Fledglings’ to make themselves known.

Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández has been a sensation but there are others who will also be charged with keeping the silverware conveyor belt running during the final years of Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford and then post-retirement

Similar to Chicharito, the Da Silva twins arrived on the scene as complete unknown quantities. In their pre-season début against Peterborough United at London Road in 2008, Rafael played the full 90 while Fabio came on for the second half. There was an immediate WOW factor about these two Brazilian twins, who demonstrated pace, power and an unquenchable thirst for the game. This was a friendly and not the Champions League final but first impressions are always important.

Rafael in particular took the ‘bull by the horns’ and in his first season made a total of 21 starts – no bedding in period just straight in at the deep end, the United way. Rafael also showcased his ability as an all-round footballer, scoring a terrific volley against Arsenal at the Emirates and a several assists to boot.

Fabio’s progression has proved to be less rapid, making only one start in his début season, with a second season hampered by injury. However this season Fabio has come into his own and against Everton was one of United’s best players – solid at the back and a threat going forward. Albeit Everton’s attacks were sporadic but when the game began to open up in the second half Fabio dealt superbly with Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines and Victor Anichebe. The Brazilian resisted temptation to dive into challenges, which his brother is often guilty of and did not get flustered in pressing conditions.

In 2008 when Rafael began to break into the first team the word from inside Carrington was that Brazilian scouts rated Fabio above Rafael. However, Fabio’s first forays into first team football could not justify the tag, although his talent was evident. Perhaps Rafael had taken to the demands and pace of English football better than Fabio; maybe fans would have seen Fabio in a better light in other circumstances. Meanwhile, Rafael was already battling for a position which was well and truly up for grabs with Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Gary Neville suffering with injury. Fabio, however, had the not-so-easy task of deposing the ever-present Patrice Evra.

Credit is due to Fabio though as he has never let his head drop despite limited opportunities and this season he has been rewarded. Keen reserves watchers will have noted that when Fabio plays he is often deployed in an attacking position and not at right or left-back. Clearly, Sir Alex has recognised the problem posed by Evra and wants to experiment with Fabio’s ability to play elsewhere on the park.

The da Da Silva’s are both fantastic all round players too – at United the chances of becoming a first team main-stay are greatly enhanced with versatility. In this season’s FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal at Old Trafford Ferguson started the twins on the wings, their attacking prowess was again noted with Fabio notching his second goal of the season. The duo caused endless problems for Bacary Sagna and would have given Fergie a big boost in that he can now utilise their talent all over the pitch.

Ferguson surely sees Rafael as United’s long-term right-back, with Neville gone, Brown likely to follow suit in the summer and O’Shea entering his thirties. However, Fabio’s future remains unclear, despite great form and impressive displays. With Evra signing a new long term deal this season, Fabio’s role is unlikely to be a left-back for the time being, unless the Brazilian can unseat his more experienced colleague.

For those United supporters who watched BBC’s ‘United’ on Sunday night Duncan Edwards supposedly told Bobby Charlton that he wasn’t “given my place in the team” he “stole it”. Whether or not Edwards said this, it is not hard to imagine the attitude; it has been the same for many United greats since. Fabio seems to own a hunger akin to Edwards’ that will serve him very well.

Certainly, using Fabio as a reserve full-back is a waste of his talent. Perhaps then we will see Fabio deployed in a more advanced position more regularly next season as the manager attempts to mould the Brazilian into a solid attacking outlet that can fill in at left or right-back when needed.

With a 19th title on the horizon it is wise to take a second before criticising this current squad. After all, a team in transition has made the European Cup semi-final and is six points clear in the domestic league with four to play. In the last transitional phase United won two trophies between 2004 and 2007, none of which were the league title.

Despite turbulent times on and off the pitch Chicharito, the Da Silva’s, together with Nani and Valencia staking their claim, the future could be brighter than you think.

Wrong footed full-backs

December 8, 2010 Tags: , , Reads 17 comments

Wrong footed full-backs have always existed of course – Phil Neville, Dennis Irwin and John O’Shea – right-footed players, have often been deployed on the left. It didn’t matter all that much. Defenders did very little but defend, especially in the Premier League where the classical, rigid 4-4-2 has been the formation du jour. But football evolves.

Consider two teams playing plain old 4-4-2. Each player, apart from the full-backs, has a corresponding opposition player directly marking him – strikers on central defenders, defensive midfielders on on attacking, for example. Full-backs therefore are often the only players with additional time and space.

Indeed, the Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson considers the full-back “the most important position in football.” As ludicrous as the statement might sound, full-backs do enough damage to warrant a new breed of players such as Park Ji-Sung and Dirk Kuyt whose raison d’etre is ostensibly to mark full-backs.

Tactics have progressed though and even in the Premier League, teams rarely plays the old fashioned 4-4-2 these days. Those teams that play 4-4-2 do, often do so with a modern twist.

Indeed, a myriad of factors including the increasing athleticism and the liberalisation of offside laws have stretched the field of play. Teams rarely play midfielders in a straight line; they are staggered across defensive, central and attacking stratums. 4-4-2 uses three bands of players; modern formations such as 4-2-3-1 use four.

Wide midfielders in the classical 4-4-2 become wingers who are deployed higher up on the pitch in four-band systems. This is because wide midfielders, even the fittest of them, can’t “bomb up and down that bloody wing” all day, as Sir Alex Ferguson might put it.

Midfielders in four-band systems are also forced to become much more functional and less box-to-box. Darren Fletcher, for example, might regularly step up from the defensive midfield stratum to the central midfield stratum but even a player as fit as the Scot can’t be expected to do this ad infinitum without rendering himself useless by the sixtieth minute.

So, with direct opposition, do fullbacks become less potent? Yes and no. Defensive wingers, amazingly speedy players like Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon and modern wingers such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Lionel Messi limit full-backs’ forward forages.

Patrice Evra and Rafael da Silva, who are more often found in the opposition half against Premier League minnows, limit forward runs against players like Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben to deny the opposition space behind.

Today, wingers are more prone to drift in field than ever. These out-to-in movements can be extremely dangerous but they do narrow the field of play. To make sure that the field of play doesn’t become overly narrow, which of course makes the opposition’s defensive job easier, full-backs now provide the once traditional width that wingers provided.

Arguably, the most important job of wide men is crossing, which is why wingers have traditionally been “correct-footed”. Fabio da Silva, whose opportunities have been limited because of injuries and Evra’s lack of them, is interesting in that he plays as a left full-back despite being clearly right footed.

Fabio is capable with his left foot although he seems to use it only as a last resort. The uneasiness remains a worry.

But the apprehension is more than offset by the intriguing prospect brought up by his wrong-footedness. With an abundance of modern wingers, most of them wrong-footed also, Fabio might very well have an advantage over left footed full-backs such as Evra. When facing a player like Messi, Fabio can tackle with his dominant foot. Crucially the angle of tackle in such situations will be natural to Fabio and the tackles will be more clean than those made by left footed players.

The tendency towards the right also brings up interesting possibilities vis-a-vis team movements. Fabio attacks the box almost as regularly as he goes for the byline. When attacking the box, his right-footedness becomes an asset. After all, despite nominally being a defender, Fabio was the top scorer in the U-17 World Cup in 2007.

To indulge this movement, United’s left winger can move laterally towards the middle. This particular set of movements comes easily to both Park and Wayne Rooney. And one of the central or defensive midfielders behind will move to the left flank providing the width from deep.

This, of course, requires a left-footed and athletically gifted central midfielder who can do a job on the flank.

One wonders if United has someone like that on the book?

O brother, where art thou?

October 29, 2009 Tags: , Just for fun No comments

Damn! We’re in a tight spot. At least referee Chris Foy was on Tuesday night when the Merseyside-born official booked the wrong da Silva brother in United’s Carling Cup victory over Barnsley. Foy showed Fabio a yellow card for an 83rd minute tackle on Jamal Campbell-Ryce, when his twin Rafael should have received the caution.

Sir Alex Ferguson has long said that he cannot tell the brothers apart. Off the pitch Fabio wears a wedding ring, having married his school sweetheart, Barbara, last year.

United has contacted the FA to point out the case of mistaken identity. Fabio, sent off in the previous Carling Cup round against Wolverhampton Wanderers, will likely see the caution removed from his record.

As the song goes … Viva Da Silva, Viva Da Silva, running up the pitch, don’t know which is which, Viva Da Silva.

Outstanding Fabio praised

October 22, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Sir Alex Ferguson described Fabio da Silva’s Champions League debut as “outstanding” after the Brazilian teenager impressed in Manchester United’s victory over CSKA Moscow last night. da Silva, twin to team mate Rafael, started United’s match at left-back after Patrice Evra failed to make the plane to Moscow.

Fabio produced a dynamic display in support of Nani, using his pace to add penetration to United’s attacking display.

“He was absolutely outstanding,” said Sir Alex Ferguson.

“The boy is a magnificent player at only 18 years of age. Absolutely first class.”

Fabio required an operation on a shoulder injury last season, which kept the Petrópolis-born defender out of the first-team picture. Ironically, the same injury suffered by his brother Rafael this campaign.

Fabio, 18, started the Carling Cup fixture at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers last month only to see red for a professional foul.

Fabio and Rafael signed for Manchester United from Fluminense in February 2007, but were unable to take part in matches until they turned 18 in July 2008. Rafael appeared on 28 occasions at for United last season before losing his place to John O’Shea through injury.