What could Vicente Iborra bring to Sunderland?
Sunderland have looked off the pace at the beginning of this season and the events over the summer have had an effect on the club’s start. David Moyes took over late into the pre-season after Sam Allardyce was appointed as the England manager and he is still adjusting to his new surroundings. He has now had time to judge the squad and Sunderland will be active before the transfer window closes. Sky Sports are reporting that the North East club have agreed a fee for Sevilla central midfielder Vicente Iborra, believed to be £7 million.
The central midfield area has been a weakness for Sunderland during their first three matches. They have failed to dominate possession in all three and this will be a concern for Moyes. Although Leicester managed to win the Premier League with limited possession, they had N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater who could win the ball in dangerous areas. Sunderland don’t have a player capable of retrieving possession consistently in midfield areas and that is an area that needs to be addressed before Wednesday night.
For the first three matches, a lot of emphasis has been placed on Jack Rodwell. It was expected that Rodwell’s career could be relaunched by David Moyes, as he came through under the Scotsman at Everton. However, he hasn’t developed as expected and he certainly isn’t a ball winning midfielder. He would benefit from playing alongside an experienced midfielder such as Iborra.
The Sevilla player is seen as a defensive midfielder, but his ball retrieval stats aren’t overly impressive as he averaged just 0.9 tackles and one interception per match last season. He was sometimes deployed in a more advanced role at Sevilla, which allowed him to contribute seven goals in La Liga. His height gives him the chance to dominate in the air, as shown by his average of 2.6 aerial duel wins per match during the 2015/16 La Liga campaign.
The midfielder is a winner and has played a part in Sevilla’s three successive Europa League triumphs. His ability to manage a game and experience at the highest level will be a positive for Sunderland, while he could develop into a real leader at the club. In recent years, the characters that Sunderland have brought in have been questionable and they have lacked the fight required to steer clear of the bottom three. If they sign Iborra, he will help rectify that problem.
Iborra does have an impressive work rate and that has been missing in Sunderland’s midfield during the first three matches. He is physically imposing and that should allow him to transition nicely to the Premier League. At Sunderland, he would most likely to be asked to anchor the midfield and not given much freedom to attack.
Although his goal tally from last season is impressive for a central midfielder, he is limited technically, with his passing being a particular weakness. His passing accuracy was a lowly 67% last year in La Liga and this will be a concern in the Premier League. In England, he will be given less time on the ball and his passing could prove to be a real weakness.
The coming days will be crucial for Sunderland as they try to piece together a squad good enough to avoid being in yet another relegation battle. David Moyes suggested last week that he expects another fight at the bottom of the table, but privately he must be hoping to avoid that.
There is a foundation of a good side at the Stadium of Light. They were one of the best teams in the league during the second half of last season and rarely lost matches. If they make three or four smart additions before Wednesday night, there should be increased optimism about the season ahead. Iborra will improve the starting midfield and if they manage to bring him to Wearside, it will be a good signing, but more needs to be done.
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