Mario Mandzukic is a player on the hot seat. He was held out of the 18 for Saturday's clash at Borussia Park, and the transfer rumors that were smoldering following the addition of Robert Lewandowski have turned into full on bonfires and the landsharks are circling. Sam recently outlined exactly why Bayern Munich needs to keep Mario Mandzukic, at least through this season, and it's a compelling case. But, the bigger question that looms is whether Mandzukic actually represents a necessary component of this offense.
The Opposing View
In this analysis, we're looking at Mandzukic's statistics in last two years Bundesliga and comparing them to the league average performances for strikers
|Mario Mandzukic||Pass%||FinalThirdPass%||Shots/90||Key Passes/90|
|2012/2013 Striker Averages||70.33||58.41||2.43||1.08|
|2013/2014 Striker Averages||72.49||60.08||2.68||1.25|
Compared to the average Bundesliga striker Mario Mandzukic is a boss in possession and is miles above other strikers While his overall passing percentage is about league average, it's his ability in the offensive third that's so vital as he boasts pass completion rates 6% of above the average in both seasons. It's one aspect of his game that hasn't changed under Guardiola. What has changed is his shooting as last year the Croatian was an entire shot above league average. This year he's floundering at about league average. Part of that is probably due to the focus Guardiola's system puts on midfielders and their interchange with the striker. This will naturally pull Mandzukic out of position and force him into areas where he's not going to get strikes on goal.
|Mario Mandzukic||Tackles/90||Interceptions/90||Duel%||Aerial Duel%||PossWon/90|
|2012/2013 Striker Averages||1.03||0.55||39.75||36.68||2.26|
|2013/2014 Striker Averages||1.05||0.46||40.54||35.26||1.57|
Mario Mandzukic is easily one the most defensive strikers around. He presses well and earns possession back for his team. The only thing is, he doesn't have Robert Lewandowski's defensive style which is exactly what Guardiola's high press system needs from it's striker. In this area, the Polish international is light years ahead of Mario Mandzukic as he's faster, more agile, and is the main reason Dortmund's gegenpress style was so effective for so many years. Mandzukic tackles more often this season then he did in previous years, makes less frequent interceptions and wins possession half as much. While he was never really a large possession winner to begin with, it's telling that he's even worse this year.That paints a picture of a player with a full scale defensive shift and one who is struggling to adapt his game.
The only thing that remains unchanged is his duels percentage. Mandzukic wins a little less than half his total duels (5% above Bundesliga average) but still boasts that extremely impressive 55% aerial duels win percentage. That's his only remaining significant advantage over other strikers and especially over Robert Lewandowski.
So given all that context, Mario Mandzukic is clearly a striker struggling to find his place within Pep Guardiola's system, who hasn't been as good defensively, and has taken a step back in terms of shooting percentage. Enough of his skillset is still completely identical which means we're not looking at degrading performance but at a situation where he doesn't fit.
In that vein, Mario Mandzukic's value has never been higher then it is right now. A season after transferring from VfL Wolfsburg for €13M the Croatian international's value has skyrocketed on the back of last year's dominance under Jupp Heynckes system. He doesn't fit, is clearly having training issues of some type, and there are numerous teams interested (including Arsenal who do need a second striker to complement Olivier Giroud. Given that in all likelihood Arsenal are about to be dumped out of the Champions League, bringing in a cup tied striker for that competition isn't an issue). Bayern Munich should sell Mario Mandzukic, even as early as this winter.
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