Bastian Schweinsteiger was decisive in United’s late win against Watford today, forcing an own goal that secured a 2-1 victory and put us back on top of the table. There was also a nice moment in the second half when the German showed his calmness with some deft passing under pressure.
— TUNGA (@jtunga7) November 21, 2015
On another day, however, he could easily have squandered possession in that moment, as he did at several other junctures at Vicarage Road this afternoon. An earlier attempt on goal also went way over the bar.
I have been a big fan of Schweini for years, and was as excited as anyone when his signing was announced. It seemed like a great bit of business, and I took Guardiola’s warnings about his fitness with a pinch of salt.
In his first games for United, my initial impression was of a player with a definite aura and presence, built like a Panzer but perhaps a little off the pace. He brought desperately-needed authority to the centre of the park, directing traffic around him and going about his business in the unruffled manner you’d associate with a world champion athlete.
But watching him as the season has gone on, I have become increasingly unconvinced of his contribution; there have been plenty of instances of top-class composure and control, some tough-tackling, and some generally methodical, business-like play, but, for me, there remains a sense that he loses possession too much, and that his displacement of Carrick in the team is not entirely fair.
Before today’s game, Schweinsteiger had played 842 minutes in the Premier League this season, with an average rating of 6.77 on WhoScored – that’s a bit worse than Wayne Rooney (6.80) and a bit better than Memphis (6.72), but the German has generally escaped the kind of scrutiny and criticism those two teammates have had to endure.
His pass success rate is 85.2%, which sounds decent, but 11 players in the current first team have managed better, with our other two top CMs averaging closer to 90% (Schneiderlin is at 90.7% pass completion, whilst Michael Carrick is at 89.8%).
Schweini has, to be fair to him, outperformed both of his central midfield colleagues in terms of key passes per game, but in a team known first and foremost for retaining possession under Van Gaal, I’d expect our number 31 to be doing a bit better.
On Squawka’s comparison matrix, Schweinsteiger gets a possession score of 1.2, compared to 10.87 for Schneiderlin and 12.60 for Carrick.
Carrick also beats Schweinsteiger in terms of both forward passes per game, and average pass length.
Another area where Schweini appears to be the weakest of the three is in aerial battles, with a comparatively low percentage of duels won.
Obviously Carrick is injured at the moment, but, despite Schweinsteiger’s obvious class, and his match-winning contribution today, I believe that the evidence to date suggests the German should by no means be assured of a place in the starting XI.
I realise I’m firmly in the minority when it comes to questioning Schweini, but as much as I admire and respect his incredible record and undeniable qualities, I feel it’s Schneiderlin that’s really made us a better team in midfield, and I’d like to see more of him and Carrick together.