Manchester United’s hunt for a striker has become a rather drawn-out one. While the club has already signed Bruno Fernandes from Sporting, they might still need a striker who can feed off the 25-year-old’s passes. And their chase for a potential striker was confirmed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently. Following United’s win over Manchester City, the Norwegian said:
“We need more goalscorers, more goals, someone who wants to break their nose or toe to score. It doesn’t always have to be nice goals. I need to challenge them more.”
That isn’t exactly a surprise, considering Marcus Rashford’s injury and how Anthony Martial continues to blow hot and cold. What Solskjaer wants is a ruthless striker- someone who lives for goals and doesn’t exactly dribble or mess about too much. That is why a move for Islam Slimani will make perfect sense. No doubt, Ed Woodward has a free phone tracker on him to track his movements.
The Algerian has already been linked with the Old Trafford side this summer. He has already told Monaco that he wants to end his loan stint at the Stade Louis II, with Tottenham also interested in signing him this month. Serie A giants Inter also seem to have been holding talks for him.
Slimani’s stint in the Premier League might not have been too promising. He did contribute to 11 goals in the 2016-17 season for the Foxes, but it went downhill from there. He almost became a victim of the club not creating enough- not as much as they do now. At Newcastle, he played only four games and was never given a fair chance.
At Monaco, he’s been playing on a regular basis. He has contributed to 14 goals in 13 assists, playing alongside Wissam Ben-Yedder in a two striker shape constantly. Having another forward player beside him has helped him, considering he didn’t have that advantage in England.
His XG map shows that he thrives on service and having other players around him. In the 2016-17 season, Slimani did get some high XG chances. They were worth 0.58 and 0.45. Both were goals. He did miss some too, but that is natural for strikers. Despite that, he would overperform on his XG by 0.18.
In the 2017-18 season, Slimani got only four chances to score from inside the box. He got one goal only and it came from a shot worth 0.32 XG. That, in itself, screams of a lack of service.
As for this season, Slimani has converted three of the four chances he got of an XG of over 0.50. All shots around 0.30 have been on target, bar one. That is a reflection of how good service and having Ben-Yedder alongside him has tapped into his strengths.
The fact that he has overperformed on his XA is another positive. And that comes from having a striker at the end of his potential assists. It just shows how this player can be at his best. And he has a nose for goals when played in that environment.
Monaco have created the second-highest amount of XG in the Ligue 1 this season- 39.04. Slimani is reaping the rewards of that. As for United, they have created an XG of 41.72- more than Monaco will.
A player like Slimani can come into that side and enjoy the benefit of having more chances on the plate. He will thrive on that. And he will have an inside forward constantly playing around him. New signing Bruno Fernandes will provide him the service and so will Daniel James from the other flank, with Marcus Rashford injured.
He is Premier League proven and would know what to do and what not to do. That is key to making a player work. At 31, he may not be the flamboyant long-term signing. But he will add goals and make United more ruthless in putting chances away.
He will make sure that United don’t underperform on their XG by 5.72 and the team will only go up a level from that.