Where will Marcel Sabitzer fit in at Borussia Dortmund? A statistical analysis

Marcel Sabitzer. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)
Marcel Sabitzer. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images) /
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Marcel Sabitzer will look to fill the gap left by Jude Bellingham’s departure. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Marcel Sabitzer will look to fill the gap left by Jude Bellingham’s departure. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images) /

Marcel Sabitzer as a number eight

In recent years, Marcel Sabitzer has been converted full-time into a number 8 or a box-to-box midfielder. The Austrian international had played in that role here and there for RB Leipzig before taking on that role more frequently for Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Statistically, Sabitzer excelled last season for both clubs.

Sabitzer was rather average in the final third last season with a combined .22 expected goals and assists. In comparison, Nmecha had a combined xG + xA of .39. The former Wolfsburg midfielder  also won nearly 60% of his aerial duels, compared to Sabitzer’s 48% – which is still not bad for a midfielder.

Sabitzer, however, was a role player last season. So he could see these numbers tick up going from playing with Wout Weghorst and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to Sebastien Haller – who is just 2 seasons removed from a historic UCL campaign.

The 29 year old, however, is more of a well rounded player than Nmecha at the moment, dwarfing Nmecha’s 3.2 tackles and interceptions per 90 at 4.1. Sabitzer’s pass accuracy is also higher than that of Nmecha by 7%. While Nmecha mainly just played passes in the final third for Wolfsburg, Sabitzer pushed his side up the pitch through passing with 5.9 progressive passes per game. These progressive passes per game will also likely go up if Sabitzer plays in the more transition-focused Bundesliga.

Where Nmecha excels in carrying the ball forward, Sabitzer struggles. The former Bayern midfielder attempted few dribbles this past season from his deeper role and was unsuccessful in around two thirds of his attempts.

Nmecha and Sabitzer will likely start the season as Borussia Dortmund’s box-to-box midfield options. They offer two distinct options, with Sabitzer providing more passing and defensive work and Nmecha offering more creativity and ball carrying in addition to his aerial presence.

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So is Marcel Sabitzer a good signing for Borussia Dortmund?

According to Transfermarkt, Marcel Sabitzer is valued at 20 million euros. This fee would seem like an overpay for a player who was allowed to leave on a mid-season loan and the coach who signed him was sacked not long after.

But Borussia Dortmund seem to be getting Sabitzer for a fee of around 15-20 million euros, which makes it slightly better from the club’s perspective. At 29, Sabitzer should be in his prime. He is not reliant on his pace and his ability to play in multiple positions will help the squad compete on multiple fronts.