Jack Stroudley takes a look at our latest rumoured summer signing.
Fulham have been linked with an array of right-backs over the course of the transfer window, with the likes of Ryan Fredericks, Neco Williams, Leo Dubois and Djbril Sidibe all being mentioned at different points. However, it appears that Fulham have narrowed down that search to Swiss international Kevin Mbabu.
The 27-year-old is set to sign for Fulham for a potential fee of €8 million to offer depth in that right-back role and provide a different option to Kenny Tete. Many younger Fulham fans will be far too familiar with Kevin Mbabu as he is always a monster of a player on both FIFA and Football Manager. However, how does he perform in real life?
The fact fileEmbed from Getty Images
Mbabu started his development as a youth player at the Swiss club Servette before being promoted to the first team in the 2012/13 season where we would make a singular appearance for the club coming off the bench against Lausanne-Sport.
He then found himself at Newcastle United after a successful trial and featured regularly for Newcastle’s development squad during the remainder of the 12/13 season as well as 13/14. In 2014/15 he was loaned out to then-Scottish Championship club Rangers, but didn’t make a single appearance due to injuries.
Mbabu then returned to Newcastle and did feature on a semi-regular basis for the first team, including cameos against Chelsea, Manchester City and Bournemouth as well as cup appearances against Sheffield Wednesday and Watford. Despite these appearances, his time in the North-East was plagued with regular injuries and his career at Newcastle consequently ended and he was sent out on loan to Swiss side Young Boys in August 2016.
Mbabu didn’t make his full debut until October, coming on as a late substitute. Despite this, he slowly started to feature regularly for the Swiss side, including appearances in the Europa League and throughout the 2016/17 season he managed to play 24 games and score two goals in all competitions. The right-back impressed Young Boys, who made the loan deal permanent in the summer of 2017, and he continued to go from strength to strength, ending that season in the Swiss team of the year and helping Young Boys to their first title in 32 years, before them retain the title a year later.
His impressive form caught the eye of German side Wolfsburg, who signed Mbabu in 2019. Since then he has featured on a regular basis, appearing in more than 20 games in each of his seasons, however recently these have become more regular substitute appearances. He also featured on a consistent basis for Switzerland with more 20 appearances for his country.
A deeper diveEmbed from Getty Images
So, looking at Kevin Mbabu as a player, where will he fit in and just how good is he? When looking at his stats compared to defenders in the top five leagues, they are very promising. His dribble completion is in the top 1% of full-backs, with 2.62 averaged per 90 alongside solid defensive stats, with 2.67 tackles per 90 (the top 21%) 2.30 blocks (top 20%) 2.62 clearances (top 18%) as well as 2.72 aerials won per 90 (top 2%).
In terms of attacking output and passing output they do leave a fair bit to be desired, with Mbabu in the bottom 9% for pass completion and bottom 10% of assists. It is worth noting with the latter of the two stats his expected assists would put him in the top 27% of full-backs so maybe the forward players at Wolfsburg aren’t as clinical as he would like.
Where does Kevin Mbabu operate as a player? Below I have attached a few heat maps of games for both club and country. For country it appears he is allowed to express himself further forward whereas for club it appears that Mark van Bommel prefers to have him sit relatively deep. Under Marco I believe he will have freedom to get up and down the channel at will.
Finally, I have compared Mbabu to what we already have in Kenny Tete via a spider chart which I have attached below. You can see via the spider chart that both players have very similar attacking and defensive output while Mbabu is much better at progressing the ball forward and is more physical compared to Tete who is a much better passer of the ball and has better vision.
Yes or no?Embed from Getty Images
So overall do I think we should sign Mbabu? Yes! His stats would dictate that he would fit into a Marco Silva side very well, the fee is a relatively low one and at 27 he is coming into his peak years. It would allow us to have strength in depth at right-back and would give Marco the ability to alternate between the two dependant on what the game plan is and who the opponent is.