Just how good is Marouane Fellaini?

November 15, 2012 in Premier League

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The focus of my football weekend was firmly on Goodison Park. Not only were Sunderland playing there, but the BBC programme Football Focus was also being broadcast live from the stadium. The main reason for their presence seems to have been the fantastic form of Everton in this early season. Notoriously, over the last few seasons, they have struggled early on in, only to come on very strong over the last half of games. However, they have come out of the blocks on fire this season and are now rightfully holding onto the curtails of Chelsea and the two Manchester teams in the race for the final Champions League place.

Their blistering start has been typified particularly by Marouane Fellaini, and it was he who was at the centre of the BBC’s coverage. I had hoped that this hype would’ve had the effect of ‘after the lord mayor’s show’ - that is to say that both Everton and Fellaini would underperform. For 75 minutes, it looked to be this way; of course, it wasn’t to be this way, as Everton and Fellaini had the last laugh, coming from behind to win 2-1.

But just how good is the big Belgian? The day before the season had started, BBC’s chief sports correspondent Phil McNulty tweeted that Fellaini had thus far been unable to influence big games. Fellaini, of course, quickly made a mockery of that by dominating Manchester United’s centre-backs and scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 win. The longer the season has gone on, the more Fellaini has done to prove to both Phil McNulty and the rest of football that he is very very good.

By the 22nd of September, he had three league goals to his name in just five games, the same total he had taken from the previous season. He has kept up the goal scoring form and now has six goals including three in his last two games. Particularly in the draw against Fulham, in which he scored two goals, he was dominant, holding the ball up well, playing just behind the striker, and dropping off into space to find chances. He was also unlucky not to get a hat-trick, hitting the post and producing a fine save from Mark Schwarzer.

Not only has his goal scoring improved but his discipline appears to have followed suit. He is a big strong player, but in the past, that has sometimes boiled over into violent conduct, known for his flying elbows as much as he was for his big hair. Of course, four yellow cards in eleven games suggests he can still improve, but he seems to have channelled his frustration into better areas thus far.

He has also been allowed more freedom from the Everton management. Before this season, he was seen as more of a defensive holding player but following the summer departure of Tim Cahill, he has made the position behind Nikica Jelavic his own, and he is now a real force for Premier League defenders to worry about.

He mixes his sheer brute strength with some lovely technique. Being taller than most, deliveries into the air are obviously his staple, and I personally have never seen a player who is better at using his chest to control the ball, but he is equally adept at using his feet to get a strike away. This was evidenced in the previous game against Sunderland, where he shifted the ball quickly on his feet and got a shot away before a defender could get near him.

His biggest weakness is, of course, his manoeuvrability, but he is not slow for a big man once he gets going, and really, for a target man this isn’t vital. This also affected him during his last season as he seemed unable to often make up the ground between the defensive midfielder and supporting the attacks in the box, but this has been negated by his positioning further up the pitch.

Most importantly, he is still young at only 24 and he has a big future ahead of him. It was reported earlier this week that he said he would leave Everton either in January or the summer. If he continues to prove himself the way he has done so far this season, then there will of course be plenty of big teams interested. David Moyes will hope that they can secure a Champions League place before he does leave.