Arsenal’s loss is Liverpool’s gain. Nuri Sahin lays feet in the Premier League after agreeing a loan move, that will see him spend this season on loan on the red half of Merseyside. THT looks at Sahin’s impressive rise to the top, his burgeoning reputation, the loan saga and why Liverpool have got a gem in their hands.
Nuri Sahin is a Turkish footballer of German origin. His journey began from the famous Dortmund youth system and a breakthrough in the FIFA U-17 World championships in 2005 saw Sahin arrive at the big stage. A first team debut followed as the season began and Sahin becoming the youngest player ever too play in the top flight of German football at the tender age of 16 years and 334 days. Such was his impression on the then Dortmund coach Bert van Marwijk, that his participation in first team football kept on rising. In November, Sahin also became the youngest ever player to score in a Bundesliga game having barely turned 17. His relationship with van Marwijk blossomed and he went on to make 20 odd appearances in his first full season for the club.
In December 2006, the Dutchman and Borussia Dortmund parted ways, and in came Jurgen Rober, who also left soon after in the month of March. Thomas Doll was the next to come in and with that ended Sahin’s first team honeymoon as he was regularly ignored. Doll decided a loan move suited the Turk best and sent him off on loan to Feyenoord where he was reunited with former manager and mentor Bert Van Marwijk again. He had an impressive season in Holland, making 34 appearances in all competitions. At the end of the season, he went back to Germany where Doll had got the sack thanks to Dortmund’s 13th place finish in the league.
Jurgen Klopp took over the managerial hotseat and had Sahin very much in his plans. One thing led to another and Dortmund were winning the Bundesliga in 2010-11, and Sahin was one of the biggest reasons as to why. Kicker voted him the best player of the season for his performances and his displays earned him a move to Real Madrid in the summer. With just one year left on his contract, Dortmund decided to sell for a knockdown price and Real Madrid pounced at the opportunity. He signed a six year contract and maintained his move was driven by Real’s stature and not the money. A year later here we are, as Sahin goes on to join Liverpool on loan for the season but with no option to make the move permanent.
The first and most impressive thing about Nuri Sahin is his passing ability. Blessed with a majestic left foot, Sahin can spray passes to any corner of the pitch with effortless ease. His best position is that of a deep-lying playmaker or a regista if you like. Dictating play, spreading play to the wings and forward line, while still sitting deep are his great attributes. His vision and passing range are in Xabi Alonso mould, and it’s no wonder he plays in the same position as his Real Madrid teammate.
This has been one of the major reasons why Sahin has found it so difficult to break into the Madrid starting lineup, where Xabi is a fixture when fit. Having said that, Jose Mourinho still has Sahin in his plans and would not let him leave that easily, one of the reasons why his loan deal with Arsenal didn’t materialize. Perhaps with Xabi ageing now and contract talks stalled, Sahin has been earmarked as the successor. It’s just plain irony that Liverpool’s three-year long search for Alonso’s replacement has taken them to Nuri Sahin, although just temporarily for now.
With deep-lying playmakers now becoming a thing of the past, Sahin is a breath of fresh air, though he could easily fit into a CM role. Mobile, good link up play, passing and great defensive ability make him a manager’s dream. His tackling and interceptions often lead to the misconception that he is a defensive midfielder. Far from that. Comparing him to the more natural DM at Liverpool, Lucas, we observe that the stats are extremely impressive (all stats of Sahin are from the 2010-11 season, the others are previous season’s).
Sahin tackles once every 23 minutes and intercepts once every 38 minutes. Lucas on the other hand tackles once every 15 minutes and intercepts once every 32 minutes. Not much in it there, but just enough to point out the basic difference. Coupling it with his creativity, where he created a chance every 25 minutes, and you have a player who could play anywhere in midfield without any inhibitions.
Close control and hold up play are key attributes for a midfielder playing in a team with a passing philosophy, something Rodgers is trying to inject into his Liverpool team. With Nuri Sahin, those qualities are a given, and more. He is capable of shielding the ball and moving with it, linking up play and is comfortable with one-twos. In a league where teams from lower down the table have a tendency to choke the midfield when playing away from home at relatively bigger clubs, the close control is a must and just adds to the package of Sahin. He never stops pressing when not in possession and more often than not ends up either winning the ball or committing a foul. Set-pieces are his forte too, be it pin point crosses or an attempt on goal from range, Sahin is capable of all of it.
With so many positives, the negatives might just seem irrelevant. Yet, his passing percentages are quite low for a creative player. If compared to Gerrard, Adam, Spearing, Henderson, Lucas, Shelvey or the newcomer Allen, Nuri Sahin has the lowest passing percentage of all. This could partly be due to the number of risky passes he attempts or might be down to lapses in concentration. Whatever be it, that number has to improve if he wishes to fit in Brendan Rodgers’ plans. Another annoying fact is that he missed 3 penalties in the 2010-11 season.
Well not much should be made out of it, as none of them were really poorly taken and the keepers did deserve their share of the credit. But then, at Liverpool taking penalties won’t be his duty, and thus shouldn’t really be a big deal. His goalscoring remains low and that is down to how deep he plays in general. He does make the odd run into the box and prefers staying on the periphery for the ball to break loose. His finishing isn’t the best either and he would hope to improve on that in his season long stay in England.
In a nutshell, it’s easy to see why there was such a tug of war between Liverpool and Arsenal for the player. The loan deal works perfectly for all parties. Liverpool improve their midfield by several notches, Sahin gets more first team football and Mourinho has a more seasoned player at his disposal next season. Negotiations done, deal signed. Time now for Nuri Sahin to set the Premier League on fire.
* All stats are taken from EPLIndex and WhoScored.com