Why Noussair Mazraoui’s move to Bayern makes sense


By Deolu Akingbade.

Steven Berghuis receives a pass. Gauging his opponents from PSV, he scans the ground and gives way to Noussair Mazraoui at the entrance to the surface. With nothing but the green grass of the Philips Stadion in front of him, Mazraoui confidently takes a throw-in. With the precision of a first Steven Gerrard, he slams into the right corner. Ajax 2, PSV 1.

His winning goal – to De Topper, no less – is the highlight of a season that has left clubs like Barcelona and Bayern Munich in awe. It’s fair to say that Mazraoui played an important role in Ajax’s success last season, providing everything from clutch goals to locking defence.

Still, Ajax won’t see the Moroccan winger again. His departure for Bayern means entering an unfamiliar atmosphere, one with a right-back already asserting his dominance. Mazraoui will likely join Alphonso Davies, Lucas Hernandez, Dayot Upamecano or Benjamin Pavard in Bayern’s back four. Even though Bayern were already tied for the fewest goals conceded in the Bundesliga, Mazraoui still has something to offer Bayern.

Background

Born in Leiderdorp, Noussair Mazraoui spent most of his career at Ajax. He joined Jong Ajax in 2016 and earned promotion to the senior team two years later. The rest is history.

He led the 2018-19 Champions League in tackles and even scored against Bayern Munich en route to a miraculous Champions League semi-final appearance.

He also scored once and added an assist in 28 Eredivisie games while scoring once and assisting another goal in the KNVB Cup.

Since his 2018-19 season, he has become an unstoppable force for Ajax.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – MAY 11: Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax acknowledges fans as he is substituted during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Ajax and sc Heerenveen at Johan Cruijff Arena on May 11, 2022 in Amsterdam , in the Nederlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Mazraoui missed eleven matches with numerous injuries in the canceled 2019-20 Eredivisie season and neither scored nor assisted in any competition. His attacking slump extended into his injury-plagued 2020-21 season. His only goal was a strike against Midtjylland in the Champions League.

Yet he has returned to the top of the Eredivisie this season, attracting interest from Barcelona, ​​Manchester City, Arsenal and Bayern. His attacking performances, smooth play and overall promise helped lead his side to Eredivisie glory.

Mazraoui has scored three goals in 28 Champions League appearances and added two assists to his stat sheet this campaign. His defense isn’t bad either. He had 29 tackles, sixth in the Champions League, and added 15 interceptions to his CV.

Break the magic of Mazraoui

Mazraoui can be as harmful in attack as in defense. His complete game will make him a formidable full-back in the Bundesliga.

Unlike some full-backs, Mazraoui can create space in several ways. He can dribble past opposing full-backs, play a back-and-forth with a team-mate, or even catch the keeper off guard and score a goal from distance. This, coupled with his shooting accuracy and ability to squirm in dangerous positions, makes him a threat when he wins the ball.

Even marked tightly, Mazraoui is still deadly. He is known in the Eredivisie for his long passes, crosses and incisive through balls. His pace draws in defenders and frees attackers for assists. His positioning is similar to that of a midfielder rather than a full-back, giving him that extra attacking advantage that Bayern desire.

As mentioned earlier, Mazraoui made 29 tackles and 15 interceptions in the Champions League last season. His great physique and soccer IQ help him rush at the right time and launch counterattacks. He jumps on even the most forgettable mistakes to dispossess attackers, and his sliding tackles are perfectly timed.

Not only is he technically flawless, but the Moroccan is racy. He helped Ajax when they needed it most. His winning goal against PSV and a pair of stunning performances against Benfica show that.

Despite Mazraoui’s elite quality, he has notable weaknesses that Bundesliga forwards could pounce on. He looks most vulnerable on the opposite side of the 1v1s he excels at so much. His thinness betrays him when he takes on other wingers, leaving attackers to control play and force a reaction.

His aggressive stance exposes him on the defensive side, forcing a long back up in counterattacks and helping wingers explode down the flanks. A long ball in front of Mazraoui could result in a goal for the opposing team if he gets caught like that.

Where Mazraoui adapts to Bayern

Bayern’s usual 3-4-2-1 formation could pose some problems as Mazraoui tries to break into the starting lineup. He could form a formidable pair with former Ajax team-mate Ryan Gravenberch in midfield, but Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich excelled in those roles last year. He could play the role of right midfielder or winger-back, but it’s likely that if Serge Gnabry doesn’t leave he will fill that spot.

The chances of Mazraoui starting a match will be higher if die rotten set up in 4-2-3-1. He can feature anywhere from his traditional right-back and central midfield roles to possible appearances in more advanced positions like right wing or attacking midfield.

With the transfer of Mazraoui, Bayern get a reliable and fast winger who provides firepower to an already explosive team. Mazraoui may be in contention for first-team minutes depending on Bayern’s transfer activity this summer, but it’s safe to say the Morocco international will like this transfer as well.


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