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Giannelli Imbula’s career took a supposedly upturn when he left for Porto in the summer for a hefty fee. However, unlike what was visioned, Porto didn’t turn out to be a great step, career wise, for the Frenchman who was mostly found himself on the sidelines.
There is absolutely no doubt about his talent so it came as little shock when Stoke decided to make Imbula their most expensive player by shelling out £18.3 million, despite the youngster not impressing in Portugal.
Imbula’s youth career included a spell with Marseille’s arch-rivals Paris Saint-Germain, but he eventually went on to settle at Guingamp in 2007. Marseille signed Imbula for around €8 million in the summer of 2013.
After not making too much of an impact in his first season, Imbula really found his feet under Marcelo Bielsa. He thrived under the manager as part of a 3-3-3-1 formation at Marseille and was a key member in the Phoceen’s surprise title challenge last season.
Physical and aggressive
Imbula is known as a physical holding midfielder, and a strong passer who likes to create from a deep midfield position. The Frenchman is particularly aggressive and strong in his tackles – a feature of his game that stands out. He possesses very good pace, is comfortable on the ball with excellent technique and the ability to go forward.
The fact that he is pretty decent in attack, and possesses the awareness and vision to create attacking threat, can make one wonder whether Hughes might like to use him in the box-to-box role in the future. However, it is clear that Imbula focuses on the defensive aspect of his game despite being excellent on the ball and good going forward.
He has a sweet finish as well, but the former Marseille man prefers to focus on his primary duties of being a shield for the defence.
The perfect N’Zonzi replacement?
Stoke fans will see him as the perfect Steven N’Zonzi replacement even though Hughes has been particularly clear that he doesn’t want Imbula to be viewed in the same respect. The Frenchman can really control the midfield and has good leadership as well as organizational skills that adds to his sheer talent in the midfield.
Where Imbula will help Stoke, any team, the most is his ability to help quickly transition the game and be the able link between the defence and attack. N’Zonzi’s departure to Sevilla left a hole in Stoke’s midfield and Imbula, on paper, looks like the taylor-made option for that void to be smartly filled.
Ultimately, Imbula offers plenty for Hughes, be it an avenue for possession-based approach or a counter-attacking style.
Defence a key focus
With Stoke City not scoring too many goals recently, they need to tighten up in the defence department. While Jack Butland has done his share of brilliant goalkeeping already, the defence has stuttered massively recently and quite clearly needs someone in the heart of the pitch guarding the back four and ensuring pressure is eased off in the midfield itself.
This is where Imbula steps in.
Written by Aakriti Mehrotra
Follow Aakriti on Twitter @Aakriti1
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