Player Profile: Urby Emanuelson

Urby Emanuelson departs Milan for Fulham having made 19 appearances (5 as a substitute) in all competitions. Emanuelson has 2 goals and 3 assists this season, however, he has been unable to lock down a starting position as well as any position in general, as he has once again been Milan’s utility man.


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In fact, WhoScored has recorded 5 different playing positions for him, and this isn’t even including his foray at left back for portions of last season. Emanuelson’s flexibility may actually be a hinderance to him, as his lack of consistency at a position leads to a lack of familiarity with a particular role. Emanuelson can make the gears run smoother in the system, as he is a facilitator of play.

Emanuelson came from Ajax, playing both as a left wingback, as well as a left winger further up the pitch when it was determined his defensive abilities were outweighed by his offensive abilities. This isn’t to say he’s a slack defender, but he most likely shouldn’t be further back than the midfield.

Emanuelson’s stats this season don’t inspire any sort of accolades, nor do they suggest an impact player, but rather a squad option. He’s not easily dribbled due to his pace, only being bypassed on the dribble four times this season, while dribbling past opponents 19 times. Part of this is due to his advanced position on the field, but also Emanuelson is quick to react, and often beats his man to the spot he’s dribbling to win a foul.

When discussing Emanuelson, the first attribute that comes to mind is his crossing. He’s a left footed player, and in general is a good crosser of the ball (part of this may be due to the fact that until this year, his comparison was Luca Antonini and Ignazio Abate).  In Serie A, Emanuelson has fairly paltry crossing numbers, recording 19 successful crosses in 86 attempts, but true to form, this season hasn’t been about Emanuelson’s league performances, but rather his Champions League appearances.

In the Champions League, Emanuelson has much better figures, completing 13 of 29 crosses. In fact, it’s not just his crossing that improves, as his key passing in the 6 CL appearances is nearly a full pass more per game than he records in the league.

But there are reason for which Emanuelson is going on loan to Fulham for the rest of the season, and they’re not entirely due to Max Allegri’s selection. Excluding his excellent performance against a woeful Chievo (who shut off after the second goal by Milan) in which he recorded a goal and two assists, Emanuelson only has one other goal in the league, and his deflected free-kick goal against Zenit St. Petersburg in Champions League play. Basically, his offensive stats don’t justify his use in the attack, and his defensive frailties don’t allow him to play in the back.

The solution? Play him in the midfield perhaps? In his midfield appearances, Emanuelson has provided a spark and counterattacking threat that isn’t normally there. His speed is second to only Ignazio Abate on the right flank, yet he’s not settled into a midfield role (again, perhaps due to the fact he hasn’t been given time) however it seems that Max Allegri prefers more brawn than finesse in his midfield, unless your name is Riccardo Montolivo. For that reason, Emanuelson finds himself on the outside looking in, and turned to his super-agent Mino Raiola to sort out a move. He will be on a dry loan to Fulham to reunite with former Ajax coach Martin Jol.

Perhaps Max Allegri ran out of ideas for Emanuelson. It seems his development is stunted at Milan. This is why Emanuelson is going to Fulham, to rediscover his role. If anyone can sort out Emanuelson, one would hope it’s the coach that gave him the chance to shine in the first place. If he’s to make the jump from squad rotation player to first team consideration, he will need the help of Martin Jol and Fulham.


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About Pete Acquaviva

Pete writes about Milan on this blog. Occasionally other things. You would know which of them it is if you've gotten this far.

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