Will Mattias Svanberg be a good fit at Southampton? – Scout report

Rajasik Mukherjee
By Rajasik Mukherjee
12 Min Read
Mattias-Svanberg-Southampton

Southampton are reportedly keeping tabs on Bologna midfielder Mattias Svanberg, as Ralph Hasenhüttl has his sights in the to hack the market for a midfielder who can help run games for the Saints – to partner James-Ward Prowse in the middle of the park and eventually go on to take the baton from him if he were to look elsewhere. Their search has led them to a name that’s making strides in Italy with his performances – so much so that Arsenal were interested in bringing him to the Emirates.

Having put in some energetic performances in Italy, Southampton are said to be prepared to make a move for the Swede.

Who is Mattias Svanberg?

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Svanberg, a versatile player who attended the Malmo academy, can play both on the wings as well as in the midfield. The midfielder made his Allsvenskan senior debut for Malmö at age 17 and contributed with  an assist while he received his first opportunity to start in his fifth league game. Even though he was a left midfielder playing out of position, he still managed to score and assist.

Mattias Svanberg was acquired by Bologna from Malmö in the summer of 2018 for a rumoured fee of €4.5 million after he had progressed through the Swedish powerhouse’s junior program and had won two Allsvenskan championships. Since the summer of 2018, Svanberg has started over 100 competitive games during his four year stint at the club. He has dazzled spectators with his work ethic and tenacity in the middle of the pitch.

**Now, If you’re following the Premier League – You won’t be accustomed with Mattias Svanberg. So, in this piece I will attempt to evaluate him in-depth using The Eye Test and underlying stats to come to a conclusion about the potential effectiveness of this signing and whether I believe he could become a success in the Premier League.**

The Eye Test

**This is based on my personal evaluation of the player. I will be drawing on extensive hindsight knowledge, in-game footage, as well as match replays to evaluate Svanberg in this section.**

Mattias Svanberg is rising through the ranks to become an integral part of Sweden’s young squad. The highly-rated midfielder already has 21 caps for his country. There has been a lot of debate regarding Svanberg’s best position to unlock his potential. However, he has made the most number of appearances in the double pivot. Primarily a box-to-box midfielder, Svanberg can also play in a 3-man midfield.

The midfielder usually occupied the left side of the midfield for Bologna in Serie A last season. His heatmap suggests that he wanders around the left side of the pitch.

One vital thing to notice is how he is inclined to be close to the sidelines in the defensive half of the pitch and a more central role in the opposite half.

The 23-year-old has no outstanding quality, maybe because he is yet to develop one. What he possesses is a raw juxtaposition of several key factors. At times, one can see glimpses of such qualities.

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Mattias Svanberg’s heatmap of 2021-22 season. Image source: Sofascore

Svanberg reads the game very well and gets into the opposition’s passing lanes smartly, thus blocking their way for a key pass. His quick thinking with the ball helps him to remain calm even when he is being pressed in his own half.

It is difficult to dispossess him when he has the ball. His heatmap clearly demonstrates the freedom with which he can move around the field, whether it is to create in the final third, apply pressure in the middle third, or defend in his third.

He does love to constantly move up and down the field and also venture wide for support. He is not restricted to any one area of the field and that can be a beautiful trait to possess in Southampton’s style of playing.

Mattias-Svanberg-passing
Svanberg’s long vision and range of pass

Svanberg is at the acme of his defensive game when he follows a certain style with his fellow teammates.

For Bologna, for example, in the match against Inter Milan, Svanberg was spotted a lot of times forming a triangle of pressing off the ball. This enabled him to dictate the midfield with his excellent communication skills. The strict adherence to the said format frustrated Inter Milan as they were forced to sit back a lot of the time and rely on long balls.

His right foot is his strongest, and he has a powerful, accurate shot that he almost always succeeds in landing on target. He is not averse to shooting from various angles while using his left foot.

Svanberg-pressing
Svanberg forming a triangle form to press the opponent

Furthermore, Mattias is a good passer but is pretty inconsistent with that. At times, he will be seen to play a smart through pass from a crowd of players closing in on him.

The very next moment, he will be blind to an open space that can be achieved with a single lofted pass. Svanberg can also not be trusted wholly for his antics. He tends to leave his position and move further up the pitch, breaking the defensive shape. He aimlessly goes on to press the opposition’s center halfway up the pitch. All this creates a huge open space in the gap he leaves behind.

The 23-year-old is also very slow at trackback, and thus his position is either free or someone has to cover for him. When it comes to man-marking, Svanberg may read the game well but is very proactive and is easily shrugged off by the opposition. He seems to be at a loss at times in the defensive third. At one point, he presses a certain player, and in the very next moment, he is totally blind to that very players’ movements.

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Svanberg advances forward but fails to track back on time as he leaves behind a huge open space

The underlying stats

**All stats from FBref.com and compared to other midfielder in the Top 5 Men’s Big Leagues + European Competition, and will also be drawn on stats from SofaScore. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are based on per 90 minutes played**

Inconsistency is what is killing the Swedes’ statistics. According to the stats relayed by fbref, the youngster has abysmal stats on passing. A successful pass percentage of 74% is not at all up to the standard. Despite playing as a box-to-box midfielder, Svanberg averages just 37 passes per game.

However, as mentioned earlier, Svanberg is good at playing short passes to get rid of pressure. To support the eye test, he enjoys 89% success in short-pass completion. On the other hand, he has a 50% success rate in landing long passes. In his defence, sometimes he does try for difficult long balls. Despite his tendency to haste, he has a decent appetite for what is required in the middle of the park. He would frequently impress by blocking and keeping the ball, but his judgment was poor. The majority of this had to do with the order and placement of his passes. But as he gets used to playing with less time on the ball, this ought to get better.

He has shown signs of brilliance as he falls in the 83 percentile in Europe’s top 5 leagues in playing through balls. Svanberg’s tall stature helped him to register 1.3 clearances per 90 minutes.

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Svanberg is unaware of a player timing his run behind
Svanberg-sweden-midfielder
The player easily gets past him to lodge an attack

Author’s opinion

Hasenhuttl will require more talent and a larger squad if he is to continue playing his high-octane, energetic, and pressing brand of football and contend for a position in Europe next season.

Southampton notably lacks depth in central midfield, out of all the positions, owing to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s transfer to the Spurs – Hasenhuttl is now short on quality backup players beyond regular starters Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, and others. The 23-year-old can improve his game and become a reliable box-to-box midfielder under a manager like Hasenhuttl, who has great faith in young players.

The Swedish international would undoubtedly increase Southampton’s midfield depth while fostering healthy competition among the team’s players.

The biggest advantage Southampton will be getting with Svanberg is his ability to draw fouls. With almost three fouls per game, Svanberg falls in the 89 percentile in Europe’s top 5 leagues. To cash in on that, Southampton have arguably the best free-kick taker in the league, James Ward Prowse.

Mattias Svanberg is certainly not a game-changer, but given his price tag and the potential he offers, he could turn out to be a pretty good deal for the Saints. Especially considering he has a massive ceiling and the player he can develop into.

Southampton have always had a knack for developing midfielders rather than buying a finished product. And Mattias Svanberg can just be another of those…

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