Newcastle United are closing in on signing Sven Botman from Lille. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)
Newcastle United have won the race to sign their No.1 defensive target Sven Botman - with the defender on the verge of finalising his move.
The Magpies’ six-month long chase is almost drawing to a close as the 22-year-old travels to Tyneside to undergo his medical.
A fee was agreed with Lille on Friday evening, which will see United beat Serie A champions AC Milan to his highly-rated signature.
NewcastleWorld takes a look at the stats behind a player viewed as a key addition to Eddie Howe’s side.
A pass master?
Using statistics provided by WhoScored.com, the main standout point seems to be Botman’s impressive passing data.
The 22-year-old has completed an average of 59.2 passes during his 31 appearances for Lille and that number heavily improves on United’s most prolific passmaker in defence.
Unsurprisingly, that is Fabian Schar, but his 39.4 passes per game is dwarfed by Botman’s figure.
What makes the Dutchman’s passing data even more impressive is the fact his pass completion percentage also outstrips the men he could be sharing a dressing room with next season.
Botman’s completion rate of 88.2% is better than any current member of the United squad and sits 2.5% ahead of star midfielder Bruno Guimaraes.
Federico Fernandez actually has the best pass completion rate in the Magpies squad with 87.4% during a handful of appearances last season but none of United’s regular defenders managed a completion rate about 80% during the campaign.
Given Eddie Howe’s preference for defenders comfortable in possession of the ball, Botman seems to tick all of the boxes for the Magpies boss.
Time to concentrate
Another two of Botman’s listed strengths on WhoScored.com are his concentration levels and the fact he does not like diving into tackles.
Data can back up those points with the powerful centre-back giving away an average of just 0.6 fouls per game during his 31 appearances for Lille last season.
That figure is bettered by Federico Fernandez (0.1) and Ciaran Clark (0.5) - although their reduced involvement at United has to be taken into account.
Of the Magpies regular centre-backs, Botman’s foul rate is marginally better than captain Jamaal Lascelles (0.7) and significantly improved on Dan Burn (1.3) and Fabian Schar (1.0).
Botman boasts an impressive average of 2.4 aerial duels won per game for Lille during what could be his final season with the Ligue 1 club.
That places him third on the list when compared to Newcastle’s current centre-backs with Dan Burn (4.3) and Jamaal Lascelles (3.4) both faring better.
For further comparison, Fabian Schar’s rate is 1.8 per game, Federico Fernandez is 1.4 and Ciaran Clark is at 2.0.
United’s difficulties in providing a constant threat in front of goal were well-versed last season.
Although matters improved during the upturn in form during the second half of the campaign, the Magpies still only ended with a total of 44 goals in their 38 league fixtures.
Only three of those goals came from Eddie Howe’s current centre-back options, with Fabian Schar netting twice and Jamaal Lascelles getting the other.
Botman matched that total on his own by scoring in Lille’s opening day draw at Metz, a home draw at Marseille and a 5-1 home hammering against eventual league champions Paris Saint Germain.
Although Botman needs time to settle into life in the Premier League, he will seemingly be a useful addition for Eddie Howe as he looks to push the Magpies further up the table next season.
The United boss has routinely discussed his desire to change the way his side play and Botman seems to fit nicely into his preferred style.
With comfort on the ball, a high pass completion rate and high concentration levels, the statistics seem to indicate the Dutchman is a significant upgrade on the defensive options currently possessed by Howe.