Scout's Notebook: Fabio Borini

Fabio Borini's trademark celebration - Gareth Copley

In this edition of Scout's Notebook, we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Sunderland's newest striker Fabio Borini.

With the much rumoured departure of crowd favourite Stephane Sessegnon, who finally left the club to join West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland were in need of another striker due to Paolo Di Canio wanting 5 strikers to choose from.

After being linked with an endless number of forwards this summer, including the likes of Mahatma Otoo, Alfred Finnbogason, John Guidetti, Mauro Zarate, Nacho Scocco and Fabio Quagliarella, the club settled on Fabio Borini, who arrived on a season-long loan from Liverpool.

Borini was born in Bentivoglio, which is in the province of Bologna in 1991. Growing up as a Bologna fan, along with the rest of his family, Borini started playing football at the age of 9 and was spotted by team he supports within a year and shortly afterwards joined Bologna's youth set-up.

Despite scoring hundreds of goals in their various youth teams, Borini and his agent didn't feel valued by Bologna and when Frank Arnesen and Carlo Jacomuzzi of Chelsea came calling shortly after his 16th birthday, they took the opportunity to move to London. Borini's father, Roberto, admitted that Fabio leaving Bologna left a lump in his throat but that it was the right decision.

From 2007 Borini played under current Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers in Chelsea's reserve team and kept up his prolific goalscoring, including 5 goals in one game against West Brom. He made sporadic appearances in the Chelsea first team from 2009 but in the 2010/11 season found himself frozen out by Carlo Ancelotti after rejecting a new contract, despite Ancelotti previously saying Borini was the youth player most likely to break through to the first team.

With his contract at Chelsea coming to an end, Borini signed a pre-contract agreement with Parma and then joined Swansea on loan, linking up again with Brendan Rodgers. His spell at the Liberty Stadium was highly successful, with the Italian notching up 6 goals and 4 assists in just 12 games, as he helped Swansea to promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs.

It was while he was at Swansea he explained his trademark celebration;

I've been planning that celebration for a long time. In Italy it means you've got the knife between your teeth. When you want to achieve something so badly that you are angry to reach your goals, you put the knife between your teeth.That's what I was trying to show by putting the side of my hand in my mouth.

His spell at Parma was extremely short however, with Roma signing the player on loan for a fee of €1.7m with an option to make it permanent for €7m before Borini had played a competitive game for Parma.

While he only last one season at Roma before again moving, this time to Liverpool, he was very successful in the Italian capital, scoring 10 goals in all competitions on the right hand side of a front three with Osvaldo and Totti. Including a spell where he scored 8 goals in 9 games in Serie A.

After completing his €11.3m move to Anfield, Borini again teamed up with Brendan Rodgers and soon found the net in an Europa League Qualifier against Gomel. Unfortunately his Liverpool career had a very difficult start as he started their first 5 league games but failed to score as the team struggled and could only pick up 2 points from those games. His career on Merseyside went from bad to worse as he soon broke his metatarsal which ruled him out until the new year and after a handful of substitute appearances he dislocated his shoulder against Swansea.

Despite seemingly being ruled out until the end of the season, Borini returned to the bench after Luiz Suarez's ban and scored his first league goal for Liverpool in their 6-0 drubbing of Newcastle.

After representing Italy at every youth level, Borini made his full Italian debut in a 1-0 defeat by the United States in February 2012 and was called up to their Euro 2012 squad but never featured. He was then included in Italy's squad for the European Under 21 Championship in June 2013, where he scored two goals and was named in the team of the tournament.

So, what kind of player is Fabio Borini?

22-year-old Borini, stands 5'11" and is a hard working striker who can also play out wide, clinical in front of goal and able to score with either foot. The player himself believes he most resembles Italian legend Filippo Inzaghi but has also watched videos of Chelsea striker Fernando Torres;

They say I am like Inzaghi.

When asked if he meant Filippo or Simone, he replied;

The one who scored the most goals.

He then gave a bit more insight into how he has studied Inzaghi and Torres;

I like Inzaghi, I like the way he celebrates a goal even if his team are winning 6-0 and look at what he has won - the World Cup, two Champions Leagues and many league titles in Italy.

Even if you have half his career, you will have had a great career.

I have watched Inzaghi a lot and I have got something from him but I have also watched a lot of videos of (Fernando) Torres.

I try to get my movement by seeing what those players do - I try to get into space and I give 100 per cent in every game I play.

He also explained how singled minded about scoring goals he is;

I always set a goal target, I try to score a goal in each game I play. Sometimes it's not possible, but that is always my aim.

I have always been a striker and I have always liked to score, if I play well and don't score a goal, I am not happy. If I don't play well and score a goal, I am happy.

Very clinical in front of goal, in 2011/12 with Roma, his statistics were almost identical to Steven Fletcher's during the same season with Wolves. With both players averaging 2 shots per game, 0.38 goals per game, an almost identical conversion rate (18.75% for Borini, 19% for Wolves), with Fletcher only coming out on top in his shooting accuracy (44% to Borini's 37.5%).

He is a very versatile forward, who can play up front on his own, as part of a front two, wide (left or right) in a front three and even as a withdrawn striker. A player who uses his pace to find space and get on the end of chances other players may not be able to, he also sacrifices himself for his team, in his season at the Stadio Olimpico he made more tackles than any other attacking player for Roma.

He is also adept at free-kicks, with the player admitting he studied Didier Drogba's style and copied it to aplomb in a Championship game against Norwich:


Although he can play out wide and has done to great effect with Roma, he's not the most creative player and the majority of his good work in that position comes from forcing mistakes by putting opposition players under pressure or getting into the box and on the end of chances himself.

While the player does have similarities with a young Kevin Phillips, he is somewhat injury prone, with barely a season going by without the youngster missing time with various injuries. He's suffered from a dislocated shoulder, a broken foot, a hernia and a hamstring injury and with Altidore and Fletcher recently suffering from injuries and Wickham and Ji the back up, we cannot afford Borini to have any time out of the side.

There is also a concern with how often he has changed clubs, with the player already being on the books of Bologna, Chelsea, Swansea, Parma, Roma, Liverpool and now Sunderland. Changing clubs so often has left him without the lengthy spells of first team football he has needed at this stage in his development.

To sum up;

Strengths

  • Very fast
  • Extremely hard working
  • Clinical in front of goal
  • Versatile

Weaknesses

  • Has been injury prone
  • Already at his 7th club

Although he will be seen as Sessegnon's replacement, that is unfair to the player as he will be asked to fill a different role. With Sessegnon's role in the side being removed due to the arrival of Giaccherini and Altidore meaning Sunderland are set to move to a 4-4-2 formation, Borini is likely to be our third choice out-and-out striker, a role he could thrive in alongside Fletcher or Altidore should he be given that chance and it's unlikely we'll see him out wide due to Mavrias and Moberg Karlsson acting as understudies to Giaccherini and Johnson.

As with all domestic loan signings, should he do well we will struggle to keep him at the club but as a short term option, I believe he'll be a good signing.

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