If you haven’t seen the video, here it is.
I should stress that these conclusions are based on these 3 games. If I’ve happened to pick 3 games where Keane didn’t exhibit Hummels-esque passing ability or Riise-esque shots from distance, then I can only shrug and apologise for not spending more of my free-time watching Burnley.
What I wanted to focus on in this, the Bonus Features, is something which relates to the Ray Wilkins clip which did the rounds a few days or so ago. Ray “when they come from Europe the fee always starts with a 3, or a 4, or a 5” Wilkins said on Sky Sports that Manchester United choosing Victor Lindelöf over Michael Keane was silly, as the former had done nothing and the latter was proven Premier League talent. United would know what they were getting.
But the truth is that – and it’s why I put that block of text into the video – they wouldn’t.
Burnley’s structure is so sheltering and overrides what could be called a defender’s ‘natural’ ability or instincts, that some of the transferable skills which defenders have are very rarely on show there. United would put extensive scouting into any signing (so, Wilkins, they’d know absolutely what they were getting from Lindelöf), but the assumption that Keane would slot into any other Premier League defence and continue the hype which he’s garnered this season is ludicrous.
There’s enough question marks in the 3 games of the analysis to think twice when Burnley write down the figure they want and you see that it nears £30m. Even more so when you consider that, for United, the signing would be expected to come into a starting XI which will be vying for domestic titles and battling in the Champions League.
Out of the top clubs, Mourinho’s United is perhaps the closest to Burnley in defensive style and use of centre-backs, and you can imagine Mourinho appreciating a physical centre-half who at least has a competency on the ball.
Away from that, there were a couple of decision-making moments during these 3 games which were suspect. One diving towards a tackle with van Aanholt where the Crystal Palace full-back nicked the ball and got past him fairly easily. There were also a couple of times where he allowed opposition forwards to slot between him and a fellow defender without altering his positioning which seemed a bit borderline in terms of what Burnley’s system might consider permissible.
This is one of the difficulties in assessing him in that system though. You know full well that he’s been told not to move too much away from his designated positioning and spacing in the back-line, but to what extent are moments when this looks like a bad idea blamed on the player or on the system – should the player take initiative, or is the system too strict?
Similarly, there were many moments where he didn’t seem to be aware of forwards in the space between him and the right-back, as normally a defender would alter their behaviour in reaction to this forward. When Keane doesn’t, is it because he knows what the system entails and knows that his right-back will be there, or is it a deficiency in the player?
There were definitely flashes – the moment against Crystal Palace at the end of the video being one – where it was evident why he has been so highly rated this season, and he’s certainly deserving of playing at a higher level than Burnley. But how much higher?
Given that the United deal has broken down following the Lindelöf transfer (the rumour mill says that Keane broke it off with United; I find the other way round a more convincing explanation), the noises are that Everton are the main team in for him. Why not? Everton desperately need a decent centre-back younger than 30 and, given that they’re not likely to challenge for the top 6, there’d be no pressure on Keane to play at an elite level straight away.
Anyway, this has been your analysis on Michael Keane and why he might be more of an unknown than Ray Wilkins thinks he is. Thanks for reading.
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