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Andrew Thompson writes a detailed Scout Report about Marcel Sabitzer, the Austria and RB Salzburg winger.
Building a foundation to propel an entire national program forward is hard no matter what sport you are focusing on. When it comes to the Austrian sporting platform, the nation as a whole has struggled for years to find a program that really puts them on the map in the sporting world.
Unsere Burschen started strong in its infancy on the international stage, finishing fourth and third respectively in the 1934 and 1954 World Cup’s. Though they reached the second round in the 1978 and 1982 editions, the rest of their tournament history is incredibly barren, both at the World Cup and the European Championship (where they have yet to register a single win in their first two attempts).
This past summer was undoubtedly one filled with frustration for the alpine nation, after the national team rose to prominence in Euro qualifying, winning nine out of ten matches (drawing the other) and topping a group containing Russia and Sweden. After many tipped them as a dark horse, Austria stumbled mightily in France, only earning a single point in three group stage matches and were considered by many to be the flop of the tournament. But despite the massive failure, the future still looks bright for Das Team, as the nation continues to use its own growing youth set up or that of their next door neighbors to bring gifted young footballers through the ranks. One of those players, is Marcel Sabitzer.
Born in the university city of Graz in central Austria in 1994, Marcel Sabitzer is the son of former Austrian international Herfried Sabitzer – naturally this meant Marcel was unquestionably introduced to the game from a young age.
Beginning his education with Admira Villach in 2000 at the age of six, he would spend a year with the tiny club before moving to then European stalwarts Grazer Athletik-Klub. Though the club was successful domestically, its eventual financial situation that saw it go into administration and subsequent multiple relegations saw Sabitzer move on to Fussballklub Austria Wien in 2008 after seven years with GAK. He would only spend a year in the nation’s capital with Die Veilchen however, and would then move on to Fussballklub Admira Wacker Modling. By age sixteen, and after spending a year in Modling, Sabitzer was promoted to the reserve side in 2010 and in that same year was given his debut for the full Admira side. By 2012 he would make a combined eighty-five appearances between the first-team and the reserves, scoring twenty-five goals in the process. His successful development at club level and subsequent breakthrough into the national team set-up not only at all youth levels U16-U21 but also his full Austrian debut against Romania in June, 2012, would earn him a move back to the capital but this time with Rapid Wien in January 2013.
Sabitzer had a very successful year and a half with Die Grun-Weissen, netting ten times in forty five appearances. By 2014 Sabitzer was generating real interest from abroad, and in that same summer it was German upstarts Rasenballsport Leipzig who pulled the trigger, bringing him onboard with the 2.Bundesliga side in a deal worth 1.7m Pounds. He would have to wait to make an impact with Die roten Bullen however, being loaned back to Austria to spend a season in Salzburg. Twenty-seven goals and twenty-one assists in fifty-one appearances in all competitions was more than enough to convince Leipzig to bring him back and put him straight into the side during the 2015-16 2.Bundesliga campaign. In his first season in Germany, the Austrian international scored eight goals and added a further five assists, being a key component in Leipzig winning the league and earning promotion into the Bundesliga.
It may be early doors in the current campaign, but Sabitzer has started all three Bundesliga matches for the club thus far and scored a goal in the process, and he continues to perform for a club who has ambitions on establishing themselves as a routine contender for the European places.
A quick survey of RB Leipzig’s attacking options reveal a particular type of player; quick and able to hit you ruthlessly on the counter. Sabitzer is very much at home in such a system. Blessed with bags of pace and a willingness to get further forward, either down the flank in wide areas or cutting in diagonally to get a look on goal, he’s quite content to always run at the defense with the ball at his feet using his technical proficiency or be put through into space by the likes of Naby Keita, Diego Demme or Dominik Kaiser.
Though he’s not incredibly creative (at current he averages only 1.26 chances created/ninety minutes) or efficient in passing (65% completion rate), this cannot be held against him. With Leipzig averaging only 41.4% of the ball this season, Sabitzer (as well as their other forward options) are not tasked with pulling strings, but rather being direct and relying on the midfield. Sabitzer does average 3.36 shots/ninety minutes currently, and with two goals in four appearances in all competitions, he excels in a system where he’s trusted to find the goals. His versatility from a positional standpoint is another aspect of his game that is commendable, able to play on either flank, in a secondary striker role, or as the lead striker outright. With tactical flexibility being a key aspect of the modern game, Sabitzer certainly fits the mold of a modern attacking player.
Despite his versatility, adaptability and individual ability on the ball and in the final third, Sabitzer does still have a fair bit of maturing to do. While his willingness to get forward and effect proceedings in the final third is a huge part of his game and a vital piece of the puzzle for his club side, Sabitzer is susceptible on trying to do to much on an individual level rather than looking to rely on others during the run of play. Additionally, though he is quite technically able and strong at beating his man when on the ball (he’s won 66.67% of his take-ons this season thus far), at times he will opt to forego a better pass and keep on running, which can get him into a bit of trouble – we saw this eventuality take shape during the Euro’s, especially against both Portugal and Iceland. Because he’s not impressively creative, his decision making also lags behind slightly – though just twenty-two, he still has time to improve in this area, and playing in a league of the quality of the Bundesliga will undoubtedly help him progress on that front.
On the whole, Sabitzer is a good, talented young player with an enormous amount of upside despite his weaknesses.
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