Højlund vs Zirkzee | Who's The Better Option
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Højlund vs Zirkzee | Who's The Better Option

08/07/24 18:16

Manchester United are on the verge of finalising the signing of Bologna striker Joshua Zirkzee, with Erik ten Hag eager to strengthen his forward line.

According to The Athletic, regarded by Football Park as a Tier 1 source, United have already agreed on personal terms and agent fees with Zirkzee. However, the transfer fee remains a sticking point.

The Netherlands international's contract includes a €40 million (£34 million/$43 million) release clause, which Bologna insists must be paid in full. This has led United to deliberate whether to trigger the clause or negotiate a different fee.

As Manchester United seek to enhance their attacking options, the potential signing of Joshua Zirkzee brings significant implications, particularly for Rasmus Højlund.

Standing at 6'4", Zirkzee combines technical prowess and physical presence, drawing comparisons to Karim Benzema and Harry Kane.

Zirkzee's ability to link play and operate with his back to goal would add a unique dimension to United's forward line, offering tactical flexibility and unpredictability.

His inclusion would not only be a strategic long-term investment but also align with the club’s philosophy of integrating elite talents.

Incorporating Zirkzee into the squad would alleviate the workload on key players like Bruno Fernandes and Rasmus Højlund, providing depth and quality both as a center forward and an attacking midfielder or second striker.

The current market conditions make this opportunity too good to pass up, especially with a potential transfer fee of around £40 million.

Rasmus Højlund: The Poacher with Potential

Højlund's debut season at Old Trafford has been a mix of promising highs and challenging lows.

His sharp movement and finishing have been highlights, though he sometimes finds himself isolated. Despite this, his adaptability and determination have made him a key player under Erik Ten Hag.

Looking closer into his stats from this past season, his npxG/shot (non-penalty expected goals per shot) is 0.2, indicating a 20% chance of scoring per shot, showcasing his efficiency in front of goal.

Physically robust, Højlund excels in holding up play, maintaining possession under pressure as well as his movement within the penalty area , finding space and positioning himself for tap-ins. His powerful left foot allows for strikes from outside the box, adding an element of unpredictability.

However despite these pros there are certainly issues in Højlund’s game. Overall this stems from inconsistency. Maintaining a high performance level weekly is essential especially under the regime of Erik Ten Hag. Although good, his play is possibly the most inconsistent in the United squad. Something that will need to be changed going forward.

Joshua Zirkzee: The Dynamic Dribbler

Under Thiago Motta at Bologna, Zirkzee has thrived.

His towering presence, combined with exceptional dribbling skills, makes him a versatile and formidable forward. This was shown throughout the Serie A season this past campaign - highlighting his technical skill and physical presence.

His npxG/shot is 0.09, meaning each shot taken by him is half as likely to result in a goal compared to Højlund. Despite this, Zirkzee’s overall contribution to play is noteworthy.

Zirkzee excels in navigating tight spaces and taking on defenders, which is crucial for breaking down defences. His hold-up play and ability to bring teammates into action further underline his potential as a valuable asset for United.

Transitioning to the Premier League’s pace and physicality is sure to be a challenge. Consistently finding the net in England’s top division requires improvement in finishing and maintaining fitness and focus.

Head To Head: Højlund vs Zirkzee

Both Højlund and Zirkzee are physically impressive, standing over 6ft 3in and providing strong aerial presence. Their height and strength allow effective hold-up play. Here’s a comparison of their stats from the 23/24 league season:

Zirkzee has shown superior performance in several key areas. He scored more goals (11 vs. 10) and provided more assists (4 vs. 2) than Højlund, despite playing more minutes.

Zirkzee also takes more shots per game (2.5 vs. 1.3) and completes more dribbles per game (1.5 vs. 0.6), highlighting his ability to create opportunities and break down defences. He also receives more progressive passes per game (6 vs. 4.6), which is crucial as Højlund has faced criticism for not receiving the ball enough at times this season.

Both players are comparable in aerial ability, with Zirkzee having a slight edge. However, Højlund is more accurate with his shots, having a higher percentage of shots on target (52.6% vs. 34.5%).

There may also be a chance though that both players are used to compliment each other. Zirkzee's ability to create for himself and others can help free up Højlund, making the attacking unit more effective.

Hojlund vs Zirkzee

How Do Both Players Fit Manchester United's System?

Erik ten Hag’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation demands forwards who can press aggressively, hold up play, and contribute to quick, forward-moving attacks.

While Højlund’s poaching skills make him a reliable goal-scorer, his lower dribbling stats suggest potential struggles in a fluid, possession-based system.

Zirkzee’s dribbling and off-the-ball movement align well with Ten Hag’s high-pressing, quick-transition style. He can play as a lone striker or drop into the number 10 role, supporting the striker and easing the creative burden on Bruno Fernandes. His ability to create and exploit gaps in the final third is a significant asset.

Who Is The Better Option Up Front Next Season: Højlund or Zirkzee?

Joshua Zirkzee’s unique blend of technical skill, physical presence, and versatility make him an ideal addition to Manchester United. While Rasmus Højlund offers valuable poaching prowess, Zirkzee’s creative flair and overall attacking versatility seem a better fit for Ten Hag’s system. Signing Zirkzee could be a pivotal move in defining United’s success in the coming seasons.

Manchester United, it’s time to make a move. Joshua Zirkzee could be the game-changer you need.

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Jamie Somerville

Writer

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