Looking Closer: Neven Subotic

Stoke turn to Serbian star in defender chase

Late on Saturday night, The Sun broke the news that Stoke City are interested in signing Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic. According to the newspaper, Sunderland are also in the chase for the defender and both clubs have spoken to the player’s agents to discuss personal terms before approaching Dortmund regarding their player’s availability and expected fee. The player is known to be wanting a move to the Premier League and may be looking for a move after getting limited game time for his current club, however Dortmund may want to keep hold of him due to the loss of their captain, Mats Hummels. The move could either be a full transfer or a season long loan.

Subotic is a 27 year old centre back from Serbia. He moved through the ranks at fellow German club Mainz before making his switch to Dortmund in 2008. He broke into the first team straight away and has currently played over 250 games for Dortmund, scoring 18 goals. He’s also has 36 caps ad two goals with his national team, fighting for a place alongside compatriots such as Nemanja Vidic. Despite his initial emergence for club and country, Subotic hasn’t made such an impact in recent seasons: his position at Dortmund has been lost in the last couple of years and he only made 11 league appearances last season Meanwhile, he wasn’t selected at all for Serbia’s qualification matches for this Summer’s European tournament with manager Dick Advocaat suggesting that Subotic’s national career is over; which is concerning for someone who should be entering the prime of his career.

Regarding the player’s ability, when Subotic does play, he’s known to be a very well rounded defender. He has a dominant physical presence and, with being 6’3” tall, isn’t shy to an aerial battle. His physicality, however, does not mean that his pace has been sacrificed and is very rarely caught out in this regard. He’s also an intelligent player: not only can he accurately read the play and defend well, he can also distribute the ball calmly and accurately, also knowing when to go long and when to play short. He also contributes at the other end of the pitch too, his aerial threat means he’s a good source of goals from indirect set pieces. Despite all of these qualities, one of the reasons for Subotic’s slow recent growth and lack of playing time is down to injuries. He’s often missed big matches for club and country and has resulted in managers debating whether to pick him despite being fully fit. Former Serbia boss Siniša Mihajlović has criticised Subotic for not being vocal enough on the football field and has previously been overlooked for someone who is more likely to take control of the defence.

Here’s the YouTube clip you were probably going to search for after reading this:

So, what would he do for Stoke City? Subotic’s quality and rounded attributes suggests that he would be a good fit for the Premier League. Current Stoke defender Philipp Wollscheid has been a success during the 15/16 season, however he has been criticised for his lack of pace. Perhaps this is an area in which Subotic can improve should he live up to expectations, keeping the defensive qualities of a good performing defender this season whilst improving in areas which can leave the defence susceptible to being attacked. Subotic may also help solve the crisis that Stoke have suffered with regarding set piece goals. The lack of leadership should be of little concern for Stoke should Ryan Shawcross stay fit, however it is that problem with Subotic that Stoke will be concerned about the most. Stoke’s defence has been plagued with injuries across the entire of the last season and surely Subotic would need to prove his fitness before joining, or Stoke risk adopting another defender that will spend more time in the treatment room than on the pitch.

This transfer could be a go-er. Surely the defender would want to reignite his career rather than potentially waste what could be the best parts of his career. Should the defender live up to expectations, prove his fitness and be willing to integrate suitably into Stoke’s wage structure, the club could be in for a steal of a transfer. However, as previously mentioned, Dortmund have already lost Mats Hummels to Bayern Munich and may look to renegotiate Subotic’s involvement rather than look for a replacement. Sunderland may also be a lucrative offer for Subotic: considering the quality and age of their central defenders, he may feels that he can almost be guaranteed first team football on Wearside. Should Stoke’s current contingent step up next season, Subotic could not feature as regularly as he expects depending on his initial performances. But this is a player worth watching, he could develop into a special player with the right environment and a little bit more luck with the injury gods.

Picking up players that were highly regarded at the start of their careers but have tailed off recently, that’s what Stoke are best at, right?

Written by Ben Rowley

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