It’s been a busy transfer window at Fir Park. No fewer than seven signings have…
Motherwell fans may have feared the worst two games into this season. A hammering at Hibs was followed by defeat to bitter rivals Hamilton at Fir Park. Perhaps there was now an air of expectation in Lanarkshire given Stephen Robinson’s side’s two trips to Hampden in the previous campaign. However, any worries seem to have been lifted with a battling draw against a new-look Rangers and a comprehensive win over a struggling Dundee.
The loss of Cedric Kipre and star striker Curtis Main struggling to score looked like a cause for concern. Conversely, since then a number of players have stepped up and shown that this Motherwell side remains well drilled and a force to be reckoned with. Danny Johnson has proven his worth and that he can add another dimension up top. Similarly, in the middle of the park, Andy Rose and Allan Campbell have been instrumental in the club’s turnaround. However, it’s Gael Bigirimana who has really shone so far this season.
The Burundi international has looked the player many fans hoped he’d be when he signed for the club. He only played eight full league games for Motherwell last term, but he’s fast becoming vital to his team.
Of course, it’s still early days but Bigirimana is giving fans a real flavour of what he’s about as a player. He’s always looking for the ball no matter what position he takes up. The 24-year-old will find a way to make space if he’s not available for a pass as he always wants to be an option. He compliments the likes of Campbell and Rose well and adds a bit of guile into Motherwell’s midfield.
Nobody has played more passes for the Steelmen in the 2018/19 season than Bigirimana (148). This highlights his willingness to pick up the ball and ability to keep his side ticking over. What’s even more encouraging for Motherwell fans is the 24-year-old’s passing accuracy. Of those 148 passes, 77% of them found a man in claret and amber shirt. Sure, Connor Sammon and Trever Carson have better accuracy but they also play significantly fewer passes than Bigirimana.
Simple passes are just one way of looking at Bigirimana’s role in this side. He may be a metronome of sorts that keeps Motherwell ticking, but he’s also significant to them going forward. Of the six through passes the Steelmen have made this season four of them were from the Burundi midfielder. Similarly, the 24-year-old has played more long balls this season than any other outfield player at Fir Park.
Again, when looking at passes to the final third Bigirimana comes out on top. So far this season he’s made 45 of these which is more than Rose (32), Peter Hartley (31), Richard Tait (30) and Carl McHugh (28). Around 60% of his passes are accurate which is a decent percentage, but lower than Rose and Hartley. That said, the 24-year-old’s higher overall number means he’s still played more successful passes into the final third.
Bigirimana has also impressed at set pieces. Not only can he deliver a killer cross but he’s shown he can also score from them. For a team like Motherwell, having someone who can play a dangerous ball into the box from dead ball situations is a massive plus. He’s shown this against Rangers and Dundee in the club’s last two league games. We know crosses from out wide were key to the Steelmen’s success last season. If they can continue that with the added threat of Bigirimana’s delivery at set pieces then they that can surely only be a positive.
The 24-year-old chipped in with four assists last season, but he’s already chalked up two this term. This is symbolic in showing how the player has hit the ground running this term and is performing at a level many hoped he would when he first signed for the Lanarkshire club. If he continues there’s no reason he can’t be one of the most effective in this category this season.
We’ve praised the steel Motherwell have in their side with the likes of Allan Campbell, Peter Hartley and Ryan Bowman – and rightly so. However, with Bigirimana they have a creative outlet and a player who can unlock a defence and offer something different. And the bottom line is, Motherwell are better as a result.