The battle to be Manchester United’s first choice left back between Luke Shaw and Alex Telles is closer than ever.
Telles accompanied interim manager Ralf Rangnick to yesterday’s press conference ahead of tonight’s crucial Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, hinting that he could be starting the match even if Shaw has recovered fully from Covid-19.
Shaw’s form this season has been patchy, whilst Telles, who struggled in his first year at the club, has improved.
It is generally assumed that Shaw is the more solid option defensively while Telles offers more in attack, but the season’s statistics, interestingly, do not bear out that assumption.
Shaw has played 19 Premier League games this season (18 starts) whereas Telles has played 13, with 11 starts. This gives a good amount of minutes to compare between the two.
Telles just has the edge for overall sofascore rating per game, with 6.95 against Shaw’s 6.89 (source of this and other stats: sofascore.com).
In terms of offensive stats, the pair are pretty similar. Telles has twice as many shots per game (0.6 vs. 0.3) with the same ratio on target (0.2 vs. 0.1). They have registered the same proportion of assists but Shaw has created more big chances (0.26 per game vs Telles’ 0.07).
But in defensive stats, Telles comes out as the stronger of the two. He makes twice as many interceptions as Shaw (1 per game vs 0.5), more than twice as many tackles (2.7 vs. 1.1), has won possession slightly more often (0.5 vs. 0.4 per game) and makes almost twice as many clearances (1.7 vs. 0.9).
This perhaps should give Telles the edge in terms of who should be the first choice.
Obviously the Premier League is far more difficult than the Portuguese League, but it could also be argued that the Brazilian is still yet to find the kind of form that prompted United to sign him in the first place.
In 2019/20, playing for FC Porto, Telles scored 11 goals and provided 8 assists in 31 league games, a phenomenal record for a full back.
In fairness, it should also be said that Shaw’s form of 2020/21 earned him a player of the year award and would probably tip the balance back in his favour were he to rediscover it.
It is a fascinating contest and one that will hopefully bring out the best of both players as the season draws to a close.