Home » Manchester United’s hunt for a Centre-back – Part Two – Lisandro Martinez

Manchester United’s hunt for a Centre-back – Part Two – Lisandro Martinez

by David O'Neill

This three-part series looks at the three most heavily linked options Erik ten Hag has to add a left footer to his central defensive roster.

Using Opta data acquired from Squawka along with our own insights and observations, we aim to see how the transfer targets stack up against one another.

In Part One, we took a look at Pau Torres and his impressive space-covering and playmaking abilities, although we also noted the surprising weaknesses in his aerial game.

As shown from comparisons drawn between Torres and Jules Kounde, height is not the “be-all, end-all” when fighting for headers, and despite standing at just 5’10” Lisandro Martinez – the subject of Part Two – has shown himself to be a real force in the air.

His aerial duel success rate of 70.18% is higher than Sebastien Haller, Edson Alvarez or anyone else in the Ajax squad.

Contesting 5.4 duels per 90 – twice as many as defensive partner Jurrien Timber – demonstrates the Argentine’s front foot style of defending.

These impressive statistics are a result of not only his aggression, but also his excellent leap, which he times very well.

While many would argue that the Premier League may ask too much of Lisandro to keep up these numbers, an analogy could be made between the Ajax defender and Victor Lindelof, who has struggled with the aerial side of his game in the past.

In his last season at SL Benfica, Lindelof had an aerial success rate of just 58.97%, contesting only 3.7 per 90.
His first season in England saw an abysmal 46.81% success rate, while his second showed a marked improvement to 62.73% – better even than his percentage in Portugal.

So although it would be reasonable to expect Lisandro to initially struggle to maintain such freakishly good aerial numbers, the Sweden International shows that both adaptation and even improvement is possible.

And while Lindelof has never been an aerially dominant defender, Martinez most certainly is, and for that reason one should be willing to look past his height in favour of such positive statistics.

Those statistics are about as positive as you would expect of a diminutive defender when it comes to covering space (with an impressive 8.9 ball recovering per 90’) and dribbling out from the back (with 1.3 take-ons per game at a 75% success rate).

Those figures bear a similarity to Pau Torres’ numbers, although one may want to consider the quality of opposition when comparing the Eredivisie man to his La Liga counterpart.

Reports say that Ajax have slapped a €50 million (£43m) asking price on the Argentinian, but that might not deter United.

In Part Three we will take a look at an Iberian starlet who could represent a calculated gamble, before wrapping up the series.

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