Manchester United are expected to make a follow-up attempt to sign Antony from Ajax in a money-spinning deal that could end up being worth as much as €95m.
This had led to reasonable questions over whether the player could ever live up to such a fee. However, the numbers suggest that United could well be right to go so high.
While Antony was reportedly considered by Liverpool as a replacement for Mohammed Salah should he have left this summer, the Brazilian arguably has more stylistically in common with Sadio Mane.
The Ajax winger is a silky dribbler with great pace and an exceptional work rate.
And while left-footed, Antony could bring to United what Liverpool have been missing in their first three matches of the season.
Eight goals and four assists in 23 Eredivisie appearances may not seem sensational at first glance, but the fact that he registered two and four in seven Champions League appearances last season already suggests a player capable of stepping up.
The fact that he has scored three times in crucial games against PSV Eindhoven reinforces that view.
At 22, those surface-value numbers have time to improve regardless. But what looks most interesting of all, are Antony’s underlying numbers.
When Whoscored calculated his strong points according to their statistical data, here are the strengths they listed:
“Passing, Holding on to the ball, Key passes, Finishing, Dribbling, Long shots, Crossing, Through balls”
💪 Antony – Statistically calculated WhoScored strengths:
🟢 Holding on to the ball
🟢 Key passes
🟢 Long shots
🟢 Through balls pic.twitter.com/orB3zzWgV6
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 30, 2022
It is difficult to imagine many other attributes being relevant to a wide attacker, and many of those strengths are corroborated by Squawka’s Comparison Matrix.
Squawka uses Opta stats to compare players across different leagues. Here we have compared his last season to Mane’s and Riyad Mahrez’s:
While the number of categories in favour of Antony can be put down somewhat to league quality, they are an interesting reminder of what Erik ten Hag expects from his wingers and where the Brazilian can excel.
Having more Ball Recoveries per match than either Premier League winger – both of whom play in high-pressing sides – is notable. He also completes more take-ons, more passes and substantially more open play crosses per 90 than either. That is a sign that he would be highly involved in Manchester United’s plan to make use of wide areas.
His fbref stats only include his Champions League encounters, but they show a similar story.
Compared to all attacking midfielders and wingers in the Big Five league and European competitions, he ranks in the top 9% for Progressive carries, Progressive passes, and Touches in the Attacking penalty area. Additionally, he is in the top 1% for Progressive passes received, Total Shots, and Assists.
He is also in the top 2% for Interceptions, so he does all of the above while diligently earning possession back for his team.
It is a scary level of involvement and underlines his potential importance should he arrive at Old Trafford.
Using Smarterscout to compare the three players based on their Champions League performances last season also paints Antony in a favourable light:
He comfortably outranks the pair for Attacking Output and Shot Volume, performs admirably for Ball Retention and Link-Up Volume and is the absolute best for Ball Recoveries.
Understanding why Manchester United want Antony badly enough to stump up €95m may require a little digging, but that does not make them wrong to do so. In fact, past experiences may have convinced them that this is the right thing to do.
After all, when Liverpool signed Mane for £37m from Southampton, decision makers at Old Trafford considered him to be grossly overpriced.
With the benefit of hindsight, were they right?
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