Manchester United: Lisandro Martinez has won more aerial duels than any defensive partner

Lisandro Martinez, a diminutive centre-back, rises to the challenge in the Premier League and has won as many aerial duels and tackles in the early stages of the season as any other Manchester United defender.

At just 5 feet 9 inches tall, Martinez is the shortest center back in the Serie A, but so far at least he has defied his critics.

The Argentine’s rise raised eyebrows when he joined United for £57m from Ajax this summer. Sky Sports expert and Liverpool legend Graeme Souness doubts the “vertical challenged” defender’s prospects in the Premier League.

Questions have been asked about Lisandro Martinez’s ability in the air after joining Man United

“I was worried to come up with anyone who played in the Premier League or actually [old] “The first class was that big and it was a success,” Souness told TalkSPORT last week.

“He’s not particularly special in anything,” Souness said. ‘I would say he’s bitchy and he’s aggressive. The other thing I don’t like about it is that it goes to the ground really fast. This is not a good sign for a defender.

However, Martinez, who worked with Eric Ten Hag in the Netherlands, quickly became a fan favorite due to his fighting displays, which were a key part of United’s four Premier League win streak, including Sunday’s impressive 3-1 win over Arsenal. .

In his first two games of the season, United charged six goals, including a youthful 4-0 away defeat to Brentford when the defender was hooked in the first half after being physically bullied by Bee striker Evan Toni, but went on to win duels, both In the air or on the ground.

Martinez now leads United’s center stage for both the percentage of heads won and the number of tackles he takes out with the ball. He’s contested 12 aerobics, lost only three, come back 75 percent, and got the ball back for his team in seven out of eight competitions.

Commentator Graeme Souness was unimpressed by Martinez's start of the season with United

Commentator Graeme Souness was unimpressed by Martinez’s start of the season with United

But the 5-foot-9-inch centre-back is so far proving the critics wrong, winning with headers and tackles

But the 5-foot-9-inch centre-back is so far proving the critics wrong, winning with headers and tackles

Manchester United won the air in 2022-23
player Antennas beat lost antennas % won – profit
Lisandro Martinez 9 3 75%
Raphael Varane 18 6 75%
Tyrrell Malacia 5 4 56%
Harry Maguire 7 3 70%
Diogo Dalot 8 7 53%
Source: Fbref

By comparison, ineligible captain Harry Maguire, 6ft 4in (1.93m), who finished off with Martinez in the closing stages against Arsenal, battled 10 high balls and lost three, giving him a success rate of 70 each time. cent.

Last season, Martinez, who was playing for Ajax in the Eredivisie, was on equal footing with Maguire and both won seven out of ten aerial duels all season.

Last weekend, against Southampton, the hosts immediately sought to put Martinez under pressure by forcing him to compete on the air, but he stood exceptionally well, winning five of his five heads.

At home against Arsenal he was less successful, winning one and losing two aerobics, but his overall success rate remains high and consistent with his performances in the Netherlands.

Martinez’s central defensive partner, Rafael Varane, with a height of 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) absorbs the lion’s share of any aerial bombardment. He has competed for 24 highballs this season and lost six.

It makes sense to deploy the “big player”, wherever conditions permit, and Martinez has competed for fewer antennas than many of the defensive players in these early weeks. He can expect more on his way, but his win percentage still compares well.

Co-defendant Raphael Varane won less headers than Martinez

Co-defendant Raphael Varane won less headers than Martinez

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk considers one of the best defensive headers in the Premier League

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk considers one of the best defensive headers in the Premier League

Among the best are Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, who has won 87 per cent of his 31 aerial duels, Everton’s James Tarkowski with 81 per cent of 32 and Tottenham’s Eric Dier 75 per cent of 28, but Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham has Only 50 percent of the 20.

Souness isn’t the first person to doubt Martinez’s ability to air. His height was tied to the coaches at his first club in Argentina, Newell’s Old Boys, but the player did not get upset and developed a massive leap to overcome the lack of inches.

They were a bit worried about the issue of height [at Newell’s]Martinez recalls earlier. “But it was something I never gave any importance to.”

However, it would be great to watch him in the English Premier League. Not least, because number nine is back this season.

Bournemouth Welsh giants Kiefer Moore and Norwegian newcomer Erling Haaland at Manchester City, who are six feet five feet, eight inches taller than Martinez.

Martinez proved to be an aggressive defender and was quickly received by the crowd

Martinez proved to be an aggressive defender and was quickly received by the crowd

Martinez starred in the Champions League against Haaland, stopping Dortmund's attacks

Martinez starred in the Champions League against Haaland, stopping Dortmund’s attacks

Souness suggests that Martinez be eventually discovered.

“I think he will have a hard test and find out to go forward. Against [Erling] Haaland, [Darwin] Nunez or [Aleksandar] Mitrovic, my dear, there will be a mismatch.

However, this will not necessarily be the case. The defender did not face any problems against Haaland in the Champions League last season.

In fact, Haaland’s aerial ability is one of the few aspects of his game that he might need to work on, which is surprising for a tall guy. In the Premier League, he has lost nine out of 13 aerial fights, only succeeding in just under a third, although he wouldn’t be particularly concerned as he is the division’s top scorer with 10.

Harry Maguire, who was replaced by Martinez, had a similar record last season

Harry Maguire, who was replaced by Martinez, had a similar record last season

And of the 141 goals in your career, only 12 were with headers – including one from close range this season.

He also faced Martinez Nunez (6 feet 2 inches / 1.89 m) when Ajax faced his former team Benfica in the last 16 of the Champions League last season.

Benfica won 3-2 on aggregate and Nunez headed home from a corner kick in the second leg. In both games, Ajax struggled to deal with the aerial threat posed by Benfica, but it was Martinez’s central defensive partner, Jurrien Timber, who was just 5ft 10in, who was overtaken by Nunez to take the win.

Mitrovic, at 6 feet 2 inches/1.89 m, is a troublemaker for everyone in the air and on the ground, and is the league’s second-best scorer with six goals including two headers.

However, the early days of the season and Martinez’s career at Old Trafford. Everyone in United’s defense positions currently has a long way to go to keep up with the giants that came before them.

During his 11 seasons in which he has racked up six Premier League titles, Rio Ferdinand has won 315 of 493 air fights in the Premier League, with a 64 per cent win rate, while his defensive partner, Nemanja Vidic, has won 707 of the 962 air fights in the league. , or 73 percent, on his way to five championships.

Martinez is still finding his feet at United, but his height isn’t holding him back yet.

Rio Ferdinand (left) and Nemanja Vidic have formed a fearsome defensive partnership at United

Rio Ferdinand (left) and Nemanja Vidic have formed a fearsome defensive partnership at United