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Why is Lisandro Martinez so Important to Manchester United?

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Analysis by @ThreadmanChaza

We’ve all been impressed by Martinez’s technical ability, but Ten Hag also values the personality and attitude that he brings to the team. As he goes by the nickname “El carnicero”- the “butcher”, he plays with his heart on his sleeve.

Quoting from Erik ten Hag’s biography – “The person is worth more to me than the athlete”. Ten Hag values human traits that a player has. If you think about the signings that Ten Hag has made so far, the common themes are hard working, good attitude, drive to help the team.


Watch the video in the tweet below for an example of a type of action that shows Lisandro Martinez’s nature. Putting his body on the line for the team, which is why he is so loved by the whole fanbase.

Martinez’s passing through the lines is absolutely brilliant. Whenever he does pass into midfield players, his passes are always crisp, with the right weight, which allows the receiver to turn with the ball and progress United further up the pitch.

Having Lisandro Martinez as part of United’s build-up means we can turn seemingly difficult situations into promising ones, as he remains so calm under pressure. An example below from the Betis game.

The Argentine defender can shift his body to repel pressers and change passing angles. Lisandro uses his short frame to full effect, by shifting his body really quickly which allows him to get out of tight situations by opening up new passing angles.

When United cannot bypass a press from the opposition by playing between the lines, Lisandro has the ability to play lofted passes in behind, for our attackers to run onto. In the example below against Liverpool he finds Elanga who makes a run in behind.

We have also seen Raphaël Varane’s ability to carry the ball over large distances. This means that we have a nice mixture of progressive attributes between our two Centre-Backs.

Ten Hag also likes to move one of his CBs ahead of the ball, to pull an opposition player with them, which can open up a passing lane to another player. We have used both Martinez and Varane in this way this season. Ajax carried out this type of move regularly under Ten Hag.

Erik ten Hag likes to create overloads in the final 3rd, in order to disrupt an opponent’s defensive shape and create numerical superiority in the final 3rd. By doing this, we have often seen United lining up in a 3-1-6/2-3-5 and 3-2-5 shape in possession. This obviously can leave us vulnerable to counter attacks. But with Lisandro Martinez’s aggression and good reading of the game, he often uses his aggressive, on the front foot defending to stop attacks from the opposition as quickly as possible.

This means that United regain possession more often, and stop the opposition from creating as many opportunities in transition, meaning we can sustain attacks, tire opposition teams out and control more games. Martinez has won 69.5% of his ground duels this season (via Wyscout).

When Martinez joined Manchester United, he was written off by many for being “too small to play in the Premier League”. The clip below shows how Martinez deals with one of the most aerially dominant players in the league, James Tarkowski. Lisandro uses his aggressive nature to win duels against players who are taller than him in stature and deals with loose duels really well. He seems to have a sixth sense of how to deal with these types of situations- he often makes awkward duels look comfortable.

It is important to use context when looking his aerial duel win %- which is 49.5% (via Wyscout), because Martinez might lose an aerial duel, but he makes it a difficult duel for the opponent to win, so we often regain possession from a loose ball.

Ten Hag used the CB partnership of Martinez and Timber previously, as he values the progressive attributes from his defenders over aerial ability. The chain of reasoning here is that if you dominate more games of football with more technical footballers, with more possession in the opposition’s half, you tend to concede fewer set piece opportunities. Hence, the need for taller profiles in the squad reduces somewhat. Of course you need a balance, but United have that with Dalot, Shaw, Casemiro, who are all strong in the air.

Furthermore, a more dominant GK who claims a greater volume of crosses would mean that our players would have to face fewer duels in the box (extra protection). There will be occasions when Martinez gets beaten in the air, but building a strong, cohesive team is all about amplifying the strengths of players, as well as masking their weaknesses. And if United do that with Martinez, by signing a new GK, of a similar profile to Diogo Costa, then I think Martinez’s stature will not be an issue. I think that a new RCB will also be signed this summer. If we sign a ball playing CB, this could take some of the responsibility away from Martinez when United are building up from the back- it would give us an extra progressive passing outlet from deep that Varane does not provide as frequently.

Therefore, Lisandro Martinez is the cornerstone of Manchester United’s build-up play and aggressive off the ball approach. Hopefully, he will be ready for United’s pre-season tour, so we can embed him back into the team with some new signings. Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelöf have deputised well for Lisandro at left centre-back, but getting him back into the team is vital, so that United can build on this year’s successful season in 2023/2024.

Follow @ThreadmanChaza for more quality analysis on Twitter!

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