Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Has Anthony Martial finally found his feet at Manchester United?

Anthony Martial added another goal to his Manchester United record yesterday, continuing something of a purple patch for the Frenchman in terms of goal-scoring. Since arriving at Old Trafford in 2015, Martial has endured something of a rollercoaster ride, struggling to find much in the way of consistency.

Martial scores in the Manchester Derby again

Yesterday, Martial bagged the opening goal in the Manchester Derby to make him the first United player to score in both the home and away derby in a single season since Cristiano Ronaldo did it in 2006/07.

READ MORE: Manchester Derby – 5 things to note as United take all three points in the derby

His goal, albeit somewhat fortuitous, showed great technique to volley the ball into the bottom corner from Bruno Fernandes’ excellent little lobbed pass. I said it was fortuitous for two reasons: Ederson should have saved it and the free-kick from whence it came should absolutely not have been given.

Either way, Martial was good value for his goal and put in another very tasty display, earning him the second highest rating of anyone on the field from WhoScored – only Aaron Wan Bissaka was adjudged to have had a better game.

Martial is finding the net far more regularly…

Yesterday’s goal was the 16th goal of the season in all competitions for Anthony Martial, just one less than his record haul of 17 in a season – a total he achieved in his first season at Old Trafford back in 2015/16.

He seems absolutely destined to break that record and then go on to reach 20 goals for the first time in his career. To break down his goal-scoring record, Martial has 11 goals in 23 in the league, three goals in four matches in the Europa League, one goal in four in the Carabao Cup and one goal in three in the FA Cup.

Only Marcus Rashford has scored more goals than Martial this season, he currently sits on 19 goals having played two games less than the Frenchman – which highlights just how good a season Rashford has actually had.

Why has his form turned around so drastically?

There is an absolutely clear and obvious reason as to why his form in front of goal this season has changed – it’s because he’s actually playing as a number nine rather than a left winger. The statistics show from his time at United that he is far more effective through the middle.

In the 2015/16, wherein he recorded his record haul of 17 goals as a 19/20-year-old kid, Martial played 27 times through the middle and 25 on the left. For the next few seasons after that, he played predominately off the left.

In 2016/17, Martial played 42 times for Manchester United, playing on the left wing in 31 of those games and through the middle on seven occasions. In total, he managed just eight goals in this season – his worst season to date for United.

In 2017/18, Martial played 45 times scoring 11 goals. Of those 45 appearances, he started 28 games from the left wing and nine of them through the middle. He scored four times in his nine games through the middle and just six from his 28 games on the left.

Again, last season, Martial spent most of his time out on the wing. Of his 38 appearances in all competitions, he played 25 of them on the left wing and eight in the middle. He managed 12 goals in total last term.

Then we come to this season, Martial has 34 appearances in all competitions, starting 32 of them as a central striker. As mentioned earlier, he’s scored 16 goals and is on course for his best ever season in front of goal, proving once and for all that Anthony Martial is a striker – not a winger.

Consistency is key

Now, it’s time for Martial to go ahead and keep up his run. The one thing that has plagued him throughout his career at United so far is consistency. Scoring goals is one thing, but just playing poorly is a totally different thing.

This season, he has managed to gain some semblance of consistency. On WhoScored – they have his average match rating at 7.17 in the Premier League, fourth in the Manchester United squad. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes are the only three players ahead of him.

In the past, there have been far too many occasions in which Martial has simply gone missing in football matches, perhaps due to being stuck out on the wing. This season though, particularly since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, he has become an integral part of the United attack.

In the summer, there’s talk Martial could be on his way out of Manchester United – but if he can keep this form up, United won’t want to get rid of him even for a second. With Euro 2020 looming this summer, he’ll need to keep it up if he wants to become a significant part of Didier Deschamps’ plans.

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