|Image from Daily Express|
Anthony Martial is one of many players whose abilities and attitude have been doubted and debated since the beginning of his Manchester United career. He has been one of United’s best players this season and having been compared to Thierry Henry since his arrival from Monaco five years ago, we should question whether he does deserve as much praise from United fans or as much criticism and doubts from rivals as he gets.
Manchester United and France Career So Far:
Having joined Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United side in the eleventh hour of the Deadline Day in 2015, Anthony Martial signed a four year deal for a fee of £36m potentially rising to £58m (currenly at £43m) and becoming the most expensive teenager, replacing United compatriot, Luke Shaw. His performances would be scrutinised and criticised not only because of the price tag but the fact that he was a United player. However he immediately silenced the critics with a stunning debut goal against Liverpool followed by a brace at Southampton and a MOTM performance against Sunderland winning the Premier League POTM award in his first month at the club.
However, after a great first season with 11 Premier League goals and 17 in all competitions, Martial had to impress another giant of a manager with Jose Mourinho coming into the Old Trafford hot seat and despite starting the first few games under Mourinho and notching two assists in the 3-1 win away to Bournemouth, his performance level dropped and so was he with Rashford recalled to the starting lineup. Despite small veins of form during the season, Martial failed to keep up with his impressive debut campaign and only scored 8 goals in the whole season.
This was factored into starting the 2017/18 season on the bench with Rashford returning to the left but Martial found form in the first half of the season and forced his way back into the side with 11 goals until the end of January. It was at this point, Martial’s form fell of a cliff with the introduction of Alexis Sanchez forcing Martial either on the right or on the bench and failed to score for the rest of the season and links to Sevilla, Arsenal and Spurs rising in the summer as his contract was set to end at the end of the 2018/19 season.
As a result of these problems at the beginning of the season and a poor pre-season, Martial began the campaign on the bench once again but after poor form from the likes of Sanchez and Rashford, Martial was re-introduced to the starting XI at the end of September and scored his first goal of the season against Young Boys and followed up with six goals in five games in the Premier League. Solskjaer’s introduction gave Martial more confidence in his abilities and it would seem the club as he signed a new deal until 2023 and scored his highest season tally since his debut season with 12 goals in 38 games with eight under Mourinho and four under Solskjaer.
After Lukaku’s departure, Martial recieved his number 9 shirt back after three years of wearing Ryan Giggs’ infamous number 11 and demonstrated a clear change in Martial’s position for the season as he beganthe season as a centre forward with Rashford moved to the left hand side. The Frenchman has had an impressive season scoring 16 goals in 34 matches and despite missing two full months due to an injury suffered against Crystal Palace, he is United’s second top goalscorer this season with only Marcus Rashford reaching a higher tally (19).
For France, Anthony Martial has been overlooked more than most and has only reached 18 caps for the senior team since making his debut in 2015. He was part of the team that finished second in the Euros in 2016 but failed to make it to the World Cup 2018 or the Nations League 2019 squads as Dechamps chose Thauvin, Lemar and Fekir ahead of Martial as his end to 2018 was less than impressive. Nevertheless with the Euros postponed to 2021, Martial will hope to force his way back in if his form and fitness prevail next season.
Stats – Is he as good as fans say?
After the sharp drop in form from the 2016/17 season, Anthony Martial gradually regained his form and hunger for goals, scoring 11 in 45 in the 2017/18 season, 12 in 38 last season and this season has 16 in 34 games. He has a total of 64 goals for Manchester United in 208 matches which on its own amounts to a goal every 3.25 matches or 0.31 goals a game. Including his 34 assists, totals a goal involvement every 2.12 games or 0.48 goals/assists a game.
On its own, this statistic seems impressive. However, he has played a total of 13,835 minutes for Manchester United in his five seasons at the club and totals a goal average of a goal every 216 minutes (2.38 matches) and when factoring his assists, demonstrates Martial scores/assists every 142 minutes (1.58 matches). This demonstrates that even when he was not at his best or even starting a match, Martial regularly helped Manchester United with goals and assists from the age of 19 to 24. He has shown himself to be a regular goalscorer and creator of chances but he is also a game-winner and has scored 17 game-winning goals for Manchester United (Transfermarkt.com) most noteably his winning goal in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Everton, the winner at home to Spurs in the 2017/18 season and his winners against Manchester City home and away this season.
His clinical finishing is something that has been praised by fans, pundits and his managers alike as he has a ratio of a goal from every 5.49 shots and, more specifically, 2.48 shots on target in his Premier League career (PremierLeague.com). To compare to some of the best finishers in the Premier League:
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (30y/o): 1 goal every 3.88 shots and 1.76 shots on target
Sadio Mane (27 y/o): 1 goal every 5.25 shots and 2.25 shots on target
Sergio Aguero (31y/o): 1 goal every 5.51 shots and 2.28 shots on target
Harry Kane (26 y/o): 1 goal every 5.54 shots and 2.49 shots on target
Mohammed Salah (27 y/o): 1 goal every 5.58 shots and 2.51 shots on target
These stats should demonstrate why Martial is and should be regarded as one of the best finishers and goalscoring talents in the Premier League being almost as clinical as Sergio Aguero and better than the likes of Kane, Salah, Son and Sterling (the latter two were not even close). What’s more is that while the finishers mentioned above are older than the 24 year old, Martial has even more potential to improve and under one of the best finishers in Premier League history, he will no doubt become an even better goalscorer especially with the combined efforts of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba pulling the strings in midfield.