Lisandro Martínez: The good and the bad versus Brighton

ballprogression
By ballprogression
9 Min Read
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Lisandro Martinez finally made his long-awaited debut for Manchester United against Brighton & Hove Albion in Man United’s 1st game of the new Premier League season. Potter’s Brighton took the lead and built on it before United pulled one back and almost got back into the game after two controversial decisions almost swayed the result. In the end, Brighton took home the 2-1 victory and deservedly so.

He started the game as the left centre back alongside Harry Maguire in a four at the back with Luke Shaw accompanying him at left-back. The opposition striker? None other than United’s unforgotten former player Danny Welbeck.

Manchester-United-first-eleven-versus-Brighton

Straight away you could assume that Lisandro would be tested from different angles. Despite Welbeck being “past his best”, the forward always poses a problem for defenders. The size, the speed and good back to goal game have posed a threat to much bigger fish than Lisandro over the years but what’s interesting about this one is that Welbeck is your classical PL striker and a stylistic mismatch for Martinez. Let’s get into it.

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Brighton went long for large parts of the game. Lallana spoke after game that they wanted to be more direct because they know United have been pressing well this pre-season and that they wanted to ask questions of ‘the new signing’ early on, indirectly speaking about Lisandro.

Martinez had a tough game, but remained solid on the ball and pushed up anytime he could. 

We didn’t have to wait long to find out what Brighton were cooking up. Long ball from Sanchez aimed at Welbeck, who either tried to win the flick on or step onto the ball and play a runner in. Martinez started the game well but as the game progressed, Welbeck got the better of him in duels.

[ABOVE] Martinez pushes Welbeck onto traffic in hope of unsettling him before an oncoming ball and proceeds to take the ball away from him from his blindside

There’s a reason why I said they’re a stylistic mismatch. Welbeck is a hardworker who can do everything at an OK level. And he won’t stop moving. Here he shows him the ropes of what to expect from PL forwards. He draws him in high, lays it off and makes a run beyond him. Martinez just about gets something on Welbeck in the end but he has to be aware of these type of runs. Fred/McTominay do a horrendous job of leaving the middle so wide open. 

[ABOVE] Welbeck escapes and runs in behind Martinez before losing his footing

Sanchez looks for Welbeck once again in the same manner. This right here is a much bigger problem for Martinez and United than losing out on an aerial duel here and there. If an attacker can pin you down and practically use you as a shield, you’re in trouble in this league. This of course happens to defenders all the time but it cannot happen on a constant basis. Something to keep an eye on. McTominay falling asleep once again.

[ABOVE] Martinez gets rolled on a high ball leaving space for runners to run into, he shows good awareness to win the header in the box after that

I do think Martinez is a smart defender who looks to use as much of his body as he can in duels. He has that “dark arts” style where he provokes attackers with his positioning and combative nature while not overstepping it. I think most of his problems come from a physical standpoint. But that’s where he’ll need the surrounding crew to do their job. Varane and him could find common ground considering he used to do that sweeper role for Ramos over the years.

[ABOVE] Martinez shows how alert he is in the box, he deals with the cross well and while Welbeck does sniff some space out, he remains very close in the whole sequence before blocking the ball

[ABOVE] Martinez definitely looks like he’s more comfortable defending higher up the pitch where he can sneak up on attackers and intercept the ball

Brighton’s direct style eventually paid off when Trossard played in a beautiful ball through United’s defence which sliced them open. Maguire fails to adjust the line with Martinez and Martinez can’t catch the marauding Welbeck who picks out Gross at the back post. 

[ABOVE] Maguire was milimetres away from a successful offside trap but he failed to recognize the line Martinez was holding

Although he didn’t have the opportunity to display all of his passing range, he’s shown he’s comfortable on the ball while his turning radius doesn’t limit him of options (unlike Maguire).

[ABOVE] Simple passing was the theme of the game for Martinez, he ended the game with 80 passes at a 94% accuracy

He showed composure when pressed in some situations but he did have a blunder just at the end of the 1st half where Brighton set up a good trap for him…

[ABOVE] Martinez deals with the press

[ABOVE] Brighton set him a trap and he loses the ball

He’s a very aggressive CB but he does stuff like this all the time. It’s not a foul but the slight smart push wins the ball and throws Trossard off balance. Most referees won’t call this, this is why I like to jokingly refer to as dark arts.

[ABOVE] He takes up a good position to block off a very dangerous passing lane which opened up and eventually nudges Trossard off balance to win the ball

But he can’t allow himself to be overly aggressive in the box with VAR around. Welbeck baits him into it and he bites. VAR checks it but doesn’t call it. He has to be more careful.

[ABOVE] Welbeck was going away from goal and Martinez shouldn’t have barged into him, simple closing of the angle across his body would do

Towards the end of the game, he finds himself in a sticky situation from a Webster long ball but manages to correct United’s and his mistake by tracking the runner and clearing the danger. 

[ABOVE] Lisandro shows good awareness to clear the danger in the end, bad shape from United and him included – influenced by chasing the goal but not a good look

IN CONCLUSION

Overall Martinez had a performance where he found out what the Premier League is ready to throw at him. He’s a calm passer and a warrior at heart with but he’ll have to get used to CFs like him. His overall small stature is not something you can fully successfully hide BUT (and I cannot stress this enough) United need a working system and a midfield which actually functions for him to do well. McTominay and Fred did a terrible job covering for him all game. For his size and frame, he uses his body well and looks like a good defender who loves defending. His lack of presence is an obvious disadvantage at times, although he will definitely be a pest for attackers higher up the pitch due to his aggressive style. If United can become a ball-dominant team anywhere near the range of Man City, he’ll look infinitely better. Only time will tell with this Manchester United side.

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