The Jesse Lingard Conundrum

Jesse Lingard had far from a great season for Manchester United. On the back of a strong World Cup, where he was very useful for Gareth Southgate’s unusual mix of the squad, it was expected that the 26-year old will bring more to the Devils in the next 10 months.

However, that did not happen. In fact, his season was way below what he did in 2017-18 and after the confirmed appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it is a question of how much playing time the player will have in 2019-20. Only one goal in 16 appearances in 2019 is not good and a deeper look into his numbers is not making things any better.

In Front Of The Goal

Jesse Lingard was not good in terms of creating chances and scoring goals this season. With four goals and two assists in Premire League across 1670 minutes on the pitch is underwhelming. That is 0.32 goals+assists per 90 minutes, which offers good insight into why many consider Lingard a squad player at best. His expected goals and assists combined are rounding up to exactly 8.00, which means Lingard’s low numbers slightly below of what was expected.

But, it is worth pointing out that Lingard scored three and assisted two goals in the three consecutive matches in December – in Mourinho’s last and Solskjaer’s first two games at the helm. That is only one goal in the remaining 24 Premier League appearances. Simply – not good. With 1.7 shots per 90 and 0.9 key passes per 90, one can only realise that it is obvious why Lingard cannot do better.

What Lingard Actually Does?

Many will point out the lack of necessary output from Lingard, mostly in terms of goals and assists. For a player that is playing so high up the pitch, that can be a burden, especially when United are far from a creative side. But one thing where Lingard is quite good is pressing. Guys at the Statsbomb have been measuring pressures per 90 minutes and Lingard does very well in that list.

Lingard is 7th in this list, with 27.3 pressures per 90. That is a BIG! number. However, Lingard’s usefulness in this regard points out another thing – the only players ahead of him play for bottom half Premier League teams, with the exception of Will Hughes. And those teams tend to be without the ball for large spells of the game. It is easy to conclude that Lingard does much more when he does not have the ball and that is what Southgate tried to get from him at the World Cup – energy and movement both when England are attacking and defending.

At Man United that is not easy, because the team was often disjointed, without a real plan in both directions of play and without a coherent pressing system. Those are all the things Lingard needs so that his qualities can be seen to a bigger extent.


Also, this second list of pressure regains – when players actual regain possession – points out another interesting thing. Lingard does win the ball back a lot, but that also do Bernardo Silva, Dele Alli and Roberto Firmino, players who mostly offer a lot of other things in attack. They are less one-dimensional than Lingard.

That begs the question what the future will hold for Lingard. At 26, he is close to his peak years and it is hard seeing him becoming a player who will be regular starter for years to come. His biggest qualities can come as a squad player, but in a better, more coherent structure than the one we have seen this past season.

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