Anthony Martial has been one of those players for Manchester United this season that his performances have been making people go into two camps. One part of the fans has been satisfied with what they have seen so far from the Frenchman and the other part is unhappy with his performances in a team where his role has grown this season.
Martial is a much more important player for United now then he was at the start of the last season and a big part of that is the fact that United have a smaller squad with less experienced players in his position. This season, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he has been expected to score more and create more, to taking a bigger burden onto his shoulders and then deliver.
Let’s see how has he done so far.
Scoring And Creating
Martial has played around 1650 minutes for Man United in Premier League and Europa League this season, two main competitions the team is part of. He scored eight goals in the league and two in Europe, with three assists in the league, too. That is a decent output, considering that last season he scored ten and he could easily get past it and also his personal best, those 11 league goals he scored in his first season at the club.
But that is the fact. That season came four years ago and Martial still has not made a big enough improvement in his game. There is also the small matter of him now having to step up his game, as United are much more reliant on him and Marcus Rashford.
Underlying Numbers Should Be Better
Looking at expected goals, Martial is bringing in just 0.39 xG per 90 minutes he spends on the pitch. For someone who is a forward at Man United, getting to around 1.00 xG in three matches is not good enough. He is contributing 0.50 xG per match if we added expected assists to that count and that is far from elite. Elite strikers are getting to around 0.6 xG on its own, without creating for others.
But that is the fact. Martial is neither elite, nor striker. His movements off the ball are not good enough for someone who is the main striker at such a big club. Sure, he is still 24 and will get better, but it is clear that Martial’s best comes when he is coming in from the wing, when he does not have to time his runs for the oncoming through balls.
For a player who is not shooting at an elite level (2.7 shots per 90), Martial is doing okay. He is even overperforming his xG by a goal and a half, but even that overperforming is not bringing too much. Martial needs to get into better positions and it seems like that part of his game simply does not come naturally to him. A big part in Martial also not always getting into great positions is the structure of the team behind him, that has been lacking a lot to it. In the end, some of the stick Martial has been getting was over the top, but it is the fact Martial should be offering more to this team, as well as the team to him.