Anthony Martial has struggled this season to make any sort of impact, compared to his superb debut season at Manchester United. The young French starlet could end up costing United around £60million (through adds on), but based upon his first season at Old Trafford – it will be a bargain if he can produce that type of form on a consistent basis.
Unfortunately, Martial has struggled post the FA Cup final and has continued his withdrawn form that was evident throughout the European Championship in the summer. You would have expected Martial to have featured heavily in Didier Deschamps’ lineup, however – he was limited to a few substitute appearances, making zero impact.
United’s number 11, formerly 9, will be a big player for United this season and will not doubt be back terrorising defenders as he did for so long last season. However, there is a one issue that needs to be addressed…
Marital’s head hasn’t looked right over the past few months, despite a much improved performance against Arsenal on Saturday. No one knows what is going through the youngster head at the moment, but he doesn’t seem right since reports emerged of problems in his private life that came to attention towards the end of last season. For all the talent in the world, it can be mentally draining for a player to keep a certain level when there are issues at home. Some fans will argue about his transfer fee or high wages should ensure that he is constantly focused, but Martial is a young lad and is still maturing. Personal problems can massively impact how a player performs on the pitch and to break up with your wife at such a young age can have a physiological impact.
The one area that Martial excels at is to take on the full back on the outside and dart towards the touchline. His pace usually ensures that he leaves the fullback for dead before stroking the ball with the outside of his right boot to get him in on goal for a shot or a low cross. He has done this time and time again over the past twelves months, but those powerful runs have now become a rarity when Martial is on the pitch. This all comes down to confidence and the belief that he can indeed burst past the opposition with ease. That goal against Liverpool on his debut was something of pure class and should be a reminder for those doubters of the youngster’s immense talent and character to deliver in one of the biggest fixtures of the season.
Some players are resilient and mentality so strong that off field issues do not seem to phase them. Sir Alex Ferguson once stated that David Beckham never thought he had a bad game nor made a mistake. Eric Cantona was equally strong minded with confidence in his own ability, which of course assisted his decision in being able to call time at Old Trafford aged only 30. Cantona would be able to take a penalty in the most hostile of environments; chest puffed out awaiting the ref’s whistle before sending the keeper the wrong way (usually the case, despite missing two penalties in his final season). Martial has a lot of weight on those young shoulders and has a lot to deliver over the next few years considering the enormous fee paid by United for his services. His lack of confidence is what is holding him back at the moment.
Martial hit 17 goals in his first season at United. That is a very good return for a player who made under fifty appearances in Ligue 1. Thierry Henry, who was 22 when he came to Arsenal in 1999/00, is a player Martial is often compared to – and the all time top Arsenal goalscorer hit 26 goals in his debut season, but in the following one the Frenchman was four goals worse off. United greats of the past could not hit the same return as Martial on their debut season. Mark Hughes hit five, George Best hit six, whilst Wayne Rooney notched up 17 – the same as Martial. The current United captain has also struggled on the pitch (think of 2009/10 when he hit 34 goals, only to get 16 the following season) when he has had personal issues off of it. For Marital, who turns 21 the day after United travel to Everton, the talent and potential is there.
Martial’s laid back style can sometimes look like he isn’t interested. Dimitar Berbatov used to suffer from the same criticism, however – the Bulgarian wasn’t blessed with speed whereas Martial can burst into life at any time. He draws defenders in before giving the ball and accelerating towards goal to receive the pass – this is where United fans want to see the youngster this season so that he can add to his 19 goals that he has already amassed for the club. For the player that scored that memorable goal in September 2015, this period is simply a key stage of his development as he looks to get his mind back on playing football and evolving into the world class player he has the potential to become.