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Is Jesse Lingard delivering on his promise?

Whilst Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene and forced his way into the first team squad, Jesse Lingard’s ascension was more of a slow creep in through the back door. Part of the 2011 FA Youth Cup winning U18’s side, alongside the likes of Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison, and Tom Thorpe, Jesse Lingard was never singled out as one of the ‘stars’ of that generation but was well-known as a promising and hard-working member of the team. Now a fully fledged senior squad member and at nearly 25 years of age we must ask…is he delivering on that promise?

In my opinion Jesse Lingard is in danger of becoming victim to ‘Theo Walcott Syndrome’, an affliction whereby, regardless of the player’s age, due to their baby-faced nature and the fact they seem to fly under the radar they are constantly being hyped as ‘promising’ or ‘maturing’ or ‘on the cusp’ even up until they are nearly 30 years of age!

Jesse Lingard has been a squad member for nearly two full seasons now (it would have been three had an injury on his Premier League debut derailed Louis van Gaal’s plans for him), and is still being spoken about as a ‘promising’ young player. Now, 25 isn’t old in the grand scheme of things but, Lingard is now closer in age to what should be his peak years than he is to his academy graduation. So, has the promise developed? Or is he just not at United level?

Defence

First let’s look at his defensive contributions to the team (his main role is as an attacker, so we’ll save the best until last). It seems defensively his contributions have gone down this season winning fewer tackles and making fewer clearances, however, his blocks and interceptions have stayed largely the same (as per Squawka). This is likely to be down to the fact that United have been much better going forward this season and have faced fewer attacks than they did previously, meaning he has not had to help as much defensively, which makes sense and it does seem like he is putting in a good shift for the team.

Compared to the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Philippe Coutinho, two players of similar age and positioning the stats are not a million miles away. You may think it unfair to compare Lingard to the likes of these players but, like I said, they are similar to Lingard in age and position, and his per 90 minutes should be comparable to theirs, if he is to be considered good enough to be a constant starter and worthy of a place at United.

Defensively, the numbers do stand up, according to the per 90 metrics this season, Lingard has won as many tackles as, and made more interceptions than either of his compatriots. He is also ahead in terms of blocks and clearances.

Looking solely at the United team, Lingard is ahead of both Martial and Rashford for tackles and interceptions, though he scores lower than senior squad members such as Mata and Mkhitaryan. Based on this evidence, defensively Lingard is doing a fine job for the team.

Attack

Lingard is solid defensively but we all know he is there to do a job going forward. As a midfielder able to play left, right or centre of a midfielder or in an attacking three, his end product in terms of goals assists and chances are where his stats really count.

Lingard is progressing if you look at his stats this season versus what he achieved last year. Aside from goals scored (again a worry), he has been far busier and has developed his game further from last season. So far so good, progress being made, promise slowly being fulfilled. But compared to others in the league?

It’s here that it begin to fall down. In terms of goals scored and assists, Lingard’s numbers are way down on both Philippe Coutinho and Kevin De Bruyne. Even his key passes and chances created a falling behind the other two. Even though United are struggling for goals, he is not as high a contributor to the goals that do come, as De Bruyne and Coutinho are. While he leads the way in shot accuracy, these shots are clearly not being converted into a meaningful end product. The fact that his total shots per 90 minutes is only slightly less than De Bruyne’s further reinforces that fact.

Looking within the team once again and, somewhat surprisingly, his numbers are equal to or lesser than both Martial and Rashford. It seems he is creating chances at a much better rate than the other two and he makes more key passes, but his goals scored is way down and his assists are only half that of Martial’s (but much better than Rashford’s who has been playing a similar position for the most part).

Now on the face of it that doesn’t seem too bad, sure he isn’t as prolific as some of his contemporaries in other teams but in his own team, he is holding his own, to an extent.

The thing to think about though is this; while their numbers may not show Martial and Rashford are leaving Lingard behind, these are two players who are considered to have been in poor form this season. The consensus is they have performed well below their best (as least in the league) and next season much better numbers are being expected from them. But nobody is saying this about Lingard. The term underperforming has not been uttered alongside his name. While he is hardworking and industrious he is not producing in the final third but people seem to be content that this is his level of output. Or they seem to think that it’ll come once he fulfils his ‘promise’. Take into consideration he is older than both Martial and Rashford, so should be further along in his development and it starts to look like maybe he isn’t as promising as he first seemed, or that potential, once reached, will not take him to a level high enough to be considered good enough for United.

Whilst United are in transition, Lingard is more than up to the task of helping the team and providing back up as a squad player but, as for this ‘promise’ everyone seems to be talking about, it doesn’t seem to be as high a potential as everyone thinks and, while he is a very good player, whether he is good enough to be a United player is still in doubt and time is running out for him to prove it.

Written by Marvyn Wilson

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