Since Anthony Martial’s arrival in 2015, he has been a key member of the squad rising from a promising talent to a star player. In his first season at the club, he started off as a striker scoring 11 goals and assisting four in the league. For a young French striker with immense pressure this was a good year but following this season he was forced out onto the wing due to the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The following season he managed only four goals and six assists in the league which is a slight drop off but to be expected due to his position change.
For the next three years Martial was predominantly played off the left wing but always wanted the centre forward spot back. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the 2019/20 season, Martial was entrusted by to play as the lone centre forward. This saw the resurgence of Martial’s form scoring 17 goals and providing seven assists which was his best since signing from Monaco. However, this brilliant form didn’t become consistency and in the 2020/21 season Martial lost his place as the lone striker to the new signing Edinson Cavani and only managed to score four and assist six.
However, with United looking likely to bring in a striker next season, is this Martial’s make or break season to prove to Solskjaer that he’s worth keeping or will he be shipped out to make way for more promising talents like Amad Diallo, Facundo Pellistri, Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri and Jadon Sancho. As a player, Martial is immensely talented; he is good with both feet, has good link up play which has helped him develop great chemistry with Marcus Rashford.
Furthermore, he has good speed and silky dribbling. His finishing was a key fundamental to his game, but last season he lost his way a bit. By learning to play on the wing it helped enhance attributes like agility and that improved his dribbling which once he was playing at centre-forward helped him wriggle out of tight spaces and turn defenders at ease. One major attribute Martial lacks is heading. In such a physical league as the Premier League, crossing is essential to breaking down teams, thus the need for the team’s striker to be able to head is incredibly high.
Martial isn’t the most effective in the air which limits United’s forward force as the wingers are less likely to cross the ball in due to the lack of ariel presence. This is a major reason as to why Cavani has taken Martial’s spot because he is excellent in the area broadening United’s attacking creativity. In addition, the biggest difference between Cavani and Martial as a centre forward is movement. Cavani’s movement is world class, he drifts between the centre half’s always looking to get ahead of his man, making all sorts of runs pulling the defenders out of their comfort zones at all times.
Martial is much more static, he tries to find gaps between the defenders but he won’t chase a cross like Cavani. This is a major aspect Martial must improve on if he is to succeed at United because his static nature makes him predictable in the box, which is easy to mark and subsequently making him less dangerous which in turn hinders the United attack as the defenders can easily cover him and the others in the box appropriately. Whereas, with Cavani, due to his dangerous runs, he drags multiple defenders with him which leaves space for the other forwards to take advantage of.
At his best, Martial has a great effect on this Manchester United team. He makes them incredibly fluid offensively with great interchangeability between the three forwards creating a dangerous linkup which can confuse opposition defences as they have to mark multiple forwards all interlinking providing different strengths. Furthermore, on form he’s also a lethal finisher and only needs one chance which can tip the balance of a game in United’s favour.
If Martial can restore this form he could score plenty of crucial goals for United next season, and also due to his linkup create lot of chances which quality players like Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho could score. Overall, I feel this is Martial’s make or break season as if he doesn’t perform, he will end up either being sold or being sat on the bench as a back up to a new forward. Martial must develop his game off Cavani, giving the forwards more versatility in attack in order to create more chances.
If Martial can do this, with all his talent he could have a bright future at United and potentially lead the line for a trophy winning United side.
Written by Ethan Bents