In the latest Anthony Martial transfer news, the French international is being linked with a move away from Old Trafford. Arsenal are reportedly interested in Martial as a potential replacement for the some of the likely, imminent departures. Maybe more surprisingly, Barcelona are also being linked with a move. Are you Man Utd really ready to give up on Martial?
We try and answer this and take a closer look at Martial’s situation in Manchester and whether these rumours are realistic.
Nationality: 15 caps 1 goal
Position: attacking left midfielder or striker, can also play on the right
Reported Transfer Fee: £50mil
2016/17 League Stats: 18 starts (7 sub. appearances) 4 goals (6 assists)
2017/18 League Stats: 2 starts (5 sub appearances) 3 goals (2 assists)
There’s been a lot said about Martial’s career with Man Utd, most of it negative. I can understand the comments with last season in mind and looking at Martial since Mourinho’s arrival.
However under Van Gaal, in Martial’s first season at the club I thought his performances were largely positive, especially in the second half of the season. Martial scored 11 and assisted 4 in 29 starts, respectable figures for a teenager who had moved to a different country and was playing in a new league.
Utd may have had a disappointing campaign under Van Gall on the whole but on a personal level for Martial it was far from a disaster. In truth Martial was one of the bright sparks of Utd’s season, along with Marcus Rashford.
Last season wasn’t that good. The tone of Martial’s season was pretty much set before it started. His private life was in the news and he couldn’t string any kind of form together. His attitude and body language looked poor as he never recovered from the off field distractions. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that such a young player would have difficulty separating his private and professional lives.
Mourinho’s expectations of his wide men has been a big issue for Martial too. The defensive responsibilities, fitness and the amount of work required to be in Mourinho’s side has seemingly been too much for Martial. He’s certainly struggled to balance these responsibilities with still being productive and performing consistently as the ‘right’ end of the pitch.
This season he’s started well, even though he’s had to come off the bench for most of his opportunities with Rashford impressing and rightly starting ahead more often than not on the left. However his early season momentum seems to be over.
Recently Martial got his first back to back starts in the league against Liverpool and Huddersfield but he has struggled to make any impression on either game as his problems from last season looked to rear their head again. I’m not sure Martial can afford another season like last if he wants to prolong his career with Utd and Mourinho.
Utd’s attack still has problems. Despite a decent goal scoring start to the season, a lot of their goals were coming late in games. Whilst a lot of the attacking midfielders still haven’t completely convinced nor contributed a great deal in terms of goals. They are still lacking attacking fluency and have been over reliant on Lukaku.
Martial is in danger of being seen as nothing more than an impact sub this campaign. At the moment Rashford looks miles ahead, at times looking Utd’s (and England’s) only real threat.
It’s common knowledge that Utd were in the market for a left sided winger/attacking midfielder during the transfer window. Both Perisic and Bale were linked. There’s a strong likelihood they will be back in the market regardless but if Martial doesn’t improve, his future at the club could be in real danger too.
There’s a logic to the Martial, Arsenal links. There’s the French connection and Wenger’s fondness to stick to a market and players he knows extremely well plus there’s the Thierry Henry comparisons and a chance to create a similar legacy.
More important than all that though is the likely departures Arsenal are facing this summer. We’ve discussed Sanchez’s and Ozil’s situations extensively already and both look like they will be leaving by the summer at the latest. It’s hard to believe that Arsenal won’t be in need of extra quality in the attacking midfield positions.
Their departures will leave the unconvincing Iwobi and inconsistent Walcott, along with the decent yet injury prone Welbeck as the main attacking midfield options. It’s far too weak if Arsenal want to be challenging.
One potential positive is that Ramsey could get pushed more forward which is where he’s most dangerous and had some of his best spells of form for Arsenal and Wales. He’s not disciplined enough to perform the centre midfield role he currently occupies and Arsenal need in the current system. So rather than concentrating entirely on attacking midfielders in the summer, Wenger would be better served, finally, getting that natural holding midfielder they’ve been missing for the best part of a decade.
Martial would get far more opportunities with Arsenal and the consistent run of games could be exactly what he needs to fulfill his potential. Arsenal’s expansive style and reduced defensive demands of the attacking players could benefit him considerably.
A move to Arsenal may mean less silverware but on a personal level, Arsenal may be the better club for his development. Martial looks more suited to Wenger’s style, which allows players to express themselves, as opposed to Mourinho’s micro managing approach.
Martial would help lessen the blow of losing Ozil and Sanchez and still possesses considerable potential. Martial could one day reach Sanchez’s level with the right guidance. Along with Ramsey and Welbeck as the main options and Iwobi and Walcott as back ups, their attacking midfield wouldn’t look too bad at all.
Barcelona have also been linked with a move for Martial but such a move, on all fronts, makes less sense to me. Messi and Suarez are clearly untouchable in the Barca attack, so that only leaves new signing Ousmane Dembele’s place in the team up for discussion.
After spending the best part of £100mil on Martial’s international team mate it’s difficult to see him being displaced when fit either though. Dembele was in far more impressive form last season and looks to have surpassed Martial’s development and is now a genuine world class prospect. Martial on the other hand has done little to warrant being linked with a club like Barcelona. I would have thought Barca’s aspirations would be higher than Martial, given his recent form.
Martial’s fee would also be in the £50mil region too which isn’t exactly value for money for someone who would likely be seen as a back up. There are surely many cheaper alternatives available for such a role.
I strongly suspect that this rumour has something to do with Martial’s struggle for regular game time, a half decent start to the season and more importantly Dembele’s long term injury so Barca’s potential need for a left sided attacker. I can see a degree of logic to the links although I don’t believe there’s any basis to them other than the media trying to create some.
The same applies to the suggestions of a possible swap deal involving Rakitic. I can’t see Barca parting with a top class player and one of their best midfielders. Whilst it wouldn’t make much sense from Utd’s point of view either. They are far stronger, centrally and financially, swapping a 29 year old for a 21 year isn’t good business, taking into account sell on potential, even if Martial is currently struggling.
I don’t think Utd should give up on Martial, he’s still very young. Mourinho’s patience is looking tested though. Another season like last and it could very well be his last with Utd. Only so long can a club like Utd and a manager like Mourinho accept under performance.
Mourinho isn’t afraid to sell to a rival, having done so in the past and criticised other managers for not doing the same more often. So whilst letting Martial go to Arsenal still looks some way off, it’s not something I think can be completely ruled out in future.
I can’t see a move to Barcelona on the cards anytime soon though.
Martial is still very much part of the first team picture at Utd and there are going to be plenty of games and plenty of opportunities. Rashford is the only real competition on the left. It’s going to be up to Martial to take his opportunities and prolong his Utd career.
Will Martial leave? Arsenal or Barca? What do you think?