In the summer of 2009, the same summer that Cristiano Ronaldo departed, Manchester United signed an Ecuadorian winger from Wigan Athletic for a reported fee of £17million. Manchester United signed Antonio Valencia, a winger who was quick and confident and that form was subsequently continued, if not bettered, for Manchester United.
He is now into the 3rd season of his Manchester United career and after 2 pretty bad injuries, his form and his confidence does not appear to be as seamless as it previously was. His return from the ankle break suffered vs Rangers last year was most definitely overcome as he went on to pip Nani for a starting berth in the 2011 Champions League final however since the injury he sustained whilst on international duty at Copa America to the same ankle, he has not been the same player.
One major criticism of Valencia this season has been his reluctance to take players on. For 2008/09 at Wigan and 2009/10 and 2010/11 at Manchester United he has made 1.77, 1.5 and 1.5 successful dribbles per game respectively. This season, this value lies at a lowly 0.4. Has he lost the confidence to take players on this season? It seems that this may be the case.
In addition to this his minutes per chance created statistic has also dramatically increased for the worse. For the 3 seasons previously Antonio Valencia created a chance every 36, 29 and 32 minutes however this season, Antonio Valencia has only created a chance twice in the 5 EPL games that he has appeared in, at a rate of 1 chance every 116 minutes. This seems to be the most concerning statistic for me. Valencia now creates a chances 3 to 4 times less than he has done in previous seasons. As a comparison with his competition for a right midfield berth, Nani has created a chance every 41 minutes this season in the EPL.
Antonio Valencia’s crossing has also been a cause for concern lately. This season his crossing accuracy percentage is only 22% which is down by 12% when compared to the 2009/10 season which saw Valencia forge a dangerous partnership with Wayne Rooney, aiding Rooney to a goal tally of 34 goals. Having said this, Nani’s crossing accuracy percentage this season lies at only 21%.
In previous seasons Antonio Valencia was renowned for his dangerous crossing and chance creation. He was a player who did the simple things well. Antonio Valencia only needed to create a yard of space with his pace and he would more often than not put a cross into a dangerous area for a striker to attack. Since his second injury to the same ankle, maybe he has become more conscious of what another injury could do? Both injuries were sustained on the pitch whilst taking a player on.
The injury and the good form of Nani on the right of midfield has also seen Antonio Valencia finding minutes on the pitch hard to come by. As a result his confidence is also clearly lacking. Given a good run of games in the first team over the Christmas period, I hope that the confidence of the player Manchester United bought from Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2009 returns.