Lisandro Martinez could be set for a move to the Premier League this summer, with Arsenal and Manchester United in the running to sign him. The Mirror report that United are now the frontrunners to sign him. That should come as no surprise considering the recent appointment of Erik ten Hag. There is a working relationship between the defender and the coaching staff that already exists at Old Trafford. In theory, that should be the acclimatisation to English football an easier one.
Arsenal and Manchester United will be competing in the same part of the league table next season, with both clubs needing a return to the Champions League. It will be difficult to break into those spots and they both see Martinez as a player capable of getting there. For the player, the existing relationships at Old Trafford mean that move will appeal. On the other hand, Arsenal have a more settled squad and were more successful last season. It will be interesting to see his choice, should both clubs agree a deal with Ajax.
The big concern about Martinez would be his physicality and whether he would be able to adapt to the Premier League. At 5’9″, he is small for a centre back and he would be isolated aerially in a back four. He would be more suited to playing as part of a back three, with freedom to carry the ball into central areas.
Martinez is highly rated for his qualities in possession. He is capable of carrying the ball forward and launching attacks with his progressive passing from deep. His range is excellent, as he can play long balls to find players in wide areas or short passes into midfield. There is a confidence to his game with the ball at his feet. This won’t be a surprise for an Ajax defender.
The Argentine international averages 7.88 progressive passes and 6.13 progressive carries per ninety minutes. These are elite numbers, which place him in the 99th and 96th percentiles respectively among centre backs. These underline why two of the top six are keen to sign him. His passing accuracy of 93% shows how reliable he is with the ball at his feet.
Unsurprisingly, there is an aggression to his defensive game. This is a quality that the majority of South American defenders share. It is highlighted by his average of 3.13 tackles per ninety minutes.
Although his height will be a concern, it will be hoped that it won’t disadvantage him as much as some believe it will. Martinez did win an average of 3.3 aerial duels per game in the Eredivisie last season. It is a less physical league, but it suggests that he knows how to compete in the air despite his small stature. If the team that signs him sets up in a back three, he could be protected from a lot of the physical battles, as the central of the three.
The rumoured fee is a large one and there is some element of risk for both clubs trying to sign him. The transition from the Eredivisie to the Premier League isn’t an easy one. However, ten Hag will know the player better than most. If he believes that Martinez can make the transition, it should give United supporters faith in the transfer.