Quick Bit: The early narrative around the Argentine’s transfer from Ajax to Man United has centered around his height, with fans concerned that Martinez does not have the physical stature to compete in the Premier League.

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The Manchester United summer revamp under new manager Erik ten Hag continued with the July 17 announcement that the ex-Ajax boss landed one of his former players: Argentine international defender Lisandro Martinez.

The Man United announcement stated that it reached a transfer deal with Ajax for the 24-year-old centre-back and reports indicated that the deal will cost the Red Devils around EUR60 million (?51.9m / $63.1m). That would make Martinez one of the most expensive transfers to the Premier League during the summer window.

The early narrative around the acquisition has centered around Martinez’s height, with plenty of chatter that Martinez does not possess the physical stature to compete in the English Premier League despite featuring in the UEFA Champions League for Ajax.

Aerial ability is not wholly dependent on height, however, and Martinez will be out to show the skeptics that he is deserving of the transfer fee shelled out for him. A deeper dive into the numbers shows that his height hasn’t prevented him from becoming one of the elite defenders in Europe.

MORE: Shortest centre-backs in the Premier League

How tall is Lisandro Martinez?

Lisandro Martinez stands at 1.75m, or just a hair below 5 feet and 9 inches. This mark makes him the shortest centre-back in the entire Premier League by a decent margin.

Just below him on the list are two Chelsea defenders, and another player that the Blues are reportedly hoping to capture this summer in Manchester city’s Nathan Ake.

Shortest centre-backs in Premier League

Information via Transfermarkt.

1. Lisandro Martinez
Man United
1.75m (5-9)
2. Cesar Azpilicueta
1.78m (5-10)
3. Nathan Ake
Man City
1.80m (5-11)
4. Thiago Silva
1.81m (5-11)
5. Marc Guehi
Crystal Palace
1.82m (5-11)
6. Calum Chambers
Aston Villa
1.82m (5-11)
7. Malang Sarr
1.82m (5-11)
8. Ezri Konsa
Aston Villa
1.83m (6-0)
9. Ben Godfrey
1.84m (6-0)
10. Japhet Tanganga
1.84m (6-0)

How good is Lisandro Martinez in the air?

Overall, Lisandro Martinez may not be an aerial monster at 5-9 (1.75m), but he also cannot be classified as weak in the air.

The Argentine is best described as average when it comes to aerial duels. In the Champions League last season, Martinez ranked 21st amongst all defenders in aerial duel success at 63.6 percent, when compared with defenders who logged at least 500 minutes and at least 10 aerial duels contested.

Below him in the ranking are players like his new Manchester United teammate Harry Maguire (6-4), ex-Chelsea man Antonio Rudiger (6-3), Man City’s Aymeric Laporte (6-3), and Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano (6-1).

He was even better in the Eredivisie, successful on 71 percent of his aerial duels, logging an average of 3.3 successful aerial duels per match. That success percentage ranked him third in the Dutch league among defenders with 20 or more appearances.

Still, the analytics website SmarterScout gives Martinez very poor aerial ratings, with an open play aerial duel rating of eight (out of 100) and a dead-ball aerial duel rating of 29 (out of 100). Both those ratings were only based on his Champions League play, not including his Eredivisie action.

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Does height translate to aerial duels?

The simple answer is that height can obviously play a part in a defender’s aerial prowess, but it is not necessarily the most decisive factor.

For example, the fourth-shortest centre-back in the Premier League, Thiago Silva, stands at 5-11, yet he’s one of the best aerial defenders not just in the Premier League, but in all of Europe when you take into account some of his statistics.

Last season, Thiago Silva led the Champions League in aerial duel success rate among all defenders who played 500 or more minutes and contested 10 or more aerial duels. He emerged successful in 18 of his 21 duels and as a result, registered an 85.7 percent success rate in the metric. According to analytics website SmarterScout, Silva earned a 94 rating (out of 100) for his aerial duels in open play, while also earning a 72 rating in dead-ball aerial duels.

On top of that, Nathan Ake, the third-shortest central defender in the Premier League, was 12th in the league last season with a 72.5 percent aerial duel success rate among defenders with 500 or more minutes. While he only made 14 appearances in the league last season for Manchester City, he logged a decent volume of aerial work, completing 2.6 successful aerial challenges per 90 minutes.

The top 10 defenders in aerial duels (as opposed to aerial duel success rate) in the Premier League do all stand at 6-2 or taller however, meaning that there is still some correlation between height and overall aerial dominance.

Could Lisandro Martinez play at defensive midfielder?

While Lisandro Martinez may not be an aerial threat, he does have other qualities to his game.

Where Martinez excels most is in his disruption of the opposition’s movement. In the Champions League last season, the Argentine international completed 1.6 tackles per match and was successful in 63 percent of his ground duels.

According to SmarterScout, Martinez earned a glittering 97 style rating (out of 100) on disrupting opposition moves, plus a 92 rating for recovering a moving ball. Style ratings are generated based on quantity and frequency of output for each statistical category.

Martinez also excels with his ball distribution as he completed passes at an 89 percent success rate last season in the Eredivisie, and at a 92 percent success rate in the Champions League. Based on his Champions League play from last season, SmarterScout gave Martinez an 89 rating (out of 100) on ball retention, while also giving him a 74 style rating on link-up passing.

These traits and characteristics suggest that down the line Martinez could potentially be moved into a defensive midfielder role by Ten Hag. That would then allow the center-back partnership of Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane to remain intact and crucially, would allow a player like Martinez to offer more quality in front of the pair to help aid the defensive solidity of the team.

Originally found on Sporting News Read More

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