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Harry Maguire - one of the most underrated defenders in the Premier League?

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United - Premier League
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United - Premier League
ANALYST
Modified 01 Mar 2021
Feature

The fact that Harry Maguire is the world's most expensive defender, becoming so when Manchester United paid £80 million to Premier League rivals Leicester City to bring him to Old Trafford has often been a source of ridicule for many.

There have been consistent comparisons with Virgil Van Dijk, whose transfer record was broken when Maguire moved to Manchester United.

There is always the accusation that United overpaid for a player who didn't deserve that sort of money to be spent on him. The fact that Van Dijk has already inspired Liverpool to Champions League and Premier League titles while Maguire remains empty-handed adds to the sentiment.

So it remains a source of intrigue as to whether Maguire is really as bad as he is made out to be?

Manchester United's defensive rock at the back or too easy to beat?

Manchester United made a disastrous start to their Premier League campaign and were also dumped out of the Champions League, thanks to some comical defending on their part.

The defensive pair of Lindelof and Maguire came under huge scrutiny and YouTube and Twitter were indeed flooded with compilations of Maguire being easily beaten by little-known attackers.

Manchester United have steadied the ship since and have steadily risen to the top end of the Premier League. While it was indeed thanks to stability at the back, they do remain vulnerable. They have shipped 32 goals in the Premier League, compared to just 16 goals conceded by runaway league leaders Manchester City.

Manchester United have been able to keep a clean sheet in just 8 of their 25 matches, but a closer look at Maguire's stats shows that had it not been for him, they would have been even worse.

He manages 0.8 tackles per 90 minutes along with 1.7 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Premier League, which is far higher than what most of the players from teams sitting in the top-half of the table achieve.

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Further, he makes an average of 0.7 blocks per 90 minutes, and a high of 3.2 clearances in the Premier League every 90 minutes.

This shows that Manchester United are quite vulnerable to attacks, and had it not been for Maguire, their goal conceded column would have looked even worse.

Offensive Leader in the Premier League

Only 5 Premier League defenders have scored more than his 2 goals, while he has also contributed 1 assist. But the most ignored aspect of this season has been his creativity.

Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League
Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League

Harry Maguire has been actively involved in the build-up to his side's goals, which is reflected by the fact that he has had 11 goal involvements in the Premier league this term, the highest of all defensive players.

Goal involvement is an important metric which refers to the pass before the assist. It often happens that a player does the hard work and makes it easy for a player to just pass the ball to the eventual scorer, and Maguire is that player in this Manchester United team.

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He often comes out of his defensive area carrying the ball, thus drawing out defenders of teams which generally sit deep to frustrate. This creates the freedom of space for another player to make the final move and create a scoring chance.

This is a task that is extremely important in today's football but is often ignored as the name of the scorer and the one who assists is often recorded. Joao Cancelo is the only defensive player to match his 11 goal involvements in the Premier League, though the Manchester City full-back plays in a far more advanced position on the pitch than Maguire.

The Leader

While it is often Bruno Fernandes who provides inspiration in terms of goals and assists, it is Maguire, the Manchester United captain, who commands authority at the back, shielding the frequently erring De Gea. While teams have been able to breach them, Maguire's defensive stats show that he is still a commanding presence at the back.

Perhaps a defensive partner who complements his qualities could form the basis of a solid partnership for years to come, just as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic did. Until then, it is necessary that Maguire, as well as Manchester United, continue to improve to become genuine Premier League title contenders.

Published 01 Mar 2021, 05:21 IST
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