Is Anthony Martial the new Eden Hazard? Is he balls…

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Three steps beyond
‘Paul Pogba: Man Utd midfielder takes 26-step penalty against Everton’ – BBC.

‘Jose Mourinho warns Paul Pogba to change his 28-step penalty-taking technique’ – Daily Telegraph.

‘But the bizarre, dressage-style prancing approach – which saw Pogba take TWENTY-NINE steps before striking the ball – could have proved costly’ – The Sun.

Any advance on 29?

 

Scrutiny, they all have it scrutiny…
‘PAUL POGBA will get plenty of stick for his penalty run-up but that should not take away from what was a decent display…Pogba is the most scrutinised player in the Premier League. I would rather celebrate the best bits of his game’ – Jamie Redknapp, Daily Mail.

You might want to have a word then, Jamie. The back page of the Daily Mail trails ‘Pogba’s spot of bother’ – in a 2-1 victory for Manchester United in which he did actually, you know, score. Which is not mentioned on that back page.

 

Hazard lights
It’s the headline that first makes you pay attention: ‘Jose Mourinho has finally found his Eden Hazard at Manchester United’.

Now this is the Manchester Evening News and this is Samuel Luckhurst so we are fully prepared for all manner of nonsense, but do United really have an Eden Hazard? After all, he has won two Premier League titles, been PFA Player of the Year, won the Silver Ball trophy at the World Cup, and has this season alone scored or assisted ten Premier League goals in just nine games.

It doesn’t feel like Manchester United have an equivalent. Unless it’s Paul Pogba with his six combined goals and assists and his actual World Cup trophy. It’s not Paul Pogba, is it?

‘Eden Hazard eluded Man Utd in 2012 but Anthony Martial is doing what Jose Mourinho asked of the Chelsea winger before they won the Premier League.’

Did Mourinho ask Hazard to score 14 Premier League goals and assist nine more? Because if he did, that was genius management. And also, Anthony Martial is not really on course for those kind of numbers, not least because he only starts half of United’s games.

Anyway, we will try to keep an open mind.

It takes Luckhurst a full nine paragraphs to actually mention Hazard – bizarre as his name features so strongly in the headline – and when he does, it is clear that he mentions the Belgian because Martial did some defensive work against Everton. Indeed he ‘mucked in by the corner flag’.

Hands up those of you now thinking ‘ah, mucking in, that makes him exactly like Eden Hazard’. That will be none of you.

‘That facet of Martial’s play cannot be underestimated. It was only at West Ham four weeks ago that Mourinho accused the Frenchman of not focusing on the ‘defensive duties’ the left wing role entails. Mourinho so distrusted Martial he changed the formation and started him in an axis with Lukaku to offset those supposed shortcomings. United lost and Martial was hooked.

‘Mourinho once omitted Eden Hazard because Chelsea were ‘conceding lots of goals’. Martial appears to have accepted Mourinho’s similar criticism as a compliment. There was Martial, in the 67th minute, jockeying the ball over his own goal line amid Gylfi Sigurdsson’s efforts. It is seemingly lost on Mourinhophobes Hazard’s PFA Player of the Year-winning season came under the Portuguese’s tutelage.’

Mourinho did indeed once omit Hazard because Chelsea were ‘conceding lots of goals’, but that was in October 2015, afterChelsea had won the title and Hazard had won the PFA Player of the Year award. Which is something seemingly lost on Mourinhophiles.

It’s worth noting that Hazard attempted 1.8 tackles per 90 minutes before Mourinho’s return to Chelsea in 2013. He then dropped that figure to 1.4 tackles per 90 in 2013/14 and 14/15, when he helped Mourinho and Chelsea win the Premier League title. It briefly rose again to 1.5 in 2015/16 (the season he was a bit pony) and is now a modest 0.4, in a season which has seen Hazard acclaimed as one of the best players in the world.

In other words, Hazard plays better when he is not contributing defensively. So claiming Martial is now Manchester United’s new Eden Hazard because he ‘mucked in by the corner flag’ is, well, more than a little weird.

Want to hear another thing that’s weird? Martial only touched the ball five times in his own half on Sunday; for comparison, United’s other wide forward Juan Mata touched the ball 11 times in his own half.

Oh and Martial attempted and missed two tackles.

Can we not just be excited about Martial scoring in three consecutive Premier League games without pretending it’s because Jose Mourinho is turning him into the wonderfully defensive Eden Hazard? Please.

 

Mediawatch rewind
Last Monday Martin Samuel asked in the Daily Mail:

‘So far, Hazard has been able to go it alone with eight goals, but who will pick up the slack if opponents shackle him? Chelsea’s front six are mainly link men, toilers, pivots and passers.’

Since then, Chelsea have scored seven goals via four different goalscorers in two games without Eden Hazard.

It turns out that they are doing just fine.

 

Erm, about that…
‘JOSE MOURINHO is standing by misfiring Romelu Lukaku as the striker struggles to end his goal drought’ – David Anderson, Daily Mirror, October 25.

 

Ask the expert…
The Daily Mail call them the Three Wise Men, but it feels like it might be Two Wise-ish Men and a Fool. On Manchester City on Monday…

Jamie Redknapp: ‘Manchester City are starting to hit the heights of last season.’

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