Football Features

Mount Maguire: The Premier League’s best aerial defender?

By Harry Edwards

Harry 'Mount' Maguire: The Premier League's best aerial defender?

Published: 17:52, 23 December 2020

When Harry Maguire signed for Manchester United in 2019 for £80m he became the world’s most-expensive defender and an immediate target for criticism.

Many believed the English centre-back was not worth the fee Man Utd paid to Leicester City for his services, and he still has to fight against that monetary amount with every sub-par performance almost 18 months later.

However, as Man Utd have improved under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season, so has Maguire, and the 27-year-old has become arguably one of the most solid centre-backs in the Premier League. Although some will still argue against his ability, and his output on the ground is in need of improvement, Maguire is statistically the best centre-back in the Premier League when it comes to aerial duels.

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In his first 13 Premier League appearances this season, Maguire has won 56 aerial duels, more than any other centre-back in the division. The only defender to have won more this season is West Bromwich Albion right-back Darnell Furlong (57).

And the breakdown of Maguire’s aerial prowess makes for interesting reading. Going up for corners and other set pieces, Maguire has won 15 aerial duels in the opposition box, more than he has in any other area of the pitch. That he has only lost three aerial duels in the opposition box is also impressive, boosting his chances of scoring from a corner or flicking the ball on, particularly with the likes of Bruno Fernandes whipping crosses into dangerous areas.

But Man Utd’s high line when defending, particularly from opposition goal kicks, means that as a whole Maguire enjoys most of his aerial success in the middle third of the pitch, either side of the halfway line. When staying central, just inside his own half, Maguire has won all 10 of his aerial duels this season, while it is also a 100% success rate when moving over to the right.

Perhaps slightly bizarre is that when contesting aerial duels on the left, Maguire’s aerial duel success drops slightly, winning just 13 of the 17 he has contested so far this season.

Maguire performed best in Man Utd’s 1-0 defeat to Arsenal at the start of November, winning all eight of his aerial duels, one of five occasions he has ended a game with 100% success rate. Chelsea (five), Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur (both three) and Brighton & Hove Albion (two) are the other teams Maguire has faced and won all of this aerial duels.

Somewhat fittingly, Maguire had his worst aerial game against Sheffield United, the club where he previously spent five years of his career, winning four of his seven attempts.

That game did not harm Maguire’s success rate too much, however, with the Man Utd centre-back still winning 80% of his aerial duels in the Premier League this season. Overall, this is joint-third among defenders, but when narrowing it down slightly to focus on those to have contested at least 15 (in other words, are tested more often), Maguire comes out as number one.

So how do the rest of the Premier League’s defenders match up to Maguire this term?

The Premier League’s top 10 aerial defenders

Position Player Aerial Duels Aerial Duels Won Aerial Success Rate
1st Darnell Furlong 96 57 59.38%
2nd Harry Maguire 70 56 80%
3rd Jannick Vestergaard 75 54 72%
4th James Tarkowski 71 50 70.42%
5th Kurt Zouma 68 47 69.12%
6th Liam Cooper 78 47 60.26%
7th Tyrone Mings 56 40 71.43%
8th Jan Bednarek 54 39 72.22%
9th Willy Boly 52 38 73.08%
10th Michael Keane 54 38 70.37%