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Man United fans’ big questions answered in Squawka’s Reddit AMA – Time top drop De Gea and Maguire?

By Ben Green

Reddit Reacts: Squawka answers Man Utd fans’ burning questions – What's happened to Maguire? Should De Gea start?

Published: 11:19, 2 April 2022

Manchester United are a club forever in the spotlight, with seemingly more talking points than any other Premier League club.

As such, we wanted to see if we could answer some of the many, many questions Man Utd fans have about their current squad. So Squawka’s own Jake Entwistle took to Reddit to ask r/reddevils about Ralf Rangnick and his dressing room.

To start things off, fans wanted to know why Harry Maguire is still being consistently picked despite his epic dip in form…

Hi Jake,

Why does every manager at United consistently play Maguire even though he has been performing horribly this season, at least in our eyes? Are there any statistical reasons why he should start over Lindelof or Bailly for example.

Thanks

Squawka’s answer…

 

Hey, I think a lot has been done on Harry Maguire’s strengths recently. I know Tifo football have produced a video on it.

‘From what I know, Maguire’s ball progression is up there with the very best in his position. He ranked 11th for passes into the final third per 90 compared to all PL centre-backs with 900+ minutes in 2020/21. Back in 2017/18, he completed more take-ons than any other centre-back in the Premier League (51/60). He also matches Virgil van Dijk in terms of aerial duel success – perhaps unsurprising.

Overall, his numbers have always been top tier so I think this is a situation where it’s clear that he just needs a break.

Whether it’s physical or mental fatigue he seems unable to execute the things that made Man Utd want to spend money on him. Personally, I think he is a good player in an awful spell of form and playing him consistently is only extending that.

You could argue that dropping him for the rest of the season is a drastic but necessary step.

One fan then wanted to know where the Premier League’s other ‘assist merchants’ rank alongside Bruno…

Which 5 players have, according to your model, accumulated the most xA in the premier league since bruno fernandes’s arrival? thanks so much!

Squawka’s answer…

We use Opta’s Expected Assists model.

Here is the top five in the Premier League since 01-02-2020:

  • Trent Alexander-Arnold (20.8)
  • Bruno Fernandes (17.8)
  • Kevin De Bruyne (15.3)
  • Mohamed Salah (15.3)
  • Mason Mount (13.6)

Here is the per 90 list – 900+ mins

  • KDB (0.31)
  • TAA (0.29)
  • Michael Olise (0.28)
  • Riyad Mahrez (0.27)
  • Conor Hourihane (0.27)
  • Bruno (0.24)
  • Raphinha (0.24)
  • James Rodríguez (0.24)

Then of course: to DDG, or not to DDG? That is the question…

It’s polarising in this sub but help us settle the debate – according to the relevant stats, should David De Gea be a starting GK at United?

Squawka’s answer…

It depends on what the manager wants from United’s starting goalkeeper.

At the moment, David De Gea is one of the best goalkeepers in the league in terms of preventing goals. Only José Sá has ‘prevented’ more – he has conceded 8.7 goals fewer than Expected based on the quality of the shots on target he has faced, DDG has conceded 4.9 fewer.

So, if Rangnick feels like the team is broken to the point where they cannot reduce the number of opposition shots on their goal, then David De Gea is one of the best at stopping them.

However, I imagine the counter argument is related to his role in possession. Are Man Utd conceding more chances because they cannot reliably build attacks from the back? Would a more competent goalkeeper – in terms of passing, ball control, vision – lead to fewer shots because United have more of the ball and concede fewer transitions?

Some of these metrics might help answer those questions, but they are not quite as definitive as being able to say ‘he has prevented 5 goals’.

all the stats below are based on goalkeepers that have played 20+ games in the 2021/22 Premier League season

No goalkeeper has fewer ‘Keeper Sweepings’ than David De Gea (4). José Sá also tops this list with 27, Alisson is next with 21. Definition can be found here.

David De Gea plays fewer passes per 90 (20.6) than any of the 16 goalkeepers with 20+ PL games this season. Robert Sánchez leads this metric with 38.4 – now we’re starting to see Luis Enrique’s thought process.

DDG attempts the 5th-fewest long passes per 90, Ederson (58% accuracy), Mendy (46%), Alisson (46%) and Lloris (48%) all average fewer, but DDG completes the fewest per 90 due to his 34% accuracy.

So, to avoid extending the answer even further, it comes down to what Rangnick feels the more valuable skill set is right now: shot-stopping or distribution. If it’s shot-stopping, DDG is a great pick. If it’s distribution, they need to upgrade.

Attention shifted to some local rivals and when the Man City-Liverpool duopoly would crumble…

How long until a club other than Liverpool and City win the Premier League?

Squawka’s answer…

A long time…

Most Premier League points won since 2018/19:

335 – Man City

334 – Liverpool

264 – Chelsea

The gap is massive.


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Who could solve the midfield conundrum?

Statistically, what CDMs would you recommend? U25 age profile.

Squawka’s answer…

We have a YouTube video on 4 players Man Utd could sign to replace Nemanja Matic.

It’s an obvious name, but Aurélien Tchouaméni is the CDM every elite club should be trying to sign if they are serious about that position. His output is mind-blowing.

Why do Man Utd lose the ball so often?

HI Jake.

Between McTominay, Fred, Bruno and Pogba we seem to lose the ball A LOT.

I’m not sure how specific we can get but, in the opponents half and or final third who loses the ball more?

Squawka’s answer…

Hey, u/not-an-online-person, I think I can help with that.

Using the ‘Dispossessed’ stat, [Opta definitions available] here(https://www.statsperform.com/opta-event-definitions/), here are the top three per 90 leaders for Man Utd in the Premier League this season overall, in the opponent’s half, and in the final third.

Most Times Dispossessed per 90 – 900+ minutes

  • Paul Pogba (1.83)

  • Marcus Rashford (1.49)

  • Jadon Sancho (1.35)

Opposition Half

  • Pogba (1.32)

  • Sancho (1.12)

  • Cristiano Ronaldo (1)

Final Third*

  • Sancho (0.9)

  • Rashford (0.79)

  • Cristiano (0.78)

This does not include misplaced passes, it is more-or-less being caught on the ball by an opponent.

Possession Lost as a stat can be flawed because it leans towards players who cross the ball / try difficult passes more often. But here’s the top five for that stat in the Premier League:

  • Trent Alexander-Arnold (639)

  • Raphinha (568)

  • Tyrick Mitchell (521)

  • Bruno Fernandes (507)

  • João Cancelo (501)

Per 90 – 900+ minutes

  • TAA (24.86)

  • Raphinha (22.7)

  • Vladimir Coufal (21.8)

  • Jack Harrison (21.7)

  • Hakim Ziyech (21)

Bruno Fernandes is the highest for Man Utd (19.7) and ranks 8th overall in the above criteria.

Away from the usual names, who are some under-the-radar players Man Utd should be targeting? 

Hi Jake, are there any relatively unknown players that are statistically off the charts that you would recommend United to sign?

Thanks

Squawka’s answer…

Hey, u/MartialMathers, great question.

He’s not as much under-the-radar now, but I think Matheus Nunes’ (23, Sporting CP) dribbling makes him an extremely exciting midfielder. He could evolve into a Mousa Dembélé type – remember, he started as a centre-forward!

Charles De Ketelaere (21, Club Brugge) is another that caught my eye earlier in the season given his frame not necessarily matching up with his style of play. Think Josip Iličić.

I’ve also been a big fan of Dwight McNeil as well. Again, maybe not the sort of name you were necessarily looking for, but I would love to see him at a different club to see if his skills translate. He’s a prolific dribbler, tall, and has excellent delivery.

Pierre Kalulu at Milan is forming an incredible partnership with Fikayo Tomori – I think both players are underrated. But Bremer (25, Torino) is going to be the next big Serie A centre-back export, his interception numbers match your “off the charts” request: he’s made at least 19 more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues this season!

Four years ago I would have been able to list lots of names for this question but I don’t get to spend as much time looking for the next superstar these days. I hope those names are interesting.

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