Alex Telles: The “real attacking left-back” to balance out Man Utd’s lineup?
In the aftermath of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace, Luke Shaw called on Manchester United chiefs to sign “more players to strengthen the squad”. Should they grant his request, however, he may find himself out of the team.
The weekend’s defeat served as a snapshot of the problems United have. While their rivals have all added to their squads over the summer, the Red Devils have been slow to address certain issues. Despite the quality Donny van de Beek, their sole signing of the window so far, will bring to midfield and attack, they remain weak at the back.
This was on full display against Crystal Palace. None of the United back four covered themselves in glory at Old Trafford, where Victor Lindelof was caught out in the build-up to the opening goal. But Shaw was singled out by his predecessor Patrice Evra for failing to track the player who actually finished it, Andros Townsend.
I think it’s laziness, he’s guessing and that’s the worst. I’ve made those mistakes where someone is crossing the ball and I’m not running. You have to be in line with your centre-backs and then you have to sprint to be on the same line as Lindelof. – Evra, at half-time during Sky Sports’ coverage of Man Utd 1-3 Palace
While they were losing to Palace, Tottenham confirmed the signing of supposed United target Sergio Reguillon but that does not necessarily mean Shaw won’t face new competition for his spot this season.
William Hill’s 2020/21 Premier League top-four odds:
- Man City – 1/33
- Liverpool – 1/25
- Chelsea – 4/9
- Man Utd – 4/5
- Arsenal – 13/8
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According to RMC’s Mohamed Bouhafsi, United have agreed a five-year contract with Alex Telles. If true, all that would remain is for United and Porto to settle on a transfer fee. And Porto’s Sergio Conceicao did not sound like a head coach steadfastly opposed to a sale when asked about the situation on Saturday
“The market is not about me,” said Conceicao, after a 3-1 win against Braga.
The Porto boss added: “I am not a manager, I am a coach and I have to train the players I have. Obviously I would like to count on everyone and if someone else came in, I would not be upset at all.”
Gary Neville recently argued that United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka should not be encouraged to emulate the more attack-focused Trent Alexander-Arnold. Wan-Bissaka should instead stick to an “old-fashioned” approach of serving his attacking teammates, according to Neville, who added: “Maybe Manchester United’s next signing is a real attacking left-back.”
So would Telles be the ideal signing to counter-balance Wan-Bissaka’s defensive expertise on the opposite flank? In some ways yes, in others not necessarily.
He scored twice and assisted the other in that 3-1 win, for one thing. And across the 2019/20 Primeira Liga season, Telles certainly played his part attacking-wise. The 27-year-old assisted eight goals in 31 matches for Porto, who won their 29th league title. He also scored 11 times himself.
Working with wider data pools, Telles averaged 2.03 chances created per 90 minutes in the league last season, almost double that of Shaw (1.04), and 9.19 attempted crosses, almost five times the current United left-back (1.97).
However, worth noting is that nine of Telles’ 11 goals resulted from penalties or free-kicks and, likewise, the majority of his creativity and crossing came from dead-ball situations. In a new team with rival set-piece specialists, such as Bruno Fernandes, Telles wouldn’t necessarily have the same opportunities to replicate his output of 2019/20.