William Saliba and Lisandro Martinez have been two standout defenders in the Premier League this season with both establishing themselves as key players for Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.
The performances of Saliba and Martinez have generated arguments as to who has stood out so far in the Premier League. That I will establish below with statistics from Whoscored.com and Fbref.com.
The first metric to adjudge a good defender is his defensive capacity and that is where I will start.
This season, Martinez has averaged 1.8 tackles per game which is higher than Saliba who has averaged 1.7 tackles per game. However, it is the Frenchman that has proven to be the better one-the-one defender. Saliba has been dribbled past once this season while Martinez has been dribbled five times. The Arsenal defender has also won 91.7% of the dribbles he has faced which is way higher than Martinez’s 77.3%. It doesn’t end here.
While Saliba has been a better one-the-one defender, Martinez has been the better aggressive defender. The Argentine centre-back is making 1.3 interceptions and 4 interceptions per game on average which is more than Saliba’s 0.7 interceptions and 2.8 clearances per game.
Thus, it is not surprising that Martinez has made more defensive actions (tackles + interception) than Saliba. Martinez has made 41 defensive actions which is 10 more than Saliba’s 31.
Martinez has also made more blocks than Saliba. He has blocked 14 shots and 9 passes which is more than Saliba who has made blocked only 4 shots and 2 passes.
It is also interesting to know that despite Martinez being more aggressive than Saliba, he has been cautioned( received a yellow card) 4 times while the Frenchman has 5 yellow cards in his pocket. It becomes more interesting to know that Lisandro Martinez is yet to make an error leading to a goal while William Saliba has made two.
Lastly, on their defensive attribute, Saliba has won 60% of his aerial duels which is more than Martinez who has won 54% of the aerial duels he has contested.
Let us talk about their offensive attributes because the hallmark of a modern centre-back is to be able to defend his goal and make good use of the ball when in possession of same.
It is the Arsenal defender that comes out top in this one in all ramifications. Saliba has scored 2 goals and registered 1 assist this season while Martinez has registered none. Well, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Saliba averages 66 passes per game while Martinez has been able to manage just 57. The Arsenal defender has completed 92% of his passes while the diminutive Manchester United defender has completed 87% of his passes.
Saliba is not a better passer of the ball than Martinez by passing sideways, he has shown that he is also a better progressive passer of the ball. A progressive pass is any completed pass into the opponent’s penalty area as defined by Fbref.com. 5358 of Saliba’s passes have been progressive which is higher than Martinez’s 4053.
From the above, it is safe to say that Martinez is better defensively but the Frenchman is a better ball-playing defender. But when you take a look at these stats closely, it can be seen that both of them are complete centre-backs.
In conclusion, there are no strengths and weaknesses for either of them as both can safely protect their goal and equally help their teams to break the opposition’s defence.
Both should be appreciated for who they are and how quickly they have hit the ground running and I make bold to say that both of them would make fantastic centre-back pairings.
In fact, I will get them both into my Football manager team 🤣