Anthony Martial season review: It can only get better, right?
This was not a good season for Martial, the worst of his career in fact. Let’s try to be kind and break down why the season went wrong, whether there were any highlights, and what he needs to do to recover…
What was his situation heading into the season?
Martial entered this season coming off his best ever individual season, in which he scored 23 goals in all competitions, including his first ever hat-trick.
Back in possession of his number nine shirt, Martial had everything going for him, although he may have been left nursing some disappointment after missed chances in the Europa League semi-final.
The big problem initially for Martial seemed to be a lack of summer rest, like his other teammates, and he looked tired in his very first game back.
How did 2020/21 go?
Martial’s season got off to a terrible start with flat performances against Palace and Brighton and then he was sent off against Tottenham, leading to a three game suspension.
While he scored two Champions League goals in his first three games in the competition, Martial staggeringly did not net his first Premier League goal until December.
He ended the year in decent form and scored in United’s first match of 2021, offering some hope he could begin the calendar year well, but his performances soon slumped again.
Martial’s chances were somewhat limited by Edinson Cavani’s arrival, but when he did play, he did not justify his selection very often.
Injury kept him out of United’s Champions League group decider against RB Leipzig, and he also played just 45 minutes of a possible 180 versus AC Milan due to another injury.
His season ended poorly as he went nine games without a goal or assist before suffering an injury for France which ruled him out of the Europa League final and cost him his place at Euro 2020.
These are difficult to find. There was a stretch in December where Martial scored two goals and provided four assists in three games, in which it looked like he could get back to his best.
He did not kick on, and nor did he after his brace in the 9-0 win over Southampton, where he came on at half-time. This could have kickstarted his season, but instead these were his last goals of 2020/21.
Probably Martial’s best performance came in a game he did not score, in which he won the penalty and gave Ruben Dias the runaround in the 2-0 away victory over City at the Etihad. This was a performance which demonstrated Martial can be an asset, and United needed more games from him like this.
Sadly for Martial there are too many to choose from, starting with his red card against Tottenham. Edinson Cavani’s move to United went through 24 hours later.
Martial’s miss at home to PSG was also a bad moment. The game was poised at 1-1 at the time and Martial skied a clear cut chance which was practically an open goal. United lost the game and went on to exit the Champions League one game later.
United experimented with Martial on the left wing with Cavani up front, and he disappointed in each of these games, with a woeful performance away at West Brom one of his worst.
Probably the real low point of Martial’s season was his injury for France against Kazakhstan, which ended his campaign early and ruled him out of yet another major tournament.
What were the standout numbers?
After scoring 23 goals in 2019/20, Martial finished 2020/21 with just seven goals.
Martial scored only four Premier League goals, which is an unacceptable total for United’s number nine. He averaged a league goal every 372 minutes.
At various points in the season we waited for a spurt of goals which would see him catch up to Marcus Rashford and end respectfully, and it never came. Scott McTominay even scored the same number of goals as Martial, while Edinson Cavani netted 10 more.
This was the lowest scoring season of Martial’s career, which oddly came after his best one.
Martial did end the season on five assists, but not a single one of these came in 2021.
Next step in 2021/22?
Martial’s first step is simply to make it to the 2021/22 season as a Manchester United player.
There is some wild speculation he could be thrown into a swap deal for Harry Kane, and while that may be unlikely, there is a sense Martial is finally expendable to United.
Unlike this season, if he stays Martial will begin as a back-up to Edinson Cavani, and he needs to learn to cope with that.
Martial has had a habit of shrinking when faced with competition for his place, rather than rising to the challenge. He needs to accept the challenge and fight for his place.
There is question whether Martial is better as a striker, or whether there is a role for him on the left-wing.
Next season can’t really go worse for Martial than this campaign, but his chances could be more limited.
If he gets a reprieve and is still a United player next season then he needs to make it count, or it could be his last. There is a good player in there somewhere, who struck 23 goals in 19/20.
Martial’s task next year is to make the poor 2020/21 campaign seem like the freak one, rather than his successful 2019/20 season.
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