Manchester United defender Chris Smalling looks set to move to Roma on a season-long loan, according to the Guardian. The Giallorossi will pay a €3m loan fee, with the player set to have a medical with the Serie A side.
It is no surprise that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has opted to offload at least one of his centre-backs. He currently has six at his disposal in his first-team squad, despite Eric Bailly being out until Christmas with a knee injury.
However, some fans are questioning why Smalling is being shown the exit door, with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo still at the club. Here are five reasons why they have made the right choice:
1) He loses the most headers.
Despite being the tallest out of Jones, Rojo and Eric Bailly, he has the lowest percentage for the number of aerial duels won (65.5%) over the past two years.
Even with Smalling’s height, and regularly challenging for headers, Jones (66.29%) and Rojo (67.39%) are simply better at it.
2) Smalling makes the fewest interceptions
In the past two seasons, the 29-year-old has made 4.75 interceptions per 90 minutes. With Rojo intercepting 5.65 and Jones at 5.8, you can clearly see that Smalling is the least proactive when trying to intercept balls.
3) He wins fewer tackles per 90 minutes
It must be said that Smalling is a good tackler. He has won 53% of his tackles over the past two years, but he puts his foot in less regularly than either Jones or Rojo.
Since August 2017, the former England defender has averaged 0.39 tackles per match, which is below both of his teammates.
4) Smalling picks up a lot of fouls
Considering that he makes fewer tackles per game than other defenders in the United squad, you would think he would commit fewer fouls, but he actually averages almost double the fouls per 90 (0.79) compared to Jones (0.47).
Unsurprisingly, Marcos Rojo averages 1.09 fouls per match and has picked up eight yellow cards in the last two seasons despite playing far less than his fellow centre-halves.
5) He makes the fewest successful contributions defensively
Successful defensive actions entail tackles, interceptions, aerial duels and one-on-one defensive duels. On this metric, Smalling has the lowest number (7.42 per 90 minutes) compared to Jones (8.02) and Rojo (8.33)
So, you can see why Smalling would be the one who is deemed the most expendable. With a younger player in Axel Tuanzebe also now ahead of him in the pecking order, it was almost inevitable that the defender would be the first to depart.