Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof had his difficulties when first arriving at Old Trafford but the general consensus has been that the Swedish international has begun to settle into life at the club over the past twelve months.
His appearances have certainly increased with Jose Mourinho and his successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer having given the centre-back 39 starts last season, 14 more than his first campaign in a United shirt.
Some fans will be surprised to learn, then, that statistically speaking Lindelof has pretty much stood still during his two years with the club and hasn’t improved as much as people think.
You can’t completely rely on stats to gauge improvement in players but when it comes to defending, there are some clear indicators as to whether a team have a good centre-half or not.
Can they win aerial battles? Can they triumph in one-on-one duels with opposing strikers? How many tackles do they commit to? How many interceptions or clearances do they make per game? All of these can be measured and with Lindelof, there is very little to choose from when comparing his first and second seasons.
In terms of defensive duels, he won 65% in his first campaign and 64.5% in his second. With regards to interceptions, he averaged 5.19 per 90 minutes in the 2018/19 season, which is only very slightly higher than the 5.12 he managed during his first year at the club.
When it comes to recovering the ball from opponents, Lindelof is actually worse. Recovering 4.81 balls per 90 last campaign compared to 5.19 in his first twelves months at Old Trafford. He is, however, slightly improving his ability to clear the ball. Lindelof averaged 3.14 per 90 in the 18/19 season, which is much higher than the 2.4 he managed in his first campaign.
Ironically, though, the one area where Lindelof has shown improvement was exposed when Jannik Vestergaard leapt above him to score the equaliser goal for Southampton last weekend. It was also an issue for the opening goal against Crystal Palace.
In the 2018/19 season, he had a 59% success rate for winning aerial duels, compared to 49% in 2017/18. His number still puts him quite behind someone like Virgil van Dijk who won 63.6% of his aerial duels last season while averaging nearly double the number of aerial challenges per 90 minutes.
It will be interesting to see how long manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opts to keep faith with Lindelof if his development continues to stall. At 25, he is only a year younger than Harry Maguire whose leadership and authority as a defender is there for all to see. The Swede shouldn’t be looked at as a player with potential anymore and it may be time to consider other options in the not too distant future if the defence doesn’t improve.