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Marcus Rashford: Does he stack up to the world's best?

Thursday 21st September 2017
There is a raft of exciting, vibrant young attackers throughout Europe. However, according to Phil Neville, when the conversation turns to the future stars of club football, there is one man that is often overlooked: Marcus Rashford.

After his two-goal performance against Burton Albion mid-week, Neville stated that Rashford should be thought of as a future superstar. So, I decided to delve into the stats…

Marcus Rashford scored two lovely goals against Burton Albion on Wednesday night. The first came just four minutes in. Michael Carrick fired a driven, low pass into the feet of Jesse Lingard. With Rashford buzzing around his strike partner, Lingard, deftly and delicately, touched the ball into space in the penalty area, which was duly tucked away with a confident chip from Rashford.

It wasn't long until the second came. Rashford drifted into a little pocket of space in the inside left channel, marginally beyond the corner of the penalty area, received a rolling pass inside, touched it onto his right foot and rifled a shot that clipped the near post with ferocious accuracy. It was an excellent, dead-eye finish.

So, given Neville's statement, let's see what the stats tell us, shall we?

An attacker's job is to score and create goals. Ultimately, that is what they are in the side to do. Last season, in 1703 Premier League minutes, Rashford scored five goals and assisted one; he was directly involved in a goal every 283 minutes of action. Dembele played in 2042 Bundesliga minutes for Borussia Dortmund; he scored six goals, assisted 12, and was directly involved in a goal every 113 minutes. Similarly, Mbappe played in 1501 Ligue 1 minutes for Monaco, scoring 15 goals and assisting eight. That equates to a direct involvement in a goal every 65 minutes.

Now, some may argue that the Premier League is tougher competition than the Bundesliga and Ligue 1. But the same theme runs in European competition also. Rashford scored two goals and assisted two goals in the Europa League last season, yielding a direct involvement in a goal every 192 minutes; Dembele scored two goals and assisted six in the Champions League; a direct involvement in a goal every 96 minutes. Mbappe was directly involved in a goal, in the Champions League, every 89 minutes, scoring six goals in the process.

Moreover, more than just goals and assists, Mbappe and Dembele outshone Rashford in dribbling statistics and passing statistics. Last season, in the Premier League, Rashford attempted 2.7 dribbles per game. He completed 1.2 per game and failed 1.5 per game. Mbappe was in a similar range of successful dribbles per game, at 1.1, but, crucially, he only failed on 0.9 dribbles per game, losing the ball far less frequently than Marcus Rashford. Dembele, meanwhile, completed a ridiculous 3.2 dribbles per game in the Bundesliga last season while at Borussia Dortmund, the highest in German football by some distance – the next best was Arjen Robben, who completed 2.5 dribbles per game.

Additionally, Rashford made 0.7 key passes (a chance creating pass or particularly incisive, penetrating pass, as defined by WhoScored) per game in the Premier League last season. Dembele made 2.1 and Mbappe, 1.1. Such disparity here proves the greater creativity and potency in the final third of Mbappe and Dembele in relation to opening up opportunities, and not just scoring goals.

Now, these statistics are not to prove Marcus Rashford a poor player with no talent and an overhyped future. Far from it. I think he is a wonderfully talented player who, if managed correctly, can develop into one the leading strikers in the Premier League and the world. But he is not alone in boasting a bright potential. In fact, he is not even leading the pack. A great player, yes. A great talent, most definitely. But he is not yet a world-beater. That is, hopefully, still to come.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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