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Werner vs Martial: Chelsea and Man Utd presents struggling duo with chance to improve fortunes

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The return to Premier League action post-lockdown last season saw Anthony Martial surge up the goalscoring leaderboard.

In the end, the Manchester United man finished the campaign with 17 goals to his name, six of which came following football’s return in mid-June following the COVID-19 enforced break in play. It wasn’t enough to secure the Golden Boot, but the United forward enjoyed his most prolific domestic campaign to date no less.

With three of his six assists coming in his final nine league outings of the season, only teammate Bruno Fernandes (10) had a direct hand in more league goals than Martial (9) in the post-lockdown run of matches. The France star’s fine form in the final third saw him yield a WhoScored rating of 7.67, that the fifth best in the Premier League once action got back underway in mid-June

The expectation, then, was that Martial had finally become the forward United fans had hoped following his high-profile arrival from Monaco in 2015. Forging a fine relationship with Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s favoured 4-2-3-1 setup, the ingredients looked to be in place for Martial provide the goals to turn United back into genuine title contenders.

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Ahead of today’s trip to Chelsea, United sit second in the Premier League, albeit 13 points behind rivals Manchester City, and are, along with Leicester, City’s closest rivals for the title. However, Martial hasn’t played the key role many expected. The 25-year-old has scored just four goals – two of which came in the second half of their 9-0 rout over Southampton – and laid on a further three assists. Edinson Cavani, who joined from PSG over the summer, has scored more goals (6) despite player 540 fewer minutes.

In truth, a lot more was expected of Martial on the back of his storming post-lockdown form, and his sub-par showings have seen him garner a WhoScored rating of just 6.85. In a Spider-Man meme turn of events, Martial has earned the exact same rating as Chelsea frontman Timo Werner, an out-of-form frontman in a similar predicament. The German joined Chelsea from RB Leipzig last summer for around £55m and there was huge pressure on his shoulders to transfer his Bundesliga goalscoring form to the Premier League.

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In his final season in Germany, Werner netted 28 league goals, so supporters were understandably excited at the arrival of one of the Bundesliga’s most prolific hitmen, yet the 24-year-old has hit the back of the net just five times in 24 Premier League outings, with his strike in the 2-0 win over Newcastle earlier this month ending a 14-game goalless run in England’s top tier.

It feels, then, like today’s meeting between Chelsea and United is the chance for either forward to turn their season around. Werner has been playing in a deeper role under Thomas Tuchel rather than being shifted to the left flank as he was under Frank Lampard and, in working with another striker, either Tammy Abraham or Olivier Giroud, this plays to Werner’s strengths, as evidenced by his deployment alongside a more physically imposing striker for RB Leipzig last term.

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For Martial, it seems the problem lies in not being as involved as much in the opposition box. In the final nine games of 2019/20, he was averaging 7.2 touches inside the opposition box per game, but that has dropped to 5.7 this season, so the United man needs to work his way into the right areas of the penalty area to receive the ball and go for goal.

That’ll prove to be easier said than done against a Chelsea side that has conceded just two goals in eight games with Tuchel at the helm, just one of which has been by an opposition player. United, meanwhile, are the only Premier League team yet to lose an away league game in 2020/21, winning eight of 12 matches, so both Martial and Werner will have their work cut out if they are to improve their identical WhoScored ratings and, crucially, rediscover the goalscoring touch that made them so effective last season.

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