At the start of the season when Di Maria was signed for a British record transfer fee, expectation was rightly high on the Argentine to hit the ground running from the word go and the dynamic winger duly did. Scoring in his old Trafford debut and following it with another spectacular goal against Leicester City the following week, Di Maria was flying high. At that moment he was also the team’s most productive player as he was creating many chances for his teammates.
But the niggling injuries suffered by the player did not help him return back in best of conditions. Also, when he returned, the team’s poor display on the field did not help him settle in the side. The numbers however seem to suggest that Di Maria’s problems are primarily down to tactical reasons combined with team’s poor performance rather than down to a lack of effort. A comparison from last season suggests that he is not performing that bad.
His pass completion rate has dropped down slightly from 82 percent to 80. He is creating fewer chances (2.99/game) this season compared to 3.42 from last season. Although this figure is still higher than that of Eden Hazard’s 2.74. Also he is making fewer forward passes 24.87 to last season’s 31.81. Also his dribbling rate has decreased this time around, completing only 36.92 percent of his runs this year compared to an impressive 49.48 percent last year. However, he is firing more shots this year, with 3.87/game compared to 2.39 last year. But, most of his shooting has been wayward this season as Di Maria managed to hit just 45 percent shots on target compared to last season’s 59.
Also at times he has been a little selfish by trying to do all on his own by shooting from distance rather than trying to pick out his teammates. But that also shows his lack of trust with his teammates, as he does not believe them to be at the same level of his former front line of Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale. These numbers certainly shows Di Maria’s dip in form from last season, but it does not mean that the player is not working hard. May be he is trying too hard to make things happen, which is not helping his cause.
Also the vast drop in forward passes suggests a lack of good movement in front of him by his teammates. Di Maria, after all has been one of Europe’s leading playmaker for the last few seasons, so if his passing has regressed then it is fair to conclude the fault is not entirely his. His recent sluggishness is also due to an imbalanced attack in front of him. Also he is asked to do a lot of defensive work at Manchester United which the winger has done a lot effectively. Given that he is United’s most creative player, Van Gaal should allow him to focus only on attack and the team’s setup should be remodeled around him.
Image Courtesy: ESPN and Express
Stats Courtesy: ESPN