One of the biggest criticisms being levelled at Manchester United and Louis van Gaal has been the lack of investment, wait before you take the pitchforks out, we are not speaking about a lack of investment in the team, but in a particular position.
The central defence has been a cause for concern for the team from Manchester and even though Louis van Gaal brought in Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, United do not look extremely sound in that position. It hasn’t helped the team when they have had to make a number of changes in the back line due to injuries, Phil Jones being the latest who missed out on the starting line-up at the start of the season due to injury.
Yet it has been one player who has stood in the storm and has survived. Chris Smalling might have been one of the few players who was expected to leave Manchester United last season after a few offbeat performances, but he did get better as the season progressed and Louis van Gaal rewarded the English defender with a new contract in the offseason and now he seems to be the best central defender at Manchester United, but is he the best in the league?
One of the best out there, but not the best
The 25-year-old central defender has gradually gotten better during his time at Manchester United, this season; almost all his stats are on the rise when compared to his previous seasons at the club. This certainly seems to be a good thing for him and shows his versatility as he has had to play under three different managers, who all had varying styles of play and setting up the team.
It was Sir Alex Ferguson, who plucked Smalling up from Fulham and gave him a chance to perform at the biggest stage, but Smalling has had to play under David Moyes and also under Louis van Gaal, who have changed the way United play over the years.
Smalling, though isn’t the best defender out there in the league, based on stats from Squawka.com; the defender is in the top 10 in the league and is, in fact, placed higher than any Chelsea and Arsenal defender. The Manchester United defender has played all the nine games for the club this season and has one of the highest interceptions per games with 2.11 that is one of the best numbers when it comes to central defenders.
The number of blocked shots by Smalling isn’t that great as he only averages 0.44 blocked shots per game, while some of the higher placed defenders in the list manages more than a blocked shot per game and that is something the English defender has to work on if he wants to be one of the world’s best.
Smalling also averages 1.89 tackles per game, another high number when compared to other fellow centre-backs in the Premier League. Smalling seems to be getting better as he spends more time on the pitch. Most centre-backs hit their peak when they are 28-years-old, but Smalling still has a few more years in hand before he hits the big 28 and that could mean, he can turn into the world best by then.