Rumours are picking up pace that Manchester United are looking to bring in 27-year-old Leighton Baines from Everton as another left back. With Evra not being the reliable player he always was, combined with Fabio leaving to QPR on loan and the future of Ezekiel Fryers being up in the air, United could do with buying a left back so that Patrice has to play for his place.
Patrice has become far too comfortable in his guaranteed starting spot at United and bringing in competition for the place will do no harm to the squad and it would force Patrice to cut the complacency out of his game – but is Leighton Baines the right man? Let’s have a look at the breakdown of Patrice Evra’s and Leighton Baines’ last Premier League campaign. All stats provided by FantasyFootballScout and Opta.
The stand out statistic from this is the fact that Leighton Baines was involved in 16.2% of Everton’s goals last season, in comparison to Patrice Evra’s 4.6%. Sure, the fact that Baines took all of their corners (completing 17/68) contributed to this but it shows how much more involved Baines is in the attacking threat that Everton carry, something that has dwindled with Evra in recent seasons.
Baines received 37% of his passes in the final third of the opponents half whereas Patrice Evra received only 28%, reflective of how Baines often found himself further up the pitch joining in with the attacking threat of his team far more than Evra did.
Patrice may have had far more passes over the season but when it comes to final third involvement, the players are extremely similar. The striking difference comes in their crossing with Baines attempting 156 and completing 52 more crosses than Evra. This, for me, is the greatest attraction of Baines.
Antonio Valencia‘s crosses were one of our most fruitful assets last season. Ashley Young attempted to do this but he became too predictable cutting inside to whip a ball in. If Baines joined in on the left flank, we would possess a real threat from the left hand side that I don’t think Evra carries any more.
Evra does not get forward with as much tenacity as he used to and we have become slightly two dimensional on the wings because of it – but does Baines’ attacking threat affect his defensive performance?
Patrice Evra trumps Leighton Baines’ in almost every defensive statistic. He made 39 more tackles, 101 more clearances and recovered the ball 35 more times than Baines as well as having 40 more successful aerial duels. Defensively, Patrice is stronger in statistics but there were multiple occasions where he was caught out of position and he has been one of our weak points this season.
Will he decline further next season? After another torrid international tournament from France, he isn’t exactly starting on the best foot and with Vidic returning he will more than likely lose the armband, so the context is ominous.
For me, Leighton Baines would represent a good buy for around £10million. Being 27, he represents a short term solution to our left back situation and because of his age, he doesn’t really have a resale value. The attacking aspect he could bring to United would be great for us going forward but I think there is a danger of us being left exposed when he gets caught out.
It is hard to find a defender who can balance marauding runs with defensive discipline, Jordi Alba being the prime example of when it can work but whether or not Baines will be the man for United remains to be seen.