Every squad needs no-nonsense defenders and sweepers. Controlling the defensive line is their responsibility, along with many of the most challenging defensive duties.
They are typically tall and robust players because they need to be able to win one-on-one matchups with strikers, particularly headers from long balls, crosses and corner kicks.
The goal area should be controlled by the centre backs, who should also be able to pose a threat on offensive corner kicks.
In the modern world, the tall defender is embodied by Liverpool defender Virgil van Djik, who is a wall against any sort of aerial or ground threat.
Other defenders, like Paolo Maldini, Franz Beckenbauer, Nemanja Vidic, and Sergio Ramos are all over 6 feet and are often regarded as some of the best to play the game.
However, there are short defenders who are an exception to this.
Just a few of them include Carlos Puyol, Ivan Cordoba, and Fabio Cannavaro, who have redefined the needs of the position.
Since they move faster than taller defenders, they can more easily cover larger areas, especially when an opponent launches a counterattack.
Considering the average human, this is not short by any means.
However, anything less than 6 feet for a central defender immediately raises eyebrows.
For instance, Jamie Carragher said Martinez had no chance of excelling as a centre-back in the Premier League because he is simply too short.
“I am convinced Lisandro Martinez will not work. You can’t play a 5’9” CB in a back four.”
Even popular pages all over Twitter didn’t take long to get their jokes in about his height.
As the Red Devils had a rough start to the season, falling to Brighton and Brentford and conceding six goals, analysts were swift to bring up Martinez’s 5’9 height.
But since then, United have won four straight league games.
Alongside former Real Madrid player Raphael Varane, Martinez has established himself as a defensive rock, relegating the 6’4” Maguire to warm the bench.
The player’s response was: “To be honest, it’s a dream come true to be playing at such a big club as Manchester United, especially playing in the Premier League, which I think is one of the best leagues in the world.”
“I don’t pay attention [to criticism]. I believe in myself, and I trust myself. I always work hard every day. That’s what’s going to give you results at the end.”
Often, one major concern with shorter centre-backs is that they can’t win aerial duels. Does it stand true for Martinez as well?
Revered defender Van Dijk has an aerial duel win percentage of 74% in the Premier League.
Manchester City’s best CB Ruben Dias has a win percentage of 62%. Harry Maguire, the tallest of the lot that Martinez is replacing on the sheet, has a win percentage of 71%.
What about Lisandro Martinez?
70%. He is on par with the best defenders the league has to offer, so this criticism does not hold a lot of weight in it.
His biggest challenge is coming up next when Manchester City host Manchester United at the Etihad.
6’4” Erling Haaland is in the form of his life, having scored an incredible 11 goals in just the 7 games so far.
However, Martinez has proved before that he is more than up for this challenge.
Martinez and Haaland have met once before when Ajax hosted Dortmund in a UCL tie, which Ajax won by a staggering 4 goals to nil, with Haaland being neutralized.
It’s safe to say both players have something to prove in this next match – Martinez who wants to quiet the height critics once and for all, and Haaland who wants to show who the real king is.
This match-up will surely be one to watch. Watch this space.