For many years now, Ajax’s scouting network has found players of quality consistently. While their scouting network is already extensive in Europe, Ajax in recent years have started to expand and search for talent in other parts of the world as well, including South and Central America. One such find has been the Argentinian centre-back, Lisandro Martinez.
Martinez joined Ajax in the summer of 2019 from the Argentinian club Defensa y Justicia. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength and become a mainstay in ten Hag’s defense. Martinez’s performances and impact, especially in the second half of the 2019-20 season, were taken note of by several top European clubs. He made 24 appearances in the Eredivisie for Ajax in his first season, while also making 10 in Champions League. He continued to display steady and energetic performances in the following season as well, and made 26 appearances in the Eredivisie and five in the Champions League as the Dutch giants were crowned Eredivisie Champions for the 35th time.
In the current season, Martinez has continued to be a regular feature of ten Hag’s line-up. He has made 16 appearances in the Eredivisie, with his side currently at the top of the table with 13 wins, four draws, and two losses in 18 matches. The Argentinian has also been afforded regular appearances in the Champions League, featuring in all six of Ajax’s group stage matches as they charged towards the knockouts. Martinez’s highlight performance was perhaps in Ajax’s 4-0 win against Borussia Dortmund in the group stage of the Champions League as the centre-back was one of the best players for Ajax on the pitch. The Argentinian displayed his strong defensive attributes and impressive ball-playing ability, skills that have gathered attention from many European Clubs.
Let’s dive into the Argentinian centre-back’s stats from the Champions League to understand whether he can provide ten Hag with the defensive solidity to get through the round of 16.
Most of Martinez’s defensive stats are above-average in the Champions League. This can be attributed to the fact that Ajax have been flying through the group stage and have barely had to sustain prolonged pressure from the opposition. Nevertheless, most of Martinez’s defensive stats surpass the league median value. His most notable stats have been loose ball duels per 90, recoveries per 90, and recoveries in the opponent’s half per 90. The Argentinian is a difficult opponent to face who excels in one-on-one defending. He actively engages in defensive and aerial duels and has an impressive success rate.
Martinez excels as a ball-playing defender and is calm and collected in possession. His awareness and mobility allow him to win the ball early, and he can then utilize his passing skills to pick out a pass to a nearby teammate. His ‘pass map’ displays the areas of the pitch where he has delivered his passes this season. The centre-back has made multiple long and diagonal passes into the opposition box. At times in previous seasons, Martinez has also been deployed as a deep-lying midfielder due to his command on the ball. The Argentinian can utilize his low centre of gravity to shield the ball in tight areas and can swiftly change directions and move away from his markers.
Martinez’s work rate is impressive, as evident from his heat map. In ten Hag’s backline, the Argentinian has been deployed on the left side of defense as a left-centre-back. His heat map also indicates that he has driven higher up the pitch in the opponent’s half as well.
The young centre-back’s passing ability is further highlighted by the above chart. Martinez is at the top of the Champions League in terms of successful passes. He averages 72.16 successful passes per match.
Despite his young age, Martinez displays remarkable command and authority with the ball. He is robust in defense and assured in possession, and his short stature does not stop him from going in for tackles. If Martinez continues to replicate his group stage performances, he will be set to feature in ten Hag’s backline in the knockouts as well. He can provide Ajax with the defensive solidity.