This three-part series looks at the three most heavily linked options Erik ten Hag has to add a left footer to his central defensive options.
Using Opta data acquired from Squawka along with our own insights and observations, we aim to see how the transfer targets stack up against one another.
Part One focused on Pau Torres of Villareal, while Part Two analyzed Lisandro Martinez of Ajax – a defender with incredible aerial stats despite not possessing the stature of an aerially dominant center-half.
Here in Part Three, we will take a look at an up-and-coming player at Sporting Braga, before drawing some conclusions.
At 6’4 ”David Carmo certainly does possess the stature of an aerially dominant center-half and in competing in 4.3 aerial duels per 90 ‘last season, the data backs him up.
There are, however, a couple of important caveats to go with his stats.
His success rate of 63.83% is lower than would be expected of a towering defender, although these statistics are based on only 12 Primeira League appearances, having only returned from a serious injury in February.
His road to recovery lasted a full year having suffered a horrific ankle injury in a 1-1 draw with FC Porto in February 2021 in an incident which required players to push an ambulance off the pitch after it became stuck in mud.
Before the injury, he had been strongly linked to Liverpool as an understudy to Virgil van Dijk, with the Merseyside club instead opting for Ibrahima Konate.
Carmo’s performances in the Europa League – particularly home and away against Rangers – show that he has returned to his best on the big stages, however that injury means that the towering center-half is yet to complete a season with more than 18 league appearances.
The lack of a large dataset makes it difficult to compare Carmo directly with the other targets, however the eye test reveals an imposing presence with a penchant for a defense-splitting pass.
It does indeed contrast sharply with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s search for a right-back in the summer of 2019, during which Max Aarons was seen as the second choice signing to Aaron Wan-Bissaka – two fullbacks very much at the opposite ends of the attack / defense spectrum.
Erik ten Hag seems to be specifically targeting a defender who can offer progressive passes that break the lines, which would go some way to addressing the lethargic and often predictable nature of build-up play at Old Trafford.
Where the three men differ stylistically is largely in the defensive side of their games.
Pau Torres covers space to a world-class level in a ‘Big Five’ league but struggles with aerial challenges despite being quite tall.
David Carmo is the most physically imposing, but perhaps the least assured in possession and has a distinct lack of experience owing to his unfortunate injury history.
Lisandro Martinez is a terrier, happy to commit to defensive actions wholeheartedly, though some may be put off by his lack of height irrespective of his impressive aerial numbers.
It does appear that price will also be a major factor, with United currently trying to stretch a limited transfer budget as far as possible to revitalize a squad that looked in need of ‘open heart surgery’ according to ex-interim Ralf Rangnick.
One would expect Carmo to be the most reasonably priced, given that he is far less proven than the other two players mentioned. That does, however, come with a different kind of cost, as he is yet to show that he can be relied upon to play a key role over the course of an entire season.
With Torres, it would be easy to imagine Villareal pointing to his £ 52m release clause, which could prove somewhat restrictive should United’s financial commitment to solving the midfield problem eat up a considerable portion of the transfer budget.
Reports suggest that Lisandro would only be available at around the £ 40m mark given the outgoings which have already taken place at Ajax, although given that Ten Hag knows him well and has already reaped the benefits of looking past his height, that may well be amenable to him.
We previously covered reports claiming that United have already held several discussions with Braga about Carmo’s signature.
Having reportedly enquired about all three, whichever way United go, it would be encouraging to see one of them rejuvenate the defense and improve the exercising ability to move the ball.