Manchester-born and bred; Jesse Lingard was once a promising youngster waiting in the limelight for a chance in the first team. Now at 27, Lingard is no longer the breakthrough prospect waiting in the limelight. In the 17/18 season, he scored 13 goals and provided seven assists across all competitions. His production has since plummeted, and in 2019 he had a disastrous campaign with zero goals or assists in the league and only one goal against Astana to “save” his record. Lingard is the same age as Paul Pogba, Mohamed Salah, Neymar, and Romelu Lukaku, however, while these stars are playing in their prime, Lingard has failed to follow suit. In this scout report, we will provide a tactical analysis behind Lingard’s decline, his best role and system, and potential destinations for the high-energy England International.
During his tenure at Manchester United Lingard has predominantly played in a 4-2-3-1 formation as a centre attacking-midfielder or right midfielder, drifting into pockets with his abundant energy.
A tactical analysis of his heat map displays the fluid attacking system that United uses as Lingard drifts into any of the attacking three positions. He tends to drift in from the left onto his favoured right foot to find a teammate in space or look for a shot on the edge of the box to curl into the far top corner.
Even though he plays in the attacking third, Lingard rarely loses the ball with 88% pass accuracy. This could be due to his less creative role, but this ranks third of all attacking midfielders in the league behind only Mesut Özil and Dani Ceballos.
Lingard’s movement off the ball takes attention away from the team’s more creative players, leaving space for them to find killer through balls. An analysis of all attacking midfielder’s second and third assists per 90 this season, Lingard is a clear outlier, ranking second in both categories. The scout report shows that while he might not be delivering the final passes, his work off the ball and ability to find his more creative teammates is miles ahead of his peers.
Movement off the ball
A tactical analysis of Lingard displays that his movement off the ball is the best attribute in his arsenal, allowing him to break the opposition’s lines of defence. In recent years, with Pogba as the team’s only creative force, he has struggled in this area because of a lack of service. With his quick acceleration, Lingard is able to receive the ball, sprint away, and find a teammate. His constant movement allows his team to bypass the midfield and break through the opposition lines.
After each pass, he moves into a different position to open up space for his teammates. He makes positive diagonal runs as seen below. After playing a lateral pass, while his teammates check to the ball, he runs in behind and squares it across goal for his teammates to finish off.
Without the ball, Lingard is intelligent with his runs, but with the ball, he has great control when playing with confidence. Here is a scout report of his technical abilities.
An excellent runner with the ball, against Watford in the 17/18 campaign, Lingard’s technical ability was on full display. After receiving the ball in his own third from a clearance, even in the business end of the match, he is able to sprint forward in an attempt to catch Watford on the backfoot.
With Lukaku to his right, Lingard drives through the centre and forces the defenders to run backwards with his high dribbling speed. As he nears the opposition box, he drops a shoulder, moves the ball onto his favoured right foot, and has the composure to slot it home after running the full length of the pitch.
His ability to read defenders and use his teammates’ runs as dummies portrays his intelligence. Here against Leicester, Lingard picks up the ball on the left. He sees Marcus Rashford making a run into the channel and uses his run as a dummy before cutting inside. He beats his former teammate, Michael Keane, and once he reaches his hot spot on the edge of the box, he finesses it into the top right corner.
His bending finesse shot is his best shooting technique. In his 17/18 season, 8 of Lingard’s 13 goals came from in and around the top of the box.
Sometimes the best attack can be a good defence. When United lose the ball, their tactics are to counter-press high up the pitch in a similar style to Manchester City and Liverpool. With his high work rate, Lingard tirelessly closes down defenders and cuts passing lanes to win the ball back as quickly as possible. Back to his 17/18 season, he took part in 5.25 defensive duels per 90 in the league with a 52.5% success rate. Fast-forward to this season, he is taking part in 7.22 defensive duels per 90 with a 47.41% success rate. This shows that his offensive frailties are compensated with his defensive output. Even though he plays in the attacking end, compared to all midfielders in the Premier League in 19/20, Lingard’s work rate on the defensive side ranks in the top 10.
When the opposition has the ball, Lingard takes up strategic defensive positions and is the trigger for his side’s pressing tactics. This is crucial in big matches when United aren’t dominant in possession. Because of this, he is one of the first names on the team sheet in an intense match.
Lingard’s chemistry with his players and pressing intelligence is difficult to match. Against Arsenal, Lingard sees an opportunity to press high up the pitch and win the ball back. He quickly closes down Shkodran Mustafi and with Lukaku to his right, blocking the pass to Monreal, he presses goal side.
He wins the ball from Mustafi and makes a great diagonal run. Lukaku slides it through to Anthony Martial, who beautifully lays it off for Lingard to slot home. His trigger to press Arsenal high up the field caught them off guard and his intelligent run crafted the goal.
After losing possession, Lingard is on an instant vendetta and tracks back to win the ball as quickly as possible. He is very intentional with his pressing and here moves from the left into the middle to block any supporting runs. He eventually tracks the Newcastle player down and wins the ball back, quelling the opposition’s counter.
The 2019 season was horrid for Lingard. Zero goals and zero assists in his 28 matches is a disappointing statistic for any outfield player, let alone an attacking midfielder. His confidence certainly dropped to an all-time low and it doesn’t help that he is in the midst of creating a brand, JLingz. His social media presence is a distraction from his play on the field and if he has hopes of getting back to his best, he will need to find a healthy balance between the two. On the same note, he also brings a lot of fans to any team he would join as he currently has 6.6 million followers on Instagram alone.
Lingard’s creativity, while it has never been superb, has declined in recent years. His xA per 90 in 17/18 was 0.14, lowering to 0.08 this season. A similar player to Donny van De Beek, Lingard is not going to be the creative force in his team and needs help from his team in that department. In addition, Lingard’s ability to get into shooting positions have declined. In his 17/18 season, Lingard was had the 3rd most xG per 90 at 0.35, compared to his tally of 0.13 this season. Here we analyze how he ranks against all attacking midfielders in the Premier League this season.
The signing of super-agent, Mino Raiola, is usually followed by a player exodus. The Manchester United fans have grown tired of Lingard and with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, the attacking midfield role is loaded with options. His contract ends in 2021 with an option to extend it for another year. Unfortunately, his salary stands at over £100,000 /week so unless he is willing to take a pay cut, his options start to dwindle. It seems inevitable that Lingard is on the way out so let’s take a look at his potential destinations based on his tactical analysis.
Antonio Conte is reportedly a big fan of the Englishman and has already brought in former teammates Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, and Alexis Sanchez. An analysis of his high pressing tactics shows that they would benefit from energy in the midfield and his versatility would add depth to a variety of positions. This is exemplified by their low PPDA (passes per defensive action in the final 60% of the field) at 10.06. Inter’s attacking strategy is congruent with Lingard’s style of play as they are taking a shot every 33 passes. These statistics display Inter’s high pressing counter-attacking style of play.
The highest-paid manager in the game, Diego Simeone, plays a defensive counter-attack. He might be one of the most frightening coaches in the world so if someone is able to keep Lingard away from his off-the-field antics, it’s him. Athletico’s PPDA is low to 10.5, which would support Lingard’s style. However, their offensive duels per 90 are low at 65.42. Lingard certainly fits the industrious requirements of the Spanish giants and would increase their offensive pressing with his defensive contributions high up the pitch.
Arsenal has already shown interest in the 27-year-old and needs depth in the attacking midfield with Mesut Özil as their only true central attacking midfielder. At 4.61 counter attacks per game, Lingard would fit their tactics fluidly. Their attack could also use his guile to support their more creative players like Mesut Özil, Pepe, Martinelli, and Saka. With 7.56 smart passes per 90, Arsenal can field a less creative player, like Lingard, without completely stifling their attack. With a load of young attacking players, he would be a fantastic, tireless player to learn from.
Former teammate, Ravel Morrison, would be delighted to link back up with Lingard. They were both parts of the squad that won the FA Youth Cup along with Paul Pogba. Sheffield has made an instant impact in the Premier League, but to avoid a sophomore slump, they will need to beef up their midfield. Their tactics involve a very fluid 3-5-2 which would be supported by Lingard’s constant movement and versatility. They have a very high long pass percentage of 14.87%. This will support Lingard’s speed for balls over the top and movement off the ball to win second balls out of the air. However, Lingard would most likely need to take a pay cut in order to play for The Blades.
Chinese Super League
A host of players from the Premier League have already transferred over to the lucrative CSL such as Oscar, Ramires, and Arnautovic. Lingard’s popularity would be helpful in securing a move to the expanding league and they might even be able to offer a pay increase.
Major League Soccer
Similar to the CSL, the MLS is an expanding league looking for reputable names to add to their rosters. With the designated player rules, Lingard wouldn’t have to take a pay cut. The level is certainly lower than the Premier League so he would be able to grow his confidence enough to hopefully secure a move to a destination of his choice. The downside is that there is a multitude of distractions in the USA, and knowing Lingard, he will need strict guidance.
What is imperative to Lingard’s success?
In order to stay with the Red Devils, Lingard has to improve his creativity and output. If the club decides to cash in on the Manchester talent, they should do so before he enters the last year of his contract. I believe the attacking midfielder needs a fresh start. At arguably the biggest football club in the world, Lingard is constantly hammered by his many critics and is losing what little confidence remains. He needs to play in a counter-attacking system with creative players that he can feed because he struggles against the low blocks that limit space. He would be an asset to any team, but his journey at United seems to have met its conclusion.