Scouting Reports

City Watch Scouting Report: Aarón Martín (Espanyol)

Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

It is important to note that in the hours after the Aarón Martín news broke; when you Google ‘Aaron Martin’, a name that would not look out of place on the register of a secondary school in Wythenshawe, an Aaron Martin who plays centre-half for Oxford United is listed above the Aarón Martín that City are pursuing, such is his unknown quantity.

Pep has reportedly been chasing him for months, and now wants the Catalan, who could be signed for around €20million, to deputise for Benjamin Mendy. Probably after seeing Leroy Sané’s performance at left-back on Monday night.

Background

Born in April 1997, making him younger than almost every writer on the City Watch team including myself, Martín stands at just short of 6 feet tall and only made his debut for his local team, La Liga outfit RCD Espanyol, in October last year.

He went on to make 30 La Liga appearances in the 2016/17 season, the first of which was as a late sub against Villarreal. After that he would never look back. He has missed only two La Liga games since then, one due to suspension, and Espanyol finished in a very respectable 8th position last season.

He was so impressive that in March, it was reported United, City and Real Madrid would do battle for the youngster, yet nothing seemed to catch light as Real signed Theo Hernandez and City captured Mendy alongside two other full-backs – but now it seems that Pep wants to sign a fourth full-back.

He also started, and finished, Espanyol’s only game this season as Periquitos managed to claim a draw in Andalusia again against Sevilla. Aarón will presumably be Espanyol’s first choice left-back for years to come should he not leave. He has also made a solitary 45-minute appearance for the Catalan national team, playing alongside Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez and current Barcelona player Sergi Roberto as they lost to Tunisia on penalties.

City Watch writer Adam Selby on Aarón Martín

It was only a matter of time and comes as no great surprise to see Manchester City linked with 20-year-old Spanish left-back Aarón Martín. A product of RCD Espanyol’s youth academy, Martín has progressed through the ranks, joining the club at 8 years of age and becoming the club’s first-choice left-back as of the last La Liga season. Given both the scarcity of top quality left-backs available but more importantly following a number of highly impressive performances during the league last campaign, Real Madrid were heavily linked with Martín earlier this year, as were Manchester United, but with Manchester City now reportedly leading the way, it could well be a case of acting quickly in order to snap up one of the most promising players of both his age and his position.

Built in the mould of a preferred Pep Guardiola full-back, not only is Martín incredibly comfortable in possession but his distribution is key to his game earning him numerous plaudits over the course of last season. As a player that is confident at both left-back or in making use of his competency in both crossing and playing the ball off the ground, Martín has featured largely as a solid full-back more so than a roaming wing-back but you would think that he possesses all the attributes needed to transform his game and become a much more attacking outlet as a wing-back. Martín’s ability to dribble forward at pace would certainly be beneficial in transforming into an attacking wing-back and in similar to how both Danilo and Kyle Walker have been used at present, there is nothing to suggest why Martín couldn’t follow in the same way.

Martín certainly is promising and if he is able to realise his potential then there is every possibility of following in the footsteps of a long line of exceptional Spanish left-backs led by Juan Bernat, José Gaya and Jordi Alba.

Statistics

Here are some statistics taken from last season, given with the context of Ryan Bertrand and Álex Grimaldo, two other left-backs we’ve reportedly chased this summer.

Pass Completion: Martín (77%), Bertrand (83%), Grimaldo (80%).
Successful Take Ons: Martín (63%), Bertrand (38%), Grimaldo (45%).
Aerial Duels Won: Martín (40%), Bertrand (46%), Grimaldo (41%).

We must remember that Martín is some eight years younger than Bertrand and therefore some disparity, of which there is not much represented in the statistics above, is to be expected. I believe that the stats show he is a very similar player to Grimaldo, despite the difference in build between the two, and perhaps Martín has the edge thanks to Grimaldo’s injury record.

City?

City have spent big on full-backs this summer like we all begged them to. After shedding club icons, four of them in fact, the club genuinely had no recognised full-backs. Kyle Walker came in first, then Danilo, then Benjamin Mendy. A combination of an extortionate quote for Ryan Bertrand and Danilo’s versatility meant that we as fans expected the clubs’ full-back splurge to be over for the summer. Yet, as we saw on Monday night, we are one Benjamin Mendy injury away from Danilo at left-back, which is not his best position, and this could be exasperated by a Kyle Walker injury – meaning we’d have to play Fernandinho or… Leroy Sané at left-back. Which is genuinely only slightly better than Clichy or Kolarov there.

At 20, a move for Martín would represent another deal for the future as do most of the signings this club is beginning to make. Questions will be raised about Martín’s relative inexperience and they should be – but we cannot complain when City go out and buy established stars and then wonder why we don’t pick them up a few years earlier if we do not occasionally try to pick up one or two unknown quantities and see how they work out.

It’s hard to say whether or not City will make any progress with the signing of Aarón Martín, though reports from the Spanish press indicate that City’s interest is legitimate. If we do get him and he’s anything like the last full-back we signed from Espanyol, then €20million is absolutely nothing for what we’ll get in return.

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