The Evolution of Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford

This season, we saw Marcus Rashford take another huge leap in his development as an attacking force in the Premier League. Prior to his injury in his lower back (double stress fracture) in the middle of January, he had been tearing up the division, sitting in 3rd in the table for leading scorers, despite playing the majority of the season at left wing (he actually is still the 6th top scorer despite missing the last two months of football)! Still only 22 years of age, there is still room for improvement for the young Mancunian, but we will have a look at why he is already so impressive.

Goals13 (0.36)19 (0.73)
Assists8 (0.22)6 (0.33)
Key Passes*46 (1.26)28 (1.07)
Passes into final 1/339 (1.07)41 (1.56)
Shot Creating Actions*89 (2.62)74 (3.19)
Goal Creating Actions*12 (0.35)15 (0.65)
Attempted Dribbles108 (2.96)120(4.58)
* – click on me for definition
Bracketed Stats are per 90, stats provided by FBRef and StatBomb, all competitions included
Bold indicates highest over the two seasons.

First we will just take a look at some of the more basic statistical categories compared to his previous season (2018/19). On the whole, as can see in the above table, his per 90 statistics have improved in nearly every single category since last season. The obvious stand-out improvement has been in his amazing goal output; in 16 less matches played, he has scored 6 more goals! This vast improvement is so impressive, especially when considering that he usually lines up on the left flank and not up front, yet has still managed to improve his tally by such a margin. One argument many people will instantly bring up when talking about Marcus’ goal tally, is the fact that in the League, 5 of the goals he scored were penalties. First of all, let us first point out, scoring penalties shouldn’t be a knock on a player. They still need to be scored and can be missed. In Marcus’ particular situation too, he won 4 of the penalties he scored, so it is a weak argument against the 22 year old that is often brought up by opposition fans. Another weak narrative is that Rashford only scores goals on the counter as he is quick and lacks the skill to score otherwise. Only 15.2% of Rashford’s goals have been scored on the counter, a smaller percentage than that by Mo Salah. 19 goals by January for any player is brilliant, especially for a young winger. The technique on his shots is very impressive too in how he strikes the ball, with a knuckle-ball type of hit, causing lots of movement on the ball in mid-air and making it difficult for the keeper to save, as seen with his free kick against Chelsea.

Marcus Rashford

His assists per 90 have increased from 0.22 to 0.33 per 90 this season, a 50% increase! This is great to see from him, as he moved from the striker position so slightly more creative burden would usually be expected from him. Some people have argued he has just been lucky and had better finishing on the end of these passes, however this is categorically untrue. The volume in creation has also increased. Last season, he made 2.62 shot creating actions per 90, this season saw that increase to 3.19 per 90 (an 22% increase), and his goal creating actions went from 0.35 per 90, to 0.65 per 90 (86% increase)! This is especially impressive when you consider Sadio Mane has 0.53 goal creating actions per 90, and he is often considered the best LW in the division. Marcus has also increased his passes into the final third of the field by 46% to 1.56 per 90 since the previous season. This is a result of him getting on the ball more and looking to create for other players ahead of him. He has become one of the most productive wingers in the league comfortably, consistently improving his playmaking season upon season.

Marcus Rashford

When it comes to on the ball skill, even in this department Rashford has shown significant improvement over the last few seasons. Looking at dribbling, Marcus is attempting 4.58 dribbles per 90 (55% increase since previous season) as he gains more confidence in his own ability, and Ole gives him the green light to run at defenders. This confidence shows as he has made 9 nutmegs, the most in Europe at the time of his injury. More importantly he is now being dispossessed less often and miscontrolling the ball less. He has gone from miscontrolling the ball 2.66 times per 90, to 2.10 per 90 and is dispossessed 1.41 times as opposed to 2.44 times, a significant improvement on his ball security. Again as a comparison, Mane is dispossessed 2.56 times per 90, 82% more than Rashford has been this season. Some of this could be attributed to the physical changes he has made over the years, as he has bulked up from a skinny boy in an almost Ronaldo-esque manner. Whatever the reason why, he has become much better at not giving possession away by either a bad touch or being dispossessed. Alongside this, he has also become one of the most direct runners in the Premier League making 12.41 runs per 90, pairing this with his good linkup play and quick feet, he has gone on to develop a very promising partnership with Anthony Martial, they seem to have a real chemistry between them. They will often interchange positionally, with Rashford moving into the space up front and Martial drops to the left wing.

Marcus Rashford’s physical transformation

One of the main ways in which he could improve his overall game would be his heading, in too many situations he closes his eyes as the ball gets to him, leading to bad connection with the ball. It is something that would help him get some more goals over the next few years. Another issue is his runs, or lack of variety in them. He doesn’t often curve his runs, or hesitate to deceive defenders, so his runs can become predictable as he stays in the defenders eye-line. This though, can be improved with good coaching, it can easily be resolved.

All in all, Marcus Rashford has taken a huge stride forward this season to proving he is one of the leading players in the Premier League, and he has opened the discussion as to whether he may be the best left winger in the division. He may not be quite there just yet, but he isn’t as far off as some people think…

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