Nemanja Vidic is the key figure in the Manchester United back four, the leader of the team and the player that the rest of the United side looks to when things aren’t going according to plan for the Old Trafford team.
He faces a big challenge this weekend to keep Southampton striker Rickie Lambert quiet, someone who has made a breakthrough with England this season and a key figure in the Saints attack in any match.
So where is this individual battle likely to be won this weekend?
Vidic has been more dominant in terms of aerial duels this season which won’t be a surprise to most considering his robust and aggressive approach to defending.
Vidic is winning 3.8 aerial duels per match compared to Lambert’s 1.9, which suggests it would be naïve of Mauricio Pochettino’s team to try and attack United aerially.
Tackles and Interceptions
Vidic is making 1.7 tackles per game in the Premier League this season and is making one interception per match on average.
If Lambert drifts onto his side of the defence and tries to match up against the Serbian physically, it’s another mini-battle which Vidic is likely to win.
Lambert has a decent passing success rate of around 70% this season, which means a better approach for him could be dropping off from the top of the attack, rotating with Pablo Osvaldo.
Shots and Clearances
Vidic is making a high number of clearances per game this season; 12.3.
That’s a very interesting stat considering Lambert averages around four shots per match in the Premier League for Southampton.
There could be situations where Southampton build a little bit of pressure, resulting in a second ball dropping Lambert’s way. When that happens it’s purely down to who can react the fastest with Vidic looking to clear and Lambert looking to pounce with a shot.
Set pieces are going to be very important for the Saints if they are to get anything out of this game.
Vidic is giving away one foul per game on average this season and Lambert needs to try and win free kicks in good positions.
Lambert is being fouled 0.8 times per league match this season but if he can make a nuisance of himself, getting under Vidic’s skin, he could win free kicks in dangerous positions around the United penalty area.
Vidic is one of the best in the business when it comes to holding his position.
Lambert can’t go up against him a direct physical battle but he’s still strong enough to manipulate Vidic’s position across the back four.
Lambert can drift onto Vidic, using his presence to drag the United captain slightly which will create more space through the heart of the defence for Southampton to exploit.
Roughly 69% of Southampton’s build up play comes from either flank, allowing Lambert the time and space in the middle to try and manipulate Vidic in this way.
Which way do you see this battle going?
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