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Smalling v Blackett - Who has had the better start to the season?

Old Trafford

We analyse Manchester United's Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett to see which defender has had the better start to the season.

Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett have both played roughly the same amount of minutes for Manchester United this season but which of the two has had the better impact? 

We take a look at the statistics of several different aspects of their game and show whether it's the academy graduate or the £12 million signing from Fulham.

Positive Defending Attributes: 

  Total ClearanceEffective ClearanceClearance Off LinePhysical Duel WonAerial Battle WonInterceptionInterception WonClean SheetMins Played
Chris Smalling 38 38 0 30 16 14 14 0 413
Tyler Blackett 36 36 0 22 8 16 16 2 552

The established England international unsurprisingly wins in most aspects but has yet to contribute to a clean sheet, while Blackett has played two out of United's three clean sheets - coincidence? Nevertheless, despite playing less than 100 minutes more than Blackett, Smalling wins this aspect quite comfortably. Point: Chris Smalling.

Negative Defending Attributes:

  Goals ConcededError Lead To GoalError Lead To ShotOwn GoalsChallenge LostPhysical Duel WonAerial Battle LostPossession LostMins Played
Chris Smalling 9 0 0 0 1 17 8 30 413
Tyler Blackett 8 0 1 0 4 17 5 61 552

The alarming statistic for Smalling is that despite playing less minutes than Blackett in the Premier League, he has been involved more when the goals have gone in. Although these may or may not be down to him, it's worrying that he carries that kind of goal conceded per minute ratio. Elsewhere in this aspect, Smalling is comfortably the outright winner. Louis van Gaal should move quick to address the fact Blackett has lost possession 61 times as that kind of neglience in the future could hurt the Manchester-based side. Point: Chris Smalling.

Fouls & Discipline:

  FoulsPenalty ConcededDangerous PlayYellow CardRed CardMins Played
Chris Smalling 8 0 0 0 1 413
Tyler Blackett 6 1 0 2 1 552

Chris Smalling's season was put under a microscope when two senseless decisions followed in him seeing red in the Manchester derby but Blackett, too, has seen red in the Premier League this season. The former Fulham defender, despite playing less minutes, has made two fouls more than Blackett but the former Blackpool loanee has been shown two yellow cards. In a tight one to call, it seems reasonable that the two yellow cards against Blackett ensure the win for Smalling. Point: Chris Smalling.

Although the senior England international wins in all three categories analysed, the progression of Blackett to even be able to compete with Smalling shows his huge development over the past few months. Last season, in a poor Blackpool side, the young defender struggled to stand out and could only watch Championship opposition put his loan side to the sword. At the same time, Smalling was preparing for the World Cup with the senior England squad. 

Both players impressed on Sunday as they dealt with a barrage of Arsenal chances and possession in order to claim the three points. And given the injury crisis currently in Manchester it's not beyond the realms of possibility both will remain at the heart of the defence for several more matches in the build up to Christmas.

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