post cover

Re-assessing my Harry Maguire take

|| Does what I said in the summer hold up? ||


Mark Thompson

Jan 28 2020

4 mins read


People are often not very good at judging their own predictions. Usually this is because we forget them. Which is usually because we don’t put much thought into them. Opinions are thrown out like bread to ducks: relatively cheaply, for only shallow and temporary benefit to yourself and forgotten small doses of harm to the ducks.

We’re also unlikely to keep monitoring a player if it looks like we’re wrong about them, whereas we’ll keep track of them if it looks like we’ll be right. Unfortunately for me, it’s difficult to stop monitoring a player if you wrote numerous considered blog posts about them only a few months ago. And so here I am with Harry Maguire.

The start of this post offered some misgivings about the (at the time) proposed move to Manchester City and in more detail on the actual move to United here. I’ll draw out the most jam-packed quote of that second one here:

On the Maguire front, I do not believe that he’s a magnificent defender. He is, at worst, broadly competent. At best he is moderately good. His speed of turning is not great; he is reticent to engage with attackers (not necessarily a bad thing, but a notable stylistic quirk) and can be clumsy when doing so; he has had a surprising amount of communicative issues with Wes Morgan in his time at Leicester. He is not bad positionally. Substitute out player and team names and these could all be applied to Chris Smalling.

Don’t scoff - let’s not forget that Smalling had a period of time when he was truly lauded. Under Louis van Gaal in 2015/16, there was a stretch of a few months where his role and his form aligned and his reputation went through the roof.

I haven’t watched Smalling at Roma but he’s a regular starter and they’re fourth so he can’t be doing badly.

The ‘at worst, broadly competent; at best, moderately good’ (applying specifically and exclusively to his defending) is a little harsh. I definitely think that I underestimated how well he reads situations a little bit, and certainly didn’t appreciate how consistent his performances usually are and the value that that has.

But he was so expensive. The thing with transfers is we’ll never know what Manchester United could have done with that money had they not bought Maguire. And the thing with defenders is that it’s hard to put forward some alternative suggestions. Forwards are easy; though superficial, a search for some shot-based stats will give you some starting point ideas at least. For defenders you’ve just gotta watch them. And nobody really cares until some big transfer like this one.

Where was I.

Maguire. It looks like it’s worked out for United, and good for them. It would’ve been a disaster if it hadn’t. I think I thought that it might, but that there was a strong chance it wouldn’t. I think I was probably wrong, but only marginally. It might have been more accurate to have said that it might work, but there was a medium chance that it wouldn’t (compared to the sum of money he was bought for).

I was also, for the record, probably wrong about how well Virgil van Dijk would do at Liverpool. I thought he’d be more caught out if he had to play high up the pitch; didn’t know how valuable his organisational and general leadership qualities were; underestimated his distribution to an extent. (I was, though, right about my very oldest take, that Dejan Lovren was just fine for Liverpool back when they first bought him and they weren’t the club they are now, and that the Croatian was a decent first-choice centre-back for a 3rd/4th-place Premier League club; now that Liverpool are better than that, they’ve outgrown him, and I’m at peace with that).

That’s a 1/3 record for the centre-back opinions I can remember thinking most deeply about, although the two misses weren’t big ones. I have no idea if that’s a good record. But I am all out of bread, and don’t much like ducks anyway.

Read more posts like this in your inbox

Subscribe to the newsletter