We Need To Talk About Muniesa
Recently a father, 24 years young and with a smile that could melt Carl Dickinson’s heart on a bad day, the Spaniard is held in high regard by many Stoke City fans. I include myself in that bracket. I’ve literally got been there and got the t shirt.
However, in the last week or so, dark thoughts have manifested in my mind. Is this season make or break for young Marc Muniesa? Let’s take a closer look at things.
Having progressed through the Barcelona youth system he was always going to be a player that caused a stir throughout Stoke-On-Trent after joining on 2nd July 2013. Prior to that he had helped Barcelona B to promotion to the Segunda division, featured 26 times for Spanish youth teams and was the second youngest player ever to feature in the Barca first team. That first performance was prematurely cut short after only a few minutes when Muniesa was sent off for a bad tackle. I can’t really imagine my Muni getting sent off, even after three years of living in Stoke.
So apart from getting sent off on his debut, where did it go wrong for Marc? Well, if you hadn’t guessed it already, injury was probably a major factor for Barca’s willingness to let him go. After promotion to the main squad in anticipation of Barcelona’s 2012/13 season Muniesa started their first pre-season friendly. One torn anterior cruciate ligament injury later meant the end to Marc’s Barcelona career and he was sold the following summer to the Potters. Oh, and by the way, that pre-season friendly was against Hamburger SV, look after him on the weekend if you are heading over…
Unfortunately for Marc, and the myriad of Stoke fans that hold the centre back dear, injuries have unrelentingly marred his playing time since moving to Staffordshire. It is the main reason why he has never really cemented himself within Hughes’ first team plans. In the last two seasons he has featured in the Premier League for just 2,515 minutes. To put that in context with Stoke’s most consistent performer last term, Wollscheid spent 2684 minutes playing in the red and white last season alone. Obviously, if there was any way that Marc could prevent these injuries from occurring it would be at the top of his priorities to try and stop them. Avoiding an extended period off the pitch this year is essential for many players in the Stoke squad, none more so than Marc Muniesa.
Another smaller issue during the defender’s time with Stoke is that when he is fit he has often been deployed as a replacement for a crocked Erik Pieters. As there is no out and out left back to compete with the Dutch fullback the responsibility to replace him is often taken up by Muniesa. More of an oval peg in a round hole than a square one, his time at left back has left many, perhaps unfairly, criticising his defensive abilities. Perhaps the promotion of highly rated under 21 Joel Taylor to the first team, or a fresh signing, could benefit Muniesa in nailing down a first team place in his preferred position.
It is clear to see that the most important component dictating Muniesa’s future with Stoke is his fitness. A consistent run of games at the heart of our defence is crucial for Marc’s development. Looking at his defensive stats over the last season there isn’t too much difference between him and last terms solid performer, Philipp Wollscheid.
Stats don’t tell the whole story of course and his playing time leaves a lot to be desired but the signs are there that Marc could guarantee himself a first team place if he is able to keep himself fit.
On a quick side note following the success of Eric Dier in the role last year, I have wondered for a while whether Marc could be successful playing in a holding midfield role. Comfortable on the ball, he can pick out a pass and is of a stature that not everyone would immediately link to a centre back in the Premier League, he could be the perfect candidate to replace Glenn Whelan. It would take a lot of work from the player himself but might be something to consider, especially if Allen is preferred in a more attack minded midfield role. Let me know what you think, @bajcartwright on Twitter.
So, is this season make or break for Marc Muniesa? Well, to be brutally honest, if I didn’t think the answer to that question was yes I wouldn’t have written this article. Although a favourite of mine, and many others, there must come a point where missing nearly half of every season through injury becomes an issue. The Spaniard has never been able to fully cement a first team place, whether that be because of consistent injury problems or due to an inconsistent role at left back. It pains me to say it, but if Muni can’t make a serious impact on the first XI this year then it might be time to show him the door.
Muniesa, it’s really time you made your Marc.
Let me know your thoughts on Muniesa, should he stick around regardless of performances this season, do you agree with me, or is it already too late?
Written by Ben Cartwright
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