Jamie Carragher doesn’t believe that they can play as a front two, so should Manchester United go with Romelu Lukaku or Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the spearhead of their attack?
Lukaku ended his 49-day goal drought for United in the 4-1 win over Newcastle at the weekend, a game which also marked the return of Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford.
But Carragher told Sky Sports: “I don’t think they can play together as a front two.
“I think this is hilarious. I don’t know if Jose has told him to do this, but [Ibrahimovic] comes on and tells Lukaku to go on the right wing, and he does it.”
And Craig Bellamy believes that the biggest problem for Lukaku could be the simple presence and aura that surrounds Ibrahimovic.
“The concern with Zlatan is that he is such a big character, always the main man,” Bellamy said. “When Zlatan walks into the room everyone knows he’s there. It will all be about him.
“Lukaku can’t play anywhere else apart from up front, he can’t play either side, so it’s going to be interesting.”
The pundits believe it’s a straight choice of one or the other for Jose Mourinho, so we’ve compared Lukaku’s stats this season with Ibrahimovic’s Premier League numbers from last term to try and determine who has the bigger impact.
Eight goals in 12 Premier League appearances for Lukaku has seen him make an excellent start to life at Old Trafford, averaging a goal every 135 minutes as Mourinho’s men lie second in the table.
Ibrahimovic meanwhile netted 17 times over the course of last season in the league, giving him an average of a goal for every 143.4 minutes on the pitch.
Lukaku has taken an average of 3.5 shots per 90 minutes of football, compared to Ibrahimovic’s 4.2.
And the Belgian boasts a much better shot conversion rate, averaging a goal every 5.25 shots while Ibrahimovic could only manage a goal every 6.76 shots last season.
The stats also suggest Ibrahimovic is possibly more selfish, averaging 1.3 shots from outside the box per 90 minutes, in comparison to Lukaku’s 0.6.
The stats relating to passing, however, tell a much different tale.
Lukaku has made an average of just 14.6 accurate passes per 90 minutes so far this season.
Meanwhile, last term Ibrahimovic almost doubled that, proving a much more effective member of the team, averaging 28.3 successful passes per 90 minutes.
The Belgium international does lead the way when it comes to assists, creating one goal every 360 minutes, with Ibrahimovic averaging one every 487.4 last year.
As we often point out, however, assists depend on another finisher, and Ibrahimovic is in fact the leader in terms of chances created per 90 minutes, averaging 1.8 key passes last season, compared to 1.2 for Lukaku so far this campaign.
Combining goals and assists though, Lukaku has been directly involved in a goal every 98.18 minutes this season, while last term Ibrahimovic averaged one every 110.77 minutes.
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Both players have an average of 1.2 attempted dribbles per 90 minutes, with Lukaku edging in front with 0.7 of those successful, compared to 0.6 for the former Sweden captain.
Aerial battles also mark a similarity, with Ibrahimovic winning exactly half of his 6.2 challenges per 90 minutes, while the £75 million man has won 2.9 of his 6.5 per 90 minutes this season.
Looking at the stats regarding ball retention, Ibrahimovic recorded an average of 2.1 unsuccessful touches per 90 minutes, and was dispossessed an average of 1.4 times for every 90 minutes of football.
Lukaku meanwhile sits slightly higher on both counts, failing to control the ball an average of 2.4 times every 90 minutes, and seeing an opponent gain possession from him 1.7 times.
It may surprise you to learn that Ibrahimovic is much more suspect to being caught offside, having seen the linesman’s flag go up against him once every 65.9 minutes, while Lukaku is flagged just once every 216 minutes.
While the main objective for both players is putting the ball in the back of the net, defending from the front is a key task for strikers in modern-day football.
Interestingly, Ibrahimovic leads the way when it comes to tackles per 90 minutes, averaging 0.4 successful tackles from 0.9 attempts, while Lukaku averages just 0.2 successful tackles from 0.6 attempts.
And so far in 12 Premier League appearances in a Manchester United shirt, the Belgian hasn’t made a single interception, while last season Ibrahimovic averaged 0.4 every 90 minutes he played.
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