Brentford boss Thomas Frank has admitted targeting Lisandro Martinez in their 4-0 win over Manchester United, as Jamie Redknapp claims the 5ft 9in defender cannot play as a centre-back in the Premier League League.
Martinez, who was signed for £56.7m from Ajax last month, was taken off at half-time in the defeat as he struggled to cope with Brentford’s physique and was outplayed by Ben Mee for the Bees’ third goal.
The 24-year-old also came under fire last weekend on his Premier League debut as Brighton won 2-1 at Old Trafford.
When asked if his team deliberately targeted the 24-year-old, Brentford boss Frank said sky sports“We knew we would have a better chance of winning it or winning the second ball around.
“Of course we looked at what Brighton did well against them, and Brighton are also like us in the way they want to play.
“Normally Brighton always build from the goalkeeper but they went long each time so of course we looked at that.
“We knew we had this weapon, that’s why we did it.”
Redknapp: Each team will play on Martinez in central defense
The Argentina international is the shortest centre-back in the Premier League – at 1.75m (5ft 9in), he is significantly shorter than any other regular centre-back in the top flight.
“If you’re going to sign a 5-foot-9 centre-back, he won’t be able to compete in this league,” Redknapp said. sky sports after the game.
“He might be fine in the Dutch league where it’s not as physical, but when you play here, you know, week after week the teams are looking to expose any weakness like Brentford did today, like Brighton did it last week and as Liverpool will.
“Every team will play on him because he’s 5ft 9in and he’s not tall enough. He’s actually a small midfielder let alone a small centre-back.
“He will need time. Maybe he can play in midfield. Technically he is a good player, he played in the Dutch league and he knows the game.
“But as a centre-back in this league I think it’s really difficult and you expose yourself very quickly.”
Neville: My height prevented me from playing in central defense
Former Manchester United right-back Gary Neville, who is 5ft 10in, has admitted he cannot play at centre-back due to his height.
“When I heard he was 5ft 9in, it took me back,” Neville said sky sports after United’s loss. “I loved playing in central defense and I was a central defender in the youth and reserve teams.
“I probably played around 40 or 50 games as a central defender in my first 150 games and I had seen Paul Parker before me, who is an exceptional central defender.
“But there always came a time when physically it got too much for me and he had to take me out of centre-back and put me at right-back because I physically couldn’t handle the 6ft 2in forwards who were against me in the box on set pieces and on crosses.
“I had to let go of that feeling that I would be a centre-back and boss Sir Alex Ferguson tried that for about three or four years where he kept putting me back.
“But honestly, it would be very difficult in this league to succeed no matter how good you are and it’s not to write off the player.”
Martinez, who signed a five-year contract with United with an option of a further 12 months, can also operate at left-back and as a defensive midfielder.
When asked where he could fit in at Old Trafford, Neville said: “Maybe left in a back-three – that could potentially work.
“Maybe play in midfield, because we know he can do that. I think he has tenacity and, to be fair, I wouldn’t judge him at all right now.”
“But to say he could play in a back four at Brentford against Toney and Mbeumo – he physically can’t compete with them.
“I couldn’t when I played as a centre-back when I was younger, and I thought I was a decent centre-back who knew my position and knew the game. But I couldn’t because Gary Pallister was supposed to keep coming and chatting with me.
“When I saw him [Martinez] trading with (Harry) Maguire in the first half at long throws, it reminded me of Pally who used to trade with me.
“If you have to swap positions at centre-back to compensate for the other, that’s just not great and that’s what was happening continuously. They targeted him in the first half.”