Following his blog on passing statistics, Tom Bason delves into the Stat Cave once again to see how the Wolves midfielders perform defensively.
A few weeks ago, I decided to have a look at the passing statistics of the Wolves midfielders; unsurprisingly David Edwards came out looking pretty poor. With many of Edwards’ advocates suggesting he is in the team in part for his defensive abilities, I thought I’d have a look at who our most effective defensive midfielders are. The same rules apply as with my last piece: all the statistics are per 90 minutes played (apart from yellow and red cards), all the data has been collected from www.whoscored.com, it only contains League data, and is accurate up to and including the 0-0 with Charlton Athletic.
First of all, it should be noted that defensive statistics are generally not as valuable as attacking data. Attacking statistics are often generated from a positive action i.e. a cross, a pass or a shot, whereas defensive statistics are not always so obvious. There’s a famous story that I often use, about Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to let JaapStam leave Manchester United. Ferguson had looked at Stam’s statistics, saw that he was no longer making as many tackles, and believe that this was due to him not being the same players after an Achilles injury. Yet, in fact, the opposite was true; Stam had actually developed as a defender, and was no longer getting himself into positions where he needed to make a tackle. He was often able to stop an attack before a tackle was necessary, something that is not considered by statistics. So these stats wont give a full detailed account of how our midfielders defend, but might give some sort of a general overview.
I think the first thing that really grabs your attention is the performance of George Saville, currently on loan at Bristol City. Saville, despite making only seven appearances this season, is either top or bottom of every single one of the statistics. Lets start with the good bit; Saville has made more tackles per game than any of our other midfielders, which seems a little strange. To put that into perspective, of all midfielders to have played at least five games this season, Saville is 39th in the League rankings – not overly high. But, the other thing to note about Saville is that he also has the lowest tackle completion % of our midfielders, indicating that he attempts quite a few more tackles than everyone else. This perhaps leads to the fact that he has been dribbled past the 12th most times per 90 minutes in the division; maybe he would be better holding back from attempting tackles he’s unlikely to win.
This is certainly something that Jack Price appears to try. His tackle success rate is quite low, but he very rarely gets dribbled past. He has a different style of defending to the other midfielders, preferring to intercept the ball rather than win it back in a tackle; his 2.17 interceptions per 90 minutes has him in the top-30 midfielders in the Championship. In the piece I wrote about passing, I suggested that Lee Evans and Kevin McDonald had similar statistics, whereas Price plays the game in a different way. This is again the case defensively, as Evans and McDonald’s statistics are very similar, perhaps indicating why we have only conceded one goal in the five league games that we have played since Price came back into the side. Having McDonald and Price at the base of the midfield gives us two defensive midfielders with different methods of winning the ball back, which has to be a good thing;Wolves have made fewer interceptions than any other team in the Championship this season.
The one statistic that is quite similar between McDonald and Price is the amount of blocks that they both make from shots. I’ve often thought that we rely too much on making last gasp blocks rather than snubbing out the threat at source, and as a club, we have indeed made the sixth most blocks in the Championship this season. Yet, only Bournemouth and Watford have made fewer blocks from crosses from this season (which is probably due to the amount of attacking and the amount of possession these clubs have), but even so, I was surprised how few crosses David Edwards has blocked this season, especially when he has had time playing on the flank. I looked at these statistics to see how Edwards fared, and he appears to be unremarkable, which probably isn’t bad considering how much time he’s spent playing towards the top of the pitch. But, when compared to the rest of the division, he doesn’t fare brilliantly. Looking purely at the 16 players who have played as an attacking midfielder, and have appeared in five or more matches, he ranks 12th for number of tackles and 10th for interceptions. Maybe I’ll need to look at goal scoring statistics next for something that supports his value to the team…