(image via www.wolves.co.uk)
After the pairing of Kevin McDonald and Jack Price have been reunited in midfield, Tom Bason looks at the stats to see whether passing has become a bit of a fad at Wolves and who does and doesn’t shine in midfield.
After Jack Price’s impressive second half performance against Brighton and Hove Albion, I decided to have a look at some of his passing statistics – in that game he made 31 passes, not a statistic that is all that impressive, especially given our dominance of a half that was played against ten men for much of it. But then I decided to compare his passing statistics to that of David Edwards’, and noticed that only three times this season has Edwards played more passes, despite playing 90 minutes one nine separate occasions.
So I thought I’d have a look at the rest of the passing stats of the midfield. I have left Tommy Rowe’s statistics in the table, but as he has played a number of games at left back, I will not be analysing them in any detail. All of the statistics below, apart from assists are per 90 minutes. I did this to give an accurate as possible reflection of how the players compare against one another. All data has been collected from www.whoscored.com, and is accurate up to and including the 2-1 victory over Brentford.
|Name||Apps||Mins||Total||Accurate Long Pass /90||Long Pass %||Accurate Short Pass /90||Short Pass %||Total Key Pass /90|
Through Ball Key Pass/30
Kevin McDonald – 0.17
Lee Evans – 0.07
Jack Price – 0.40
Kevin McDonald – 3
The first thing that stood out when I looked at the statistics is that our central midfielders have just three assists between them, all of them from Kevin McDonald – a truly woeful statistic. To put this into context, whoscored.com list 13 central midfielders on their own who have four or more assists during the season. Perhaps the lack of assists is unsurprising when you consider the complete lack of key pass through balls played this season – the entire central midfield have registered just six between them. Yet, Kevin McDonald’s four through balls are beaten by no one else in the Championship, despite how deep he often plays, and the distance between him and the forwards.
The lack of through-balls demonstrate the tactics employed this season; get the ball wide to the likes of Bakary Sako, James Henry and Rajiv van La Parra and hope they can create something with their crossing. These tactics are demonstrated in the statistics; this season we have the fourth highest possession percentage in the division, fifth highest total passes and seventh highest amount of crosses. But this surely does not make sense for a team that plays one forward, and that Nouha Dicko has had only five headed shots this season, ranking him 82nd in the Championship. Yet, perhaps it is slightly too hasty to blame the midfield for a lack of through-balls as Dicko has been caught offside 20 times, the sixth most in the division.
But, back to the midfield. It’s of no surprise that Kevin McDonald averages the most passes per game this season; in fact McDonald has made 136 passes more than the man in second place; Bournemouth’s Harry Arter. And following McDonald closely, and presumably the man who will take McDonald’s place against Fulham, is Lee Evans. Evans and McDonald’s passing statistics are very similar, and so Evans would seem to be the man in position to replace the suspended Scot. But, perhaps this is an issue that we have had this season; they are slightly too similar. Both like to get on the ball, and spray those passes to the onrushing fullbacks. But we have looked ponderous at times, and it is has only been when Jack Price has come back into the team that he has upped the passing tempo. While he makes fewer short passes per 90 minutes than the other midfielders, this is at least in part because the sample size for him is reasonably small, and a relatively large proportion of his time on the pitch so far this season have been when we have been holding onto leads (we have had a single goal lead for 45% of his game time – conditions that are not conducive for increasing passing statistics).
A different option that Kenny Jackett will have against Fulham is to pick George Saville for the first time since the 4-0 defeat to Brentford. Given that Saville’s last two matches have come in 5-0 and 4-0 defeats, it’s not really surprising that he has not featured in recent weeks, but prior to these he had won two and drawn three of his five appearances.
Saville’s passing statistics bear a slight resemblance to those of Price. He has the highest short pass accuracy of the midfielders, and plays fewer long passes (yet the long passes that he has played have generally been accurate). He does average a key pass a match, although none of these have been through-balls. I had doubts earlier in the season regarding the suitability of McDonald and Saville to play together, feeling that with both of them playing, we could be a little bit ponderous. But, perhaps Saville would be the ideal replacement for McDonald as he sits out a match.
I am not going to look at Tommy Rowe in any great detail, but would like a quick look at Dave Edwards. While no-one would expect Edwards’ passing statistics to be anything other than poor, for a player who has spent most of the season as an attacking midfield, for him not to have completed a through ball is shocking. Similarly poor is his general lack of passes over the course of a game. Whoscored.com list 92 players who have played as an attacking midfielder this season, and rank Edwards 67th in terms of passes per match.
Of the 25 players below him in the list, none have appeared in more than four games this season. Edwards is comfortably the worst attacking midfielder to have played regularly in the Championship this season in terms of passes. Now, I am aware that passing is not one Edwards’ fortes, and I will look at other statistics that may show him in a more favourable light over the next couple of weeks (alas, I am not aware of anywhere you can gain distance run statistics, something he will surely excel at). I will be looking at defensive statistics and goal scoring statistics of the midfield over the next few weeks, in order to try and give a more rounded overview of the midfield situation.