Having completed analysis on centre midfielders, I discovered that by grouping all central midfielders together the defensive midfielders were unfairly compared to their more offensive partners.
As a result, my previous standards/classifications needed adjustment to obtain a reasonable range of data with which I could review defensive midfielders. This is for 2 reasons: primarily, the playing time of players in the position of DM (as considered below) was insufficient – only Arsenal and Swansea had players who played in this position for more than 1000mins; secondly, I wanted to include additional data from the defensive midfielders that I had previously categorised in the CM analysis.
Whether or not a midfielder is defensive or not is arguable in some cases, and you may disagree with some of the names I have included here. But this is my analysis, so I added the CM statistics for the following 17 midfielders to the DM stats:
|Alejandro Faurlin||Karl Henry|
|Cheik Tioté||Lee Cattermole|
|Craig Gardner||Lucas Leiva|
|David Fox||Mohamed Diamé|
|Fabrice Muamba||Scott Parker|
|Gareth Barry||Shaun Derry|
|Jack Colback||Steven N’Zonzi|
|Jay Spearing||Youssuf Mulumbu|
|John Obi Mikel|
Nigel de Jong failed to make the 1000mins cut as he only played a combined total of 885mins in the DM or CM position (not including substitute apps). In total, 5 premier league teams did not have a player who qualified for this list: Aston Villa, Everton, Fulham, Man Utd and Stoke City. These teams generally seemed to fill the centre of the park with midfielders who do a bit of everything.
To redress the balance from the CM analysis, I focused on DM actions that correlated negatively with goals conceded first – then appraised the effect on W/D/L and goals for in order to come up with my shortlist of statistics. As a result defensive attributes dominate this particular review, with only ‘goals from open play’ (which are infrequent for DMs so do not have much significance) and ‘passes forward’ (as a proportion of all passes) the 2 offensive fields that contribute to the DM analysis. It could be argued that even these offensive stats are dependent on the quality of the attacking players ahead of the DM.
‘Touches’, ‘short pass success’ and ‘lay-offs’ are the neutral fields considered – since being comfortable in possession, or at least in distributing it to the next player (or to safety) is a important part of the DM’s game.
The full list of all fields shortlisted, including those used, is shown below:
And the results are here:
So, Lucas Leiva, who actually had the lowest playing time in this list (1135mins) is rated #1. Had he not sustained a serious injury in November 2011, it is likely that Liverpool’s fortunes in the league would have been significantly improved. He topped the charts for total tackles (with 59 tackles won he was also 6th in that list despite playing fewer games than anyone else), duel success ratio of 1.86 (Derry was second with a ratio of 1.50) and passes forward. There is a clear link between pass success and passes forward, for example Joe Allen and Leon Britten top the charts in pass success but are bottom of the table in passes forward – indicating that the difficulty of their passes was generally probably not that high – however Lucas has above average short passing success despite playing 42% of his passes forward.
Second in the list is Gareth Barry, meaning that in every position analysis I have written so far (5), Man City have managed a player in the top 2 every time. He is also the highest placed English player, ahead of the widely praised Scott Parker. They are, however, within 5pts of one another for every field except headed clearances and passes forward – in which Barry is much stronger than Parker.
Brendan Rodgers’ signing for Liverpool of Joe Allen is rather significant because if he can develop a strong partnership with Lucas this season (assuming Lucas can stay injury-free), on the basis of their form last season they would be a formidable pairing (both scored higher than Arsenal’s pairing of Arteta and Song).
Finally, as a Newcastle fan my hopes that Cheick Tioté would prove his class amongst his peers was a little disappointing. On the plus side, 2 Sunderland players were in the bottom 4! Rumours abound over the summer that Chelsea/Man Utd/Man City/Arsenal were interested in Tioté in a £20m+ deal do not really stand up to the stats. If he is sold, and I know that Mike Ashley likes a good deal, WBA’s Youssuf Mulumbu would appear to be a good contender as a cost effective replacement.