Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Clear Cut Chances and the Premier League

Clear Cut chances are one of those underrated stats in football. The definition of a clear cut chance is ‘A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range.’ (EPL Index) So in other words, a clear cut chance is a chance where the attacker is odds on to score, it can range from a one on one finish, a unmarked headed chance or a tap in chance.

My theory is this, the more clear cut chances you create, the more goals you score, let’s see how many clear cut chances the Premier League sides have created this season.

Summary of Clear Cut Chances & Chances Created

Green =best, Red = worst
Home Clear Cut Chances

Stats via EPL Index
Away Clear Cut Chances

Clear Cut Chances and Goals Scored

My theory that the more clear cut chances you create, the more goals you score is not 100% true. The likes of Tottenham and Reading both break that line of thinking, but the stats do suggest a some connection between clear cut chances and goals scored.  

Key Points/ Observations

·         Man United creating clear cut chances in abundance: Man United have created an incredible amount of clear cut chances. This is one of the reasons why United are free scoring this season. United have created more than double the chances of around 6 Premier League sides. One must credit Sir Alex Ferguson’s ability to create sides and find players that have the understanding and tactical awareness to create good chances for their fellow team mates. It is quite clear looking at the stats, Man United create a stupendous amount of clear cut chances at home, no other Premier League side have created 20 clear cut chances at home, while United have created 26, which roughly equates to 3 clear cut chances created per home game. If Man United continue to create clear cut chances at this rate, I believe they will carry on scoring for fun this season.
·         Norwich creating an impressive amount of clear cut chances: Norwich have been on a monumental run of late, going unbeaten in their last 10 PL games. This run has been fuelled by the fact Norwich have the ability to create a decent amount of clear cut chances. A reasonable 15% of the chances Norwich have created have been clear cut. What impresses me about The Canaries, is although they do not create a whole deal of chances, the chances they do create are quality chances, which can be the difference between winning and losing games.
·         Everton have created the most chances in the Premier League: Everton being the top creators in the Premier League is no surprise to me. After all, the likes of Baines are have the fantastic ability to create chances not only in open play but from set pieces too. But Everton creating 27 clear cut chances is not bad at all, what will satisfy David Moyes the most is the a near equilibrium in the clear cut chances created home or away. 
·         Arsenal create the most clear cut chances away from home: Perhaps this comes as no surprise to some, after all, Arsenal are at their most effective when playing on the counter and away from home, they have a better chance to counter, as the opponent presses higher and plays a higher line.
·         Wigan’s poor 4 clear cut chances created away from home is an early concern: At the DW Wigan have no problem creating clear cut chances, however, on the road, it’s a different story. What surprised me was the fact, Wigan’s system is predominantly structured on counter attacking and you’d expect them to create more clear cut chances on the road, given it is more likely that there will be more space for them to exploit on the road. Furthermore, it is probable that a clear cut chance will be created when there is more space, as the marking is lax and players can be found out of position.
·         Liverpool creating chances, but not enough quality chances: Liverpool’s lack of finesse in front of goal has been widely talked about for the past 18 months. However, there have been many calls that, ‘Liverpool are one natural goal scorer away from being successful.’ I am unsure of this, although having a goal poacher would certainly see Liverpool score more goals, the quality of the chances Liverpool have created has not been great. Only 9% of Liverpool’s chances have been clear cut, there are 14 sides who have created more clear cut chances than The Reds, even though Liverpool have created the second highest amount of chances in the Premier League. If Liverpool are to improve their League standing, I feel they need to indeed their chances, but more pertinently the chances they create have to be better, therefore making it easier for the attackers to finish.
·         Aston Villa’s struggling to create at home: A few seasons ago, Villa park was something of a fortress , but a mere 4 clear cut chances being created at home is something which perhaps demonstrates this young Villa sides lack of experience and know how. Perhaps the pressure of playing in front of a big crowd is having an effect on Villa’s expressive side of their game, if you look at their away clear cut chances, its far far better, I think it is a mental aspect which is effecting this young Villa team at home.
·         Tottenham scoring comfortably, yet not created many clear cut chances: This is an odd one, one which really surprised me, prior to looking up the stats, I expected Tottenham to be up there with the teams creating the most quality chances in the Premier League, I mean look at their creative players, the likes of Lennon, Bale, Dembele and Dempsey. These are all players who can create quality chances. I expect Spurs to create more clear cut chances as the squad grows into AVB’s team. 

And to finish off, here's a pie chart showing how much or how little clear cut chances the Premier League sides have created.


(Stats from EPL Index, Date stats taken: 18/12/12 ) 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Stats: Premier League and Penalties

So, it's been a bit too long since I have made a post on here, apologies, I have been busy with life. But since I have had some free time, I have made a few graphs analysing the penalties in the Premier League. So go on, take a little look. Penalties have been discussed quite a bit in recent times, ahead of the Manchester Derby, Sir Alex Ferguson questioned the number of penalties Man City had been awarded at home, while Liverpool fans have been annoyed by the lack of penalties they have received this season.


Penalties sorted from the highest awarded to the least.

Penalties at Home

So in the next digram below, we show the number of penalties scored at home and their conversion percentage.

Penalties away

Again, same thing as home, but this time away from home.

Penalty Scorers

The players who have scored from the spot this season and the number they have scored via penalties.

So, what are your thoughts on this guys? Feel free to comment or tweet me @ReviewFootball.

Stats taken on 11/12/2012 - After 16 PL games, stats do not take into consideration Sunderland - Reading, played on the same date as stats collected.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Preview: Real Madrid - Dortmund

Chinmay Pandya gives The Football Front a preview of Dortmund's trip to Real Madrid.

Madrid take on the High flying Dortmund at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu tonight in a feisty affair between two extremely talented teams. Few would have doubted Dortmund's European potential this season, but even fewer people would have predicted them to be top of the table after 3 match days. Well, this match could mean the difference between the 1st and 2nd position in the group. While Borussia Dortmund head into their Champions League rematch against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu Tuesday on the heels of a dispiriting 0-0 draw at home to Stuttgart on Saturday, Madrid head into the game after a terrific all-round display trashing Zaragoza at home, 4-0. Jurgen Klopp told reporters that the draw felt more "like a defeat," leaving the two-time defending Bundesliga champions 11 points adrift of a sublime Bayern Munich side displaying absolutely dominant early season form.


Real Madrid will be without injured France striker Karim Benzema when Borussia Dortmund visit as he has a thigh muscle problem. Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain, who has netted seven in the league but none in Europe so far, is the obvious replacement. Captain Sebastian Kehl was taken off with a broken nose during Saturday's 0-0 draw with Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. Manager Jurgen Klopp said that he is training with a mask to protect his nose but remains a doubt.


After what we’ve seen from Dortmund this season, especially away at City and at home to Madrid, games against Dortmund usually turn out to be midfield battles, with a extremely disciplined Dortmund midfield consisting of Reus, Gotze, Gro├čkreutz sitting in front of a solid Gundogan and Kehl (assuming he’s fit by then) should prove to be a jam-packed midfield, very difficult to break through. On the Other hand, a technically accomplished and an intelligent midfield that Madrid possess, Madrid have the tools to get past the midfield but the same can be said about City’s midfield against Dortmund at the Etihad last time out, but they weren’t able to expose Dortmund’s defence. Tight midfield, pressing higher up the field, forcing the opposition to make mistakes, and then counter attacking with menace pretty much sums up Dortmund as a force in the Bundesliga in the past seasons and in Europe this season. As Madrid push up to dominate the match, and create chances could that be their undoing? Or with the amazing talent they have at their disposal, and with some determination, could they get past the Dortmund midfield and expose their defence? We’re going to find out soon.

While the figure might seen congested, it is supposed to show the cohesiveness of Dortmund’s midfield. It shows Mardid while in position, with Alonso sitting in front of the 2 central defenders and Modric in a fairly advanced position this encounter might just be an epic encounter between two tactically astute and world class coaches in Mourinho and Klopp, a feast for the neutrals.

Dortmund have been off pace in the Bundesliga lately, You don't win a league of the Bundesliga's calibre two-times running without quality and mental toughness in equal measure, so I expect a show of resolve at the Bernabeu. Still, it seems that there is a sense of unease around Dortmund that could turn into panic if Real Madrid were to start fast.

This article was written by Chinmay Pandya, you can find his work at and you can follow him on Twitter: @_thesoccerist

Friday, 2 November 2012

Tactical Versatility or Tactical Inconsistency? Roberto Mancini and Manchester City

 Tom Moseley explains to The Football Front his thoughts on Mancini and his tactics this season.

Lately, there has been lots of talk and debate about Manchester City and their plethora of different tactics, with Roberto Mancini being the centre of the discussion, there’s been differing views and Mancini has defended himself in the press, while indirectly insulting his players. People are saying he changes formation too often, he rotates too much and that he’s a perfectionist, but nothing can be perfect, so even in times of elation and great performances he will say something can be improved – he has been labelled as a ‘tinkerer’ by some, rather than a good tactician, which would have been the standard compliment for him last year, but I always thought the change of tactics and systems was a good thing, giving them versatility, but many disagree.

Manchester City have started the Premier League season well, they haven’t recaptured their scintillating form from last year, but they are still the only side who remain unbeaten, with six wins and three draws in the opening nine games. Only dropping points against Arsenal at home, and Liverpool and Stoke away from the Etihad, leaving them sitting pretty in third place, only one point behind leaders Chelsea – whose huge summer investments seem to be paying dividends already. They started the Premier League in relatively average fashion, for their standards, with two wins and three draws in the opening five games, but a tough away win against Fulham and the return of Sergio Aguero has really kick-started their season, with them now being on a four-game win streak. However, the start to the Champions League hasn’t been the same story for them, as their nightmare from last year’s campaign has followed them into this season. The luck of the draw has been against them both times, as they’ve ended up in ‘the Group of Death’ two years on the bounce, but it’s not really much of an excuse after the huge financial investment they’ve had in the last few seasons. In the first year, the scapegoat for not succeeding was the lack of Champions League experience within the squad, with it being the clubs first season in the Champions League, however, I completely disagree with this statement. If you look around the Manchester City squad they had an abundance of Champions League experience, especially with players like Carlos Tevez (though his saga was going on at this point), Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli, who all boast Champions League Winners Medals. This year, however, after a disastrous start of losing against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, throwing away a late lead, getting beaten by an Ajax side that only cost £3,500,000 and getting outthought and outplayed against an energetic Borussia Dortmund side at the Etihad, but managing to steal a point due to a late Balotelli penalty, the media have jumped onto Roberto Mancini's back, after he has changed tactics in the middle of most games, saying he’s changing them too often and the players can’t get to grips with all the changes being made. In an interview before the Swansea game, they asked him about Micah Richards comments, where has said they weren’t prepared well enough to change to a three at the back formation, and Mancini said:

 “If you are a top player, it's not important which system you use. If you don't understand, you are not a top player and can't play for a top team.” 

 He went on to say that the comments weren’t about Micah Richards, but it does make you think, as it reminds me of Arrigo Sacchi. Sacchi said he wanted players who could not only play football, but they understood football and the football he wanted them to play, players with a good understanding of the game as well as ability, he says this is why his Milan side were so successful, because they shared the same idea on how the football should be played. If Mancini doesn’t have this, and the players don’t understand the systems, or share the same ideas, will this hinder Manchester Citys progress? At least in the short-term where he can’t bring in his own players who are tactically astute enough for his liking? Possibly. But, that’s beyond the point, are Manchester City struggling in Europe because of tactical inconsistency, or is their tactical versatility a strength, which is just being used as a scapegoat when things go badly in Europe?

Mancini certainly believes it’s the latter, after he said they conceded the third goal against Ajax due to a silly mistake, not a change in tactics. They’ve also been changing their tactics in the Premier League, depending on the opposition and situation, and it’s worked successfully,. so why would it be so drastically different in Europe? The only time it could be different in Europe is in the case of Manchester United, I think. Manchester United always attack, and until recently have played with two wingers, and the full backs have also got forward meaning the defence can be left a bit exposed, they also usually maintain (again, until recently) a 4-4-2 formation, which can work extremely well, but last year in Europe it didn’t. Their attacking style of play, and width, left them open at the back and teams who were tactically organized better than them would get the win, look at Atheltic Bilbaos infamous 3-2 win at Old Trafford, masterminded by the great Marcelo Bielsa. However, with City, they are quite a defensive, and tactically organized team who have been built with an extremely strong defence and spine, suiting a Continental style. In the Premier League, they started with the three at the back formation against Liverpool, and reverted to it in the last-gasp win against West Brom at the Hawthorns, both away games in which they got four points out a possible six, both tough places to visit plus they had ten men for the majority of the game against West Brom. So, the ‘tactical tinkering’ worked wonders against West Brom, setting up waiting for the chance to counter, inviting West Brom onto them before pouncing and Edin Dzeko finishing off an incisive counter attack, so why isn’t this mentioned when people talk about the change of tactics? Or, how they lined up with the three at the back formation against Chelsea in the Community Shield and won? It’s also the same system they used in the FA Cup game against Manchester United, after Belgian centre-back and club captain Vincent Kompany got an early red card for a two-footed challenge, where City managed to pull two goals back and give Manchester United a real scare, who thought they’d finished the game when they went 3-0 up in the First half.

So, why hasn’t this form carried on into Europe? I’m not sure, but what if the other teams were just better than Manchester City? City are an extremely strong side, no one can beg to differ, and with the heavy investments that’s what you expect, but they’ve come up against three good sides, all champions in their own countries as well, so it’s not a complete shock they haven’t won yet. The media seem to make out that City have been awful and should be strolling every game, but let’s not forget who they’re playing. Spanish Champions, record European Cup holder, winning it on nine occasions: Real Madrid, and to make it even harder, at the Bernabeu, which is a fortress. I can’t remember many teams winning there apart from Barcelona, it’s quite rare if a team draws there, Real Madrid are one of the best sides ever, so is it really shocking that they lost? No. I think, more than anything, it was the manner of the loss that annoyed Mancini most, and made the media get on their backs. Then, Borussia Dortmund, it may have been at the Etihad, but Jurgen Klopp has assembled a young side, that is not only great technically, they’re all extremely energetic and will work and close down, making it hard for the opposition to play. A draw is a bad result for Manchester City at home, but disastrous? Not really, Dortmund are a quality side and they are still wanting to prove themselves against the best in the world, which will give them that extra fight and make them go the extra mile, not to mention Klopps tactical mind, as they also went on to beat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Signal Iduna Park thanks to a Klopp tactical masterclass. Now, the Ajax game they probably should have won, but I think if you had to put this down to something, it would be the mentality of the players. Ajax are a young side, with the majority coming through the youth ranks at the club, and with the Eredivise being a relatively small league and not getting as much coverage as it should, they would want to go out and prove themselves against the world’s best clubs on a bigger stage, and there aren’t many better ways to do it than beating the Champions of England, the place many people call the birthplace or home of football. So, they would want to really show the world what they can do, plus with all the ‘Say No To Modern Football’ protests in the crowd, you don’t know if that attitude is transcended onto the pitch and the players share a similar mind-set, and they want to prove it’s not all about money and billionaire investors, it’s a about the football. I think you also shouldn’t underestimate Ajax’s quality, with their famous youth academy, all the players who make it through have an amazing technical ability, as well as being versatile due to not having set positions, being they can do most things and are incredibly well-rounded, and just because they play in a smaller league and they don’t splash a load of money on players, people tend to forgot the raw quality of the players.

So, overall, do Manchester City have tactical versatility, or is their constant change on tactics the reason why they can’t take the league form into Europe? I personally think it’s the former, they’re tactical versatility is a huge asset in my eyes. When a Manchester City line-up is announced, you’re still not 100% sure how it will be set out, which gives them a bit of unpredictability and keeps the opponent guessing, meaning the opposing manager could prepare for one thing, see the line-up and think he’s right, but then also because of the versatility of the players, they’re completely wrong meaning there will have to be some last minute improvisation that could upset the rhythm of their team. Then, the changes of tactics is working in the league, but nothing is said about that, which gives you the impression that the tactical inconsistency reason for Citys below-par performances on the Continent, is just another scapegoat by the media, following on from last year’s lack of experience scapegoat. Manchester City have a huge asset and advantage with their ability to change systems mid-game in certain situations, and has worked well for them, but one question that still remains is – Why can’t they carry on their League form into Europe?

This article was written by Tom Moseley, you can follow him on Twitter: @PlayedOfThePark .Check out his website too:

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A reflection on England..

Lizo Johnson gives The Football Front his thoughts on England's recent form

A lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon that England have started poorly in their World Cup
qualifying campaign. I think its been alright. Not, in my opinion, anywhere near as bad as the British
media have been making out, but at the same time it’s hardly been an explosive start. The win at
Moldova was an early peak. It promised too much. Raised the expectation of fans, which was
already through the roof, to heights England could never have reached. An early goal set England
up for a demolition that was put into perspective by Ukraine’s 1-1 draw there a couple of weeks
back. This coupled with the friendly win over Italy set England up for the fall. Inconsistency has
been our Achilles heel for a while now, and it came back to haunt us at Wembley with Ukraine the
visitors. Ukraine aren’t a bad side, but especially at home England should be chewing up sides like
them and spitting them out. Instead we witnessed a very average performance and England were
eventually held to a 1-1 draw at home by a side ranked 42nd in the world. Whilst I don’t particularly
agree with many of the rankings (Portugal are currently ranked 3rd) I do feel that it is close to being
representative of the gap in quality between England and Ukraine. It was three points we should’ve
taken but didn’t, yet that point could be vital when it comes to the final reckoning.

Next up were San Marino. Lets be honest, they’re a bit of a joke. I’m genuinely surprised the
players can motivate themselves to go out and play a game of football when they haven’t scored an
international goal since 2008. Since then they’ve lost 10-0 (Poland) 7-0 (Slovakia and Czech Republic)
8-0 (Hungary and Finland) and the standout thrashing, 11-0 (Holland). Had England not beaten
San Marino it would have been an embarrassment of the biggest proportions imaginable but they
still had to go out and get a result, which they did. But then came worst performance of England’s
qualifying so far: a 1-1 draw away to Poland. However, let’s not get it confused, it was a poor almost
chanceless display from Hodgson’s men. But we must take heart from the fact that England got
a point when they didn’t really deserve one. A win for Poland would not have flattered them, yet
England ended up with a point towards their total.
We’re actually a lot better at getting results than we like to think, regardless of the performance.
We’ve won nine out of our last 13 matches, but every post match report seems to be filled with
pessimism. Do journalists not realise what is going on? Its a vicious circle, as Gary Neville eluded to
not so long ago: England players are lacking confidence because they’re scared of how they’ll look
in the public eye if they make a mistake. Players without confidence struggle to play well, its not
rocket science. Yet they are then continually slaughtered in newspapers after average matches. But
then everyone loves to brand England as ‘boring’ and ‘disappointing’, for some reason its infectious.
Everyone puts on a tone of mock surprise when England bring out a top performance. We love to
set the bar a bit higher than England are likely to be able to reach. It’s not that the media don’t want
England to do well, journalists just seem to encourage negative opinions of them too often, and
we wallow in it. Almost enjoy it. It’s almost as if so many journalists have taken the same approach
when writing on England that for the next it’s just easiest to take the same. Our attitude to England
is to always look for and exaggerate the negatives, something that’s only going to put more pressure
on players to succeed, its counterproductive. Players begin to feel like if they’re not on an eight out
of ten they’re going to be slaughtered in the press. This is proven every two years at international
competition; where England never seem to quite reach the expectation of fans. We’ve been there or
there abouts for at least ten years (Euro 2008 aside), but whenever it comes down to the business
end of the competition we fall and end up not seriously competing for the trophy.

This isn’t to say I think people shouldn’t discuss England’s performance if it is genuinely poor, I’m not
saying that they should be invincible from any criticism. But it seems that fans perception of what
constitutes a poor performance is altered once the international break comes around. If Manchester
United play a match against a team like Stoke, play poorly yet still manage to claim a point then they
are heralded champions because of their ability to produce points from unlikely situations. Yet when
you put England in the same position, the same fans have a completely different opinion.

The reality is England are top of their group, which is where they should be, and that’s where they
should finish. They have too much quality in their ranks to not finish there. But at the moment
they’re where they always are, apparently doing just a bit less than what is expected of them.

This article was written by Lizo Johnson. You can follow on Twitter: @LizoJohnson

Monday, 29 October 2012

Psychological Effects

Hello there, I am Callum Rivett, and welcome to this instalment of my articles. Today, I will be looking at a subject close to a number of footballer’s hearts: the mental side of the game.

One hears many a manager saying the game is “played in the mind” and some may wonder what that means. It is one of the reasons that there are upsets. The reason why teams are able to win games that perhaps they shouldn’t. They either had a fantastic game plan, or they were prepared enough mentally to go out and challenge. The opposition (let’s call them Champions) may well go into the game against the Underdogs thinking they will be 3-0 up by half-time and it’s an easy three points.

However, if the Underdogs come out and attack, it puts the Champions mindset under threat. This isn’t the team they were expecting. They thought they would be able to stroll to an easy victory. The Champions were not adequately prepared mentally. The Underdogs set up to frustrate and annoy the Champions, get stuck in, and subsequently win the game.

That was purely a figment of imagination, but it happens every week. Norwich 1, Arsenal 0 last week. Middlesbrough 4, Manchester United 1 in 2005. The list goes on. These are just notable examples I can drag up from my memory banks.

There is also a mental side to the game that the supporters and media do not see. The side of depression.
Dean Windass and Darren Eadie are just two ex-pros who admitted that they were suffering from depression after leaving football, and in my opinion it is easy to see how it can happen. You grow up with football: football is your childhood, as it is mine. You don’t know anything other than kicking a ball around grass into a net. Your whole mental mindset is being focussed on the weekend, on the next game. That is what your week builds up to as a professional footballer.

When I step onto the football pitch, I become a different person. Every thing bad that has happened in the week is forgotten when you cross that white line in the grass, when that first whistle blows. You are absorbed in the game, you and it are one. Every kick, every goal: you feel it. You feel the emotion running through you, and you love it, you crave it.

When it is taken away - either through retirement or injury - you lose a part of yourself. You lose the part that everyone knew, that everyone saw. Your whole life hinged on playing football, then it’s gone.
Nothing can match the thrill of adrenaline that football provides, it is unique. It doesn’t require the type of courage that throwing yourself out of a plane does. It isn’t the bravery of saving a life. It’s something entirely different, yet entirely simple.

Football fills you with a determination: I will win that header, I will make that tackle.

Football relieves stress. Whilst exercising, neurotransmitters are stimulated, and these are responsible for producing sensations such as happiness, or the feeling of stress relief. Endorphins are produced, which target the limbic and prefrontal areas of the brain; the areas associated with emotions and feelings. Footballers run many kilometres a game in total, and these endorphins produce a phenomenon called “runner’s high”.
But endorphins are also related to addiction. Drug addicts have been shown to have high levels of endorphins, according to a paper published by the neuroscience journal Impulse.

What that means is that football is a drug. It is an addiction, and when it is taken away, players often feel low, depressed. Watching a game live does not quite replicate the feeling that playing does, so offers only a temporary reprieve. Footballers may have to make do with coaching, but sometimes - in the sad case of Gary Speed - it is not enough.

On a different approach, injury can also cause depression. Injury is a lonely place: your fellow professionals are outside, kicking the ball around, whilst you are stuck in the gym trying frantically to build up your muscles and match fitness. Depression can hit even the player with the strongest mind.

To conclude, more support needs to be given to players who have retired and are struggling, or are out injured for long periods of time. Whether they are in the Ridgeons Premier or in the Premier League, there needs to be support give by the PFA. Depression can affect everybody, and the best possible support needs to be given to those suffering from it, either in football or someone from everyday life.

Follow Callum on twitter: @CJRivett12. You can find more of Callum's work here.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Phil Jones – One season, two different stories

Once a upon a time, Fabio Capello was asked to compare Phil Jones to a past player, in his position. Capello responded with Two great centre backs of the game, Baresi and Hierro. 

Putting Jones and Baresi in the same sentence, seems utterly stupid. Even if journalists forced the comparison out of him. At the time when Capello made the comparison, Jones was flying for England and Man United, people reluctantly saw the comparisons between Jones and Baresi. But a majority of people thought, ‘you know what, what the hell? The lad is 19 and hasn’t even had a full top season for England let alone Man United. Let’s not get carried away.’ 

While now, if someone came up to you and said Phil Jones is in the same ilk as Baresi and Heirro. You’d probably laugh at the person, and think they were a complete idiot.

What happened to Phil Jones?
In the first half of the season he was on fire. He was glistening at Man United. He made his big transfer to United appear like simple a procedure for a teenager. At times Jones was dominating for Man United and even England. He was providing penetration, creativity and solidity in his play. 

But by the end of the season, Jones had been forgotten by some. And Yes, did go to the Euros, but his role in the team was a merely as a bit part sub. At the start of the season, many thought he’d be a certain starter for England by then. While at the end of the season, people pondered if he was actually good enough to be in the squad.

So what went wrong for Phil jones? Or did anything actually go terribly wrong, or are people overreacting?

I have compared Jones’ stats from last season between August to December ( the first half of the season) and January to May (the second half of the season).

Stats via EPL Index
Green =best, Red = worst

Let’s start off with the defensive stats. On the whole, in terms of tackles, ground duals and aerial duals, in the first half of the season (August – Dec), his win percentage was better than in the second half of the season. The defensive solidity in the first of the season maybe comes down to Jones being more fit, focused and confident.  

However, to be fair to Jones, the decline in percentage, isn’t that much at all. So you can’t say his defending declined severely. But one most consider in the first half of the season, Jones played in a more offensive role. He played central midfield and often right back during the first half of the season. While in the second half, he played mostly right back and centre back. Perhaps that explains why he won more tackles, ground duals and aerial duals more often per a game (in terms of minutes) than in the August – December period. 

My last point on the defensive stats of Jones, it is interesting that the only stat which Jones severely declined from August to May was interceptions. I think this factor is due to Jones lacking in focus in the second half of the season. As its clear, if Jones was a wee bit sharper, he would read the game in a more active way, meaning his interception rate would be close to the first half of the season. But another point to consider is because Jones played in a more defensive role in the second half of the season, as opposed to playing in midfield, the need to intercept is far lower in the defensive third. While in Midfield, the ball is often lose due to United’s aggressive pressing game, meaning there is more balls to intercept.

In terms of passing stats, I feel this will indicate Jones positional play far more clinically than his defensive stats, but generally, passing stats show how tidy, composed and useful he is on the ball.

Firstly, and quite obviously Jones has made far less in the second half of the season. This could be the consequences of Jones playing fewer games in the second half of the season. And it could also be due to Jones playing far less in the middle of the park. 

Another decline in the passing sector was Jones long ball passing and the accuracy of it. I imagine this was due to Jones playing more often at centre back and right back. In those positions Sir Alex Ferguson likes his defence to predominantly build from the back rather than kick it long to the strikers. But that doesn’t particularly explain why his long ball accuracy declined. Perhaps it declined due to tiredness and a lack of fitness in the final phases of last season. I do feel this tiredness has led to a decrease in Jones’ focus when making passes, especially long passes.

 What’s interesting is although Jones has played in far more defensive roles in the second half of the season, his final third passes and accuracy did not declined by much at all. But moving onto chances created, Jones created far less in the second half of the season. Again, I feel this is the consequence of Jones playing in a far more defensive role. However, Jones created more clear cut chances in the second half of the season. This is the consequence of Jones making more runs from deep, thus having more space to exploit. 

Ok, so why did Phil Jones become anonymous and even forgotten in the second half of the season?
The answer to that is simple but varied.

 The stats for me demonstrate Jones became anonymous due to injuries, playing out of position and tiredness. Although Jones played in more of his natural position (a defensive role) in the second half of the season, he lacked the confidence and energy to make the penetrative runs which made him catch everyone’s eye.

Although Jones stats did in overall decline in the second half of the season, I don’t think the stats in the second half of the seas are that bad. Especially considering his age and it’s was first season at Man United. I think in some respects, he overachieved in the first half of the season and often overachievement brings greater expectations on Phil Jones to sustain his form and improve it even further.

However, as I said, Jones stats aren’t bad at all. With time, Phil Jones could be one of the best centre backs in the Premier League. The anonymity he currently faces, could help him progress under the radar.
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