On purchasing ‘flying’ Argentinian winger ‘Jonas’ from Real Mallorca in 2008, manager-at-the-time Kevin Keegan was quoted as saying, “He’s an exciting player and I’m sure our fans will love watching him.”
Keegan the added: “He has got it in him to be thought of every bit as much as David Ginola, definitely!”
Keegan signed Gutierrez with his typically attacking-minded tactics in place, expecting the wide man to get ‘bums off seats’ and give Newcastle the balance and forward threat they had craved for so long. And, in his earlier performances, the boy didn’t disappoint!
Toon fans soon got to see what he was capable of – that drive and guile to take players out of the game so easily, skilfully manoeuvring past fullbacks and producing (arguably temperamental) crosses for the frontmen.
However, his approach to English football has since changed. Whether by his own doing or down to management, Jonas is not considered a real attacking option at Newcastle these days, playing a more central role in midfield and rarely taking options to get into the final third.
NUFC_Stats looked into the numbers to see exactly what has changed since Gutierrez’s first season in English top flight football.
It is very clear that, despite being brought to the club with attacking premises in mind, Gutiérrez has very much flattered to deceive on the goal-scoring and assist front – just 5 goals and 10 assists in 99 Premier League since his arrival from Spain!
In terms of creating chances, Jonas has been somewhat inconsistent, but a chance created every 86 mins of a game on average is hardly worth shouting about, which explains the low number of assists in his game.
Jonas’ cross production and accuracy has been inconsistent also, but what can be seen to have deteriorated is his production of successful dribbles per game – starting at over two per game in his first season to less than one per game on average this season.
However, where it gets pretty ‘meaty’, is when pondering his ‘duelling’ statistics. In his first season in the Premier League, Gutierrez was throwing himself into everything – 3 tackles, 1 aerial and 18.3 ground duels per game. Over the next two seasons, those figures gradually depleted, until recently, where, not only have some reached their highest summits, but Jonas Gutierrez’s win percentage of his ‘battles’ have reached very pleasing heights. Throw into that an increase in pass accuracy over the years, and the criticism of a Newcastle winger slowly begins to transform into praise of a Toon combative midfielder!!
The days of Jonas beating full backs and creating a hatful of chances (if ever) have dispersed into the thick of the Tyne Fog, leaving a Pardew-coached, battling midfielder who slows the tempo of the game down when necessary, keeps possession and wins countless free kicks through superb shielding of the ball, balance and strength (Gutierrez was the most fouled player in the League last season and is again this season).
Gutierrez has been deployed of late as part of a holding midfield unit in the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shapes Pardew uses, with his instructions blatantly similar to that given to the likes of Tiote and Anita in terms of pitch coverage.
In his five games this season, Jonas has barely ventured into the opponents half and the below ‘heat map’ graphics of Jonas’ possession highlight that exact notion. There will be those that argue that as a left midfielder in a 4-4-2, Gutierrez should be playing higher, creating more – but, this is a player Pardew has obviously worked on behind the scenes on a new role, something he’s not going to change for one game.
This is mostly applicable when Hatem Ben Arfa is in the same team – HBA is not a ‘tracking’ player and NUFC need all they can get out of their mercurial Frenchman, so in set ups such as 4-4-2, there will be the license for him to get forward as much as possible. There must be compensation though and that’s where Jonas fits in.
The ‘heat maps’ of Jonas’ first six Premier League games in the 2008/09 season compared to his last six are fairly startling! The Argentinian was very much a ‘loose cannon’ on his arrival, his play and position was sporadic and he ventured into the opposition’s half at every opportunity.
Of late, ‘SpiderMan’ rarely gets possession any further than the half way line – the graphic highlighting his transformation from a flying winger to a more combative and defensive minded midfielder.
So, what have we proved? Well, quite simply, it’s time to stop looking at Jonas as a provider. Alan Pardew has spotted traits in his South American that he has used to mould him into a more disciplined, stable player. Gone are the days, especially in the league and away from home, that Gutierrez will be expected to play as wide support to the likes of Ba and Cisse – Jonas is now an integral part of NUFC’s central midfield and/or cover and support to Davide Santon when playing more left afield.
It’s time to stop glancing at the goals and assists stats where this one is concerned – look instead at his position holding, passing, and more combative numbers.