Newcastle United has conceded 49 goals this season, which is 3rd worst in the Premier League and only one behind Norwich and Sunderland. Fabricio Coloccini has taken much of the flack for this, with fans citing the 34-year-old’s declining ability as one of the main factors in such a poor defensive record. He also happens to be the Club Captain and his lack of leadership no doubt has a big part to play in the lack of cohesiveness within the squad – but if he were to be removed as Club Captain, would his performance data back up the notion that he still has a part to play at this level?
This performance analysis will look at averages over 90 minutes so far this season. To get a balanced view, Chancel Mbemba and Fabricio Coloccini will be compared to 3 other Premier League defenders. First up is ex-Newcastle player Sebastien Bassong, who is playing in a side with an equally awful defensive record. Next up is a player many fans suggest would be ideal for the Magpies – Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross. Finally, a player highly coveted by some of the bigger sides in European Football – Everton’s John Stones.
As with our recent full back analysis – these players will go head-to-head on a variety of statistics, with 10 in total. The winner in each field will be awarded with 10 points, 2nd place will take 5 points, 3rd will take 3 points and 4th gets 1 point. So lets get started.
Aerial duels won:
This is an area many fans have identified as being obviously weak for many years – and the stats prove it. Ryan Shawcross earns himself 5 points here with 70.59% of headers won. In third place is John Stones with 65.12% whilst top dog is in fact ex-Toon defender Sebastien Bassong with 73.15%. Coloccini gets himself 1 point with a measly 49.23% whilst summer signing Chancel Mbemba brings up the rear with only 46.84%. Clearly this is an area to be addressed in the next window.
Take your best and worst performers from the last field and switch them, because this time Mbemba is now King of the Hill with an average of 2 successful tackles per 90 minutes. In last place is Bassong, with only 0.66 per game – whilst Ryan Shawcross keeps himself steady in 2nd place with 1.44. 3rd place goes to John Stones with 1.33 per game, whilst Coloccini nets himself a single point again with 1.26. Considering a central defender’s main job is to head the ball away and make tackles, Coloccini is lagging behind here by some distance…
Clearly professional fouls are sometimes necessary and unavoidable, but any fouls committed in a team’s own third invites the opposition to have a pop at goal – so it’s important to keep them to a minimum. The dirtiest of the defenders is Bassong, with 0.88 per 90 minutes. Taking a single point this time is Shawcross with 0.76. In third place is Mbemba with 0.60, whilst 2nd place is taken by John Stones (0.48). The cleanest tackler then, is Coloccini – with only 0.35 fouls per 90. It could be argued he commits fewer fouls because he makes fewer tackles, but fouls are still fouls.
Total duels %:
Now we look at who generally comes out on top when all of their headers, tackles, take on’s and free kicks won are taken into account. Showing why he’s highly sought, John Stones takes top spot with an impressive 62.42% of all battles won. In second place is Bassong with 61.5%. Next up is Shawcross (56.7%) and trailing behind again is the two Toon lads. Mbemba has 50.94% whilst Coloccini is the only player to win less than half his battles with 46.67%.
This means mistakes leading to goal scoring opportunities for the opposition. Surprisingly, John Stones is the worst offender, with 0.14 per 90 minutes. In 4th place is Chancel Mbemba with 0.09. Taking third is Bassong with 0.08. Second is Coloccini with only 0.04 whilst Ryan Shawcross shows he is a machine, with zero mistakes.
Who has the fastest reactions when the ball is bobbling around in a dangerous area? Well John Stones doesn’t, with only 3.9 per 90 minutes. Coloccini is not much better with 4.28. In third is Shawcross (5.49) whilst young Chancel takes second spot with 6.35. Top dog is Norwich City’s Sebastien Bassong with a mighty 8.46.
Here we get to see who has the best defensive brain and can read the dangerous through balls, cutting them off before an attacker takes advantage… This is finally where the Toon boys come to the fore. Mbemba takes the day with 2.85 every 90 minutes, with Coloccini on 2.40. In third is Ryan Shawcross with 2.28, whilst John Stones takes the last point with 1.90. Bottom of the pile is Bassong, with only 1.77 over the same period.
Going back to reactions, who puts their body on the line the most to save their team? As you would expect, the hard-as-nails Ryan Shawcross takes top spot with 1.18. Toon Captain Fabricio Coloccini shows he will put himself on the line for his team with 1.14 earning him 2nd place. In last by some distance is Bassong (0.54), who seems to run very hot and cold in his performance stats. One point goes to Chancel Mbemba (0.81) whilst John Stones takes third with 1.05.
The old saying ‘if in doubt, knock it out’ is a great fail-safe for defenders, but part of the modern game is about ball retention – which has obvious benefits. Showing how neat and tidy he is, John Stones leads the way with 89%. In second is Coloccini with 83%. Third goes to Bassong (80%), whilst 4th is taken by Mbemba with 77%. Failing to get a point in this field is the no-nonsense old school Ryan Shawcross with 73%.
Not an essential part of a defensive set up granted, but a a defender that can chip in with shots on goal is a benefit to the team (so long as they remember where their main duty lays), because if they don’t score, they might just give a teammate an opportunity to react fastest and stick it in anyway. Plus, it’s entertainment for the fans! Winner for this one is Norwich City’s Bassong with 0.62 over the 90. In second place is Stoke’s Shawcross with 0.42. Third goes to Coloccini (0.39), whilst the final point is claimed by Mbemba (0.38). John Stones trails the pack by some way on 0.29.
1) Ryan Shawcross – 47 Points.
2) Sebastien Bassong – 39 Points.
3) Fabricio Coliccini – 36 Points.
4) John Stones – 35 Points.
5) Chancel Mbemba – 33 Points.
Well the first thing that comes to mind is this – Is John Stones really worth upwards of 40 million pounds? He is tidy on the ball and relatively steady across the field, but he makes a lot of mistakes leading to chances for the opposition and his reactions are not great either. The fans are right to call for a Ryan Shawcross type player to be signed. Not only is he very strong in the air, but across all fields, he is the best defender amongst the above 5 by far. Our own defenders are very weak in 2 key areas – aerial duels and total duels. If it were not for Mbemba’s impressive tackling, our two defenders would offer very little when confronted by players with physical presence or fluid movement – which is a big concern.
Whilst Mbemba takes the wooden spoon here, it should be remembered that he is very young and this is his first season in the EPL. The margins between the bottom 3 of the above 5 are minimal and it stands to reason that Mbemba will improve next season. Coloccini shows that whilst he is steady across most fields, he gets bullied off the ball. Not ideal for a central defender at all. Finally, who would have thought Bassong would come out in 2nd place? Did the Toon make a big mistake shifting him on? He might be rubbish on the ball, but he’s a threat in the air.
Stats taken from Squawka.com