A lot has been said about the effectiveness of our defensive midfielders, including failing to protect the back four, passing backwards too often and generally just not being good enough. Following the success of our central defenders and full backs comparisons, I thought we would take a look at Tiote, Anita and Colback in detail.
In order to give this comparison some perspective, two further Premier League defensive midfielders will be compared alongside our own players. First up is Oriol Romeu of Southampton. The Saints are flying high in the league and Romeu is not an expensive superstar. Next up is Wallsend born Michael Carrick of Manchester United. He is still going strong and has been talked abut as a potential Toon summer signing. This time there are 13 disciplines to judge the players on, with the usual scoring system of 10 points for first place, 5 points for second, 3 points for 3rd and a single point for 4th. These are averages over 90 minutes. At the end we will add up each players’ respective scores to see who contributes more to their team overall. I have not included goals scored or defensive errors, because these players produce so few of either. So lets get started:
The dreaded back-pass:
I hear Jack Colback in particular get hammered for this on a regular occasion. Sometimes it is an essential move, but if used too often it kills momentum – so who are the worst offenders? In 5th place is Cheick Tiote, with 25.50 over the 90 minutes. In 4th is Michael Carrick with 19.56. 3rd place goes to Jack Colback with 15.35 whilst Oriol Romeu takes 2nd place with 14.64. Taking this field then, is Vernon Anita with only 10.18.
We will ignore sideways passes and crosses, sticking with simply forward and backwards passes. For this one Jack Colback shows he is not one for getting involved with forward drives too often, taking last place with 25.75. In 4th is Romeu with 30.22. 3rd place is taken by Anita (30.68) and 2nd goes to Tiote (38). Winner is Michael Carrick with an impressive 54.92.
This is laying on goal scoring opportunities for teammates. The least useful here is Anita with only 0.20 over the average 90 minutes. In 4th place is Michael Carrick with 0.51. He makes lots of forward passes then, but not a lot of goal scoring opportunities from them. Third place goes to Romeu (0.56) and in second is Colback with 0.59. He might be shy sending those balls forward, but when he does – he sends them forward with purpose. Surprisingly that leaves the winner as Cheick Tiote with 0.63.
Passes Completed in %:
Backwards, Forwards, Sideways etc etc – it’s irrelevant if you lose the ball. Vernon Anita is only successful 80% of the time. Oriol Romeu can only manage 84%, whilst the great Michael Carrick stutters in 3rd place with 87%. In second is Jack Colback on 88% whilst the tidiest in possession is Cheick Tiote with 89% of his passes finding a teammate.
A big part of a defensive midfielders game is getting stuck into the opponent and letting them know they are in game, but if they give away too many fouls and that competitiveness invites pressure on their own teammates. Here Tiote shows he’s a dirty so and so with 2.38 fouls over the 90. In 4th is Romeu with 2.04. Third place goes to Colback (1.48) whilst 2nd place is earnt by Anita (1.45). The cleanest DM then is Michael Carrick, with only 0.51 fouls over the average 90 minutes played.
We can accept our DM’S will pick up the occasional card – but when it becomes routine it stunts the player’s effectiveness because they have to take it easy for the rest of the game. As you might expect, Michael Carrick comes out on top with only 0.14 yellows. Next up is Anita on 0.26 and in 3rd place is Tiote with a yellow every 4 full games. In fourth is Colback on 0.53 leaving the wooden spoon for Romeu on 0.56.
Often these lads are our last line of defense before the ball finds it way into our own 18-yard box – so it’s important they don’t get dispossessed. If I say to you Michael Carrick, you probably think ‘tidy player. keeps the ball’. If you do, think again. He loses the ball 1.6 times for every completed 90 minutes. Tiote is up next with 1.3 whilst Romeu makes takes 3 points with 1.2. In second is Jack Colback (1.1), leaving Anita as the safest player to be in physical possession of a football (1.0).
We now head into the bread and butter of these players’ jobs. Bringing up the rear again is Michel Carrick with only 1.37 per game. Considering he is supposedly a beast – you might be shocked to find Cheick Tiote only wins 2.12 tackles per 90. In third place is Anita on 2.36 and taking 2nd place is Colback on 2.42. Winner by some margin is Oriol Romeu with a mighty 3.61.
If you think Vernon Anita is maybe a bit lightweight and weak in the air, then you would be right. He is the only player to drop below 50% with 45.83. Taking 4th spot is Carrick, who wins exactly half his aerial duels. In 3rd place is Romeu (55.56) and runner up is Tiote with 62.50%. Jack Colback shows he is a high altitude specialist with 65.22% of his headers won.
Total Duels %:
This includes take on’s, headers and tackles. Little Vernon shows he is no match for the opposition here with only 41.96% of his take on’s won. Cheick Tiote is not much better with 42.11. Romeu takes third with 46.41 and second spot is claimed by Carrick (48.39). Jack Colback shows who’s Boss by being the only player her to win more than half his battles – winning 54.07%.
Who spots those through balls and cuts them off before any real harm is caused? Cheick Tiote is switched on, stopping 2.62 over the average 90 minutes. Anita is not too far behind with 2.50. In third is Romeu (2.32) whilst Colback earns a single point with 2.24. Michael Carrick is last with 2.09.
Oriol Romeu does not react very fast, with only 1.39 to his name. Colback is not much better with 1.42. In third is Tiote (1.50) whilst 2nd spot is claimed by Michael Carrick with 1.66. Top Dog here is Vernon Anita, with 1.71 over the 90.
Final category then, this is the last ditch efforts to save out bacon! Fastest out of the blocks is Jack Colback with 0.59 blocks over the average 90 minutes played. In last place is Carrick (0.14). 2nd place goes to Romeu, who averages 0.56. 4th is Anita (0.26) and in third spot is Tiote with 0.37.
1) 63 Points – Jack Colback.
=2) 52 Points – Vernon Anita.
=2) 52 Points – Cheick Tiote.
4) 46 Points – Michael Carrick.
5) 38 Points – Oriol Romeu.
First thing is to observe that different teams play different systems, so each player will be positioned further forward or further back than others – but they are all defensive midfielders and by including ‘forward’ stats, the the numbers should balance themselves out. From the above table, I think it’s fair to say that any talk of the Toon signing Michael Carrick this summer is nonsense. He is weaker overall than all 3 of our DM’s and is 35 on his next birthday. Anita has shown that he is actually decent player – but 2 big gaps in his game are head-to-head battles and pass completion. The stats are a bit deceiving here as he scores highly, but he seems to be more a reactor than a catalyst. He reads the ball well, but can’t command it. Jack Colback shows he is very well rounded and effective where it matters. There is no doubt he is underrated and should be a key part of our team.