One of my gripes in football these days is what seems to be too much reliance on statistical analysis.
If, for example, Ayoze Perez picked up the ball near the halfway line, beat a few players then laid it off to Moussa Sissoko whose cross is put away by a striker, the initial work by Perez doesn’t go down as an assist. I’ve seen more broken down stats such as key passes but they don’t receive the same scrutiny.
This leads me to Jack Colback, whose pass completion percentage is often very high and I have seen this used as a way to praise him as an underrated, efficient midfielder.
The problem is, a lot of these passes are sideways or backwards. I appreciate the movement in our team isn’t the greatest but there are definitely times that he either plays the safe pass when a more forward thinking, progressive pass is on, or he takes so many touches that by the time he’s decided to play the ball, the forward pass is no longer there to play.
What I fear is that quoting and relying on such stats for a player like Jack Colback encourages him to continue to play things safe, and, in my mind, it would partly explain why he seems to be guaranteed a place in the starting XI if the club take such data as gospel.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m aware there is a stark lack of alternatives in midfield, but the impression I get is that he’s undroppable. I don’t know if Colback being a Geordie obscures how managers here judge him, from Pardew, Carver to now McClaren, but you’d hope they wouldn’t feel the need to include players solely based on being from Newcastle.
Vurnon Anita is by no means the best midfielder around and I think we need 2 new central midfielders, but I do feel he does try and play the ball quicker to find more forward openings and can be clever in his play.
Jonjo Shelvey would be a very good buy and would bring that forward passing and drive we are missing. An ideal partner would be someone in the mould of Kouyate from West Ham – not that there’s a chance of buying him specifically at the moment.
However, if Tiote can repeat his performance against Arsenal on a more regular basis then you never know, he may still be able to provide that athletic, robust steel to complement a more creative partner.
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