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Shane Duffy - An Examination Of Stats From Last Season Makes Encouraging Reading
It is an area of the squad that was in dire need of further recruitment, particularly if Lennon decides to revert to his 3-5-2 formation that was all-conquering domestically in the second half of last season.

It is an area of the squad that was in dire need of further recruitment, particularly if Lennon decides to revert to his 3-5-2 formation that was all-conquering domestically in the second half of last season.

With Jozo Simunovic leaving earlier in the summer and Hatem Abd Elhamed utilised almost exclusively as a wing-back – the Israeli played just 55 minutes of league football at centre-half – the Glasgow club have just three tried-and-tested central defenders on the books: Kristoffer Ajer, Christopher Jullien and Nir Bitton.

Celtic’s pursuit of Duffy has been well-publicised and Lennon will surely be delighted to finally get the deal over the line after weeks of haggling and negotiation. But ahead of his arrival, the question on supporters’ lips is: just what will Duffy bring to the team?

An examination of the 28-year-old’s stats from last season makes for encouraging reading for those of a green-and-white persuasion, and provides some insight into what type of player the club’s latest recruit is. The Republic of Ireland internationalist, capped 33 times by his country, has the look of a traditional, old-school centre-half and the early indicators are that he will be a fine addition to the Celtic backline.

Playing for a Brighton side that finished 15th in last season’s English Premier League, where the club’s primary focus was simply staying in the division, understandably required a heavy focus on the defensive aspects of the team’s play. Duffy played an important role in his side’s ultimate survival despite falling down the pecking order at the Amex, playing in half of their 38 league games, as Graham Potter’s team finished the season with the 10th-best defensive record in the league.

The defender finished the campaign as one of England’s most effective tacklers, winning his defensive duels 69.9% of the time, leaving Duffy as the 22nd best performing player in this regard, marginally ahead of Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk (68.8%).

Duffy’s tackling statistics are fairly impressive, but it is his ability in the air that is perhaps his standout attribute. In terms of the number of aerial duels contested, the Irishman again ranks relatively high – he was the 24th best performing player in the Premier League in this regard – but his success rate in this metric is truly eye-catching. Duffy won 71.2% of such duels last season: the sixth-best rate of any player in England’s top flight last season.

Statistical comparisons between players featuring in different competitions are far from straightforward and should most definitely be taken with a pinch of salt, but when we compare Duffy’s performances last season to those put in by Celtic’s centre-halves, we can see why Lennon was so keen to bring him to Parkhead.

The Irishman’s defensive duel success rate last term is significantly lower than those recorded by Lennon’s preferred pairing of Ajer (77.9%) and Jullien (77%) but it’s worth remembering that Duffy was testing himself against a higher calibre of opponent. His aerial success rate is better than Ajer (69.4%) and he wins a greater percentage of loose balls contested per game than Jullien and Bitton, and only marginally fewer than Ajer.

Given the relatively defensive nature of Brighton, it should come as no surprise to learn that Duffy was averaging more clearances than any Celtic defender last season but that isn’t to say that the centre-back is incapable of playing out from the back. Naturally, given Celtic’s domination of the ball in domestic competition, all three of Ajer, Jullien and Bitton hit more passes per game than Duffy and while all three found their man slightly more regularly, Duffy’s overall passing accuracy of 85.6% suggests that this is not an issue. It would be surprising if that figure did not increase to around 90% once he settles into the team, leaving him more or less on a par with last season’s defensive trio.

Statistically, Duffy is more similar to Jullien than any other defender at Celtic Park. Both players are dominant in the air, both are aggressive in their interceptions and both possess similar passing statistics. Ajer and Bitton are more creative at the back, often carrying the ball forward and playing crucial roles in their side’s attacking build-up, while Duffy and Jullien are classic centre-backs: tough-tackling and strong in the air, but still useful with the ball at their feet. Just not quite as much as the likes of Ajer and Bitton.

These conclusions suggest that Duffy is likely better suited to a central defensive partnership than a back three, although it will be interesting to see how the new man gets on should Lennon reintroduce his 3-5-2 formation. The stats imply that based on their style of play, Duffy and Jullien will be used interchangeably, while Bitton and Ajer are likely to share responsibilities for the other available space in central defence.

Whether Duffy proves to be a successful signing remains to be seen but there is no question that further reinforcements were needed. On paper, at least, Duffy looks like a good signing and has qualities that can be valuable to his new club. It’s now up to Lennon to ensure that he finds a tactical system that makes the most out of them.

Posted by voc1967 on Tuesday 01 September 2020 - 21:38:18 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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