Are you tired of the Stratford / NDP discussions? It’ll all soon be over, or at least that’s what we think. Whatever the decision, legal battles will ensue with what I can only presume will be the clubs money and a fairly substantial amount too I would guess. God forbid we spend that £500k+ (guess) on a really good strikers wages! Anyway, if you feel like I do, that a season of enjoyment and celebration has been overshadowed by handbag swinging, fighting, screaming and biting then take 10 minutes out of your day to read something football related.
Ladies, Gentleman and ESPN subscription holders, I give you Jermaine Jenas. The other day I briefly mentioned a piece I was going to write that would conclusively prove that our injury prone, frustratingly inconsistent JJ is actually the best midfielder in the world. Having spent a decent amount of time sifting through statistics and some footage I’ve come to the conclusion that’s impossible to prove. However, I did want to take a look at something I’ve always wondered with regards to JJ. I’m sure I’m not alone in this but I’ve always felt he plays better with Palacios than he does Huddlestone or Modric. We all have our favoured partnerships and while a Palacios / JJ one doesn’t fill me with pride and confidence I’d rather that than a Modric / JJ one.
So, stats galore coming up and hopefully you’ll find it interesting. At least more interesting than where we may or may not play football in 5 years time. For the purposes of this I looked at only league games from the beginning of the 2008/09 season and only if a player had managed 45 minutes or more in each game. Due largely to injuries and the form of other players JJ didn’t play too many games last season, 6 in total that meet the criteria I’m looking at. The previous season and this have seen him play a lot more so I think I’ve got enough to make a valid conclusion. Well maybe not a valid one, but a conclusion all the same.
JJ with Palacios
I’ll start with my favoured partnership. Of the partnerships I’m looking at it’s been the most commonly used, having played together 14 times from the 44 games I’m looking at. Of those 14 games the team has won 8 times which is a win percentage of 57%. As suspected JJ is the creative force in this partnership making an average of 51 passes a game and scoring a goal every 4.67 games. However, maybe surprisingly his attempted tackling and success rate isn’t any lower than when he’s in a partnership where he’d be considered the more defensive minded player.
JJ with Huddlestone
The most accurate comparison to the Palacios partnership must be JJ’s appearances with THud purely because they’ve played together 13 times. Their win percentage isn’t much less than above, currently standing at 53%. The main difference is JJ’s passing as he attempts 12% fewer passes while playing with Tommy. Maybe not surprising as Huddlestone would be considered the playmaker of the two and I’d hazard a guess this is down to team-mates looking to Tommy, whereas with Palacios they’d understandably look to JJ. The lesser of two evils? His tackles per game are the same as with Wilson but having only scored 1 goal in those 13 games compared to the 3 with WP could it be he doesn’t attack quite as much?
JJ with Modric
My least favourite of the potential partnerships. I absolutely hate this teaming and the reasons why can be seen in this season’s game at Goodison Park. I always feel neither player is sure whether they’re meant to attack or defend and as a result both tend to get lost and as a team we get overrun. The stats support this a little. Having only played 9 games together in the 2½ seasons I’ve looked at it could be argued the sample is too small but a win percentage of only 44% or a total of 13 points from a possible 27 shows even at an early stage that this partnership would need a lot of work to flourish. JJ’s passes per game stands between Palacios’s and Huddlestone’s which should be expected. In the Palacios and Huddlestone partnerships it’s clear who the main playmaker is but with JJ and Modric playing team-mates are more likely to share who they pass too. This on paper is a good thing but it could also lead to a confusion in roles as I’ve already mentioned.
There are a number of games with Didier Zokora and Jamie O’Hara but I haven’t looked at these too closely because of the limited figures.
I thought it’s possible these figures are slanted depending on what teams the partnerships have played against. If for example, every time JJ and Modric have played together they’ve been pitted against United at Old Trafford that’s going to have an effect.
The partnership of JJ and Palacios has encountered the Sky 4 (United, Arsenal, Chelsea & Liverpool) 3 times from their 14 games, whereas Huddlestone has met them once and Modric twice. That’s approximately 21% of the time Palacios and JJ play together they’re facing one of the better teams in the country. Modric’s is about the same but the Huddlestone partnership has only had to encounter a top4 side 7% of the time. The only comparison that is against the JJ/WP partnership would be the 3 top 4 games they’ve played have been at White Hart Lane whereas the other two have faced them away. We all know what our away record to that lot is like.
Home or Away?
Obviously this brings up the question of where the games were played. A partnership would have a distinct advantage if it played all their games at home. Looking at the games this isn’t the case though. All have played approximately 45% of their games at home and have similar win % at White Hart Lane. However, when we look at the win percentage away from home there’s quite a large difference.
- JJ and Palacios – 37.5%
- JJ and Huddlestone – 28.5%
- JJ and Modric – 11%
If any conclusion can be made from a fairly small sample of games it’s that I was right ;). The reason I prefer JJ to play with Palacios is because he plays better and the team get better results. That’s not to say the JJ and Palacios partnership should be our first choice, far from it but if JJ plays there’s only one partner for him. One of the reasons he’s so infuriating is because of his inconsistency but maybe that’s because of who he’s playing with? He should be able to play with quality like Tommy and Luka but clearly he prefers Sgt Wilson. At the moment we’re onto a winner as strange as that sounds because both THud and Moddle are injured but when the Croatian returns we can only hope it’s not JJ who partners him in central midfield.
As a side note and going back to JJ/WP not being our preferred partnership, they don’t come close to our first choice. Huddlestone and Modric formed an understanding last season that was one of the main reason’s we got into the champions league and we’ve missed it badly this time around. Of the 17 games they played 45 minutes or more together last season they won 12 (70.5%), drew 3 and only lost 2 (against United and the last day of the season against Burnley). That’s 39 points from a possible 51, 2.3 points per game or if you prefer, title challenging form. JJ and Palacios will fill in well while you’re away but hurry back guys, we miss you.