Yes, you read that right! Just a few months after being controversially released by West Ham United after a total of ten years of service, over two spells, veteran defender James Collins is being linked with a move back to the Hammers.
The 33-year-old has been training with Manuel Pellegrini’s squad as his two-month-long search for a new club continues, fuelling speculation that a sensational third switch to the East Londoners of his career, could be on the cards.
Despite Pellegrini displaying the paper talk in his pre-Arsenal press conference this afternoon, the rumours continue to swirl as the Chilean didn’t completely and definitively state that the Irons are not about to re-sign Collins.
Today, using comparative tactical analysis, we take an in-depth look at how the Welshman compares to West Ham’s current options at centre-back, is he a better go-to man and is he still adept for the needs of a Premier League club of that stature? Find out today.
For the first phase of our analysis, we are going to run over the attributes of the EURO 2016 semi-finalist with Wales, by analysing his Player Profile, provided by our good friends over at TransferMarkt.
As we can see from the Player Profile graphic, one of the main things counting against Collins in his proposed move back to Claret & Blue is his age, at 35, he would be the oldest in the squad by two years, Pablo Zabaleta being 33.
Since leaving east London in June, he remains a free agent and coincidentally, it is his birthday today, what a birthday present that would be for him, a move back to the club he is adored by the fanbase of.
The ex-Wales man isn’t the tallest, a disadvantage for central defenders but can play either right-centre-back or left-centre-back, giving him some much-sought-after versatility, his physicality and experience also make him an asset at the back.
Next, we have made use of Squawka’s fantastic Player Comparison Matrix to create our comparison, linking him to the club’s three current first-team centre-backs, stalwart Angelo Ogbonna and new signings Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop.
As you can see from the graphic, we have used Collins’ 2016/2017 campaign in Claret & Blue, as he spent much of last season injured, we have been forced to do the same with Balbuena as there are no stats available for the 2017/2018 Brazilian Serie A.
The statistics of Ogbonna and Diop are picked from last campaign, where the former was in the PL with the Hammers and Diop was enjoying his final season with Toulouse in Ligue 1.
Another reason we have selected these seasons’ figures is that each defender played a relatively similar number of games and minutes in said term, as you can see at the top of the picture.
Each star has been judged on overall defence score, a total of the all the available stats combined, tackles won, percentage of aerial duels won and defensive errors.
There is only one of these stats where Collins comes out on top in and beats the other central defenders and it’s a surprising one, % of aerial duels won, surprising because he is the shortest of the four.
This means that the veteran has an impressive leap and great determination in winning headers and defending his goal, something that will surely catch the eye of Pellegrini.
The Paraguayan Balbuena is king when it comes to total defensive score, the higher, the better, with 294.07 and in this area, Collins comes in at third, registering a 171.64 total, just over 100 points behind “The General.”
However, our final two statistics don’t paint such as amazing picture of the former Cardiff City and Aston Villa man as he only made 17 tackles in his 22 Premier League games in 2016/2017.
To add to this, Collins contributed two ley defensive errors in his 1665 playing minutes, he has been known to become more error-prone with age over the years, a rumoured reason for his initial release at the expiry of his final contract.
In both of these crucial defensive stats, Collins ranks last behind winner of both Diop, who came away from his last term in French football with 41 tackles won and zero defensive errors, not the best way for “Ginger Pele” to finish in this tactical analysis.
In conclusion, it is clear to see from the statistics we have seen today in our analysis that there is nothing that stands out with the 35-year-old Collins that Pellegrini would want in his squad.
This can only mean, while it would be fairy-tale story for the Welsh star and the Claret & Blue Army, a move for the free agent would maker little sense from the club’s perspective, even if he was just deployed as a fourth or fifth-choice defender.