Pundits, journalists and fans alike were quick to jump on the back of West Ham United left-back Arthur Masuaku after his performance during Friday night’s Premier League defeat to Chris Hughton’s Brighton & Hove Albion, at the American Express Community Stadium.
But, was the defender’s display for Manuel Pellegrini’s men really that bad? Today, we will answer that question by carrying out a statistics-driven tactical analysis of Masuaku’s display three days ago, join us and we will find out together.
For the first phase of our tactical analysis, we have enlisted the help of our friends over at wyscout.com to bring you the below graphic, containing a block of key stats from Masuaku’s 96-minute performance on the south coast.
The first key stat that we are drawn to from the Amex is his total actions and the rate of success he enjoyed in them, achieving a lowly 70 per cent, and failing to register a goal, an assist or a shot on target, his only effort coming off target.
He carried very little goal threat, as seen in the expected goals column, but the best area of his performance was his passing, as you can see, as he achieved 89% pass completion and 60% long pass completion.
Masuaku posed very little danger to the Brighton defenders, uncharacteristically, delivering no crosses and only attempting a pair of dribbles, completing just one of them.
The former DR Congo International could only win 38% and 50% of his respective 21 and two duels and aerial duels, only producing four interceptions, below his average.
The final two stats in the graphic tell us that the regular Hammers left-back was wasteful on the ball in Brighton, losing it 414 times, eight of which came in his own half and only making a recovery nine times, twice in the opposition half, he didn’t pick up a card. Overall, the negative stats are hard to ignore and outweigh the positive ones.
Next, we are going to analyse Masuaku’s heatmap from his first-ever trip to the Amex as a player, it has been provided by our good friends over on the fantastic whoscored.com.
As you can see, he was a very busy man on the evening, bombing up and down the wing, getting forward and tracking back and even tucking into central areas, when needed. Impressively, the former Olympiacos star’s 84 touches was the most of any player on the pitch, beating teammate Felipe Anderson, by one.
While we could bang on all day about the stats, the moment of the match where Masuaku drew the most criticism was when the Seagulls took the lead in the 25th-minute, here, we are going to analyse the role he played in the goal.
Our first image shows Beram Kayal breaking down the left wing after Andriy Yarmolenko had given the ball away for the Irons, at this point, centre-back Issa Diop has just passed over goalscorer Glenn Murray for Masuaku to mark.
While Diop tracks the run of club-record signing for the hosts, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Masuaku attempts to get tight to the free-scoring Murray and does so, but he fails to get goal-side of him and is too busy watching Kayal, as he prepares to cross.
Our next image shows the ball on its way to the danger area in the wake of Kayal crossing it, his delivery isn’t the best, but is about to get past the two central defenders at the near post. Meanwhile, Masuaku has stopped and is allowing Murray to get free of him.
As the ball reaches the centre of the box, Murray is in space and can arrow his half-volley into the far corner, beating Lukasz Fabianski, Masuaku is at least five-feet from him now and has allowed the striker to score. It is not known whether he was trying to catch him offside or simply believed another defender would pick him up.
However, Murray was Masuaku’s responsibility and he should have been with him the whole way, either getting into a position to block his shot or doing enough to put him off with his presence. Instead, the No26 displayed a piece of calamitous and costly defending.
For the final part of our analysis, we are going to compare Masuaku’s performance to that of one of his opposite numbers, Seagulls captain Bruno, who was lauded for his display, to try to determine whether the stats and displays matched up.
As you can see, we have used WhoScored’s terrific Match Centre feature to create the comparison, which pits the pair’s key match stats up against each other.
The man who is nearly old enough to be Masuaku’s Dad has a much higher match rating, 7.13 out of ten to his 6.54, but there are only two other stats that he reigns supreme in, tackles and number of times dispossessed.
Bruno won four tackles, to the French-born African’s one and was only caught in possession once, while Masuaku was five times, the pair both won a single aerial duel, but this is the only area where they are tied.
Masuaku wins when it comes to the remaining four relevant stats, having one more shot than the veteran Bruno, enjoying comfortably over twice the amount of possession of the 38-year-old, achieving a 22%-higher pass completion rate and completing one more dribble than him.
In conclusion, from a defensive point of view, our tactical analysis has found that Masuaku’s showing was just as bad as the critics are claiming. Much of the responsibility from the vital one-goal defeat for Pellegrini’s men, can be placed on his shoulders, despite many other players not enjoying the best games of their career.
However, when using the 24-year-old as an out-and-out left-back, you are sacrificing the defensive protection that can be offered by an Aaron Cresswell, for his attacking prowess. So, these concessions must be made, but it has to be said that Masuaku can’t afford too many more of these displays in Claret & Blue, if we wants to keep his place in the regular Premier League starting Xl.