Having named an unchanged starting Xl for the Premier League win over Burnley and the most recent draw with Huddersfield Town, West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini will be forced into a change for the club’s next league outing this afternoon.
He has a decision to make over who should come in to replace suspended midfielder Robert Snodgrass for the visit of Pep Guardiola’s top-of-the-table Manchester City to London Stadium. There are two main contenders to come in and take the place of the Scotsman and today, we are going to carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis on who it should be, mere hours before the announcement of team news from East London.
The suspension collected by Snodgrass, a one-game ban for the accumulation of five yellow cards in the opening part of the season has come at a bad time for the Scottish international, but if it was inevitable, couldn’t have come at a better time for the club.
The No11 had just put an impressive run of three Premier League starts together and will now lose his record of being the only man to feature in every match in every competition for the Hammers in 2018/2019 so far. Meanwhile, after a period of having little or no back-up in midfield in case of a situation like this, the Irons are now spoilt for choice with Jack Wilshere returning from injury and Mark Noble from his own suspension for the red card collected away at Leicester City.
The case for Noble’s immediate return to the starting Xl replacing Snodgrass is perhaps more compelling and makes more sense than Wilshere’s, prompting many to believe that the only change Pellegrini will make this afternoon is Noble for Snodgrass.
The skipper was keeping his place in the starting team under the Chilean with flying colours before seeing red at the King Power Stadium and had seemingly been given a new lease of life under the new manager. But should his reckless red that was perceived to have cost his boyhood club two points be further punished with an omission as he returns to eligibility?
Wilshere, signed on a free transfer at the expiry of his Arsenal contract in the summer, was another who was starting every match before he had his first season at the team he grew up supporting disrupted.
The 26-year-old made the starting Xl for the first four league games of the campaign up until an ankle injury, which required surgery to correct and has kept him out since, struck. The central midfielder would offer more pace on the left side of the midfield three, key to have against a world-class side like City. But will Pellegrini be put off by needing to ease him back into the swing of things and his below-par performances back in August and September?
For the main part of this tactical analysis and with a little help from our good friends over at wyscout.com, whom the below images have been acquired from, we are going to compare Noble and Wilshere to find out who is more statistically worthy of starting at home to the reigning champions.
The general statistics contained in the two images above and taken from all competitions this season form the base of our comparison, and while we can see the figures for each individual match, it’s just the per 90 minutes average column at the top that we’re going to be analysing today.
This is due to the fact that, as you can see, Noble has made four more appearances than Wilshere has in yet another injury-hit campaign of his injury-ravaged career. However, the captain hasn’t been without his own disruptions, only featuring a mere eight times to his teammate’s four.
Both players’ outings have only come in the PL this season, not being risked in the Carabao Cup and the first stat per 90 minutes we are drawn to alongside a mini heatmap for each star is total actions and their rate of success in them. It’s an even start with Noble averaging more but Wilshere completing a higher percentage.
Neither Englishman has netted a goal this term, hence why they are tied on zero goals, but Noble has managed an assist, teeing up Marko Arnautovic in the home win over Manchester United to give himself an average of 0.14 to Wilshere’s zero.
The ex-England international fights back when it comes to shot accuracy, averaging 100 per cent but fewer efforts overall, also with the lower expected goals rating of 0.01 to his captain’s 0.03.
In terms of short passing and long passing, the 31-year-old is king against the man five years his junior, only being beaten in short passing accuracy, but averaging more short passes and trickier longer passes and a better accuracy in the latter.
As you can see, our next two stats swing in different ways, Noble averages more attempted crosses and a much better accuracy, while Wilshere tries a dribble more often and completes more of his dribbles. This is no surprise, given the ex-Three Lions man’s famously skillful and smooth style of play.
However, it is something of a shock to see Wilshere trump the more physical Noble in the duels department, winning a higher percentage of duels and becoming embroiled in more aerial duels, while also averaging more interceptions.
Playing in positions that see them have a lot of possession, they both manage a fair few losses per 90 minutes, but Noble has almost double the amount his fellow boyhood Hammer possesses and in addition, is second best with recoveries, averaging fewer and fewer in the opposition half. The better disciplinary record belongs to Noble for yellow cards and Wilshere for red cards, as he averages zero per 90 minutes to his comrade’s 0.14.
Overall, when we total the scores up with one point being awarded to each midfielder for winning a stat, there is a remarkable result. Noble and Wilshere are tied on 12 points each with nothing to separate them, adding to the pre-match selection headache Pellegrini will currently be suffering.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that, statistically, the two former England men are equally as deserving of replacing Snodgrass in today’s starting Xl for the Citizens encounter, based on their respective starts to the season.
Who Pellegrini goes for is anyone’s guess, but given his greater seniority as club captain, experience and fitness with Wilshere having not played since September 1 and coming off the back of ankle surgery, he should and most likely will go with Noble. The skipper will be raring for action after an unwelcomed four weeks off and his returning teammate may have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench for the first time in 2018/2019 in the Premier League.
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