By The Numbers: John O'Shea Actually Improving In The Middle

Stu Forster

Back once again, it's our statistical feature By The Numbers - where we can ignore opinion and look purely at the numbers. Obviously they don't tell an entire story, but it does make for an interesting and alternative look at things. This weeks subject - John O'Shea.

This week's edition of By The Numbers is almost verging on a confessional, or some sort of thing where I beg for forgiveness anyway as without looking at the stats, I was pretty down on John O'Shea's contribution this season.

Looking at things through plain eyes, prior to seeing the numbers, he appeared to me to be a player who looked a shadow of his former self. He looked uncertain, was getting beaten often by opposing strikers and generally looked like he might be on his way downwards.

These numbers have forced me to reconsider this position. A little. We all know stats don't tell a full story, but they are useful in the fact you can't really argue with a count of events which actually happened.

Last season O'Shea played 11 times in the middle and spent the rest of the time at right-back. This season he's made a full 12 appearances in the middle, so it seems a good time to see how he's faring this season compared to last given there's only a one game differential.

One area where O'Shea is down is his tackling. Last season he mustered 20 tackles made from 11 games, where as this season he's down to 16 from 12 games. Certainly room for improvement on that front, as it knocks his per game average down to 1.3 from 1.8.

Another slight down area is interceptions, but he still has a very healthy 20 in comparison to last seasons 22. That's ok, but among defenders he's still lacking behind Danny Rose and if you consider him a defender since he's played most the season there, Craig Gardner.

In every other department which we've measured though he's comfortably out performing himself from last season.

When it comes to clearances he is up full 20 hoofs from 62 to 82. Lead only in the Sunderland squad this season by Carlos Cuellar with a monster 91 hoofs away from danger. This boosts his per game average to 6.8 from 5.6. An average lead by only the fore mentioned Cuellar and Titus Bramble.

In the column for blocking shots he comes in with a decent 8, up 2 from last season's 6 made. Cuellar leads all players with 15, but O'Shea's 8 puts him into second place again, level with Craig Gardner who we all lauded for his defensive contribution earlier in the year.

Aeriel duel wins are also up for O'Shea, with him winning three times as many as he did last season with a whopping 27 in comparison to the 9 of last season. Only Carlos Cuellar has more among defenders, and on top of that only Steven Fletcher in the rest of the squad.

Not only will you find O'Shea chucking his head into anything, you'll also find his body getting the way too with 8 blocked shots on the season so far, once again putting him behind his Spanish defensive counterpart.

The last area where he also shows significant improvement is in pass success. Admittedly 81.4% puts him in a relatively middling position among the entire squad, and the same among defenders, but it is a very comfortable improvement on last season's very poor 72.6%.

While to the naked eye it would appear that O'Shea hasn't been very good this season, and as I said already, I'll admit to being one his harshest critics, but at the minute clamor for Matt Kilgallon or Titus Bramble looks premature.

We've already extolled how good of a signing Carlos Cuellar has proven to be in another edition of this feature, but O'Shea finds himself not only comfortably in second place and hot on the heels of the summer signing to be our best statistical defender, but also he's showing a marked improvement on last season. Nobody seemed to have a problem with him last year did they?

While Kilgallon will have to fill in for a few weeks, and could well end up proving there's a very good player there some where, we will simply have to wait and find out.

Perhaps it's time to pump the brakes on the "John O'Shea Is Sh*t" bandwagon which seems to be slowly gathering pace at the moment.

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