Turner On Course To Be Sunderland's Best Central Defender This Season

It could be argued that John O'Shea's being shown up by Michael Turner so far this season.

I was filtering through some stats in my spare time (yes, I'm pretty sad) and decided to take a closer look at our central defenders, we've had several partnerships over the season, with various combinations of John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Michael Turner and Titus Bramble, whilst the likes of Matt Kilgallon and Sotirios Kyrgiakos have been on the peripheries.

It's widely regarded that Brown and O'Shea is the preferred partnership, and perhaps the most solid. You'd be right, both in popular opinion and statistically, but something did stand out...

Michael Turner has been criticised widely by Sunderland fans. even by ourselves on this site and podcast who accused him of being slow, constantly 'hoofing it' and generally not up to scratch, but when I've looked over the stats of our main four defenders, Turner is well on course to be the best of the bunch if he keeps up his form this season.

Obviously they've all played varying amounts of games this season, Turner (11 Starts), Bramble (7), Brown (20) and O'Shea (22), but with Brown out for some time along with Bramble, the starting job alongside O'Shea is Turner's for the taking.

Turner currently leads the group with Wes Brown for tackles made per game, with 1.9 on average, whilst Bramble & O'Shea languish on 1.7 per game.

Turner has only 23 successful tackles through those 11 starts, but if we were to double his starts to put him on a level pegging (sort of) with O'Shea and Brown, he'd be leading the way with 46, whilst the former Manchester United pair have 38 each.

A similar case would apply if we were to do the same with interceptions. Turner has made a more than decent 21 interceptions through his 11 Premier League starts, in 20 games Brown has 35 and O'Shea 44. In Bramble's 7 games he made only 12 interceptions, so it's clear to see that Turner is ahead of the curve on this front too.

His aerial ability is something which many people have recognised, and the former Hull City defender hasn't ever really been faulted for it. This is backed up in the stats from this season, as he's got a very respectable 58.6% win-rate in such battles. Which puts him not far behind Bramble (62.9%) and Brown (61.2%). Interestingly, despite the fewer games he's a higher winning percentage than O'Shea who has 47.6%.

Of course, you could argue that O'Shea's is down because he's played more games, but O'Shea has only won 20 of his contested duels, whilst Turner is already on 17 in half the amount of games.

It's a similar story when it comes to blocking shots, where Turner has 10 to his name so far. This pales into insignificance compared to Brown's 21, but isn't far behind O'Shea who only has 12 in twice as many games. Turner could easily go on to become the teams leader when it comes to this come the seasons end.

Now for a few of the accusations against him, and this one will either lend towards your thinking that he does it all the time, or you'll see past that and realise that sometimes, when in doubt, you have to 'boot it out' on occasions - clearances.

Turner has made a whopping 87 clearances so far this season, and isn't too far behind team leaders Brown (130) and O'Shea (117). Again, if this was to be extended across the same amount of games as those two, Turner would be wiping the floor with the pair of them.

So there has to be a distinction between clearances and long passes. Luckily the stats I've looked at clarify between the pair of them, and we can see that contrary to popular belief, Turner hasn't attempted that many of them, and when he does, he's as successful as any other defender named here.

Turner has completed 20/37 attempted, giving him a pass success rate on long balls of 54%. Comparatively speaking, this is higher success than Craig Gardner, James McClean and Sebastian Larsson. Not to mention fellow central defenders John O'Shea & Titus Bramble. Wes Brown is ahead of Turner, but only by 5% at 59% success rate.

All in all I've began to reconsider my thoughts on Turner from earlier in the season, and see that he's actually a very good defender, and the stats seem to dispel some of the myths which are often circulated about him. With him either there or thereabouts when it comes to nearly every important defensive stat, and if he can manage to maintain this form for the rest of the season, Turner should have solidified himself as the best central defender at the club.

Quite a turn around considering many of us were happy to hear of reported interest from Bolton Wanderers pre-season, and would have possibly driven him down there ourselves.

Michael Turner, we salute you!

Stats from WhoScored.com and correct as of 03/03/12.

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