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By The Numbers: Dispelling The Myths About Lee Cattermole

Another week, another edition of By The Numbers. This week we look to shoot down some of the myths surrounding Lee Cattermole. He can't pass? He's dirty? Phooey. Let the stats speak for themselves...

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For those unfamiliar to "By The Numbers" it's a little feature where we indulge our inner-geek and take a statistical look at something Sunderland related.

We've looked at Adam Johnson, Steven Fletcher and a few others so far, but this time we're not looking at a new boy but one that's been around for a while and is often maligned by fans and the media - Lee Cattermole.

Cattermole may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he is an excellent player and many of the opinions presented about our captain simply don't add up to scrutiny when placed against the facts.

Join us as this week's By The Numbers dispels some of the myths surrounding Lee Cattermole...


Lee Cattermole's ten yellow cards and one red last season were a team high. Obviously this isn't particularly great and can't be defended too much but he certainly wasn't the worst person around last season on that front.

In fact Cheik Tiote, Joey Barton, Alex Song and Blackburn Rovers' Jason Lowe all had ten or more yellow cards to their name. On the red cards front the 'dirty' bunch of David Wheater, Djibril Cisse, Mario Balotelli and once again Joey Barton were all sent off twice while Cattermole sits in a bunch with a great many who all received just the one.

Bad by Cattermole? Yes a bit. One of the worst around? Hmmm. I think there's fingers should be pointed elsewhere too before they reach our captain.

Fouls Conceded

Does Cattermole get away with much? Not at all. Cattermole's reputation - however unfounded - nearly always goes before him. Looking at the amount of fouls conceded during the 2011/12 season you have to drop down to thirteenth before you find Lee Cattermole's name.

There's some surprises in the list of players who committed more. Grant Holt top's the list with 89 compared to Cattermole's 51 from the season. Also ahead of him are players who tend not to be considered particularly 'dirty' by the mainstream media or folks who simply don't pay much attention. Shane Long, Gareth Barry, David N'Gog... All just a few of the players who committed more sins than Cattermole last season.

Curiously of these twelve players who committed more fouls than Cattermole last season, all of them barring Tiote and Song picked up less yellow cards, and only four of the twelve were ever sent off.

Passing Over Distance

We'll leave the alleged dirtiness of Cattermole to one side for a bit and look at his passing. It's something that's often said about him is that he can't pass the ball over distance, and often takes the easy option. The stats prove otherwise.

Cattermole actually played more accurate long balls than any other outfield player with 90. This is from 115 attempts, putting him at an accuracy level of 78% which was again the highest at the club.

Passing Directions

We all know Cattermole's main job is to win the ball and give it to someone to get moves started, which again he did very well last season.

With 44% of Cattermole's passes going forwards, this lead all central midfielders (apart from David Meyler who played considerably less) at the club and indeed many others who have been deemed more creative such as Seb Larsson (42%) and Jack Colback (41%).

Passing the ball backwards was rarely an option for Cattermole too as with 11% of his passes going backwards we see him ranked lowly among central midfielders. Curiously David Vaughan, David Meyler and Jack Colback all went backwards 17% of the time.

Passing Zones

Cattermole was excellent in possession in his own half with 90% of passes played in that area finding their intended target according to the stats. However a criticism leveled at Catts is that he can't get it done in the opposite half.

Once again, this myth seems to be dispelled by the fact he was accurate with 74% of his passes in the attacking half. To put this into context, that's the same as Antonio Valencia and Jordan Henderson. It's also more than anyone else in the 2011/12 Sunderland squad outside of Colback and Sessegnon.

To take things up a notch and look at his accuracy in the final third as he comes in with a not outstanding but very respectable 68% accuracy level. Again we'll put this into context by pointing out Larsson only managed 66%, Craig Gardner 64% and James McClean 64% accuracy.


There's a lot to be said about Cattermole, and it's usually negative from those who don't watch us particularly much as he's simply dismissed as a 'thug' and a dirty player. As we've proven, there's far dirtier players about that seem to go without such a reputation.

There's also the fact that while Sunderland fans (in some quarters, not all) will criticise his passing ability and that he allegedly takes the easier option. That doesn't seem to be the case when he's attempting more long balls than other players in the squad, not to mention they're finding the target the majority of the time.

Of course he still has his occasional stupid moments, but Cattermole is still a hell of a player and a good one to have as captain with him leading by example more often than not.

Stats from Opta via EPL Index.

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