There's been lots of clamour recently to see David Vaughan start in central midfield ahead of either Jack Colback or Seb Larsson who have been holding down the fort in the absence of Lee Cattermole.
It's not been something I've been overly keen on, but given the sheer volume of people who are piping up it warranted further investigation in my mind, and so we took a little visit to contrast and compare Vaughan vs Larsson vs Colback to see if the Welshman is indeed outperforming his teammates.
Now then, Vaughan hasn't really played enough this season to make a comparison. Equally you'd think that most of those shouting up about it are harking back to last season, so we've taken Vaughan from last season to Larsson and Colback of this season as there's a similar amount of minutes played. Vaughan notched 1487 minutes last season, while Larsson this season has 1665 and Colback 1603.
We'll start with a look at the passing of each player, where Jack Colback leads the trio in accuracy with 88% finding their intended target. However, its a slender lead with Vaughan coming in with a respectable 85% and Larsson 84%. Colback's lead here pretty negligible.
Where are the passes going though? Well if Cattermole is there to win the ball and give it to someone who's going to make things happen, he could do a lot worse than giving it to Vaughan as he leads the three in passing the ball forwards, doing so 41% of the time. Larsson trails on 33% and Colback way behind with only 28% of his passes going forwards.
Passing backwards everyone comes out about the same with both Vaughan and Larsson on 17% and Colback on 16%. Colback is however streets ahead when it comes to going sideways with 56% of his passes doing so. Larsson is also over half with 51% and Vaughan behind both on 41%. Which in this situation is a good thing really as with an attacking foursome of James McClean, Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher, we need to be getting it up to them rather than piss-potting about between ourselves and losing any momentum.
However a pass fowards doesn't always mean a chance created. Larsson is still way out in front here with 22 created as opposed to both Colback and Vaughan's 10. As we pointed out earlier though, Vaughan has done all this in less time.
The other side of any potential midfield partner for Lee Cattermole though is to dig in and help out our captain when need be. Vaughan comes up quite well in this area. Certainly better than both Colback and Larsson. Vaughan leads the way in tackles won with 51. A slimish lead over Colback with 46 and a sizeable lead over Larsson with just 33.
In "ground duels" - that's 50/50's to you and me - Vaughan comes out with a high 87 won. Colback comes in with 86, but remember that Vaughan in this comparison has nearly two and a half games less to go on. Larsson comes third with a somewhat paltry by comparison, 58.
Vaughan continues to impress in interceptions too with 41 in the time period for this comparison while Colback has 40 and Larsson once again limping into third with 31.
The one area where the Welshman does let himself down in this comparison is how often he loses possession. His 13 occasions seem quite high, but are no worse than Colback who also has 13. Larsson actually comes out on top here losing the ball on only 7 occasions.
For the final comparison we look at goal threat. When it comes to shots on target, Vaughan once again leads the pack with 7 in comparison to Larsson's 4 and Colback's rather pathetic 2.
So in conclusion there seems to be a very strong case to say that Vaughan perhaps deserves a spot more than Larsson in the middle at the moment given the numbers above, and maybe even full time with everyone fit. They aren't world beating numbers by any stretch for any of the three, but with Vaughan proven to be able to get the ball forward much more often and provide just as much creativity I'd think he was worth a shot.
You'd be hard pressed to say that there's any real reason as to why Vaughan has been frozen out. I personally am not a huge fan of Vaughan's but the numbers kind of speak for themselves here and have me questioning my original view point. Maybe it will for you too.
Stats provided by Opta, correct at time of writing on 01/01/13.