A certain Jermain Defoe garnered almost all of the attention on Deadline Day from a Sunderland perspective. Well, even beyond that.
Diminutive Phil trended #25 worldwide and #1 in the UK for a while overnight, Fab Romano tweeted about the deal and all the nationals have subsequently picked it up.
Maybe, just maybe after four years of being in League One we still are national news?
Anyway, I think you get the point. The signing of 20-year-old midfielder Jay Matete went slightly under the radar thanks to the Defoe deal, and hopefully, this can only be to the lad’s benefit.
Trai Hume hasn’t seen any first-team minutes yet since his switch from Linfield and has been given time to adjust – but when he signed he was thrust into the limelight as our first signing of the window. The excitement around Matete seems muted, but noticeable. The pressure will be off, and so will the expectations: they are all thrust upon the shoulders of Defoe, an expert at thriving under it.
But what can we expect from Matete?
First, and foremost, expect him to be in and around the first team immediately - he is in his third season as a senior pro having been a regular for both Grimsby and Fleetwood already.
Matete has been a sought-after prospect in his burgeoning career so far - shining for struggling sides. Kristjaan Speakman even admitted that there had been strong interest from other top-half League One rivals and Championship sides. As far as Roker Report understands, a deal to sign for Ipswich Town was all-but-agreed until his eleventh-hour swerve north east.
In the above graphic, it is clear he ranks above the average League One central midfielder for his work off the ball, with him being in the top 90% percentile for duels, passing and carrying metrics highlighting his strengths.
While our current central midfielders are all technically very proficient, we do lack both a steely presence in there, and someone with the innate carrying ability to progress up the pitch at speed in possession.
Luke O’Nien battles well, but he has been out injured and our recruitment process indicates to me that his return to the side may come further down the pitch.
This excellent plot chart plots players according to their progressive passes per 90 minutes % success rate against their defensive actions per 90.
Each red text highlights exactly the sort of player you expect to see in each quadrant. A real, all-around central midfielder would ideally be in the top right (note Luke O’Nien haters, he is there), while Matete is in the top left and Dan Neil in the bottom right. The author also highlights Matete individually as a potentially shrewd signing for sides in a division above.
It seems to me by analysing the metrics and the data, that in theory, Jay Matete is a perfect foil for Dan Neil in our midfield pivot. Below I have compared Matete’s seasonal stats on Instat to the two midfielders who started our last game: Neil and Corry Evans.
Matete betters Corry Evans’ defensive numbers in both quality and quantity and is not too far behind Dan Neil’s stats. Of course, some caveats must be made.
Since his return to Fleetwood from a loan to Grimsby, he has been mostly deployed as a lone defensive midfielder in a 3-1-4-2.
Fleetwood is 16th in League One in terms of average possession per game and have the 4th deepest defensive line on average.
Thus, Matete doesn’t see a lot of the ball and when he does, he usually is tasked with either quickly recycling it via lateral passes to teammates, or carrying it on long runs to push Fleetwood up the pitch.
The video below is from his time at Grimsby (where he played in a midfield two and offered up far more attacking impetus) highlights his ability to carry the ball at pace nicely.
The turn, the run and the finish— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) April 25, 2021
Jay Matete scored this beauty for Grimsby yesterday, starting from inside his own half! pic.twitter.com/M2yYxU29Pn
For some more in-depth video scouting, I highly recommend checking out BWFC Analysis’ in-depth scout report on Matete.
But back to Sunderland.
Matete balances out almost all of Dan Neil’s weaknesses, just check out the following graphs comparing Sunderland and Fleetwood’s midfielders this season:
It appears that Matete has been signed to complement Neil perfectly. Matete’s numbers do not stand up well to the test of time in terms of his progressive short-passes, xA, passes in the opposition half, chance creation and goal contributions.
However, this is where Dan Neil shines. His best assets are his creation figures which stand among the highest in the entire league. Conversely, Neil’s own do not stand up in terms of his defensive contributions, duel success rates, take-ons, and progressive carries +20 yards.
Matete is unreal in the air, off the ball and has a great tackle rate, but thrives where Neil struggles. This is all in addition to passing success rates, ball retention and passes to final third which both are excellent at.
You can see from the final set of stats above, he ranks first of all the midfielders listed in Ground, Aerial and Total Duels accumulated and per 90 stats.
It seems that Stuart Harvey and Kristjaan Speakman have Matete earmarked as the perfect foil for Dan Neil, and with their tender ages both can continue to progress their development at the club playing together regularly. Or at least, that’s clearly the plan.
Playing for a bigger side, who play in a substantially different way, will force a massive change in his own style. It’ll be the first time in a pressure cooker environment, and playing for a side not looking over their shoulders in a relegation battle.
His job for the Cod Army is to carry it and use his legs. No doubt he’ll do that here as he seems to be a natural, but we’d either allow him to thrive in a better-suited environment (like Neil has) or it will show off his inefficiencies in technical ability (like George Dobson).
Because his expected and per90 metrics are so good you would presume (or at least hope) it’s more so the former.