Simpson | Improving, but is he good enough?

Simpson | Improving, but is he good enough?

One of the products from the youth academy at Manchester United, Danny Simpson was unable to seize the chance to sustain a regular starting place and only managed a handful of appearances. During his time at Manchester United, he was loaned out to several clubs; Royal Antwerp, Sunderland, Ipswich, Blackburn Rovers and finally to Newcastle in 2009, where he was a steady performer in the Championship that earned himself a permanent contract in 2010.

Undoubtedly, Simpson has improved since his first season at Newcastle in the Championship and in his first full season in the Premier League – his stats below confirm this.

Now in second full season playing in the Premier League, compared to last season, he has improved in his passing, crossing and not only in the number of ground duels, aerial duels and tackles committed, but also the percentages successful as well.

Even though he is improving as a player, is he good enough to remain after the summer of 2012?

With Davide Santon signing in the summer of 2011, there were rumours that Santon would replace Danny Simpson at right back, as Newcastle were linked with several left backs, including Neil Taylor (Swansea), Erik Pieters (PSV) and Aly Cissoho (Lyon). In the end, Newcastle didn’t buy either player and started the season playing Simpson and Ryan Taylor at left back.

Since Taylor’s injury towards the end of last year, Santon has slotted into the left back berth and hasn’t looked back. Even with Taylor regaining full fitness, Santon has remained at left back – proving to be a more able defender than Taylor. Offensively, this also benefits the team, as it allows Gutierrez to venture further forward, not needing to worry so much about protecting Santon, as he did with Taylor.

Santon v Simpson

 

Overall, Davide Santon is the better defender – with a much higher pass completion rate (84% v 76%), ground 50/50 win (59% v 53%) and aerial 50/50 win (62% v 46%) – Santon being 6 inches taller than Simpson will give him an advantage in the air. In fact, Davide Santon has the best pass completion rate from the Newcastle squad (Coloccini 83%).

Danny Simpson has a slightly better chance creation (203 mins/chance v 206) and cross completion rate (31% v 13%), however, right-footed Santon plays on the left-wing and naturally cuts back onto his right to cross. It would be interesting to see how his creative play fares by playing on the right.

Simpson also has a lower minutes per clearance rate (21.9 mins/clearance v 37.4), however similar to Colocinni, Santon prefers to bring the ball out of defence or pick out a player rather than to clear his lines. Santon’s pass completion highlights this point.

An interesting statistic is that Santon has won possession back, nearly as many times as Simpson has (66 v 70), despite having nearly two-thirds less playing time (822 mins v 2237). One of Simpson’s criticisms is that he backs off attackers too often and perhaps this statistic accentuates this belief.

How do Simpson and Santon compare to rivals?

Originally, this piece was to compare Simpson to other English right backs (Micah Richards – Man City, Glen Johnson – Liverpool, Kyle Walker – Spurs) after some of his Twitter followers thought he was due an international call up to England, however, with Santon possibly taking over the right back role next season, I thought it would be interesting to compare him as well.

As you can see from the table above, there isn’t much difference in pass completion rates between Santon, Richards, Johnson and Walker – however Simpson lags behind. Danny Simpson does have the best cross completion rate, although this does not equate to the most chances created.

Despite this being Santon’s first season in the Premier League, he has shown to settle in quickly and well with the more physical demands. Santon wins a greater percentage of his ground duels compared to the other defenders; Simpson challenges the least and has the lowest success rate, however, there isn’t much between the five players.

Not surprisingly, Richards is the best in the air – committing himself to more aerial challenges and winning a greater percentage than the others. Simpson, being the shortest, is the only defender not to win the majority of his aerial duels.

Tottenham’s Kyle Walker has the greatest success rate in tackles, however Danny Simpson comes a close second. Both Newcastle players have the lowest minutes/tackle rates – something that can be improved.

Simpson comes out top in most clearances being made, but as alluded to in the previous comparison between Simpson and Santon – perhaps this is more of a negative than a positive?

Danny Simpson also comes out well in the number of shots blocked and shots cleared off the line – which seems to be his speciality and has arguably gained Newcastle valuable points, especially in hard-fought draws at Manchester United and QPR. Santon has yet to block a shot.

Another positive about Santon’s play is the amount of times he wins possession back. He has a better rate than the other four defenders – although comparing this to Micah Richards is probably a misnomer – Man City dominate possession in the majority of their games and thus, Richards will have less opportunity to win the ball back.

Another area where Santon excels is the number of fouls that he has conceded. His rate is far less than the other players. Richards has a far greater foul rate, although this could be tactical, but without the contextual data, it is hard to say.

Summary

Danny Simpson has improved year on year since signing for Newcastle in 2010, although the verdict is still out whether he will still remain as Newcastle’s first choice right back after the summer. His passing needs to improve, as does his weakness of standing off players.

Davide Santon has shown promising signs that he will become a success at Newcastle. Although he has defensive lapses at times, his statistics in his first season in England has shown that he has the core qualities to succeed and can compete with the best in the Premier League.