A lot has been said of Kevin Nolan at the Boleyn Ground since his arrival at West Ham 18 months ago, in a 5.5m deal from Newcastle United. As the 2011/12 season wore on, while fans acknowledged his obvious leadership skills, more and more questions were raised regarding what else he contributed on the field.
Invariably, Nolan’s answer to the doubters was to pop up with a goal the following week, and probably the week after, too, for good measure. Because that is what Nolan does, and has done year after year, for whatever club he’s at, and whatever division he’s playing in.
Taking stock of the first eight games of the season, we take a look at Nolan and his attacking contribution, comparing him to other attacking midfielders for various clubs.
Because we’re looking at attacking midfielders, and attacking midfielders should (notionally) contribute more in the final third of the pitch, final third passes were favoured over the total passes statistic. The number of minutes played per final third pass, rather than per game started, was factored in to compensate for attacking midfielders who have made substitute appearances.
Another consideration (though not one that can be easily integrated into the statistics) is a team’s style of play. It’s no coincidence that Nolan and Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye’s passing numbers are so different, when we look into their teams’ styles of play (as we did earlier in the month, here).
Nolan, certainly with the age he’s at now, will never be considered for an England place, but I can’t say his inclusion didn’t cross my mind when we were searching for a goal against the Ukraine last month.
Other areas we looked at were what attacking midfielders were contributing in both the defensive stage of the game and possession.
Some of these players are worth vastly more than others, of course. But contribution-wise, who would have thought that a signing made after a summer of relegation would prove to be one of the best, if not the best attacking midfielder 8 games into the season after returning to the Premier League?
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.