With 9 weeks to go before the end of the Premier League season, it looks an absolute certainty that Manchester United will have wrapped up a 20th title. It would take an even more dramatic twist than last season’s last minute drama for Manchester City to retain the title and for Betfred to be embarrassed for a 3rd time, by paying out early on a Man United title win. However, this season has been anything but dramatic at the top. Everything looks routine. Man United look motivated and hungry after their near miss last season, whilst Man City look unmotivated to try to top what they achieved by attaining their 4th title.
This season Jonny Evans has appeared to come into his own, growing into the player that Sir Alex decided to keep over Gerard Pique. On the other hand Matija Nastasic was a relative unknown quantity. Signed for £10 million and the exchange of Stefan Savic, the young defender has ousted Joleon Lescott to partner Vincent Kompany and form a solid defensive barrier. Both are “modern” centre backs, athletic and happy with the ball at their feet. This article uses statistics to produce a comparison between the two.
Evans and Nastasic have both started 17 Premier League games, with Evans making one substitute appearance that gives him 30 minutes extra game time which makes for a nice comparison.
In terms of the most basic defensive stats, Evans has kept 4 fewer clean sheets than Nastasic with 6 clean sheets compared to Nastasic’s 10. When Evans has played, Man United have conceded 17 goals, an average of 1 goal a game. However, when Nastasic has played for Man City, they have conceded 11 goals, an average of 0.65 a game. This can be attributed to a few variables;
- Evans is part of a team that rotates more frequently than Man City
- Nastasic is partnered with Vincent Kompany, who won x
- Man City play a possession game (include possession stats etc) whilst Man United’s style is more counter attacking leaving them more vulnerable to space being exposed at the back.
Both Evans and Nastasic are known for their ability with the ball at their feet, but what about when their opponent has it at their feet? Evans and Nastasic have participated in 71 ground duels each. However, Evans is far more prolific with a win percentage of 73% compared to a win percentage of 54% for Nastasic.
Contrary to this, Evans has completed 33 tackles with a win percentage of 72.73% whereas Nastasic has completed 28 with an impressive win percentage of 92.86%. It’s interesting to note the differences between 50-50 ground duels to tackle success. Where Nastasic really excels is in his aerial ability. He’s competed in 86 aerial 50-50’s compared to 78 for Evans, winning 67% compared to Evans 58% win rate. Compensating for Evan’s lack of aerial prowess compared to Nastasic, the Northern Irishman has completed 32 interceptions, double that of Nastasic at 16. This could be duel to Evans plugging gaps at the back with Man United’s high energy, counter attacking strategy.
The stats for possession also highlight the difference between the tactics of Man United and Man City. Evans has lost possession 9 times (every 166 minutes) compared to 2 times (every 732 minutes) for Nastasic. With Man City’s more compact style it could be argued Nastasic is less likely to lose the ball with an emphasis on possession. Evans makes up for the higher loss of possession through winning possession every 18 minutes compared to Nastasic’s rate of winning possession every 24 minutes.
Furthermore, Evans has an open play pass completion of 89% compared to Nastasic’s open play pass completion of 86% When this is divided into zones it’s clear to see that Evans is more comfortable further up the pitch than Nastasic. For the defensive zone, Evans has 95% pass completion whilst Nastasic has 93%. For the attacking zone, Evans has 79% pass completion, 7% higher than Nastasic at 72%. Finally in the final 3rd, Evans’s pass completion sits at 65% whilst Nastasic is 6% lower at 59%.
In the modern game, centre backs are also expected to contribute in an attacking sense as well as fulfilling their defensive duties. Evans has completed 2 dribbles and 1 assist compared to 0 dribbles and 0 assists for Nastasic. Evans has also contributed 6 chances in open play compared to 0 again for Nastasic. Evans’s attacking advantage is also clear in his goals tally with 3 to his name compared to 0 for Nastasic. Two surprising stats for Evans are his 78% shooting accuracy at 33% clear-cut chance conversion, very reasonable for a centre back.
Overall, Nastasic seems to be the better “defender”. The Serbian has made a great impression so far in the Premier League and looks to have a bright future. On the other hand Evans appears to be the better “modern” defender, with better passing and attacking statistics. Evans has matured as a very reliable centre back over the past two seasons, and the absence of Vidic hasn’t been felt through Evans glistening form.
[box_light]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.[/box_light]