How has Gareth McAuley managed to take over Jonas Olsson as West Bromwich Albion’s outstanding defender? Olsson is in his fifth year at The Baggies and in his first four seasons at the club he has been West Brom’s rock, he has been the one player that they could not afford to lose. However this season has seen a change in the defensive dynamic, Northern Ireland international McAuley has become the key man as demonstrated by his winning of Fans and Players Player of the Year at Albion’s end of season awards.
McAuley was very good last season but it is fair to say that he did struggle without Olsson alongside him. This season, he has reached new standards that have seen him out-perform Olsson despite statistics showing that Olsson himself has improved from last season.
Both McAuley and Olsson have missed only one game this season, playing the same amount of minutes in the process. In Olsson’s 34 appearances, West Brom have conceded 44 goals whilst in McAuley’s 34 games West Brom have conceded 46 goals. Despite this, the statistics show that McAuley has out-performed Olsson in many aspects of defending this season.
One area where McAuley’s superiority has always been evident is his ability to win aerial battles. This strength has clearly been identified by West Brom’s management as McAuley has competed for 31 more aerial challenges than Olsson, compared to last year when it was in fact Olsson who had more aerial battles. Olsson won only 51% of his aerial battles in 2011/2012 whilst McAuley won a massive 70%. For McAuley to see his win % decrease by only 1% despite competing for 49 more aerial battles this season.
McAuley has also performed better than Olsson when competing for the ball on the ground, winning 65% of his 103 ground battles compared to Olsson winning 57% of his 93 ground battles. So although Olsson has improved his win percentage by 2% from last season, he has still been out-performed by McAuley. Olsson has just out-performed McAuley in tackling success, winning 73.08% compared to McAuley 72.97%. But what also needs to be considered is that McAuley has made 11 more tackles than Olsson which again shows McAuley is taking more responsibility in West Brom’s defence.
The Northern Irishman has also made more interceptions than Olsson has this season, although one area where McAuley will be disappointed is that he has made 4 defensive errors compared to only 2 made by Olsson.
This is one area where Gareth McAuley really struggled to match-up to Olsson previously. Olsson has obviously developed his style of play on the continent where more emphasis is placed on possession than McAuley who has played a lot of lower league football. That is what makes McAuley’s 81% pass completion rate, 3% better than Olsson’s, even more surprising but is once more another demonstration of the improvement that McAuley has made. However, it is important to note that Olsson’s slightly lower pass completion rate may be due to the fact he plays a larger percentage of his passes forward compared to McAuley.
That McAuley has competed for the most ground and aerial 50-50’s as well as tackles, alongside his impressive win percentage in all three aspects, show that the Northern Irishman has taken on more responsibility as part of the defensive unit this season and has built upon some impressive statistics from his debut season in 2011/2012. The challenge now for McAuley is to try to maintain this form going into next season and continue to out-perform Olsson.
Featured Image via Birmingham Mail
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