West Brom were one of the surprises packages of the last Premier League season, finishing in 8th place with their highest Premier League point tally. Romelu Lukaku’s 17 goals for the club, whilst on loan from Chelsea, have been cited as one of the main reasons for this success, with many expecting West Brom to not fare as well without the Belgian who looks likely to stay at Stamford Bridge.
Whilst Lukaku will be hugely difficult to replace, I don’t think he is the player West Brom will fear losing the most. Lukaku was important but the midfield combination of Claudio Yacob and Youssuff Mulumbu were far more important in terms of implementing Steve Clarke’s preferred formation and really protecting the defence. With both being linked with moves away, Clarke will be desperate to keep them and this is why;
In the 2012/13 season, West Brom attempted 698 tackles. Of these 698 attempted tackles, Yacob and Mulumbu were responsible for 174 of them, meaning the defensive midfield duo were responsible for 24.9% of the attempted tackles made by West Brom this season. Of these 174 tackles, Yacob made 109 winning 90 of them, giving him a quite outstanding 83% tackle completion rate.
Mulumbu made the 2nd most tackle attempts with 65, winning 47 of them giving a completion rate of 72%. In the absence of Mulumbu/Yacob/both, the likes of James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans had turns in the centre of midfield. It is compared to these three where the combination of Yacob and Mulumbu really stands out in terms of their defensive abilities.
Brunt, Dorrans and Morrison made a combined 143 tackles, 31 less than the Mulumbu and Yacob axis. Brunt’s tackling success rate is surprisingly the same as Claudio Yacob, but what must be considered is that Brunt made 57 less tackles than Yacob throughout the season.
It is not just in the tackling statistics where Yacob and Mulumbu’s defensive contribution can be seen. Mulumbu and Yacob entered into 529 ground duels, 20.2% of West Brom’s total number of ground duels. Mulumbu entered into 288 duels, 47 more than Yacob who was the next highest on 241. Mulumbu won 142 of these ground duels, a win rate of 49%. Yacob had a higher win rate, winning 57% of his ground duels.
Again Morrison, Dorrans and Brunt did not reach the combined numbers of Yacob and Mulumbu, with the trio entering into 516 ground duels, 13 less than that of Albion’s usual midfield pairing. Morrison did enter into the 3rd highest amount of ground duels in the squad with 236, only 5 less than Yacob. But the big difference comes in the win rate, with Morrison only winning 44% of his duels compared to the 57% of Yacob. Brunt and Dorrans also failed to match the win rates of Mulumbu and Yacob, Brunt winning 46%(67 wins from 145) and Dorrans 44%(60 wins from 135).
Additionally, Yacob and Mulumbu also made significant contributions to the passing game of West Bromwich Albion this season.
Mulumbu led the way in number of passes attempted and the number of accurate passes, whilst he was 2nd to Yacob in terms of pass accuracy percentage. Mulumbu made 1529 passes, with 1310 accurate passes with an 86% pass accuracy rate.
Yacob made the third most passes, with only Morrison splitting the midfield duo from leading these statistics once more, with 1243 passes attempted and 1087 of them accurate, giving an accuracy rate of 87%. There was only Morrison, Brunt and Jonas Olsson who also made over 1000 passes, which once again indicates the importance of Yacob and Mulumbu to the way West Brom like to play under Steve Clarke.
These statistics clearly show just how important it will be for West Brom to keep a hold of the duo, but it does also indicate a need for Albion to look to bring in a player in the defensive midfield positions who is capable of performing a similar role as the statistics show their current alternatives aren’t playing the role Steve Clarke would like.
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