The Cleverley Debate | Compared to Henderson, Wilshere, Noble, Carrick & Huddlestone


A lot has been written in a negative sense about Tom Cleverley in these past few months, much of which in my opinion has been very unjust.


Tom Cleverley is a very, very good footballer who Roy Hodgson, his national team manager, likes for good reason.

To have people starting and then over 10,000 people signing a petition to not have him playing for his national team is not only pathetic but also a damning reflection on the mindset of the modern day football fan.

Cleverley isn’t having the best of seasons for all kinds of reasons granted, but there are so many considerations to factor in, with a main one being the way things are going under the new regime at Old Trafford this season and the seemingly lack of direction or real strategy to their play.

This has been seen in both the results and performances of the team as well as individual players like Cleverley.

For additional insight on this, have a look at  this excellent blog from The Whitehouse Address  that also touches on when Cleverley was playing arguably the best football of his career so far, under Roberto Martinez at Wigan.

Lets look at what he has done in the form of his numbers from the start of it and in this article we will compare them to West Ham’s Mark Noble who is having a good season and has in some quarters been talked about taking the spot in the squad that Cleverley currently occupies and potentially playing in the role alongside Steven Gerrard in a 4-2-3-1 basic shape with a front four of what will likely be Rooney, Sturridge, Sterling and Lallana.

To give an insight in who also could be used in that role, I have also added comparisons for Michael Carrick, Tom Huddlestone, Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson. (Editors Note: Totals row explained in Totals section)

Misc Numbers :

Clev Misc (1)

If Hodgson is looking for freshness in his squad, then Cleverley and/or Wilshere will be the most likely to go to Brazil, both haven’t even played 2,000 mins yet and with both currently injured it seems it might take some time until either do.

Jordan Henderson, Noble and Huddlestone have all played a similar number of minutes and starts showing that each of these players can be relied upon and are, fingers crossed, not prone to injury or suspensions.

Defensive attributes :

Clev Defending (1)

To complement Gerrard, and even an ageing Steven Gerrard and to utilize his attacking strengths and shooting ability, a defensive ball winner alongside him is a necessity.

You’ll see with the numbers above that Noble is the strongest in that department with Jordan Henderson possibly lacking a little in that area of his game.

Ball Retention :

Clev Retention (1)

This is an area, especially in international football and considering the potential warm weather conditions in certain parts of Brazil this summer, that simply can not be underestimated.

One of the biggest negatives thrown at the England team in recent times is our seemingly lack of ability where retaining the ball is concerned and at elite level, this could be punishing.

Tom Cleverley retains the ball well, in fact Tom Cleverley retains the ball better than all other players considered for the role in the team in question. In defence of Mark Noble, you’ll notice that he has a much greater % of forward passes than the other players which coincides with his lesser completion %’s as forward passes are of course easier to intercept by the opposition and ultimate lose possession.

Creativity :

Clev Creativity (2)

In a word, it’s all about ” Wilshere ” where creativity is concerned. He comes out top on all but crossing accuracy and Wilshere being injured for the World Cup will give England less of an attacking threat, no doubt about it.

That Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley have failed to have an assist or create a clear cut chance between them is staggering, especially given that they are generally alongside each other in the same club side’s midfield.

Attack :

Clev Attack (1)

Again Wilshere is strong in this area of play and alongside Jordan Henderson, would proves to again be a crucial part of the England attack. The Manchester United duo again severely lack in this area as does Mark Noble in one of the more limited areas of his game.

Totals :

We could look at the raw numbers as much as we like but it’s how we actually quantify then and what we read from them that is most important.

Based on that, we decided to create a mini league table for the players being compared in this article that is straight forward to understand.

  • 10 points for top performance numbers
  • 8 points for the second placed performance numbers
  • 6 points for the third placed performance numbers
  • 4 points for the fourth placed performance numbers
  • 2 points for fifth placed performance numbers
  • 0 points for the lowest performance numbers

Clev Totals (2)

If Roy Hodgson uses performance analysis to both recruit and select players, then it’s no wonder he feared the worst where Jack Wilshere’s injury is concerned right now.

Wilshere was very points heavy in attacking areas of play including creativity.

Mark Noble dominates the defensive side of the game as many West Ham fan would tell you, but lacks in attacking areas and retaining the ball. Noble does offer good creativity however and a good set piece alternative.

Michael Carrick and Jordan Henderson offer very decent alternatives to Wilshere too, offering very different options. Carrick’s strength as many would agree is his ball retention, a fantastic quality at any level of the game but most especially in international football. Henderson gives energy and consistency with many rightfully arguing those kinds of qualities would , and do with Liverpool, compliment Gerrard perfectly.

Tom Huddlestone has had a wonderful season with Hull City and this reflects in his numbers here.

But propping up at the bottom is Tom Cleverley.

Cleverley has offered little to nothing in an attacking sense this season, and his creativity has been scarce. Carrick offers a better ball retention option and Noble is the player to look at if the team is implementing a defensive strategy.

It’s hard to make a case for Cleverley going to the World Cup on this evidence, but he continues to make England squads.

Roy Hodgson does have various options at his disposal for this area of the team, let’s just hope he chooses the right ones.


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