The joys of promotion to the Premier League can soon turn into the despair of relegation. Having been promoted with Wolves in 2009, Stephen Ward soon experienced the pains of back-to-back relegations with them. However, he impressed Sean Dyche with his performances for Brighton, where he was on a loan last season, to make a move for him.
The new Burnley signing will bring the required mix of experience and skill to add weight to the credentials of the side. With Ben Mee, who impressed through last season, offering him stiff competition for the left-back slot, Ward will need to take every chance that’s presented to him.
When it comes to tackling efficiency, there is not a lot to differentiate the two full-backs. Both have won close to 57% of the tackles they have entered into. However, on the whole, Mee does impress more defensively as he has made a significantly higher number of tackles per 90 minutes when compared to his new teammate. His tackling ability has been portrayed as one of his strengths and that is made evident in the stats presented. Both the full-backs showed an immense ability, both on the ground as well as in the air. There isn’t a lot to differentiate the two in the air as they both won close to 67% of their aerial duels. Though there is some gulf in the performance on the ground, it is not a mismatch of abilities.
Both the left-backs were busy cutting off supplies as they made more than 1.60 interceptions per 90 minutes. A lot of goals in the Premier League come via the flanks. Burnley too will be presented with such threats on a regular basis and hence the full-backs will need to make frequent blocks to cut the supply via the wings. Both the full-backs have shown the ability to make crucial blocks. Mee again betters his teammate in this department as he made 0.56 blocks per 90 minutes when compared to Ward’s 0.40 blocks.
Mee made 3 defensive errors compared to Ward’s 1. While none of Ward’s defensive errors resulted in a goal, one of Mee’s errors resulted in a goal. In a league where a single goal can make all the difference, he will need to be at his best to avoid becoming the subject of haunting memories. Though his performance might be slightly overshadowed by Mee, the numbers Ward has racked up are still very impressive by themselves and would put him in consideration at Turf Moor.
One of the weaknesses of Mee has been his passing. On the other hand, Ward has shown good passing ability. In the season gone by, Ward averaged an impressive 79% pass completion. In contrast, the Englishman completed just 64% of his attempted passes. Mee will need to tidy up his passing in a league that doesn’t believe in second chances. Ward was able to able to pick out his teammates in crucial areas more often as he made 0.91 key passes per 90 minutes as compared to Mee’s 0.43. He also created a significantly higher number of chances every 90 minutes, 4 of which resulted in an assist.
With 4 goals and 4 assists, apart from the other attacking stats backing his abilities, Ward does look a better prospect going forward. He far outperforms his new teammate going forward and hence provides options to Dyche. While Mee has shown ability to beat his man, completing 68% of his take-ons, more often than not there is no end product because of his deficient passing abilities. With improvement in his passing as well as vision, he could make a great case.
With the Premier League already underway and hours remaining for the transfer window to shut till January, Dyche has definitely brought in a solid reinforcement for the left-back position. Greater competition within the squad more often than not translates into a better performing 11. Ward and Mee have their distinctive strengths as highlighted above and should provide options to the gaffer. Ward provides a better option going forward while Mee looks the better defensively. Dyche might use the “horses for courses” approach and both should get the opportunity to prove their worth to the gaffer. Ward has been involved in a lot of relegation battles since his move to England and the learning would be crucial for staying afloat in the league.Every block missed, every defensive error could come back to haunt them at the end of the season and none knows this more than Ward.
Opta Stats via Squawka.com