Many supporters have written off the contribution of Jay Spearing before even giving him a chance. However from our point of view Jay Spearing’s role in the side this season is the most important.
This season he’s started in 10 games in all competitions and when he’s started Liverpool have won 80% of the games. His importance to the side in that defensive midfield role since Lucas was ruled out for the season has been highlighted in the recent poor run of form in the league. Jay Spearing’s season in the Premier League has been restricted to just four starts after getting sent off against Fulham and then picking up an injury in the 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City in the Carling Cup semi final 1st leg.
It’s been a major struggle for Liverpool without a defensive midfielder and Spearing’s return against Wolves was a welcome one. The player broke up the play well and won back possession nine times. Six of these were in the middle third which was more than any other player in the side.
As you can see from the stats above (taken from the Quick Stats area here at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now for only £3.95 p/m) Jay Spearing has won possession back for Liverpool FC on 30 occasions as well as intercepting the ball seven times. He’s only played 348 minutes for Liverpool so he is intercepting or winning possession back every 9.4 minutes that he is on the pitch. Pretty impressive.
In comparison to other midfielders, Adam is winning possession or intercepting every 9.8 minutes and Jordan Henderson every 13.1 minutes. The man he’s trying to replace, coincidentally also wins back possession or intercepts every 9.4 minutes so Spearing is on the right track. Charlie Adam’s stats don’t seem far off so why doesn’t he hold the midfield? The simple fact of the matter is that Charlie can’t stay back. He wants to attack and get involved further up the pitch and doesn’t play the holding role very well. He’s also inferior to Spearing when it comes to tackling. Spearing’s ground duels win percentage is 64% as compared to Adam’s 52%. Spearing’s tackle win% is also far superior at 86.67% as compared to Adam’s 73.33%.
Spearing also keeps the passes simple which is what is required in the midfield holding role. He manages to keep his 87% of his passes accurate, seven percent more than Charlie Adam. So Spearing for us is the best man for the job in that defensive midfield role.
In Cup competitions Liverpool have won every game in which Jay Spearing starts, this included wins at Stoke, Chelsea and Manchester City (note Liverpool faded after he went off at around the 25 minute mark as they missed the protection of a defensive mid). In the league however he’s lost two out of the four starts. However one of these games was the 3-0 loss at Manchester City in which Liverpool as a team weren’t at their best. Also the other loss was to Fulham where Spearing was sent off whilst the game was 0-0 and Liverpool had done everything but score that day, hitting the woodwork twice!
So he made a return against Wolves after injury and impressed all. His protection in front of the back four allows the full backs to attack more as you’ll see Jay step over to that side of the pitch in order to cover a little. That’s the role of the defensive midfielder (or anchor) and he plays it very well. He’s not quite at the level of Lucas yet but he’s doing the job well enough to command a start place for the rest of the season providing he stays fit.
We’ll leave you with a comparison of Spearing’s stats this year and last year. The 2011/12 season stats are on the left and the 2010/11 stats are on the right.
All of the stats in this article are from the EPLIndex.com Opta Stats Centre (Quick Stats & Statistical Comparison areas). You can subscribe now to get access. Subscription includes author privileges so you can have your statistical analysis published here too!