It’s been a hell of a breakthrough season for Adam Matthews, but is he doing enough to secure a future at the club?
Following his first home win with the Black Cats, Chris Coleman was a bouncing beacon of cautious optimism. As far as Sunderland managers go, at least.
“We need to keep the organisation we’ve had and we will get away from where we are.”
In most cases, that’d be code for “this is my preferred back five”.
But with Bryan Oviedo and Billy Jones eyeing returns in the near future, the Welshman all of a sudden has the luxury of choice...
Oviedo? He’s bound to slot straight in at left wing – Sunderland’s best player in his favoured role.
Jones? That’s less clear.
In his absence, Adam Matthews has done what every sidelined footballer needs to – he waited for his chance and made the most of it. For now, at least, he seems to be exactly the defender we need right now.
But is he the future?
No manager has really addressed the gaping hole Phil Bardsley’s departure left behind. Year after year, we’ve endedup with a patchwork defence where right backs are sewn in as an afterthought.
Sure, there’ve been contenders. Jones, Santiago Vergini andDeAndre Yedlin have all looked like long term solutions at some point.
Yet none of these players have really grabbed the role by the scruff of its hair, dunked its head down an Armitage Shanks and asserted their dominance.
So how does Matthews square up against these other defensive stand-ins?
To find out, we’ve donned our geek chic specs and compared Matthews’ 17/18 stats to Jones’ 16/17, Yedlin’s 15/16 and Vergini’s 14/15 seasons.
Makes sense to start here. Defenders should be able to... well... defend, y’know?
Jones dominates the Fickle Four in number of Tackles Won, Interceptions, Ariel Duels (100%!!??) and Blocks.
Despite also performing surprisingly well in the air and not making any Defensive Errors, Matthews slumps when it came to his other defensive duties.
In fact, the Welshman’s one block and 10 interceptions rank second worst among Sunderland’s defenders this season. Only Donald Love, with just two appearances, has a poorer overall record.
According to Squawka, Matthews wipes the floor with the rest of the competition.
Vergini (0.55), Yedlin (0.87) and Jones (0.93) committed way more fouls per game and racked up a combined 16 yellow cards.
With no bookings and only a single foul to his name this season, Matthews already looks to be a safe pair of feet.
An attack-minded player, Matthews is noticeably the mostcomfortable of the four going forward.
The former Celtic star has the best Pass Completion record, at 78%, while somehow also managing the longest Average Pass Length (near-as-makes-no-difference 20m).
Vergini very narrowly tops the Total Forward Passes chart, but Matthews keeps up while comfortably beating the two stragglers.
With a goal and an assist already this season, the Welshman predictably does well here – but still not as good as Jones.
In fact, as Jones manages more shots per game (0.56 to Matthews’ 0.2), he also creates the most amount of chances.
To his credit, Matthews manages a Shot Accuracy of 100% with all three of his shots heading goalwards.
Strangely, the thing that sticks out most from the stats is the 25-year-old’s unblemished discipline record. Especially combined with his low levels of tackling.
A cynic would say this shows lack of commitment, but I’d argue it’s the opposite – it’s the lazy challenges that put you in the book.
Defensive duties are always important, but with Coleman’s hankering for a back three the pressure on the wing backs ismuch smaller, too.
And that’s the point – it’s how he fits into OUR manger’s plans. Matthews is excellent at...
- Staying on his feet
- Moving play forward
- Keeping possession
...and he genuinely seems to play selflessly.
So long as these are qualities the club values, Matthews has abright future here.
Just please don’t get injured again.