Our best defenders: Part 1, individual comparisons


When I did my analysis of our midfield I said it would probably be one of two posts but there was so much to collect and compare that I decided to split the second part into two.

To begin, I’m using stats from  hosted stats.com, Squawka.com and my own sums to look at individual performances.

Who do you think is better – Coates, Kaboul or Koné? How do they compare to John O’Shea?

And would you rather have Billy Jones than DeAndré the Throw-in Slayer?

Read on, and all will be revealed.

Or maybe not.


goals penalties shots
games mins played conceded ave per game faced saved faced on goal faced saved % saved Clean Sheets Yellow cards
Pants 17 1530 33 1.94 4 0 270 102 70 68 3 3
Vito  19 1710 23 1.21 2 1 253 95 71 75.5 4 2
Jordan Pickford 2 180 6 3 2 0 47 17 11 64.7 0 0

I’ve left Jordan Pickford in the table as I do think he’s worth a mention. His goals conceded per game isn’t good but he played as well as any other member of the team at Spurs, where 4 went past him, and his average was damaged by two penalties in which he was totally innocent. He’ll be a good’un.

Don Vito Mannone: our number 1 number 1
Don Vito Mannone: our number 1 number 1

The table above suggests Don Vito is better than Pants. He kept more clean sheets, he saved 75% of shots on goal (68% for Pants) and he conceded fewer goals per game. He even saved a penalty, something Pants never managed although he had twice as many opportunities. And, if that’s not enough, Pants only had three wins in 19 games; Don Vito had 6 wins in 17.

But are we comparing like with like? Pants played in the first 19 games of the season. Don Vito took over on Boxing Day and played until the end of the season. So it could be argued that they played in very different circumstances. When Don Vito played behind a defence similar to that protecting Pants his results weren’t anything special. He conceded 4 at Man City in his first game (and saved that penalty, which hardly mattered) and followed that with a loss at home to Liverpool in the second of 12 consecutive games where we conceded.  He didn’t get his first clean sheet until his thirteenth game (against West Brom).

It wasn’t until the K brigade arrived that things improved, well after Don Vito replaced Pants.

So we need to look at some more statistics. Pants faced 16 shots per game, on average, with 6 of them on target. Don Vito faced 13, with 5 on target. Another way of looking at it is that Pants had to deal with a shot on target every 15 minutes, Don Vito every 18 minutes. That might not seem much but it says something to me about the improved calibre of the defence in the first and second halves of the season, indeed in the second half of the second half, which is when we reached escape velocity.

For me there’s less to choose between these keepers than the bare stats suggest.

Having raised the issue of defenders, let’s  look at them in more detail.  

Full backs

Games Mins inter-ceptions blocks clear-ances total per game Fouls Yellows
PVA 33 2970 61 10 123 194 5.9 16 2
Jones 24 2033 31 17 81 129 5.4 32 8
Yedlin 23 1812 24 13 106 143 6.2 22 2
Games Mins Goals Assists shots on goal % on goal Crosses Offsides
PVA 33 2970 4 3 46 9 19.6 85 4
Jones 24 2033 1 1 14 4 28.6 40 3
Yedlin 23 1812 0 1 4 1 25 59 0

I suppose the job of a defender is to defend. Looking at the top half of the table above I’d say there’s not a lot between Van Aanholt and Yedlin. Yedlin has completed more defensive actions per game but he has also given away more free kicks and as many yellows in fewer games. Billy Jones appears worse than both of them. Fewer defensive actions, more fouls and four times the number of yellow cards does not paint a pretty picture. Jones also has a worse record when it comes to points. He averaged 0.7 points per game and he had a win rate of 16%.  Yedlin and Van Aanholt both average a point per game and have respective win percentages of 26 and 24.

He's no Len Ashurst
He’s no Len Ashurst

When it comes to attacking Patrick seems to be the best of the three. He has four goals to his credit, has more assists and shots and has put in more crosses. He has played more games but he still remains ahead on average. He scores once every 8 or so games, Jones scores once every 24 games and Yedlin doesn’t score.

Having said that, when Jones does score it’s against the Mags – his only West Brom goal was the equaliser against them in 2013 – and that must count for something.

Central defenders

I haven’t included Wes Brown. He looked out of it during the Everton game and he only played another five games.  Two were wins and another was a draw. Thanks, Wes.

Our mid-term signings were an improvement on Coates and they also appeared to improve Kaboul, whose poor start dragged down his statistics:

Defensive actions Fouls points per game
Games Mins inter-ceptions blocks clear-ances total per game total per game wins % wins
Koné 15 1314 32 10 141 183 12.2 6 0.4 5 0.33 1.3
Kaboul 23 2008 52 20 206 278 12.1 15 0.7 6 0.26 1.1
Coates 16 1234 42 9 94 145 9.1 17 1.1 4 0.25 0.8
O’Shea 28 2016 39 11 186 236 8.4 20 0.7 9 0.32 1.3
‘Hoff 15 1076 35 3 52 90 6 20 1.3 5 0.33 1.3

Coates aside, when looking at these stats and thinking about different roles I find it hard to say who were the better players. Points per game are the same for three of them and Kaboul and Koné have the same number of defensive actions per game, many more than Kirchoff, as you might expect. Kirchoff does have more fouls but I put that down to his play in front of the back line, where has to get stuck in.  John O’Shea, who  played in all of our wins, falls somewhere in between. This could be because he came on as a sub in a lot of games.

Jake - Kone simply a rock
Jake – Kone simply a rock

I think, if I had to make a decision on our best defender I’d have to give it to Koné. Van Aanholt and DeAndré are still works in progress. Patrick has gone missing too often and Yedlin still can’t throw in properly; neither can be considered. Of the Centre backs Koné and Kirchoff are the only two who didn’t get cards (Kaboul got the only defensive red; he, O’Shea and Wes Brown all picked up yellows) and Koné  has the best ratio of defensive actions to fouls, on top of which he scored two goals which guaranteed us safety.


But you might differ, and you might also say that we really need to look at these players as combinations. None of them did it on their own and we began to move up the table when they played for each other.

That’s what I’ll look at next time.

3 thoughts on “Our best defenders: Part 1, individual comparisons”

  1. It should have been 50%. I’ve changed it (and also corrected a spelling mistake).

    And anyway, what do you expect from dodgy numbers?

  2. Going by your statistics, I’d say Vito is miles ahead of Pants. The Italian faced 2 penalty shots and saved all 50 of them. That’s way better than 100% and puts Vito in a class of his own.

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