“I’m weary now and I want to leave this town, I can’t find a job I’m tired of hanging around.”
(Jimmie Rodgers, “Whistle Train Blues“)
With the season winding down and our safety practically assured, logic suggests that fringe players may get a run out. But, conversely, it seems that Hughes has finally settled on a starting XI that is achieving results.
This season has seen the marginalization of two players that have been a fixture with our club for the past two seasons: Zoltan Gera and John Pantsil. I don’t mean to use the marginalize in a pejorative way, but just stating a fact. After yo-yoing in and out of the lineup, neither has even made the bench for months.
According to Football-Lineups.com, Zoltan Gera started 19 of 28 games and played in 54% of our league minutes last season. In our Europa League campaign he was a fixture from the first game in Vetra, and would go on to start 18 of 19 games and play 92% of the campaign’s minutes. Two seasons ago he started 20 games and played 50% of our league minutes.
This year? Just look at the graph below.
The numbers on the left are the total league minutes played each month. He’s started 10 of 34 games, playing in 36% of the club’s league minutes. He hasn’t started a league match since Boxing Day (only other start was the 5th Round FA Cup loss to Bolton, when he was subbed in the 63rd minute), and has played just 23 league minutes since February 14.
My math may be a bit off, but without Gera in the lineup we’re averaging about 1.77 points per game. With him in the lineup, as a sub or starter, it’s just 1 point per game. When he started, Fulham won just once and acquired 9 points in 10 games, which averages to about .9 points a game.
Unlike Pantsil, who has put the ball in the net more times than AJ, there’s not one easy explanation for Gera’s disappearance. He has been played out of position quite a but, often subbing in for Danny Murphy, but beyond that he’s disappearance off the face of Hughes’ planet confounds.
On the other side, John Pantsil hasn’t started since his own goal since the match at Villa almost 3 months ago. He hasn’t made the bench since the 0-0 with Chelsea on February 14.
Our record since? Twelve points of out 21, 8 goals conceded in 7 games. Yet when you break it down, statistically Pantsil is a bit better than Baird at RB. Consider the following:
- Baird: 14 games, 18 points (1.28 pts/game), 17 goals conceded
- Pantsil: 16 games, 22 points (1.375 pts/game), 16 goals conceded (4 coming from himself)
- Kelly: 5 games, 3 points (.6 pts/game), 4 goals conceded
The only stat that Pantsil lags behind Baird is passing completion percentage. Now, Baird has a lot more passes considering he’s played an additional eight games at LB and one game at CM. But, his 75% completion rate is higher than Pantsil’s 71% and Kelly’s 69% (FWIW, Kelly is ahead of only Halliche, Schwarzer, and Stockdale).
It’s easy to ascertain that both players are out the door come July. Which is a shame considering all they’ve done for the club, especially Gera. Just one year ago he was putting us into a European Cup final.