Our Duff Dilemma

True or False: Damien Duff did not complete a single pass in the second half on Sunday.

Okay, that’s a trick question. He didn’t even attempt one.

Here is yesterday’s passing chart. I don’t know if the Guardian staffer fell asleep or it really was that atrocious.

What may be worse than the sheer lack of passes is where three of the four completed outfield passes went to: behind and to his left. We all know Duff has no right foot to speak of, and granted there is no way to tell what foot he made these passes with, but it still shows a clear lack of confidence with his weaker foot.

I wrote in the round table that I think Duff’s switch/inversion to the right made a huge different in his season and the clubs. But what has changed since Jol took over?

Is it fatigue? Although he was injured the final 7 matches, last season he played a full 90 minutes in 13 matches and played about 55% of the total minutes. This season he has played the full 90 all but once (yesterday), being on the pitch about 93% of the time. Additionally, he played in every Europa League Qualifier, making the full 90 four times and being subbed off in the 86th twice, 89th and 66th (for context, he was subbed out after the 80th minute just four times all of last season).

Is it a change of tactics? Last week the offense ran through Duff, where he unsuccessfully attempted 12 crosses and 7 corners. The week. Last season, and even against Newcastle this season, Duff operated as a linkup player that made many short passes (some behind and to his left) and not too many crosses.

Is he missing Simon Davies? Okay, there’s no easy way to prove that. But it could, considering we don’t really have a real crosser of the ball besides Riise (who’s hardly been doing that this season).

I’m not saying Duff should be dropped immediately, but his form is serious cause for concern. Would rather see Kasami, if not Frei, start in his stead on Wednesday.

Lastly, and sorry for the shameless self- promotion, but the few of us in Baltimore and surrounding area (hereby named the Charm City Cottagers) have a website up. Do check that out to see if and when we’re watching a match.

22 thoughts on “Our Duff Dilemma

  1. I think this is because City dominated the first half and he got injured in the second. For a while he wasn’t really able to run but the sub didn’t happen immediately.

    That said, I am sensing that he’s been ‘worked out’ to a degree. People are now well aware that he’s going to cut in and are closing that route down, which is leading him down the line on his right foot, not the optimal setup. Ideally if he’s to cut in, find the path blocked, he might have an overlapping fullback to play in. This would also take away a man from defending him.

  2. At this stage last season I was writing off Duff, thinking that he had finally lost it (not suggesting you are timmy!). How wrong I was. It turned out that it was a fitness issue and he had a barnstorming end to the season.

    This season, I am going to put his early struggles down to 1) Fatigue from the early Europa games where he was our best player and ran his heart out and 2) Loss of form. I would bench him not only for the Chelsea game, but also against West Brom, esp since Hodgson knows him inside out!

    No doubt with a bit of rest and perhaps a kick up the but from his competition (Ruiz, Kasami) he will be back in the team in no time at all.

  3. AlexL is spot-on. I remember a similar article about Duff this time last year, when his form was being lambasted. He went on to have a terrific second-half of the season, arguably his finest form since his Chelsea heyday.

    That said, he and others should be rested for the Chelsea game. That’s the least important of our three cup competitions.

  4. No disrespect, but the ‘no right foot’ comment is slightly, and by slightly I mean completely, absurd. 1) Check out his Opta stats. 2) Watch him cross with his right – not as good as his left, but still good. 3) Watch some youtube videos of him over the years and assess his right foot use.

    1. I thought that too. Lots of players wouldn’t even try to cross right footed. Against that, he does seem to be crossing right footed while off balance a lot, which is probably the nub of the issue.

    2. Ask any fan for any of the clubs Duff has played for, and they will all agree he has no right foot. This is not my suggestion and my suggestion alone, but something I hear all. the. time.

      If you wish to refute that with statistics, feel free. But perception is reality, which is unfortunate in this case.

      1. I’ve always thought of Duff as a fairly two-footed player. Compare his dribbling to, say, Ruiz’s and I’ll bet you’ll notice a massive difference. He is not entirely two-footed, in that he clearly favours his left, but even at Chelsea, when he was playing on the left, I remember him being deadly because he could cut in. This video seems to confirm that:

        1. yep, his two footedness was one of the things that made him one of teh better players in the world under Mourinho. I’m not exaggerating I don’t think – that was an amazing side, and Duff and Robben were amazing (I watched the 2004/05 season review recently). Looking at the above clips you can see how he dribbles with both feet, can go either way, which is what makes him so hard to defend.

          1. You are most definitely not exaggerating. Come up with a list of the best wingers in the last 15 years and Duff is most certainly on it. Figo, Ronaldo, Giggs, and Messi are probably your top tier of wide men. But Duff is right behind them in the second tier with players like Pires, Zanetti, and Beckham.

    3. Out of curiosity, do you have a link to specific left v right foot crossing numbers? I know Opta tracks that info for shots, but I haven’t seen anything for passes yet.

      1. I’m a bit late weighing in here, and I don’t have much to say other than I think you guys are being a bit harsh. Fine, its an overstatement to say that a player like Duff is one-footed, but its quite another to imply he is fantastically two-footed. A quick google search of various fan forums does, in fact, confirm Timmy’s assertion that Duff is widely *perceived* to favor his left foot. Also, I’ve been watching the guy play for Fulham for more than two years now and clearly favors his left foot. So, while the guy probably possesses a capable right-foot, it’s not clear how convinced he himself is of this. I work with guy from Dublin who is a life-long Chelsea fan. He practically idolizes Duff and a quick call over to his office confirmed that he too thinks of Duff as somewhat one-footed. Perhaps as he ages his confidence lags at times and this leads him to favor the foot more than in earlier years?

        1. Maybe so but I guess one footed can mean a couple of things: does he shoot or cross well right footed? Perhaps not so well as on his left. But as we saw in the clips, his dribbling and close control uses both feet very well, and his interplay with Zamora (from memory) doesn’t seem to rely on his left. Just watch again when he’s taking people on, fantastic to see both feet used so much and so effectively.

          1. Indeed. And the clips certainly speak for themselves. Against Man City I saw him, on at least two occasions, take what I thought were extra touches outside the box to try to get a shot off with his left foot (which he wasn’t able to do, having been closed off while taking the extra touches), but I don’t recall ever seeing him make such an error when it involved one-on-ones of when crossing. So perhaps its just when shooting…

  5. I saw Dean Saunders on TV a couple of weeks ago saying that when you pass the 30ish mark in terms of age you have to accept that performances are going to be patchy, sometimes great, sometimes not very good. I guess that’s what is probably happening to DD. Makes Murphy’s performances seem more remarkable somehow. Mind you I think he’s been patchy this season.

  6. How often in the last two years have we been playing well, but needing someone to make that breakthrough and get us a goal? Invariably it was provided by Duff or Zamora, or a combination of the two. Now we have more players that can do this, although some of them are still finding their feet.

    Your point about overlapping full-backs is well made. We know that Jol wants his team to attack and create plenty of good quality chances. Crossing the ball is a big part of that. To this end I’m sure that he regards pace as an essential part of the full-back’s armoury, which is why Chris Baird was virtually banished from the position.

  7. Ok, found something interesting related to this. When attempting a pass, Duff’s average position (in distance from the goal line) is the highest on the team so far this season at ~30 yards. Last year, his average pass was from around 41 yards out. Zamora was our most advanced player at ~35 yards, which seems to be very typical for a forward.

    More to come…

  8. cautionary comment: I buried Duff no fewer than 3 times last season. Me, the irritating Yank who has been complaining that we haven’t had enough left footers since Boa left.

    Bury him at your peril. It’s safer to predict that there will be 3-5 matches that we’ll get points from solely because of something he did than to say that his day is past. Incredibly good player, and one of the best wingers I’ve seen in the Premier League.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s