Examining our central midfielders

Apologies if you hated my past post but I want to revist the +/- stat with regards to our four main central midfielders. Again, this stat isn’t a great indicator of causation, but correlation. It also doesn’t occur in a vacuum, as the entire team and certain dynamics of the sport play a hand in the metric. But, along with other indicators, I found it to be quite instructive, as seen below. So consider it more an idea board then a didactic study.

I left out wingers as I wanted to keep the scope on what we’re all in agreement is our main problem area: the center of midfield; particularly the Parker/Sidwell axis. StatsBomb recently did an amazing (and horrifying) job at comparing those two and Kasami to Barca’s Xavi, Busquets, and Iniesta. This is very much like comparing a Hank Williams or George Jones song to a Blake Shelton tune, but what can you do. I also broke up the stats by each manager to see if there’s any differences.


GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 10 22 -12 -0.92 13
Rene 10 29 -19 -1.73 11
Total 20 51 -31 -1.29 24

It may seem like Sidwell has regressed under Rene (if “Sidwell” and “regressing” is somehow possible), but 6 of the 29 GA came in that Hull City match. Nonetheless our opponents have scored >3 goals a whopping FIVE times since Rene has taken over and Sidwell is on the pitch.


GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 8 22 -14 -1.27 11
Rene 12 21 -9 -0.90 10
Total 20 43 -23 -1.10 21

Very similar to Sidwell, with the only visible difference is he was fortunate enough to escape that 6-0 Hull City thrashing. Like with Sascha Reither, there certainly seems to be a visceral notion that Parker belongs in the side. But beyond high interception and tackling rates, which as StatsBomb said is most likely down to the oppositions always with the ball/running at him…what are the justifications exactly?


GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 12 22 -10 -0.83 12
Rene 5 18 -13 -1.30 10
Total 17 40 -23 -1.05 22

This is where it starts to get interesting. Rene’s been using Kasami as a sub for the majority of his league reign–only 3 starts in his 10 games under Rene compared to 11 starts under Jol. This explains why the GF is way down but the GA still quite high. But, considering Fulham scored three goals in the entire month of January, it’s perplexing why he only averaged 15 minutes last month.


GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 3 4 -1 -0.17 6
Rene 6 10 -4 -0.80 5
Total 9 14 -5 -0.45 11

I didn’t include Boateng because he had such a small sample size, but thought it would be interesting to see what Karagounis has done with ever-so-slightly more play time. Each manager has treated Karagounis differently: Jol used him as a sub for 5 of his 6 appearances; Rene started him in all his 5 appearances (albeit none since Hull City in December). But if we were to take away that Hull City game, we’d see his +/- to be fairly respectable, despite the small sample size–unlike if we subtracted result from Sidwell’s stats, they’d still be terrible. I’m not sure why Kara hasn’t been playing (hooray opaqueness!), but like Kasami, it’s clear he’s a necessary dynamic that’s being under-utilized.

No one needs to opine how the Parker/Sidwell duo has proved to be detrimental. But the idea behind these stats further reinforce such a notion, and that stems from the fact the two are always playing. Whether it’s down to them or other factors, it certainly feels like we’re at the point where, when we see both in the starting XI, much like seeing a bad #5 pitcher start, we’re going to lose.

I’d argue it’s not one part of the combination that needs to be replaced, it’s the entire recipe. Curious to know your thoughts as well.

11 thoughts on “Examining our central midfielders

  1. Stats never give the whole answer sometimes a timely run takes a player away and gives an opportunity to somebody else

  2. I don’t know how feasible it is (from a political/not-upsetting-people perspective) it is to yank both Sidwell and Parker out of the lineup. It just seems to be in people’s heads that “Parker and Sidwell work hard and are the backbone of the side, and besides SIDWELL IS THE LEADING SCORER” (that is my least favorite part of the logic) and you’d just be inviting all kinds of ridiculous criticism, on top of the meritorious criticism, if you were to gut that completely. That being said, I think Parker and Sidwell are altogether duplicative of one another (didn’t you describe Parker as “Sidwell, but better”, or something along those lines, when I asked why I should be excited about signing Parker back in August?), and I think having both of them in the game all the time is asking for… well, what we’ve seen occur when we have both of them in the game all the time.

    This being said: I sort of assumed that bringing in two new central midfielders must mean that one of them was going to sit, and not that we were going to try to hammer the square peg of Holtby into the round hole of playing on the wing. I’m not an expert, of course, but it seems so obvious to me that it should be Kvist, Holtby, and either Parker or Sidwell in the middle, with two actual wide attacking players so that Riether and Richardson don’t have to saddle so much responsibility for providing attacking width (and get caught upfield so often as a result).

    1. That optics of this move aren’t ideal as you suggest. And Rene has been very cautious and conservative since he’s arrived, so it probably will never happen. As StatsBomb wrote and these stats show, they are the only true constants in this horrific squad.

      So why not push the giant RESET button and blow it up? We’re bottom of the league; thankfully it’s only February.

  3. If insanity is defined as doing the something that does not work over and over again, then a midfield of Sidwell and Parker is insane. Seeing Sidwell, Parker, and Kvist in the starting lineup was extremely depressing — like playing with 7 defenders (ignoring Duff as a potential 8th). Fulham always had someone who could either pass the ball out of the midfield (Murphy) or dribble it out (Dembele). Now it has neither. Why not try Kasami? He is dynamic, works hard, and can dribble the ball. I think his energy would be better suited to the middle of the field than the final third, where, in my view, he lacks the technical ability required. I don’t mean to suggest he lacks technical ability, but seeing Holtby play for one game illustrated what Kasami lacks as an attacking threat. In any event, I understand Kasami believes central midfield to be his best position.
    If I had to choose between one of Parker and Sidwell, I would choose the former. Sidwell has no glaring flaws, but he does not do anything exceptionally well. In short, he is just good enough not to win.

      1. What I meant was to try Kasami in a deeper midfield position, not as a number 10, the position where I think Holtby is best utilized.

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