Differentgame shakes its head every time there’s transfer speculation about the little Croatian. It’s the fees mentioned. £30m? £40m? Yes, his football is easy on the eye but does it actually amount to anything?
There are four Premier League midfielders who average over 70 passes every time they play a game: Mikel Arteta (76.9), Yaya Toure (75.6), Michael Carrick (73.1) and our man Luka Modric (70.4). They are therefore the focal points of the top four Premier League sides.
There’s no significant difference in the amount of possession that Arsenal, Man City, Man Utd and Spurs enjoy, so the comparative stats of the four players over the last Premier League season should tell us about what kinds of player they are.
Screening the back four
Clearly, Carrick is making the biggest contribution here. He is United’s defensive anchor. Modric and Toure have players alongside them in Parker and Barry that will do the majority of the dirty work for them. Arsenal’s stats suggest Arteta and Song equally share defensive responsibility. Already we begin to see the different roles each are playing.
If Modric doesn’t have much defensive responsibility or ability, what does he do with the ball? Firstly he’s the only one of the four dipping below 90% with his pass completion. Secondly, he’s hitting 20-30% more long balls than the other three. This is in keeping with Spurs’ more direct style of play. Thirdly, he’s trying more through-balls than the others, successfully playing people in nearly 50% of the time. The graphic below shows he’s easily creating the most chances.
Unfortunately for Spurs, they don’t appear to be good chances. Nearly half of their shots come from outside of the box. As a result, Modric has just four assists this season. Two were from corner kicks. The other two highlight the deep areas he’s delivering from:
Modric takes three times as many shots as Carrick but has only scored twice as many. He’s hit twice as many shots as Arteta but Arteta has outscored him. Toure too from less shots at goal. Again, it all points towards Spurs (and indeed Modric) shooting a lot from distance. All four of his goals last season came from outside the box.
Strength on the ball
Unsurprisingly, Modric falls down here possibly due to his size (the others are all listed as 6ft+). Despite skipping past more opposition players than the others and drawing his fair share of fouls, he also gets dispossessed far more than the others and loses control of the ball more to boot.
So what’s the overall picture?
Carrick is the most defensive of the four, rarely venturing forward. He doesn’t get caught on the ball and doesn’t draw any fouls. He wins the ball back and passes it quickly and is able to go short or long to great effect. Essentially, he’s fulfilling the role Roy Keane used to.
Arteta has defensive duties but doesn’t perform them quite as well. However, he’s the strongest on the ball and is able to hold off opponents. He has the shortest and least aggressive passing game of the four. However, he’s the biggest goal threat – scoring as many as Toure but taking far less shots.
Toure’s hulking frame leads many to believe he’s a defensive midfielder. In fact, he does the least amount of defensive work here. He can beat a man with power and gets closer to goal than the others. He tries through-balls, gets assists and scores goals. He’s a box to box midfielder. He just goes forwards better than he does backwards.
And so to Modric. What does he bring to the table? Modric is as good as anyone else in the league at picking a pass be it short or long. He’s particularly great at slide-ruling it between defenders. He’s capable of scoring stunning goals from distance. However, the numbers clearly show he’s too far away from goal to hit teams where it hurts on a regular basis. With Rafael van der Vaart regularly playing in hole and getting goals, Spurs are happy to let Modric be the deep lying metronome. In reality, they could get any one of Swansea’s midfielders to do the same job for a fraction of the price. Differentgame concludes that if Harry Redknapp (or anyone else who buys him) pushed him into the final third like City do Silva or Chelsea do Mata, Modric could really be a £30-40m player.
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