How is Jonjoe Kenny doing at Schalke?

There are 16 right-backs in the Bundesliga who’ve made 500 passes or more this season.

Kenny ranks 6th of 16 in my passing model for accuracy.

The passing model assigns a likelihood of a pass from x to y on the pitch being completed. So, a pass between two centre-backs like the one below gets completed 99% of the time:

Accordingly, the model doesn’t give the much player credit for this kind of pass.

The pass displayed below is much more difficult. The model says this type of pass gets completed 58% of the time:

In this way, we can measure how good a player is at passing much more meaningfully than if we simply assign a pass completion % – the type of stat you regularly see on TV or in the data/video software package that gets sold to clubs.

We calculate these more specific %s based on how often similar passes were made previously. There are millions of passes made in the top leagues fed into the model. It sorts similar ones together and tells you how often they were completed.

It’s then also easy to see the difficulty level of the passes each player makes. Kenny ranks 7th of 16 here. He’s trying to complete slightly above average difficulty passes. This is because he’s one of the ones sending a high number of crosses into the box from out wide.

On average, he’s playing passes that would be expected to be completed 74% of the time. To put that into some context, right backs such as Benjamin Pavard at Bayern or Lukasz Piszczek at Dortmund are playing passes that are 10% safer on average (i.e. recycling possession, coming inside more). This is why pass completion isn’t all that helpful. Of course they are going to look better if you look at the bog standard stat. There’s no context there.

If you put Kenny against right-backs who play passes like-for like, he actually ranks 2nd for his passing type in the Bundesliga.

The model says that Kenny ranks 2nd of 16 for passing in the final third. Only Pavard is higher. But we also know that Pavard is being safer with his passing and that proportionately, Kenny enters the final third much more frequently than Pavard does.

Despite this, Kenny only ranks 12th of 16 for expected assists. He does, however, have 3 assists – as many as anyone else in the 16 does. Having 3 times as many assists as expected isn’t particularly sustainable long term. Work to be done there. While Kenny can put the ball in from wide, he doesn’t carry the ball into the opposition box often. In fact Kenny is the worst of the 16 for taking people on. Someone like Stefan Lainer at Borussia is the gold standard here.

Also, Kenny doesn’t look to good in the build up from the back or midfield, but then neither do Schalke as a team.

Schalke aren’t particularly strong in forcing the opposition to go backwards or give the ball away when they come down the left hand side. They’re pretty good at forcing the opposition to cross the ball in rather than letting them carry the ball into the box from out wide.

That’s your lot, kids. No time for video or visualisations today. Jonjoe’s done ok. He’s just turned 23 and has done a decent enough job in his first season abroad and his biggest season in terms of minutes to date.

That said, both Seamus Coleman and Djibril Sidibe still both look better overall on the ball than him on the model in a higher quality league. Kenny ranks second behind Sidibe for final third threat, though. But you wouldn’t want any of them defensively,would you?

Probably time for Everton to look elsewhere.


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