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Two Defensive?
Written by rickw on Friday, 10th Mar 2017 15:40

After our most recent bore-draw against Wolves I wondered if playing two defensive midfielders (DM) was just a personal gripe of mine and we actually got better results playing them or the stats backed up what I and I'm sure many other fans think - we shouldn't play two defensive-minded midfielders together.

I class our defensive midfielders as Cole Skuse, Jonathan Douglas, Toumani Diagouraga and Luke Hyam (if he plays later on this season).

I have analysed the 36 league matches this season and compared the stats when two of these players have started together opposed to when just one.

We have started with two holding midfielders for 21 of our league matches winning four, drawing 10 and losing seven of them, whilst in the 15 matches just one has started we've won six, drawn four and lost five.

What that gives us is:

2 DMs1 DM
Points per Game1.051.47

What we can conclude from this is it doesn't affect our chances of losing, however we are far more likely to get a draw with two defensive midfielders and have more of a chance of winning with just one.

Now we know Mick McCarthy is all about the results, but what is as important to most fans as results is entertainment and goals are the biggest part of that, so how does the two defensive midfielders affect the goals scored and conceded?

Averages2 DMs1 DM
Goals Scored0.671.47
Goals Conceded0.901.60

Perhaps the goals conceded stat shows why Mick favours playing two defensive midfielders - less than a goal a game conceded. However, we score over double the goals with just one holding midfielder in the team with less than double the goals conceded, but overall it's nearly double the total goals per game with just one DM instead of two - surely that's a start to help the entertainment level?

On Saturday we go to Barnsley and I fully expect Mick to start with both Skuse and Diagouraga, as he's always said - he'll always take a draw away from home, however Barnsley don't have the resources of a Newcastle and have been pretty much in free fall since they lost key players in January so in my view a win is achievable and should be our ambition.

I can understand the case for the two DMs away to some of the top sides where we would all settle for a point before we start, however at home with dwindling attendances this should never happen!

I'll leave you with something to be grateful for - at least we haven't repeated the system from Rotherham at home last season when we played with three defensive midfielders - Skuse, Douglas and Hyam, however Hyam is on his way back from injury so maybe this is still to happen!

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Cakeman added 16:43 - Mar 10
Some great information there. My own view is that MM will always favour a defensive option given that he was acdefender in his playing days.
Perhaps our next manager should be an ex striker.

ClausThomsen added 17:40 - Mar 10
We need to find a balance, but it's looking unlikely with Mick. Not only was he a centreback as a player but he was a no nonsense one. Klug's youth-coaching is soon chucked in the river and we're left with a team of man-markers hoping for a mistake from the opposition.

I don't mind playing 2 defensive midfielders if we play 3 centre forwards, which we used to under Mick. In the playoff season the minimum we'd play is 2. Now we get 1 if we're lucky!

Mick out please god asap

Daleyitfc added 21:23 - Mar 10
The mistake is in playing even one defensive midfielder : if your defence is any cop you shouldn't need any. Just having Skuse in the team virtually ensures we'll score 0 or 1.

hogster1970 added 08:39 - Mar 11
thats quiet correct daley itfc, you think under burely in 2000 we had holland and magic, now you exactly call either of them a defensive , if you are playing 3 ch and 2 wingbacks you are effectivly playing 5 at the back when defending so you shouldnt need a defensive midfilder also, you just need a quality midfileder who doesnt go forward so much ifd the wing backs are forward when attacking, but he can still be a creative player. its not rocket science

Wallop added 10:05 - Mar 11
Shame we can't play the DM that was Daryl Murphy. How much do we miss him? At the time c£3m for him was good business just not good for the team (especially when you don't replace him).

OsmansCleanSheet added 10:37 - Mar 11
It very much depends on who the defensive midfielders are, what players they have around them and how the manager instructs the team to play within a certain system. Tottenham for example frequently set up with 2 DM's, Dier and Dembele, both capable of bringing the ball out and/or finding a forward pass. They also have very attacking wing backs. It works for them very well. Now I'm not suggesting our players are even close, in terms of class, to those at Tottenham, but MM just doesn't know how to play a 3-5-2 effectively.

Blue_Moses added 20:58 - Mar 11
That's because we don't play 3-5-2, Lawrence isn't a striker and it could be argued that McGoldrick isn't either...

Pilgrimblue added 08:48 - Mar 12
Correct it's designed by MM to ensure we don't lose by playing 370. McD and Tom need forwards to link up with but of course that'll mean that MM can't play his defensive midfielders! That's why drawing is our best outcome under him.
I think the defenders have become lazy as they've had two extra bodes to help them out.

heathen66 added 16:18 - Mar 12
Good article
We have however seemed to have gone even more defensive recently
From 4 at the back (with 3 CBs) and 2 DMs to 5 at the back (3 CBs) and still 2 DMs.
The only reason we have gone 5 at the back was to accommodate Chambers and not play him at RB (perhaps supporters pressure finally told).
As Daleyitfc states we should not need any DMs. Yes all midfielders should be able to defend but not be their sole purpose.
The reason we play so many DMs is that MM actually has no confidence in his defenders. The start of the season both wide players were also having to play as auxilliary FBs. It was at times a back 8.
If you need a DM, he needs to be able to do more than just that. He needs to be able to start attacks, and pass more than 5 yards....backwards

commuterblue added 12:23 - Mar 13
Interesting article and I understand the frustration.

But it is hard to draw any conclusions from this. For instance this could just pick up the fact that Mick is more likely to play 2DM away from home where we would expect fewer wins anyway.

Also didn't Hyam and Skuse play a lot together in the first half of 2014/15? A period when we won a lot of games.


bbg added 14:51 - Mar 13
I think MM himself admitted a selection mistake in the Rotherham game you referred to and one CM was withdrawn for a winger at half time. The same team had won 2-0 on the previous Tuesday, and one can see why he was tempted to leave well enough alone. There were also 3 strikers in the team.

Overall I think we have to be realistic in our expectations. MM took over a team at the foot of the table. His main task was to steer the club to safety, which we did. He did a bit more than that he took us to the play-off’s and to one position outside the play-offs last year.

In the meantime three or four of his best players are sold, he has no money to spend on new players and yet we expect that not alone should he get us into contention for the play-off’s he must also do so playing open attractive football.

People can point to Barnsley’s league position. The test for Barnsley and their manager is to repeat that performance during the next couple of years. We regularly see one hit wonders, though I am not stating that is true in Heckingbottom’s case.

It should be noted BTW that while they are one of the lowest spenders, Barnsley did spend over £2m this season, far more than MM has spent in 5 seasons, during which time we received almost £15m from sales, and more than that if you include academy players.


armchaircritic59 added 23:00 - Mar 13
Managers, coaches, even i suspect, a good number of supporters up and down the land, have become conditioned to a "DM". It never existed back in the day. I suspect strongly it's to cover up the modern day defensive shortcomings, that exist at all levels in the game today, even the PL, where from what i've seen on TV, defending is too often abysmal! it used to be the case of "attack as a team, defend as a team"
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