Jorge Grant – the numbers Danny talks about laid out

I think we can all say we’ve been taken a bit by surprise today; not by Grant signing but by the fact it’s a permanent deal.

Some of the comments from Danny this afternoon have really interested me. One suggests he’s squeezed a great deal out of Forest, whilst the other has caused me to dip back into Wyscout to see if what Danny says stacks up. I shouldn’t have doubted him, obviously.

Anyway, first those comments by Danny. You can read what he had to say in full on the official club site here, but to take a couple of short phrases I really liked; “We’re delighted to have signed Jorge, and thankful to Nottingham Forest for allowing it to happen, for them to trust us to take Jorge and continue his pathway,” and “If we do well as a team, and Jorge does well then there’s some money going to Nottingham Forest and obviously if Jorge does well then, he’ll be delighted and so will we.”

Here is what I take from that; we’ve been given a really good deal for Jorge Grant that, if he does well, will earn Forest more. If he doesn’t, it won’t, but they’ve trusted us to continue his development and eventually pay them a dividend. Anyone else agree?

It’s shrewd business of course. Grant wasn’t getting near the first team at the City Ground and his last two loans spells have been underwhelming by his previous standards. It’s crazy how a player’s stock can fall so quickly. Last summer I wrote articles raving about Luton’s capture of Grant as well as Jack Payne’s prospects. Now they’re both playing for Lincoln City.

Genuinely, Danny Cowley is a bloody genius. I should have him take over my house sale.

It’ll be all smiles at Gainsborough tomorrow – Courtesy of Graham Burrell

Danny went on to say; “We’re pleased to have him with us, he’s got fantastic numbers when you consider the players that play in his positions or his peers that were available to us.”

Numbers, my new best friend. Or, if you’re the Southend guy who thinks that debate is where he calls my work dross and then gets angry about it, numbers are something I snort up to confirm a bias. I blocked his IP address and he came on through another device to claim I avoided the debate. No, I avoided a prick, it’s different.

Anyway, numbers. The fact is they’re becoming an important part of the modern game. Every club has analysts now, our own pair work tirelessly on new recruits, crunching data and coming up with values for XG (expected goals) and all sorts of other stuff. Sure, you can make numbers say what you want when you’re wanting to prove a point, but if you’re canny enough to spot something in numbers when you don’t have that agenda, then they’re invaluable.

I know, goals win games and that’s the only number that counts, right? I told my nine-year-old nephew the only stats that counted were goals as I beat him 3-1 on FIFA last night despite having ten fewer shots. I felt a bit of a hypocrite, knowing that I’m such a fan of stats.

I’ve decided to take the sorts of numbers Danny would have been looking at with Grant, both from his Notts County season and the split campaign last year, and do another graphic. The last one went down really well, although not in one household in Southend.

Before we carry on, here is an honesty shout from me. I did a piece back in April about four players I’d have loved to signed in January but wouldn’t have been as keen on come April and Grant was one of them. Looking back, I think I made the right call when I said I’d still welcome him at City, but he has a point to prove to himself. He still does.

Anyway, back to the numbers. His 2016/17 season was incredible in truth. He finished in the Team of the Year and it’s no real surprise why. He scored 19 goals in 56 matches and chipped in with seven direct assists as Notts County finished in the top half of the table. He stole the show as they beat us 4-1 and left there with the world at his feet.

It’s not all about goals and assists though. He was always wanting to get on the ball, delivering 4.37 dribbles per games, of which 68.8% were a success. You know I like to compare stats, so to give that context Bruno’s success rate was 66.5% last season. He had a similar impact on County as Bruno did on us, albeit sometimes through the centre and with more goals. He got 2.62 shots off per game too, again a decent number.

Last season was classed as tougher for him and the numbers suggest that to be true to a degree. He certainly played fewer games, just 40, bagging eight goals across two loan spells. He started 13 times in League One for Luton, coming off the bench on four occasions and two of his goals came in the EFL Trophy.

It was a tough spell and he wound up at Mansfield where the suggestion I’ve had is he showed glimpses of talent but struggled with form. He certainly started well, four goals in his first five matches, but then he tailed off and didn’t get another during his spell. He only had three assists all season as well, a dip on the previous campaign.

Grant bossed this game in 2017 (Courtesy of Graham Burrell)

However, he was still doing much the same as the year before. His dribbles per game stayed around the same, as did his success percentage and although his shots per game dipped a little, it wasn’t significant. It just seems as though the end product wasn’t quite there. 

Those numbers are all strong, even with his stop / start season he’s made 96 outing sin two years and has a very similar set of numbers to Jack Payne, albeit at a different level. Where he plays is up for debate; he could be a left winger which means competition for Bruno, he can play on the right flank and look to cut inside and he’s equally as comfortable behind the front man; a role Jack Payne will look to occupy.

The way I see it, Danny is increasing his offering going forward, addressing the struggle we had when breaking teams down at home. Interestingly, we’ll have to do much less of that than we have in the previous year or two, which is why it’s also a good thing much of last year’s playing staff have been retained.

This signing is certainly another that will make people sit up and take note. That’s not necessarily because it’s a coup in terms of his ability or level; he’s proven in League Two and perhaps has something still to prove in the third-tier. No, it’s going to makes others look because it’s a permanent deal. All that rhetoric about lack of budget has been wildly misinterpreted. Danny will wheel and deal, he chip away at clubs and ofer incentives but when the right player comes along, he’s making sure that the budget is there to give us stability as a squad.

Today is a good day, this has been a good week.