The Imps captured Callum Connolly from Everton yesterday, as we already know.
It’s quite a coup and, to my mind, he’s the only World Cup winner we’ve ever had turn out for City. He’s bound to make a debut tomorrow and I would expect him to play regular football for us.
Before I look at his stats and position, I thought it might be interesting to look at what he said about last season’s loan deals, and what one of his managers said.
He started off at Wigan and it wasn’t a roaring success. He didn’t play much football, starting seven Championship games and coming from the bench in another ten. That prompted Everton to recall him in January due to a lack of first-team opportunity and the 21-year-old admitted it had been a frustrating time for him.
“It was up and down at Wigan,” Connolly acknowledged after leaving the Latics.
“I started off in the team and then was in and out, and it was tough to be honest, but that is football. I like to get in my stride by getting a run of games, but unfortunately, it couldn’t happen there.”
He went on to play for Bolton who were relegated at the end of the season, but he impressed their manager Phil Parkinson, making 15 starts and scoring twice.
“Connolly is one of the bravest players I have seen. The header he went for in the first half – which should have been a corner – that’s him, he goes where angels fear to tread,” he told the Bolton News after they beat Millwall.
“Not only that, his passing was great. I am very pleased for them both (Joe Williams was also on loan there). They care a lot, even though they are loan players.”
He started 29 matches in the Championship for Ipswich in 2017/18 as well, pushing up to just shy of 90 appearances in the second tier. That’s impressive and when coupled with the England honours he’s won, right up to Under 21 level and two pieces of silverware to boot, he looks an impressive capture.
There was some debate amongst fans last night as to his favoured position and the graphic below shows we’ve signed a utility man. This is from Wyscout and shows the starting positions he took up last season. The bulk of his time was spent at right-back, although if you add the two central midfield positions together, he spent more time there than at full-back.
When playing for England at the Under 20 World Cup he was at left-back. There isn’t a clear indication where Danny wants to play him; I wouldn’t be surprised at him being on the bench this week instead of Ben Sault, with a view to dropping into the first team once he’s settled.
On to his stats. I’ve taken a couple of the numbers from Wyscout for you to try and give a picture of the type of player we’re getting. It’s hard to glean too much from these numbers; with Joe Morrell or Aaron Lewis it was more straightforward; one position meant we could get an accurate picture of what they could do. With Connolly, having been at full-back and in central midfield, it’s not so easy.
One very important number is games played; 33 in the Championship. That doesn’t include his outings in the FA Cup and League Cup with Wigan last season. Of those 33 matches, 22 were starts and 11 came from the bench. In total, he’s made 65 starts in the second-tier and come from the bench on 19 occasions.
He scored three times across his stay with both clubs; he netted a goal which put Wigan 2-1 up against Aston Villa on August 11th, only to see them turn the game around and win 2-1. He then bagged the only goal of the game as Bolton beat Birmingham City 1-0 at St Andrew’s in February, before netting what proved to be the winner at Loftus Road in their 2-1 win in March.
His one assist came as Bolton were beaten 2-1 by Preston.
As a defensive player, I thought I’d look at his defensive duels and win percentage; he makes 7.83 defensive duels per game and wins 52% of them. As a comparison, I thought I’d match him up with Lee Frecklington, a player whose role I can see him playing in. Last season, Lee made 6.25 defensive duels per game, winning 61.7%. Remember, Callum was playing in the Championship and was often not played in the central midfield role.
I see him as a committed man prowling the front of the defence, but also someone who will allow us to take the pressure off the full-backs when needed. Having signed Ben Coker and with Aaron Lewis in the squad, I don’t think Danny has signed Callum with a view to him playing full-back, not unless he plans to convert Harry to an attacking player which I think he could do. No, I think Callum Connolly will play in midfield so I wanted to round this piece off by looking at his passing stats.
He made 23.44 passes per game last season, with a 76.6% accuracy. To compare with Lee again, he made 32.33 with an 84% accuracy. Again, taking into account the difference in levels and the constant changing of position, the numbers are not bad for the youngster.
I think Callum Connolly is going to be one of those players whom stats don’t quite do justice too. A tackle chalked up as ‘1’ is all well and good, but there is a difference between a straightforward challenge in the middle of the park and a gut-busting 30-yard run to slam a winger into the advertising hoardings fair and square. My gut instinct is we’re going to see more of the latter from our new recruit, but peppered with the undoubted quality that being a regular part of the England youth setup brings.
Time will tell, but it’s still nice to have a World Cup winner in the dressing room. He’ll be a great role model for some of our younger players and if he does well, he’ll be a great example of what we can do with young players from the top flight.