Michael Appleton made his first capture of the summer last night, with Manchester City midfielder Lewis Fiorini joining on a one-year deal.
On paper, it is certainly an exciting capture, with Fiorini having spent last season on loan with NAC Breda in the Dutch second tier. He helped them to a play-off place, but agonisingly they were beaten in the final by NEC. Aside from that disappointment, Fiorini’s season was certainly impressive and it is widely accepted those around the NAC setup felt him to be an integral part of their success.
The question of the difference between the Eerste Divisie and League One might be a discussion point, had we not signed Lewis Montsma from the same level last season. Our Lewis certainly settled well and we know in terms of technical ability, he thrived in both divisions. There will be questions Fiorini needs to answer I suspect, certainly around physicality, but that’s not to say he won’t. In an interview about his loan move, he said that Man City turned down English options last season, wanting him to get senior football in a less physical environment. Therefore, he comes to us looking for the next level of senior exposure. Whilst he has something to prove on one hand, on another, he does not: for a young man to move abroad and not just settle, but thrive, shows a great attitude and approach to the game. I got the sense from his interviews there is a -no-nonsense’ element about him, although that might just be that broad Mancunian accent and the swagger that comes from being a top-flight Premier League youngster.
All of that is focused on Fiorini though (can I call him Lewis? Will you get mixed up with our other Lewis?), but what of us? Where does this exciting young man fit into our set up? On paper, the midfield is the one area where I feel we have plenty of options, so how does our first signing of the summer fit in? To find out, I have compared 10 basic stats from his time with NAC Breda, to four of our midfield from last season: Jorge Grant, Conor McGrandles, Liam Bridcutt and James Jones.
Which of those is he closest to in terms of stats, and does it give us an indication of the type of player he is? I’ll let you make your own mind up, but bear in mind some of the differences could be down to where he was played by NAC and the competitiveness of the level. That said, there are some interesting trends.
I took three defensive stats from Wyscout, Interceptions, Loose Ball Duels Won and Fouls. I hoped this would give me a pointer as to whether he looked more like a four, such as Liam Bridcutt and maybe Max Sanders (for the record, I shall be calling the holding midfield role the ‘four’ from now on, having debated whether it is four or six all summer). In terms of Interceptions Per Game, Lewis is closest to Jorge Grant, 4.58 for him compared to 4.54 for Grant. That’s more than McGrandles (4.39) and Jones (2.62), but less than the defensive Bridcutt on 5.82. In Loose Ball Duels Won, Lewis managed 3.42 per game whilst in the Netherlands, which is closest to McGrandles on 3.89, but very near Grant on 3.91. Again, Bridcutt was out in front with 4.81, whilst James Jones managed 3. The interesting stat was Fouls, Lewis committed 0.7 per game, with all of our players more than one. He was closest to Conor on 1.12, but again Jorge was not far away on 1.18. James Jones committed 1.2 per game and predictably, Liam Bridcutt was just over 2. I suspect the notion that the Eerste Divisie isn’t quite as physical comes into play here, which is why he committed far fewer fouls per game than any of our players.
What do we glean from this? Firstly, Liam Bridcutt was the control subject here – he came out top on all of the stats which you’d expect from a defensive midfielder. Lewis was closer to Jorge and Conor, and seemingly more defensive than Jones. Our need is clearly a replacement for Grant, or at least an option as an eight / ten, which is where his defensive stats pitch him.
I could have labelled this creativity, because I wanted to know where Lewis fitted into our squad in terms of distribution. I’ve gone for Passes Per Game, Forward Passes Per Game and Passes Into the Penalty Area Per Game. It’s all well and good rating the number of passes, but if you’re knocking it from side to side for an hour your stat goes up without any real benefit to the team. I suspect NAC pass the ball a little less than we do, because Lewis’ stat for Passes Per Game was lower than any of our players. He came out at 31.19, with James Jones at 36.11, Conor McGrandles at 39.63, Jorge Grant at 46.28 and Liam Bridcutt on 47.2. I think those numbers do prove that simply taking passing stats isn’t all that effective though, as Liam clearly gets the ball deeper and conducts play.
Forward Passes Per Game had a similar feel to it. Lewis made 9.09 with NAC, closest again to James Jones who hit 11.18 for us. Conor McGrandles wasn’t far away on 11.84, with Jorge Grant on 15.26 and Liam Bridcutt on 19.24. Again, looking back I guess forward passes is dependant on where you play in midfield, because Liam is often looking forward, whilst someone like Jorge Grant might find himself playing the ball across the attacking penalty area. To add some context, Brennan Johnson played 4.97 per game, whilst I also adjusted Jorge’s stats to only include when he played in the eight and wide areas, and it dropped to around 10.15. This suggests to me that lewis is about in line with playing the eight role, maybe even the ten. In terms of Passes Into the Penalty Area, Lewis had some good numbers. He made 3.01 per game, more than Grant on 2.73 and way ahead of McGrandles (1.88), Jones (1.96) and Bridcutt (1.34).