Ever since the Royals kicked off this difficult Premier League campaign, the fans had waited for the mercurial Jimmy Kebe to return. His return from injury would kick on the Royals and strike fear into almost every left back in the league.
Except what the fans actually got was a Kebe who looked off the boil, lacking confidence and ineffectual.
The 3-3 draw with Fulham was a good game for Kebe to get his teeth into. The Royals had the better of the first half, lots of attacking and nullifying most of any Fulham threats. Unfortunately, Kebe was barely seen on the ball and when he did receive the ball, he quickly played a short, safe pass.
Kudos to him for wanting to keep possession, but as a winger, we expect him to attack and threaten opposition full backs. Have a go, take a risk. As a team that primarily attacks down the wings and gets crosses into the box, having one winger who would rather play a safe pass than have a go at his opponent rather hacks at their chances of scoring.
Jimmy was substituted against Fulham in the 78th minute, and on came Robson-Kanu in his place. In the short time the Wales international was on the pitch, he managed to score as well as missing a header right at the last.
McCleary came on and scored. McAnuff is the second-top assister in the league with four.
Kebe, in his four games, has scored a tap in. And that’s about it.
McDermott should, in all honesty, be thinking about dropping Kebe. Looking at some of the statistics from the season, it’s tough to find a reason to keep him in – from an attacking point of view.
Statistics aren’t the be all and end all, as we all know, but they are a good indicator of what’s going on on the football pitch.
Over the course of the season, Jimmy Kebe has been our best defensive winger. With an average of 1.8 tackles per game, he beats the likes of McAnuff (1.4) and McCleary (0.9).
Not only tackles, but interceptions too. His average of 2.3 trumps McAnuff (0.9) and McCleary (0.7).
Admittedly, Kebe has only played 4 games compared to McAnuff’s 8 and McCleary’s 7, but the statistics don’t lie. Kebe has been defending.
Which is a problem.
If, as we suspect, McDermott wants that first win, he’s going to need a winger who is willing to take a chance. Kebe, over his 4 games, has only attempted 2 dribbles. McAnuff has attempted 11, whilst McCleary has attempted 4.
To back up my claim earlier of Kebe playing simple passes, his pass completion rate is 76.7%, compared to McAnuff’s (66.7%) and McCleary’s (70.9%).
Add to this the fact that both McAnuff and McCleary have completed, on average, 0.6 accurate crosses per game and you can see they’re giving it a go.
McAnuff has completed 5/28, whilst McCleary is having a real go with 30 crosses, but only 4 completed. Jimmy Kebe has only attempted 14 crosses, with only 1 of them accurate. Even Robson-Kanu, who has started 1 game and been substituted on in 5 games, has had half of his crosses count as accurate, with 4/8.
Yes, we should probably complain about the quality of crosses, but given the number of crosses the team attempt it’s understandable that not every single one will be accurate or result in a goal.
So, having a look at these statistics, I’d be more willing to start McCleary on the right wing and relegate Kebe to the bench. He’s clearly not in top form and doesn’t have the confidence to take the opposition full back on, whereas McCleary is giving it a go. Even Robson-Kanu has had an impact on the few minutes he has had.
As much as I’m sure Kebe can have an impact at the top of the football pyramid, the statistics don’t lie – he’s not the winger that will take the game to the opposition. At least, not on current form.
So, what do you think? Should we stick with Kebe and hope he finds form? Or drop him and let someone else have a go?
The statistics used are from WhoScored.com.