It's been a strange 12 months for Chris Gunter. From the highs of Euro 2016 to the lows of hammerings at Fulham and Preston. Still just 27, Gunter continues to divide opinion among Reading fans, with some seeing him as Mr Dependable and others left expecting more from a man who's clocked up over 350 appearances in the Premier League and Championship combined.
Yet what do the stats say about the current Reading vice-captain compared to his Championship peers? To narrow things down, I looked at the five players who've made more than 30 starts at right-back according to WhoScored. Gunter tops that list with 33 appearances, the same as Leeds' Luke Ayling, with Brighton's Bruno on 31, Huddersfield's Tommy Smith on the same total and Brentford's Maxime Colin on 30.
So, here's a look at the WhoScored stats, with each statistic taken as an average per 90 minutes unless stated.
|Tackles Attempted||Successful tackles||Dribbled past||Fouls||Clearances||Interceptions||Crosses Blocked|
So far, so so for Gunter, who holds his own in most categories. The one area where he seems to be lacking is making tackles, with Saturday's second Preston goal a big example of this, as Chris has made less than half the number of Leeds' Ayling. Yet there's a decent mitigating factor for this, as Reading's dominance of possession means that our defenders usually have less need to make a tackle, a factor which also explains his low interception total.
Gunter also rarely gets dribbled past, puts in more clearances than almost any other full-back while also making his fair share of blocks. With all that in mind there's no obvious stick to beat the right-back with, other than perhaps on the tackle front.
|Total Passes||Key Passes||Total Assists||Total Shots||Dribbles||Succ Dribbles||Possession Lost|
Here's where things start to fall apart for Gunter, as he's shown to be fairly ineffective going forward this season. He's managed fewer key passes than any other player, while holding the joint lowest number of dribbles and one of the weakest success rates when travelling with the ball. In fairness the Wales international doesn't lose the ball very much but ultimately you're left questioning exactly what he does when on the ball.
If Reading were playing a flat back four, you'd perhaps expect less attacking play, but with Gunter often a right wing-back this season, his poor contributions going forward are more disappointing.
WhoScored's rankings are far from a total story, they're a slightly flawed system that fails to take into account opposition, team strength, movement off the ball etc, yet they're still a useful tool. The worrying thing for Gunter is that of the 12 men to have featured at least 20 times at right-back in the Championship in 2016/17, he finds himself dead last, 12th out of 12.
So, is this an uncharacteristic season? No, not at all, which is either a good or a bad thing depending on how you view Gunter.
In his four Championship campaigns with Reading, here's his season average at right-back according to WS.
I'm sorry, but again there's little to really write home about here for Gunter who's peaked at 6.74 in his Reading career, a total that would only be good enough for 9th this season.
The bottom line is that Chris is average, very average but that's not a bad thing. If the team is playing well then you don't need your right-back to be a superstar, especially if his defending is OK. Gunter's not letting himself down when trying to keep the ball out but he's not doing much to make up for his mistakes either.
In a vacuum you'd have to say Reading can do better but with the club's finances the way they are, is that a priority?