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Player In Focus: Tyler Blackett

Rob Lawson takes a closer look at a much-maligned Reading defender.

Manchester United v Reading - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

February is upon us, and thus we are more than half way through the season. So we should be getting a better idea of who's who in the squad. Stam has his favourites, but it is safe to say that Mr. Blackett isn't the most well-liked player amongst the Reading faithful.

Look at Reading social media, and you'll often see comments along the lines of "Obita should be in for Blackett" "Ugh, Blackett" and "Blackett is not a left back - sort it out Stam". But is any of this negativity deserved? Or do they have a point?

It's tough to argue that Blackett is suited to the wing back role. Certainly when watching, it appears he doesn't have the pace or the engine to get up and down that wing all day, and he certainly looks a little lost out there, especially when defending.

Is this fair?

Lets look at some stats to delve deeper into the former Manchester United defender. The easiest comparison is with his direct competition, Jordan Obita. The stats are somewhat surprising: going forward, the stats are all in Blackett's favour.

Blackett averages a superior "average forward passes per game" tally of 25.6 vs Obita's 18. Blackett's "average key passes per game" is higher too, with 0.8 compared to Obita's 0.26. So he passes it forwards more and plays better passes more often.

He also plays more passes overall, so its not like he is hiding, or not getting involved. He's even more successful with his dribbles. 92% of the time, he beats his man. However, defensively, it's a bit closer. Blackett makes more blocks (averages 0.6 vs. 0.3) and interceptions (2.4 vs. 1.3), but doesn't make many tackles.

The game isn't played on paper

So statistically, it's in Blackett's favour, so why is he not a popular choice? We all know that statistics aren't the be-all and end-all and, in his positioning, he has a lot to learn, especially at left back. Although clearly quite a capable defender, he is beaten all too regularly by quick and skillful wingers.

And although the stats imply otherwise, he's not one for beating a man down the left and swinging in a cross, something which Obita can do - on a good day. So maybe that's what we expect from a left back?

To sum up

The best thing about this selection dilemma is that both Tyler and Jordan have age on their sides. Both are young(ish), and have oodles of potential to unleash. Stam seems to have his favourite in Blackett, but isn't afraid to drop him, so it's a complete toss up as to who is our superior left back.

To me, if either of them can play with any consistency, they'll earn their spot. Both players seem to be riddled with inconsistency - playing well one minute and then falling apart in the next.

So who's the better LB? I'm still as confused as before, but I'd plump for Blackett. It's close - but you can't beat a good stat. We can always sub him if he's under-performing.