Following our very poor start to the season, I think it is more than fair to suggest that most players have underperformed. However, Josh Laurent and Andy Rinomhota have been a partnership which has been unbreakable for the past year, but has this partnership become more of an issue recently.
We saw the quality of Laurent against Preston North End this season and Rinomhota against Coventry City, but they were the only times we saw the players that we saw at the start of last season. The drive, tenacity and ball-winning ability helped achieve the stunning start that we did.
Andy Rinomhota picked up an average rating of 6.5 across the first five games of the season and Josh Laurent has a 6.3 average rating as per WhoScored. Now let’s compare these opening five games to the first five games of last season: Rinomhota picked up an average rating of 7.2 whereas Laurent had an average rating of 6.9.
So why is this? Why is the partnership not the same as what it was at the start of last season? There are multiple questions that need to be answered:
- Why have we seen this drop?
- How does this affect them?
- Are we better having only one in the team?
Laurent on Saturday had one of his better performances of the season and he tended to sit a lot further back, based off his player position on WhoScored (as shown below, in contrast to his positioning against Coventry). Could this be because he was rather sweeping up and was told to be the ‘holding midfielder’ as he had the more adventurous Tom Dele-Bashiru alongside him?
When you look at Laurent and Rinomhota they have very similar traits: their energy, stamina and drive. And when they are both in the team, neither can complete the same role that would suit their playstyle - therefore we have seen the drop-off as they have had to use different attributes which they may be uncomfortable with.
So it begs the question: why were they so poor at the start of the campaign? Laurent was subject to transfer speculation so his head may not have been in the right space to play for us. One big thing I have taken away so far is the freekicks they have given away so far this season with us unable to defend them.
Laurent giving away 1.5 away so far this season and Rinomhota 1.4. One solution to our set-piece problem is to stop giving them away: that stems from these two as well as Andy Yiadom - with them being the three who give away the most fouls. So, with them both on the pitch we will give away more fouls based off the stats, which is a downfall of their partnership.
We have also seen the two win a lot less of their duels thus far this season. Laurent has won 51.4% of his duels so far this campaign whereas he won 52.5% last season, not a huge drop-off but over the course of a campaign that number would be significant. Rinomhota has seen a bigger drop, with a 6.4% decrease, going from 56.9% to 50.5%. The fact we are winning fewer duels in the middle of the pitch may put more pressure of the back four if we cannot take the game by the scruff of the neck and help relieve pressure on the back four.
In summary, are Laurent and Rinomhota good players? Certainly. Is the partnership as effective as it was once? No. They are certainly not the only reason for this poor early form, but they are not the partnership they once were, and maybe with the additions of TDB and Drinkwater we will see a better Laurent and Rinomhota, as a unit and individually. You may see them excel as their main attributes are used with a different partner alongside. However, I believe we will see that partnership excel if these fundamental issues are sorted.