Grading centre backs will always be much more of a challenge than grading attackers. They…
Motherwell have undoubtedly been one of the most fun teams in the Scottish Premiership this season. They may not finish in the top six come May and after this summer’s transfer window the team may change forever, but at this moment in time they’re bullying teams up and down the table and ripping up the status quo.
Critics of the Fir Park side have bemoaned their physical approach to the beautiful game, but in truth, Stephen Robinson’s side have taken some of the biggest scalps in the country by simply working harder and smarter than their opponents. Make no mistake about it: it’s good coaching and smart tactics that have taken Motherwell to a League Cup final and possibly a Scottish Cup final before the end of the season.
A number of players will stand out for ‘Well fans but one that deserves particular praise – at least from us today – is young, central midfielder Allan Campbell. A player that has not only thrived under Robinson’s stewardship this season but could on to even greater things for his country one day.
Although Campbell technically got his first break in Motherwell’s first team at the end of last season, this current campaign has been the setting for his full inauguration and confirmation as a fully-fledged first-team player.
Alongside Carl McHugh at the heart of midfield, Campbell has not only proved himself as an effective defensive midfielder but in many ways exemplifies the style of football that Robinson has instilled at Fir Park to great success.
For example, Campbell not only leads his midfield peers in tackles per 90 minutes in the Premiership but also leads in tackles made within the opponent’s defensive third. Not only is the 19-year-old breaking up plays in his own half, but he’s also getting directly in the face of any opposing team too.
Campbell’s vital contributions to the first team are also evident in other metrics. When it comes to pass accuracy the youngster is second only to Gaël Bigirimana and also finds himself ahead of all other Motherwell midfielders aside from McHugh when it comes to defensive duels per game and the percentage of those duels that he wins.
He might not be as effective as his captain just yet but he’s certainly not far off either. McHugh currently averages 10.34 duels per game to Campbell’s 10.1, while the skipper wins 23.79% to Campbell’s 19.8%. Which effectively means over the course of your average game they’re performing on an almost identical level.
And it’s not just within the Motherwell team itself that Campbell is excelling. When we broaden out the sample size to the very best defensive midfielders within the top six teams in the Premiership we find that that the Scotland U21 international also compares quite favourably.
As we can see in the graph above [toggle among the tabs to compare stats] Campbell is third in the Premiership for defensive duels per 90. Naturally, he once again finishes behind McHugh by 0.24 per game and Aberdeen’s Graham Shinnie, who effectively makes 10.77 per game.
As we know, Campbell tops the Motherwell charts for tackles per 90 minutes and it’s no surprise that he does remarkably well when compared to other midfielders around the league in this metric. Finishing above the likes of Gary Dicker, Ryan Jack, Scott Brown and second only to Kilmarnock’s Alan Power, Campbell is the second most effective defensive midfielder in the league when it comes to tackling. And as the graph shows he similarly sits in second when it comes to tackles in the opposing third too.
Although the young midfielder doesn’t top all defensive tables – he sits around the middle of the pack when it comes to interceptions and aerial duels per game – there’s no denying that Motherwell currently possesses an outstanding talent at the heart of their midfield. And one that is surely pivotal to the manner in which they have caused so much upset this season.
Having recently earned his first call-up to the Scotland U21 squad late last year, there’s still plenty of time before he has to worry about competing for a place in Alex McLeish’s squad. But if the likes of Kenny McLean, Dylan McGeouch and John McGinn can prove their worth to the Scotland boss then surely it’s only a matter of time before Campbell deserves as much credit – assuming he can continue progressing at the speed we’ve seen of him this season.