Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mile Jedinak: A defensive solution on the cheap

With the Lovren deal apparently on the rocks, Caulker off the table, and little other prospects in the wind, how about an inexpensive, Premiership-proven alternative, albeit temporary? What about Mile Jedinak?  Yes, I'm aware he is a defensive midfielder, but versatility only adds to his intrigue.

The soon-to-be-30-year-old Australian international had quite an impressive season last year for Crystal Palace.  One could write a book about the Eagles' wild ride of a 2013-14 campaign, from dead last on 7 points in week 13 to finishing 11th on 45, and we don't have to mention the 9 minutes of chaos at Selhurst Park that all but ended Liverpool's title hopes.  How Palace easily survived by scoring a mere 33 goals is a minor miracle to say the least and a massive tribute to a defence lead by Jedinak.

Crystal Palace didn't play 'smart' defence, they played a brutal-style that relied on individual effort.  Unfortunately that will never win you a league title since it is too draining on the players, a possession and passing-based defence will always win there, but it's admirable to say the least.  Per league ranking last season, the London club was first in the Prem in clearances, interceptions, and least costly defensive errors, second in tackles and least overall defensive errors, fifth in successful tackle percentage, and 8th in blocked shots. Their average ranking in those categories was 2.86, the next closest was Hull at 6.86.

Jedinak was a beast, posting impressive numbers in defensive areas as well as in aerial duels (league averages in blue below):


His biggest weakness is his passing, but in his defence, he did play for the worst passing side in the EPL last season.  His 71.9% passing rate was still slightly better than his team's 71.1% and he did complete 121 of 206 long balls for a 58.7% rate.  As is the norm, his passing would improve with more skilled teammates. He also doesn't have blinding pace, which is why his future is better suited at centre back.

A lot comes in to play when considering Jedinak: age, fee, and would he want to come?  He would be losing playing time, but he would get a chance at Champions League football.  Also he would have the opportunity to play for one of the bigger clubs on Merseyside (that's called sarcasm).  If Pulis would regretfully let him go for £5m, Rodgers would be crazy not to jump at it.  Jedinak is an excellent defender, which will translate well at either defensive midfielder or centre back for at least 3-4 seasons.

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