The search for a No. 10 / Union

An unattractive answer: The truth about Ilsinho

Photo: Ryan Griffith

It’s been nearly a year and a half since Tranquillo Barnetta last wore the blue and gold of Philadelphia Union.

The Swiss midfielder brought the skill, energy, and desire that was vital to the club snapping a four year playoff drought. Seventeen months later, and the Union have yet to sign a new No. 10.

This particular need has been apparent since Barnetta returned home to St. Gallen of the Swiss Super League following the 2016 season. The next year began with midfielder Alejandro Bedoya manning the No. 10 rather than his preferred No. 8 role. The now-departed Roland Alberg remained an enigma: Seemingly a good fit for the 10, but never able to wrap his head around the full set of responsibilities it entailed. Then 31-year-old converted Brazilian winger Ilsinho became the default “man-in-the-middle” of the Union’s attack for the back half of the 2017 season.

“Look, it’s no secret everybody is looking for the next Diego Valeri– a guy who gets you almost 20 [goals] and 15 [assists],” Union head coach Jim Curtin said recently.

Now, the start of 2018 MLS season is just days away and Philadelphia still have not addressed their biggest need— which happens to be at arguably the game’s most important position.

Curtin continued, “Obviously the guys here are putting in a ton of work and will naturally be ahead of anyone coming in from the outside. I would say the later it gets, the more likely it is that we’re gonna go with the guys who are here and performing on the field.”

It doesn’t appear a Valeri is arriving any time soon.

That is a difficult pill to swallow for a fan base already enraged by the organization’s lack of spending. The goodwill sporting director Earnie Stewart garnered when he spent $1.2 million on winger David Accam has already given way to disdain and malaise. There is a shared belief that the Union are destined for another disappointing season, that 2018 will be no different than the typical Union season.

But here’s the truth.

Philadelphia Union do not need a designated-player caliber No. 10 to record their best season.

They need to play the kids… but only when their now 32-year-old Brazilian needs a break.

Breaking down the Brazilian

Let’s qualify the above statement before going any further. The Union need a Designated Player-level playmaker to challenge for a championship in MLS. Every team does.

What qualifies as the best season in franchise history, however, requires surpassing an incredibly low bar. Philadelphia need only to win one playoff game.

Last season the Union finished with an 11-14-9 record, a whopping eight points behind sixth place New York Red Bulls. Despite this, Philadelphia was the only team with a positive goal differential (+3) that failed to make the playoffs.

Yet 34 games is too broad of a spectrum to analyze this club. Maybe a conversation with Curtin could offer a more precise metric. “Obviously Ilsinho played a lot—well, probably played half a season’s worth of games in the No. 10 spot.” Curtin was right. Ilsinho started exactly 17 games.

In those 17 games the Union went 8-6-3 averaging 1.59 points per game. Another way to say that is Philadelphia tied for the fifth most points per game in all of MLS when Ilsinho started as their No. 10. Their 1.65 goals per game equaled New York City FC for sixth best in MLS.

How about the 17 games Ilsinho wasn’t the No. 10? The Union went 3-8-6. The 2014 Montreal Impact squad, where they averaged 0.82 points per game, were the last side to record fewer than Philadelphia’s pace of 0.88 ppg.

It begs an obvious question. In those 17 games, were the Union an elite club because of Ilsinho or in spite of him?

The easiest way to break down the Brazilian’s performance is to analyze and compare exactly what he brought to the table as the club’s central attacking midfielder.  With a statistical dive into the key areas that define a No. 10, it’s easier to understand Ilsinho’s role with the Union. Those key areas are loosely passing, possession, and scoring.  Using only Ilsinho’s 17 starts in the center, discounting all other appearances.

To whom should Philadelphia’s most “accomplished” No. 10 be compared? That’s easy. How about the 13 best No. 10s in MLS last season. There will also be an unnamed player included, revealed at the end, obviously for dramatic effect. They are:

NameGoalsAssistsG + rating
Diego Valeri2111327.26
Lee Nguyen1115267.31
Victor Vazquez816247.23
Federico Higuain914237.24
Miguel Almiron914237.36
Albert Rusnak714217.28
Sacha Kljestan217197.18
Nicolas Lodeiro712197.28
Blerim Dzemaili710177.24
Kevin Molino79166.92
Maximiliano Moralez59147.14
Player X38116.82
Mauro Diaz28106.60
Luciano Acosta55106.97

Quick notes: All averages are just for those top 13 players. Ilsinho and Player X are not factored into the equation. Also, instead of using per game or per 90min, per 96min is used. Stoppage time is real time, too.


The No. 10’s job is role of a playmaker, someone who can create opportunities, both for themselves and others. The easiest way to do so is with perceptive and clinical passing.

It also happens to be Ilsinho’s weakest area.

The primary statistic for passing is assists. That metric alone, however, doesn’t tell the full story. A more telling number is “key passes.” It doesn’t hold the player at the mercy of his teammates’ ability to finish.

NameKeyP96AssistsP96Primary A.Pass%Attack 3rd%xAttack 3rd%Diff%
Player X1.050.34778.2%76.1%72.7%3.4%

There’s no hiding it. Ilsinho’s numbers are bad. The average 2.58 key passes per 96 is more than double Ilsinho’s 0.99, the worst among those listed.

There aren’t any smoke and mirrors to make those stats look any better. Every passing category is abysmal for the Brazilian. He ranked last in assists, primary assists, (x)primary assists, and just ahead of D.C. United’s Luciano Acosta in assistsP96.

Yet there is something curious hidden in those numbers.  Ilsinho ranked second in passing percentage in the final third. It seems to contradict his struggles. Accurate passing in attack should lead to more assists and key passes, but he also ranks second in expected passing percentage in the final third.

If this is an unfamiliar metric, here’s a familiar example straight from the source, Philadelphia Union right back Keegan Rosenberry has an expected pass completion percentage of 57.9 percent in his own defensive third. His main competitor Ray Gaddis has 67.7 percent in the same area. They both have actual completion percentages near their expected level. The difference is that Gaddis makes higher percentage passes when controlling the ball in a defensive position.

This illustrates a key reason Ilsinho struggles passing in the final third. His distribution lacks any sense of daring. Orlando City’s Sacha Kljestan, Real Salt Lake’s Albert, and Columbus’ Federico Higuain are all among the elite distributors in MLS. All three rank below average in both actual and expected passing percentage in the final third.

One audacious attempt that creates pays better dividends than 10 safe passes leading to nothing. Ilsinho doesn’t lack the skill or vision of a quality distributor, he lacks the experience. The hope is with more time in the middle, his ball movement with be more bold than blunt. It’s a big ask of a 32-year-old.

Even if that never comes to fruition, Ilsinho has one thing none of those other players have.

Haris Medunjanin.

The deep-lying Bosnian midfielder is an anomaly in MLS. Medunjanin does what the best No. 10s do, but from about 20 yards further from goal. He posted 2.56 key passesP96, which ranked fifth in the league. His 86 key passes were nearly twice that of Portland midfielder David Guzman’s 45, the next closest player at a similar position.

Would it be better to have a No. 10 that could, you know, distribute? Of course. Medunjanin, however, gives the Union the ability to mask those issues and provide Ilsinho the freedom to do the things in which he excels. For instance…


Things are a little different on the outside edges of the pitch.

“When you’re a winger, you always have a sideline that’s close to you. So you get used to using that and the advantages and disadvantages that brings,” Curtin told me. “When you become a No. 10, you’re popping up all over the field. Yeah, still in the wide area sometimes, but for the most part 360 degrees you have things going on around you. It’s a different feel.”

Possession was always an area where Ilsinho was dynamic, but it’s a different animal in the center. Often wingers are left in one vs. one battles. No. 10s require poise, a sonar-like sense of surrounding teammates and defenders, and the ability to decipher the noise.

NameTouch %Succ. Drib.P96Succ.Drib. %Dispossed P96Adj. DispP96Uncontrolled TouchP96Adj. UnTP96
Player X4.6%0.6375.00%0.841.891.43.15

Let’s start with the bad.

“The way we look at the No. 10 position, I would use Tranquillo as an example. A guy that we want to get on the ball and have a real high volume, so he might foul up a play or two, but the more we give him the ball the more he’ll eventually wear down a defense,” said Curtin.

This is the exact opposite of what the Union got from their No. 10s in 2017. Alberg was anemic when the ball wasn’t at his feet. While an improvement, Ilsinho touch percentage (the percentage of a team’s possession a player spent on the ball while on the field) of 6.7% is the second worst among this group of players. Clearly that isn’t what Curtin is looking for.

Dispossed and uncontrolled touches are two metrics that indicate what type of quality a player provides with those touches. At a quick glance, Ilsinho is in the middle of the pack in both categories. After adjusting those numbers to take into account the time a player spent on the ball by recalculating the figures to the average of 10.35%, the Brazilian’s measurements become glaring.

For instance Seattle’s Nicolás Lodeiro was dispossed the second most amount per 96 minutes. He also spent the highest percentage of time on the ball at 13.2%. Applying the 10.35% average reduces Lodeiro’s dispossession rate from 2.72 to 2.13.

Ilsinho offers the inverse. After adjustment, his dispossessions transform to an eye-popping 3.51 p96. It’s 0.78 higher than the next closest player and 1.50 higher than the average. It’s a similar situation in uncontrolled touches p96, where Ilsinho comes in with the third worst adjusted number.

Is this really shocking? Is it surprising a 31-year-old player who spent the first 10 years of his professional career on the wing had difficulty adjusting to the No. 10? But before writing off Ilsinho, guess how many times the Brazilian was dispossessed in his final four games last season.


That means Ilsinho’s astronomical dispossession rate would have been even higher before those last few matches. How does that happen? Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks.

There is one trick the old dog has already mastered. “When he’s on I think everybody would agree he’s almost unstoppable one vs. one when he gets isolated,” said Curtin. Ilsinho is a dynamo with the ball at his feet. Even while adjusting to a new position, only Acosta completed more dribbles. More impressively was his 60% success rate, which would be the highest rate if you discount the two players who attempted only one dribble p96.

Looking to the future, it’s difficult to envision defenses congesting the center. Wingers Accam and Fafa Picault offer gamebreaking speed on the outside. Accam’s addition is especially huge, giving the Union one of the best wide players in MLS. Combined with forward C.J. Sapong’s ability to occupy defenders, opposing teams cannot overcommit to stopping Ilsinho. That isolation Curtin spoke of is going to be there. Ilsinho just needs to do what he has already proven capable of doing.


Not mentioned above was an often overlooked quality of a No. 10, defending.

Sure, a team doesn’t always need their playmaker to even feign an interest in stopping the opposition. Some of the best like Higuain, Rusnak, and New England’s Lee Nguyen rank near the bottom in every defensive metric among No. 10s.

Yet the same doesn’t hold true for Philadelphia. Discussing what the Union need from their own No. 10, Curtin said, “It’s maybe not the prototypical No. 10, the Carlos Valderrama or the Marco Etcheverry where they kind of play just one side of the ball. They kind of stay in the center circle and only attack.” He continued, “We don’t have the luxury of just having a completely free player on the field, a free No. 10, so we do need that work rate.”

Why? The same quality Medunjanin provides at the base of the Union’s midfield triangle is counterbalanced by so-so defending. Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya helps mask some of the deficiencies, but inexperience at the center back position adds onus to the defensive responsibilities of the midfield. Combining that with Curtin’s preference to press, the coach is right to say Philadelphia cannot support a free No. 10.

No one would call Ilsinho a defensive maestro. He hovered around the No. 10 average in both tackle percentage and interceptions with 55.2% and 0.61 metrics respectively. What he did provide was the work rate Curtin mentioned. Only New York City’s Maximiliano Moralez registered more tackles than his 2.12 p96.  Ilsinho offered energy on the field when in possession or defense. By no means was he a hindrance in the least glamorous aspect of being a No. 10.


Five goals isn’t the most impressive scoring total. It’s a little more eye-catching when remembering Ilsinho scored those five in just half a season.

When the Brazilian’s scoring metrics are held under a brighter light, they pop even more.

NameGoals p96Open GoalsOpen Goals P96Shots P96SOG p96Goals per ShotOpen GpS
Player X0.1330.131.600.558.1%8.11%

The numbers indicate Ilsinho is among the elite No. 10s in terms of finishing. Only Valeri and Nguyen bettered his 0.38 goalsP96. Factoring in penalty kicks again changes the lens by which these statistics can be viewed. Open goals include every tally minus those from the spot. Even free kicks count. Penalties scored can’t be considered a quality way of judging a No. 10.

It effects the numbers of players like Nguyen, Lodeiro, Toronto’s Victor Vazquez, and Minnesota’s Kevin Molino, all of whom converted three penalties. Ilsinho never attempted one. Valeri, the reigning MLS MVP, was the only No. 10 to outperform the Brazilian’s open goals p96 mark.

Expectation would be that Ilsinho must have taken a bunch of shots to be in Valeri’s company. In fact, only Dallas’ Mauro Diaz took fewer shots throughout the year. Both in ShotsP96 and SOGp96 Ilsinho ranks in the bottom third of the No. 10s. So how does he do it?

Clinical finishing.

Ilsinho scored on 18.52% of the shots he took during the run of play. It’s better than Almiron, better than Valeri, better than everyone above. For comparison, among those 13 stud No. 10s, the average was 10.15%. Maybe there will be a regression to the mean, or maybe Ilsinho is a legitimately dangerous finisher— offering a similar threat as the company he keeps at the top of scoring metrics.

Player X

If you’ve been trying to figure out who “Player X” is, it’s nobody crazy. He’s a middling No. 10 playing somewhat out of position. He also played for the club that finished with the third most points in MLS. Player X is Chicago Fire’s Michael de Leeuw.

De Leeuw was chosen for a particular reason. The Fire played 2017 with a void in the center of attack, yet recorded their best season in years. Chicago’s 4-2-3-1 lineup was very similar to Philadelphia’s. Forward Nemanja Nikolic is a better version of Sapong, but both fill a similar role with their strength and hold-up play. Accam was there, and now he’s here. Even the base of the midfield is similar with elite distributors at the position. Bedoya mirrors Dax McCarty in better lighting. Medunjanin’s on-the-field production is closer to legend Bastian Schweinsteiger than expected.

The honest truth

The harsh reality is the Union financially cannot afford to miss on an expensive No. 10. There were whispers Philadelphia was in on Clément Grenier, but the French footballer chose to remain in France. It’s likely Stewart will now look to the summer window, when European transfers are easier to arrange. Maybe they have their man, but can’t afford to pay an extra $1 million for an early release. Or maybe they can’t afford a designated player-level No. 10 at all.

Chicago were legitimate title contenders for a large portion of the season without a No. 10. The Union cannot emulate that, but they can be a playoff team. Philadelphia never addressed their biggest need, but that shouldn’t effect the evaluation of what this team currently is.

Ilsinho isn’t in the same class as Valeri, Vazquez, or Almiron, but he also isn’t some scrub who is lucky to make the bench each week. Ilsinho suffers from being the same answer to the same question. He isn’t a new solution or the perfect solution, but those statistics show he is the best solution the Union have.

Academy product Anthony Fontana should first be given time with Bethlehem Steel, working toward eventually spotting Ilsinho. Adam Najem is a 23-year-old who has yet to prove himself as a deserving MLS starter. He had a solid, not spectacular, USL season with two goals and eight assists.

Ilsinho is better than both, and gives the club a better chance than either at reaching the playoffs and winning a game. “His highs were very high, and we’re trying to get that consistency from him day in and day out,” Said Curtin.  Ilsinho was sparkling in the season finale against Orlando City. It’s tough to imagine any No. 10 playing better than he did against FC Dallas. Maybe with more than 17 games in the center, consistency will be easier to find.


  1. is there a statistic for “number of defenders beaten 1v.1 before losing the ball”? Ilsinho wold definitely be at the top of that one. And those turnovers will be worse in the middle then they were on the outside.

    I like last week’s proposal of an inverted midfield triangle, that seems to have the highest likelihood of working with current personnel

  2. These statistics are all well and good, but it certainly feels like it’s painting a picture of a situation completely opposite of what the organization is telling us they envision in a 10. Barnetta was the “ideal” 10 from a defensive and offensive perspective, at least in the way that Earnie and Jim have shared with us of how they want their system to work. Ilsinho certainly has his merits as a player but they definitely appear to be for a different kind of 10 than what we’ve been told we need. Are we going to change our system’s asking of players? Haven’t seen any sign of that.

    Unrelated but related, and hopefully someone can clear this up for me: Fontana is in the running for 10, but hasn’t everyone been labeling him as a “tweener” in the midfield? I could have sworn reading about how he was maybe more of a 8 than a 10.

  3. This seems like a pretty convincing analysis. Since it definitely looks like the Union won’t be bringing any new players into the Number 10, it’s valuable to compare Ilsinho’s actual production to the rest of the league. I read somewhere on PSP (forget where) that the addition of Accam would now open up the field and make the front three much more dangerous, removing the play-making onus from the 10. Like noted above, Medunjanin would definitely help with threading the key passes, too.
    That said, we are basically living in the Union’s reality that won’t pay to get a bona fide star 10, so we are already lowering our expectations of the position. I’d much rather take a mix of Ilsinho and Najem/Fontana than overpaying for an unknown or bounce-back player who might take another 4 months to gel with the team. However, if the Union really is taking the long view of development with the team that Earnie wants, this is the year to really take advantage of squad rotation and youth players. It seems like every other team uncovers a young phenom. Maybe it’ll finally be the Union’s turn. I’m begrudgingly okay with that approach, as long as the front office still knows that the Union will never take a step from playoff team to contending team without breaking the bank for a play-making magician, and the dire need to still acquire one.

  4. One last volley into the bitching and moaning pot of despair: 18 months, 3 transfer windows. Stated above, its been 18 months since Barnetta went home and we haven’t filled his role. In those 18 months there’s been promise of spending the money needed. Accam showed up, but even he wasn’t an actual investment of more money, just spending free League money, some of which hasn’t even been given yet because its future money coming in. We all know the story, limited funds, tight budgets, we can’t afford to spend unwisely. But the flip side to that is that it will be nearly 2 years before we MAYBE fill that role. What that means is, all those other players on the roster are 2 years older, the core of the team is 2 years older. At what point are we missing our window that a solid, above average 10 would actually help the team and a new window opens where we now have address other holes than just the 10?

    asdlfkjasd;fljkasd;flasdjkf. Blah.

  5. If Ilsinho starts the season IN SHAPE I’ll have one less thing to complain about him. His belt-busting fitness is super unprofessional and disappoints me more than his turnovers if I’m being honest.

    • Ilsinho has done a pretty good job of getting himself in shape. He was fat when he first came but has been better ever since. Alberg was the one who showed up completely out of shape last year and forced us to play Bedoya as the 10 to start the year.

    • Well, he injured himself yesterday and the team sent him home.


      So… yeah…

      • Yeah, sucks he go hurt, but injuries happen. There are plenty of things to complain about that we don’t need to make stuff up. Ilsinho has busted his butt to get in, and stay in decent shape once he joined the team.

  6. This is a well written article and amplely researched. Thank you. So, he works decently hard at defense and shoots better than would be expected, but has poor passing and bad touches. I’m not seeing how this makes him the answer at the 10? I read those stats to definitively say the opposite. Maybe I am misunderstanding your points? Maybe I’m just bitter and can’t see anything pisitive as well lol.
    Do you have a home/away breakdown of the games he started at the 10?

    • Nick Fishman says:

      Unfortunately, I don’t.

      While there would be a benefit, it would have been exhaustive to break down every player home vs. away.

      Honestly, I hate and don’t understand why away records are so poor across the league.

  7. Great read. Still hoping for a sexier option here, but solid argument as to why it could work out okay with ilsinho in there.

  8. el Pachyderm says:

    The energy to produce this is a credit to you.
    Well done.
    totally impressed.
    The timing of this article is So Union, considering word came out today Ilsinho over-yanked his muscle…surprise surprise.

  9. I got to about the fourth paragraph under the “Breaking down the Brazillian” before my eyes started rolling back into my head and I started to lose interest and fall asleep.
    Numbers, numbers, numbers…You know what numbers don’t tell you? What you see with your eyes. What my eyes tell me is that Ilsinho was not good enough in the #10 position. I’m pretty sure most of us saw that too. Despite all the spin Curtin is putting out there, the fact Stewart was in the hunt for Grenier, should show you he also watched what happened on the field last season and found Ilsinho’s play wanting.
    I will admit, Ilsinho was the best option they had. To that end, the one stat I will point to, which tells me a great deal, was the start vs. no start record. What that stat tells me is if they had an actual #10 last season, their record would have been much better than it ended up.
    Stats are nice. They are tangible. They are fun to play around with. They aren’t the true story. They don’t show the whole truth. Don’t be misled by stats.

  10. Kudos to you, Nick, for the work.

    What I’m left with is:
    1) A sense of impending doom for this club. Another season of forcing round pegs into square holes, not developing an identity and struggling to get results while our competition gets better and better.
    2) Confirmation that we sure could have used Lee Nguyen.
    TBH, I’d feel much better if Curtin just flipped that midfield, used a 6 like Jones with Medunjanin and Bedoya up the pitch. Forcing tactics you don’t have the personnel for seems really pretty ridiculous.

  11. I appreciate the work that went into this article and the insight into why the season might not be a total train wreck but the fact remains that not having an MLS-starting-quality “natural” #10 18mos after Barnetta’s departure is totally unacceptable. Particularly when the Union insist on playing a system geared towards an elite #10 playmaker, and refuse to change the system based on their personnel.
    Interviewing one guy here or having one trialist there is no way to fill a crucial position and appears to be a totally inexcusable lack of effort. They should be talking to 10, 20 or 30 possibilities and trialing as many as it takes to find one. Run all the discussions parallel, not one at a time.
    Transfermarkt shows 20 attacking midfielders 23-30 years old currently without contracts, worth $1,75M down to $250K. Transfermarkt shows an additional 95 attacking midfielders 23-30 years old with expiring contracts worth $2M down to $400k. Have a midfielder parade though Chester if that’s what it takes. But the FO seem to care less about filling the position than I care about what I’m going to have for dinner tonight.
    I refuse to believe that that there aren’t several or a dozen in that group of 115 players that would like to live in the USA for a couple of years near an historic, big-market city with good schools in the suburbs, night life in the city, and a short drive from DC or NY.
    And if the FO is working its butt off and has interviewed 20-30 players and done workouts of players all over the world but it just hasn’t gotten the right one yet, then maybe it is time to let the fans know that. As it is, the silence appears to be indifference.
    I am not indifferent to the money I spend on my seats each year.

    • This is what drives me nuts about Stewart so far. Even if he’s not THE GUY bring in someone who actually knows the position! Even if you end up benching the player when you actually find THE GUY, at least you have a competent back-up.

      • I could buy it last yeah to an extent because we had a lot of money tied up in the attacking positions. But this window there is no such excuse.

  12. Nick,
    Really nice article. It is enjoying to read something from a glass is half-full perspective then typical negadelphia comments.

    The injury yesterday hurts. But with Accam and a more open midfield, I would think his clinical finishing and willingness to dribble could be “interesting.” Good Interesting or Bad Interesting not sure.

  13. For the sake of wanting to have something (anything!) to cheer about this year, I chose to hang my hat on the 8-6-3 stat (disregarding the fact that the last few wins were meaningless against teams that didn’t care).
    By the end of the season we did have a little rhythm and some flow. Seemingly, Ilsinho was feeling a little more comfortable in the position as well.
    I’ve given up on seeing a #10 on the Union squad this year (I don’t trust that Ernie will bring in a difference maker in the summer window).
    So… here’s wishing you luck this year Ilsinho – assuming you get back on the field before the season starts. Ugh…

  14. Appreciate the effort behind this article. But. That’s it. We need to be done with this!

    If Fafa and Accam both starting, 4-3-3 with the previously discussed inverted triangle midfield of Jones at CDM and Ale and Haris at L/RCM. Ale can make some late runs into the box. Haris can rip his long shots.

    Alternate formation, 3-5-2/5-3-2. Put Elliot between Trusty and Marquez/Yaro in the back. We have the ball-playing CB for it. Use them! Use the inverted MF triangle again, and have Fafa/Accam play off of CJ’s hold up and knockdowns at ST. If we’re down and chasing the game, Ilsinho can sub Jones and become a bit of a playmaking FW in a 3-4-3.

    Why do we have a self-imposed rule against tailoring our formation/tactics to our personnel?????????????

    Has the press ever bluntly asked – Why do you lock yourselves into a formation requiring a #10 and then refuse to sign one for two years and counting?

    Are cookies still available on The Cliff?

    • To be fair, yes, this has been asked. And formation and tactics have been routinely dismissed as everything from irrelevant to “changing tactics it too hard for some players.” True story.

    • Thank you for putting all of my thoughts together in one place. I’d be embarrassed if I couldn’t manage to get HS kids able to play more than one formation much less top division professional players.

      Instead, square peg/round hole, ad nauseum.

    • They did run a 4-3-3 for a couple games last year to varying results so I think they could easily do that if they wanted. With the Ilsinho injury it now seems like he will be replaced (in our normal 4-2-3-1) with Najem or Fontanta, or a switch to a 4-3-3 by Jones. Whichever young guy deserves it more.

  15. This is a really impressive analysis. I would say that all the detailed number don’t mean anything except for that 8-6-3 stat, which suggests that, actually, perhaps they do mean something. Maybe.

    I am still mildly furious that the team has not acquired a #10 yet, but maybe Ilsinho will work out until the summer transfer window. (However, I am not buying any match tickets until this team demonstrates that they can compete with the players they have.)

  16. Well done article Nick.
    It would have been interesting to add the stats from Barnetta’s final year with the Union in the tables as well to highlight the similarities and differences considering Barnetta is the “ideal #10” for the way Curtin and Earine say they want to play.

    • Nick Fishman says:

      Thanks, and that would be interesting…For reference, Barnetta average 2.56 key passes p96 and had a 9.9% touch percentage. Would have ranked near the middle in most other categories.

  17. Great article Nick! Really appreciate how you inserted those sortable stats into the article. It’s unfortunate to hear of the injury to Ilsinho. Hopefully the hamstring doesn’t hamper his fitness too much. – Matt

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