Friday, 12 June 2015

Has Danny Fox been given a raw deal by Forest fans?

I'm surprised that Kenny Burns is surprised that Danny Fox is still wanted by Forest. The Scotsman has been derided by many fans - but did he do that badly last season?

Beginning the season at centre-back, he looked uncomfortable and made errors. My biggest complaint concerning Fox is that he is generous with the amount of space he allows, in contrast to Eric Lichaj, who will go in aggressively and bully the attacker off the ball; Fox is more stand-offish.

This approach is debatable in the full-back position, but untenable for a central defender - but Stuart Pearce did not hesitate to use Fox here, possibly because he thought it may pay off when the player had the ball, but it was a relief when he was moved back out wide, and he looked much steadier defensively.

Fox appears to have acquired a reputation in the game as some kind of wizard with the ball at his feet - and at times last season (with much of the midfield hiding from the ball) he was being used almost as a playmaker; Forest were playing the ball forwards through him in an attempt to supply the attackers directly - at times relying on their left-back to get the ball moving forward.

This approach was doomed to be unfruitful, and I'm yet to see Fox work that much magic with that left foot of his. He may be prone to growing the odd supernatural array of facial hair, but Gandalf he is not.

Any defender who gives the ball away regularly (Fox's pass success rate was just 69% in 2014/15) and does not get stuck in will attract criticism, but a closer look suggests I am being unfair on both counts. Asked to take on the responsibility to play the ball forward, he did give the ball away - but the player was being asked to play more risky passes - to create, which means he would inevitably give the ball away.

And though predictable at times, Fox made an excellent contribution going forward, involved in 11 goals (making 4 assists and 7 key contributions). This is a good amount for a defender - he contributed to a goal once every 215 minutes on average - not only was this far more often than any of the other defensive players, but he even outperformed several of the midfielders in this regard, including Chris Burke (who contributed to a goal every 224 minutes).

Statistically, Fox had a good season all round, outperforming his fellow defenders in the majority of areas. Contrary to my own misgivings about Fox getting stuck in, Lichaj was the only defender to make more successful tackles per game, no player blocked more crosses per game, and he was rarely dribbled past.

But it is with the ball that Fox stands out. Stats tend to back this up - he made a high amount of key passes in 2014/15 (0.9 per game, which is high for a defender), he was rarely dispossessed (0.4 times per game) and miscontrolled the ball on very few occasions (0.3 times per game).

The team did better generally when Fox played too. Forest earned 50% more points when the Scotsman played, scored 17.8 minutes faster, and conceded 3.9 minutes slower (which reinforces the theory that he offers more going forward than he does defensively).

I'm obviously not saying that - for example - Danny Fox was the sole reason why Forest earned more points on the occasions that he played; it is a team game and there are 11 players involved. However, the fact remains that Forest did better with him on the pitch, and he has contributed to that.

Recent news that Fox would be involved next season prompted a few grumbles - but it is no coincidence that the player compared well in any statistic you could name last season, apart from goals scored and pass success - both of which can be easily mitigated.

He has attracted a disproportional amount of criticism in my opinion. We saw too many players evading responsibility last season and I imagine they are thankful for the likes of Fox and Dan Harding - players who have the courage to be seen to fail.

For example, when Fox was playing those endless and predictable long diagonal balls forward, when Forest were finding things difficult and confidence was low, certain midfielders - high profile players - were content to allow Fox to take the risks rather than make themselves available for the shorter pass.

This eschewing of responsibility - this blatant scrimshanking - was where Forest's problems were last season - not in players like Danny Fox. He is far from the most talented Forest player, however while under a transfer embargo The Reds will be hard pressed to find a better left-back; other areas of the pitch need looking at before we're in a position to be discarding the players who made a good contribution in 2014/15.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to www.whoscored.com for statistical help.

6 comments:

  1. I generally agree with your article. It seems to me that many fans favoured pastime is..... find a scapegoat! Before Fox it was Harding, so left-backs seem to suffer more than the most.

    Many a time I would challenge my fellow fan, whilst sitting in the Trent End Lower, when they started slating Fox within minutes of the kick-off. Fox did put in "some" poor performances, but how can it possibly help him if he hears his own fans slagging him off? Some fans are just numpties! :o(

    I'm no fan of Fox, he has been inconsistent at best, but he is our only recognised left-back and it is about time we supported rather than sledged him. He clearly has the ability, having performed well at other clubs, so fingers crossed he can get back to this level again.

    One statistic I noted, with much mirth, is that Dan Harding, who was also regularly slagged off (aka: pretty much hounded out the club) by many fans, generally has better figures than Fox. Moral of the story..... be careful what you wish for!

    Anyway, FFP is here to stay so developing the youth is key but in the interim how about ALL fans get behind the players that we have, even if some of them are overpaid and bang average - "unity", what a bizarre notion huh.... oh the fickleness of football fans, lol!

    COYR. :o)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cheers pal, you hit the nail on the head several times there.

    I'm not Fox's biggest fan either - I much prefer a nastier player defensively like Lichaj, or someone who overlaps and causes an exciting threat going forward like Hunt did, but the facts are that Fox did an ok job last season, and like you say some of the 'criticism' isn't actually 'criticism' - it's sledging. And why would you sledge your own player? I don't get it.

    And average though Fox may be (or maybe not - he's played at a higher level than the club has recently) at least he tries, which should be the number 1 issue, because we've got players who hide.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree that Fox has been given a harder time than he has deserved. I thought he had a reasonable season, on the whole. I do prefer Lichaj, but he was more consistently my MoTM than anyone else in the side.
    Fox did, indeed, get blamed for the profusion of long balls he played, too many of which did not find their target. But this was often at times when, as you say, the midfield had gone AWOL.
    I also agree with the previous poster about him appearing to grit his teeth and keep trying, despite the barracking. Good on him for that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree that Fox has been given a harder time than he has deserved. I thought he had a reasonable season, on the whole. I do prefer Lichaj, but he was more consistently my MoTM than anyone else in the side.
    Fox did, indeed, get blamed for the profusion of long balls he played, too many of which did not find their target. But this was often at times when, as you say, the midfield had gone AWOL.
    I also agree with the previous poster about him appearing to grit his teeth and keep trying, despite the barracking. Good on him for that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree that Fox has been given a harder time than he has deserved. I thought he had a reasonable season, on the whole. I do prefer Lichaj, but he was more consistently my MoTM than anyone else in the side.
    Fox did, indeed, get blamed for the profusion of long balls he played, too many of which did not find their target. But this was often at times when, as you say, the midfield had gone AWOL.
    I also agree with the previous poster about him appearing to grit his teeth and keep trying, despite the barracking. Good on him for that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your post is very nice to read and it give more information to me. It is consist of more related information about the topic.

    ReplyDelete