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How Leeds United's Sam Byram has improved his game this season

The right-back turned right midfielder has given Leeds a new dimension following a mid-season formation reshuffle, but how do his stats stack up?

It is fair to say the 2013-14 Sky Bet Championship season was a huge anti-climax for Sam Byram. After recording 53 appearances in his breakthrough campaign of 2012-13, the Essex-born defender suffered a hip injury in the summer. A disjointed season followed - Byram made just 27 appearances, struggling to maintain any consistency, and featuring none of the dazzling runs that lit up his arrival on the scene.

So Byram started the 2014-15 season with almost a clean slate, needing to convince Leeds fans that he was still the surging talent that had shone during the otherwise turgid Neil Warnock era.

Despite the turmoil behind the scenes at Elland Road, Byram enjoyed a positive first half of the new campaign. A sending off at Watford - which to this day he will dispute - interrupted his progress and Darko Milanic did not see Byram as an automatic choice, but once Neil Redfearn was in permanent charge of the side, the right-back flourished from there. Except he was no longer a right-back.

  PositionTeamGoalsGoal AssistTotal CrossAccurate CrossTotal ContestWon ContestTotal PassAccurate PassAppearancesMins Played
Sam Byram DF Leeds 3 1 70 16 46 20 1,521 1,169 39 3,266

Byram was solid in defence and was beginning to show signs of regaining his confidence prior to Christmas 2014, but a formation change to 4-5-1 in January, saw Byram thrust into a wide attacking role from which he has proved to be a vital asset to Leeds' cutting edge.

Leeds possess no other natural, wide attacking threat and Byram is essential to the 4-5-1 formation working. His runs into the box have created goals, panic, and penalties and he has also provided natural assistance to Scott Wootton who inherited the right-back role.

The stats above, however, do not necessarily back up the argument that Byram's move into the midfield has been a success. The figures are skewed, of course, by 17 appearances this season being made in defence, but even so, the crossing accuracy and dribbling contests won percentage (43) are not too impressive. This may be down to Leeds not always having good forward options to service, and certainly the accurate pass percentage of 77 is more becoming of Byram's class on the ball and general play as a midfielder.

Also evidence of Byram regaining confidence and being a natural attacking asset, are the three goals he has scored this season, all of which - versus Huddersfield, Reading and Fulham - were away from home and came from well-timed runs into the box.

Interestingly, Byram still claims right-back is his preferred position so the future is by no means certain for the 21-year-old, whom Leeds are under pressure to reward with a new contract.

Certainly, Byram is one of few players at the club with pace and a natural ability to create danger from wide positions, and that is not always reflected in plain statistics.

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