Criticism has been piled onto the shoulders of Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley following his performance against Stoke last weekend, but is the criticism justified?
The main criticism of Cleverley seems to be that he’s not a forward thinking, decisive enough midfield man, not the sort of midfielder who can move the ball forward quickly into the final attacking third.
However, his stats from the match and from this season across several passing areas suggest otherwise.
Forward Passes against Stoke
|Patrice Evra||Man Utd||DF||20||1||90|
|Michael Carrick||Man Utd||MF||19||1||90|
|Chris Smalling||Man Utd||DF||19||1||90|
|Tom Cleverley||Man Utd||MF||18||1||90|
|Wayne Rooney||Man Utd||FW||18||1||90|
|Ashley Young||Man Utd||MF||15||1||90|
|Juan Mata||Man Utd||MF||14||1||90|
Only three players made more forward passes than Cleverley during the defeat at Stoke. Two of them were defenders and the other was his midfield partner Michael Carrick.
The defenders are explainable through the logic that they play the ball forwards once they pick possession up inside their final defensive third, but Cleverley was more productive in this respect against Stoke than Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and even Juan Mata.
Forward Passes this Season
|Michael Carrick||Man Utd||MF||375||16||1,333|
|Patrice Evra||Man Utd||DF||339||23||2,010|
|Jonny Evans||Man Utd||DF||319||16||1,316|
|David de Gea||Man Utd||GK||288||24||2,160|
|Tom Cleverley||Man Utd||MF||260||18||1,359|
It’s a similar story with Cleverley passing the ball forward this season, with only four players ahead of him.
One of them is the goalkeeper David De Gea, who United fans should start to worry long and hard about should he start passing the ball backwards.
Accurate Passes this Season
|Michael Carrick||Man Utd||MF||946||16||1,333|
|Tom Cleverley||Man Utd||MF||901||18||1,359|
|Wayne Rooney||Man Utd||FW||690||19||1,576|
|Jonny Evans||Man Utd||DF||682||16||1,316|
|Patrice Evra||Man Utd||DF||663||23||2,010|
|Luis Antonio Valencia||Man Utd||MF||660||20||1,503|
Only Michael Carrick has completed more passes than Cleverley this season, which suggests that the under fire midfield man is one of the most effective at the club when it comes to protecting the ball.