The Curious Case of Craig Noone
There was excitement aplenty amongst the City supporter base after Craig Noone’s early domination of the FFA Cup, particularly following his Man of the Match performance against Western Sydney in the Quarter-Finals, where he truly dominated the game start to finish.
Fast-forward to our Round 9 loss to Perth and he’s become a shadow of the exciting player that City fans had created so much hype over, having even thrown his name up as an early Johnny Warren medallist candidate.
Aside from the occasional flash of brilliance – and there have been rare moments of TRUE brilliance, especially with his lightning feet to skillfully dribble his way out of sticky situations – Noone seems anonymous for the majority of matches and hasn't contributed a whole lot to our attacking output.
But the thing is, he never really has.
In his 60 league appearances for Bolton between 2017-18 and 2018-19, the Englishman contributed just two goals and one assist.
He’s cracked double-digit goal contributions just twice in his career, once in League One with Portsmouth and most recently in 2012-13 with Cardiff City, scoring seven goals and providing eight assists from 32 league appearances.
When you really break down his performance data, you get some truly mind-boggling insights.
For all of his 19 shots (equal sixth in the league) at a decent 52.6% shooting accuracy, the Englishman has just one league goal this season… his penalty against Wellington.
And for all of his 51 crosses (sixth in the league) – only seven of which have been successful, a crossing accuracy of a fairly standard 16.7% – he’s provided just one assist, which also came against Wellington, the cross for Connor Metcalfe’s header.
But get this: the Englishman’s fifth in the A-League for chances created with 20.
Here’s the bit that stumps us: when compared amongst eight other starting A-League wingers (Duke, Mileusnic, Kamsoba, Ikonomidis, Silvera, Barbarouses, Sotirio and Fitzgerald), Noone’s passing accuracy in the attacking half is an abysmal 55.4%, the lowest of all compared players.
How’s it possible that one of the league’s most inaccurate attacking half passers is one of its top chance creators?
Ultimately, those calling for Noone to be dropped probably have a fair point; his crossing accuracy and passing accuracy in the attacking half remain significantly lower than that of Lachlan Wales and Javier Cabrera, who each have two assists in far fewer minutes (672, 442, 372 respectively).
With all factors considered, Noone’s high ‘chances created’ and ‘key passes’ statistics probably indicate that the majority of our attacking play is going down his side of the pitch, so it’s a simple case of him making less of more opportunities.
Just to cover all bases, Noone's defensive numbers aren't overly spectacular either. His combined defensive contributions (tackles, interceptions, blocks, clearances) put him about the middle amongst those eight wingers we compared him to, though he does outperform Wales and Cabrera in that aspect.
The bottom line is that when Jamie Maclaren gets decent service, he scores.
When that’s not happening, no-one looks likely to find the back of the net, so the provision of quality final balls from the wing is imperative to our attacking output this season.
We've been backing Noone to rediscover his early form all season so far, but the reality is, this might just be the level he's at - the most that we can expect from him. No more. No less.
*All statistics correct as of 10/12/19. Rankings as per Hyundai A-League Stats Centre.