ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox uses the FREE FourFourTwo/Opta StatsZone
app to run the rule over West Brom's supposedly in-demand defender...
One of the more peculiar transfer stories of the current transfer window has been Queens Park Rangers’ £5 million bid for West Bromwich Albion’s Jonas Olsson.
Harry Redknapp clearly needs a new centre-back, with Ryan Nelsen set to leave the club and take charge of MLS side Toronto FC, but the move for Olsson – a player he was also said to be interested in during his time at Tottenham - seems rather ambitious.
Olsson, after all, is playing at a side currently seventh in the Premier League, having accumulated twenty more points than QPR so far this season, and has also been linked with a move to Arsenal. For the Swedish defender to drop down to the bottom-placed club in the division would be a brave decision.
“We’re a club that’s challenging near the top of the league and, for me, going to QPR would be a strange move,” said Olsson’s current boss, Steve Clarke. “I see no reason why he would want to leave us - and I don’t want to belittle QPR - for a club on a similar or even lesser level than us, which is where they are the moment.”
With QPR presumably trying to tempt him through financial reasons rather than sporting ones, they’re clearly not determined to guard against relegation. Olsson turns 30 in March – there’s unlikely to be much sell-on value if QPR needed to get him off the books.
Olsson only signed a new four-year contract in October, when he was refreshingly honest about the financial side of the deal. “The financial reward is a factor, anyone who says otherwise is not talking the truth,” he said. “I feel very much for the club, I love playing here, but you are abroad to make a good career, to play against the best players, to set you up for the future, because it is a short career.” Olsson has plans to become a lawyer once he retires from the game.
The Swede is a largely unheralded centre-back, and £5m for a player of his age and ability is a surprisingly high opening bid. So what did Olsson do so spectacularly during West Brom’s 2-1 win at Loftus Road on Boxing Day, to convince Redknapp he was worth the money?
Well, to be blunt, nothing. That’s not to say Olsson didn’t defend well, but he and centre-back partner Gareth McAuley were typically solid and reliable, without ever becoming significantly involved in play. Olsson’s statistics this season tell the tale of a calm, reserved player – in 19 starts, he’s made just 12 tackles. Amazingly, of the 20 players who have featured for West Brom this season, only two have made tackles less frequently than Olsson, while McAuley has made twice as many. At Loftus Road, they made just one tackle between them.
Olsson isn’t a regular interceptor, either – just 0.8 per game, while he’s won 53 of his 100 aerial duels this season, a poor record for a centre-back and significantly worse than McAuley’s 71 success from 94 battles. The QPR match was interesting, because QPR appeared to be aware of Olsson’s weakness in the air, and tested him much more frequently than McAuley. The Swede’s 50% success rate was similar to his average throughout the season:
He is, at least, a prolific blocker, finding himself in the top ten of Premier League players this season by that measure, but his pass completion rate is inferior to McAuley’s – the match at Loftus Road was a good example of the differences in that respect.
Olsson certainly has good positional sense, and the communication and organisation at the back for West Brom this season has been very impressive. However, their decent defensive record owes much to the structure of the side as a whole – the full-backs remain very narrow, and the central midfield combination of Claudio Yacob and Youssuf Mulumbu stay deep and protect the centre-backs excellently. Olsson’s a good defender, but QPR can find equally able alternatives for their £5 million.
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