Crystal Palace under Patrick Vieira, have taken giant strides in recent weeks. After a slow start to the season, Palace have now transformed into a team capable of causing trouble for the top teams in the Premier League. They secured their first successive win under Patrick Vieira after remarkable victories over Manchester City and the Wolves. As a result, Palace have now climbed up to 10th spot in the league with three wins, six draws and two losses. In addition, they remain unbeaten in their last six league games as well.
The likes of Benteke, Zaha, Gallagher, Guehi, Andersen, and Edouard have been brilliant for Palace throughout all of their fixtures this season. However, there is one player, who despite giving performances of high-caliber in the midfield, has gone under the radar, and that is James McArthur.
McArthur has been a mainstay in Palace’s midfield since joining the club in 2014. But last season, under Roy Hodgson, McArthur made limited appearances due to an injury that kept him out for a considerable time. Vieira’s overhaul of the squad in the summer meant that many of the club’s veteran players will either be forced to move or will see limited game time. Despite the influx of young players, 34-year-old McArthur has remained ever-present in Vieira’s midfield and has been involved in all eleven games for his side. After his side’s 2-0 victory over Wolves before the international break, Vieira applauded McArthur, and stated that he is a valuable player, and a responsible leader of the team.
Let’s analyze McArthur’s stats from this season to understand his role in Vieira’s midfield.
McArthur’s defensive stats this season have been impressive. He averages more than eight defensive duels per match and upward of four loose ball duels as well. His most noteworthy stats are average recoveries per match and average recoveries in the opponent’s half. McArthur is a versatile midfielder capable of playing in a holding midfield role or a box-to-box role. Vieira has employed a high energy passing system at Palace, and one of the sources of that energy is McArthur.
McArthur’s heat map displays the areas of the pitch where he has been most active this season. Although this season, he has been much more involved in the attacking phases, bursting forward often and helping his team to break the opposition lines. His greatest asset is his energy and work rate. In Vieira’s 4-3-3 formation, McArthur is usually deployed at the left side of midfield, as indicated by his heat map. He has been mostly active in half spaces in the left midfield.
McArthur’s duel map highlights his defensive contribution. He has engaged in defensive duels and aerial duels in the opponent’s half as well as in his half. So far, he has made 13 interceptions, 17 clearances and won 61 duels.
This season, McArthur has made 50 recoveries in the opponent’s half, which is the joint third-highest in the league so far. He also averages more than four recoveries per match. McArthur’s tackle success rate of 68% is also impressive.
McArthur’s energetic and tenacious performances for Palace this season have gone under the radar and unnoticed. Although Vieira remains assured of McArthur, and has labelled him a benchmark professional. His leadership will definitely be an asset for Palace as the season progresses.