Brighton and Hove Albion under Graham Potter have really grown into a neutral fan favourite over the last few seasons in the Premier League. The direct, attacking brand of football which they play does really look attractive and appeals to a huge neutral fan base.
However, last season they massively underperformed in the league bottling a top-half finish, settling for a 16th place finish. They failed to capitulate on the chances they created and converted far fewer chances than what their xG metric said and also failed to keep opponents attackers at bay leaking a lot of goals as well.
This summer transfer window Brighton lost their main centre-back, Ben White, to Arsenal. Fans thought that might affect Brighton’s performance this season but surprisingly enough the Seagulls have had their best-ever Premier League start performing up to their level best every matchday. The forwards have been clinical in scoring but their defence have been equally strong and resilient in stopping opponents.
Adam Webster, Lewis Dunk and Dan Burn have all been extremely good but one man who has performed exceptionally well is their own once forgotten man, Shane Duffy. Shane Duffy was loaned to Celtic last season after some underwhelming performances coming from the Irishman’ part, since losing White, Duffy was called back and has settled himself in Brighton’s defence. This is has been sort of a redemption season for a lot of players and Shane Duffy does not evade the list.
We look at his stats from the league so far.
The 29-year-old has slotted himself in the heart of the back three in Potter’s 3-4-2-1 system. He has played mostly on the central area in the defensive third sometimes shifting towards the right. Duffy has spent most time near his penalty area – the red and orange areas in the above image shows that while also driving further up the pitch when needed to win balls back high to start fast counter-attacks and transitional attacks. He has spent a considerable amount of time near the centre-line as well covering a lot of ground, more dynamic than static.
Duffy has seen a lot of the ball while Brighton are in possession and has looked really comfortable on it. Averaging 71 touches and 57 passes per 90, he has completed a total of 405 passes with an accuracy of 86%. Most of his passes have been played near the defensive midfield, the majority of them being lateral passes. But he has also played a lot of passes in the left and right channels to free up the forward pushing wing-backs to attack. The Irish centre-back has launched dangerous long balls over the top often to find his forwards quite accurately with some passes with xT as high as 0.1120. His ball distribution has been one of the best parts of his game.
He has engaged in a total of 69 duels till now in the league winning 47 of them, 68%. Most of his successful duel battles have in his own penalty area and in the defensive third on the right side. Duffy has been engaged in a lot of duels in the opposition half as well, winning the ball high for his team using his physicality really well. In the opposite penalty area, he has mostly dealt with aerial duels scoring a goal as well.
At 6’4″ tall, Duffy has engaged in the most number of aerial duels in the league. Using his height extremely well he has won the most duels in the air(42) which equals a high 71% success rate. He has also scored a goal in this process.
The above stats show the number of aerial duels Brighton had to deal with against Brentford, the team which plays the most long balls over the top. While others really struggled in this regard, Shane Duffy was the best performer in the team with six successful aerial duels while he was up against Ivan Toney, the forward with the most aerial duels success rate.
Shane Duffy has been a real powerhouse in the air defending long balls and has helped Brighton deal with these balls almost single-handedly.
Most of his interceptions have been inside the penalty area while other players were on the ball. He has swiftly dispossessed others without conceding any penalties while he has already committed eight fouls this season. Duffy has kept his head calm and tackles precisely during final challenges. He has intercepted quite a few passes in the opposition half as well to start fast counters.
Duffy has been the best in the air winning eight aerial duels on average per 90 ranking 84th percentile in the league. He has engaged in very few defensive duels ranking lower than the league median but he has come out on top successfully in the majority of the cases which is a plus point. He ranks 93rd percentile in the whole league in this metric.
A real threat in the opposition box and a reliable presence in his own, overall Shane Duffy has made a perfect comeback to the Premier League and exactly at the time the Seagulls needed him. If he can consistently perform like this at the back providing stability and cover, Brighton can really push harder for European competition spots.