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Ali Adnan vs Cristián Gutiérrez (Ft. Jake Nerwinski)

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MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

I promise this is the last one of these. There isn’t going to be a goalkeepers chart article. But the fullback position is one of particular interest to Vancouver Whitecaps fans because they are the only team in the league with a DP fullback. There have been a lot of questions thrown around on social media about how useful Ali Adnan is and if his spot should be taken by Canadian Cristian Gutiérrez.

On the other side of the pitch the Whitecaps have only one right back, which is obviously insufficient, but is Jake Nerwinski up to the standard that’s required or should he be supplanted?

Plus the Whitecaps are apparently in the market for fullbacks so I think it makes sense to take stock of what they have.

Overview of Stats Used:

xG+xA: fullbacks don’t usually generate a huge amount of xG so I decided it was best to combine them. Ali Adnan being off the charts with he 0.03 xG per 96 didn’t really make sense to me.

Tackles and Tackle Success: Measure how many tackles a player makes in a game and the percentage of the tackles they attempt that they are successful in respectively.

Interceptions: Seems self explanatory

Aerial Success: The percentage of aerial duels a player wins

Dribbles and Dribble Success: the number of dribbles a player completes on average in a match and the percentage of dribbles they attempt that are successful respectively

Pass Score and Verticality: These passing stats are back. They measure the number of passes above expected a player completes based on ASA’s model and the average distance forwards their passes travel.

Involvement: The percentage of a team’s overall touches the player has. Gives you an idea of how influential they are on the play.

G+: ASA Explainer

Ali Adnan:

“Is Ali Adnan worth a DP slot?” The greatest thread in the history of forums, locked by a moderator after 12,239 pages of heated debate. Adnan is a beast in the air, a dangerous dribbler, and one of Vancouver’s leaders in G+. But, man, those tackling stats are not great are they? Is he worth a DP slot? Maybe in a system that used wing backs but that doesn’t really fit with the rest of the players the team has. Adnan serves as a warning for future Whitecaps DP recruitment efforts, it’s not enough to just go out and get a good player, you have to also figure out how he will fit in, how to maximize his strengths, and minimize his weaknesses.

Cristián Gutiérrez:

Replacing Adnan with Gutiérrez comes with trade offs. Gutiérrez is a more eager tackler (though he isn’t necessarily that successful all the time) and makes more interceptions but he is hot garbage in aerial duels. That is something that will have to be considered and compensated for tactically, if you are planning to hand Gutiérrez the reigns long term. In the short term I would say that overall Gutiérrez is the weaker player, though not to the degree their differences in salary and prestige would suggest. Looking at things in the long term you have to ask if what you lose by slotting Gutiérrez in for Adnan is offset by using that DP slot elsewhere on the field. As long as they get their recruitment right I think the answer is yes but this is the Whitecaps we’re talking about here.

Jake Nerwinski:

I would say that the player above is definitely an MLS player but I am equally as certain that they should not be an MLS starter. In almost every stat Nerwinski comes in just below the average, except in his dribbling which is quite good. I think looking for a fullback to play on the right makes sense. In particular if they are going to play with a super attacking left back then I think it makes sense to use a more defensive shutdown fullback on the other side to compensate. As for Nerwinski, he is fine as a backup but it might make sense to explore trade options for him if there is interest.