Gareth McAuley Northern Ireland

As we trundle toward the famous ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ there are a number of players whose futures are yet to be announced. One such player is Northern Ireland’s own Gareth McAuley. This year sees the introduction of an earlier transfer window close date in the English football league structure – 9th August – while the remainder of Europe largely remains as 31st August.

Gareth McAuley’s 2017-18 club season was disappointing for a number of reasons. Of course, there is the fact that West Brom were relegated, but also that McAuley himself only managed to feature in nine games. The fact that The Baggies had four head coaches across the season was undoubtedly a factor in this. McAuley’s continuing good form internationally also led to further confusion over his lack of appearances.

Aged 38, some questioned whether McAuley would indeed continue in the professional game. By June, however, he had confirmed his commitment to playing on while hinting that it may not be with West Brom. Indeed, following the conclusion of his contract, McAuley was released by the Midlands club.

The ‘Evergreen’ Gareth McAuley

I have no shame in admitting to romanticising this ever so slightly but, like a fine wine, Gareth McAuley has only improved with age. Off the back of Euro 2016, he enjoyed his highest scoring club season to date in 2016-17. His recent performances for Northern Ireland indicate no drop in his performances. McAuley has certainly come a long way since his time with Linfield and Crusaders.

How does McAuley compare?

Using the Squawka Player Comparison tool, I have looked across the English Premiership’s best performer for each club for the 2017-18 season and taken an average across several metrics. To compare with McAuley, it wouldn’t be fair to base this across his bit part performances in the season most recently gone by, therefore I have taken the stats from the season before (2016-17) to get the best comparison across a reasonable number of games.

Gareth McAuley made an impressive 36 appearances across the season in question, averaging just over 87 minutes per appearance. He outperformed the league average across most defensive actions, surprisingly enough falling behind in the Aerial Duels Won measurement. While he did make a total of two errors leading to goals against this was more than made up by his total of six goals scored.

Games/Minutes Played: McAuley – 36/3140, League Average – 33/2728

Interceptions (per 90 mins): McAuley – 2.04, League Average – 1.62

Blocked Shots (per 90 mins): McAuley – 0.89, League Average – 0.70

Clearances (per 90 mins): McAuley – 6.76, League Average – 5.97

Aerial Duels Won (per 90 mins): McAuley – 3.15, League Average – 3.26

Tackles Won (per 90 mins): McAuley – 1.06, League Average – 1.03

Fouls Committed (per 90 mins): McAuley – 0.77, League Average – 0.71

Yellow Cards/Red Cards: McAuley – 5/0, League Average – 4.2/0.1

Errors Leading to a Goal: McAuley – 2, League Average – 0.5

Goals Scored: McAuley – 6, League Average – 1.6

Note: Some may argue that it is not entirely representative to use a previous season’s statistics for Gareth McAuley. I do not feel that this should detract from the point being made. When using a most recent full season of statistics it shows the value signing McAuley could have.

McAuley’s Next Move…

I have no doubt that McAuley could still perform at a club in the lower end of the Premier League. The potential suitors suggested so far have been outside of the money trap that is the English football system’s pinnacle.

Aston Villa were rumoured to be looking for a replacement for last season’s captain John Terry. So far, they have not made moves for a central defender. Should the sale of Jack Grealish happen they would reportedly have substantial funds to make moves for someone longer term.

Glasgow Rangers were another reported party with new manager Steven Gerrard apparently keen on Gareth McAuley’s experience. However, having already strengthened their defence with Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic and Jon Flanagan it is looking ever more doubtful that the Scottish club would move for McAuley.

The rumours appear to have slowed. Being a free agent, though, Gareth McAuley’s move is not strictly ruled by the upcoming transfer deadlines. Available without any up-front transfer fee he would surely represent great value for any club that sees a gap in their squad. A player who is dominant in both boxes, comfortable with the ball at his feet and with plenty of club and international experience is not something that comes along free too often.

The players used for statistical comparison were:

Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), James Tomkins (Crystal Palace), Michael Keane (Everton), Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield Town), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Virgin van Dijk (Liverpool), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle United), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Kurt Zouma (Stoke City), Alfie Mawson (Swansea City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Kiko Femenia (Watford), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham).