After a month without a manager, it’s been a busy week at Charlton with three players joining the club. On social media Charlton have emphasised how the signings fit in with Garner’s attacking philosophy. O’Connell has been described as a “ball-playing centre back”, Egbo, an “attacking right back”, while goalkeeper Wollacott is “excellent on the ball”. Admittedly, there is a tendency at all football clubs to get caught up in the excitement around a certain playing style, only for the reality to be underwhelming when the season actually starts. So, are the signings the real deal, or are Charlton guilty of social media hype? Hopefully, by looking at the stats we can get a clearer picture. With this in mind, the first article in this series will focus on the first signing, Eoghan O’Connell.
Eoghan O’Connell, Who is he?
On 20th June, ex-Ireland U21 international Eoghan O’Connell signed for the Addicks on three-year deal following the expiry of his Rochdale contract. The 26-year-old has decent pedigree, having come through the academy system at Celtic, and has played two thirds of his 184 league games at League One level.
Who does he replace?
Statistically, he appears to be an upgrade on Charlton’s “ball-playing defender” last season, Akin Famewo. Famewo attempted more short passes and long balls than any other Charlton defender but was let down by his pass accuracy (66%), his bad touches (0.9 per game), and his dispossessions (0.5 per game). O’Connell, by comparison, was able to spray passes around the pitch with significantly more success. His average passes per game were significantly higher than any Charlton player at 59.1, and his long balls were the highest of any defender at 5.4. In addition to this, his accuracy was slightly higher at 77.5%, compared to a 74% average amongst the rest of the Charlton defence.
Defensively, O’Connell was decent but not exceptional. In the air, his 6ft 2 frame was an asset, as shown by his 3.9 aerial duels won per game, higher than Clare, Famewo, and even Inniss. However, Pearce and Lavelle were stronger on this, suggesting that Lavelle and O’Connell could make a strong partnership. However, if anything could be described as a weakness in his game then it would be his tackling and interceptions, last season he was weaker than Famewo and Clare in this regard, averaging 1.2 and 1 per game respectively.
Amusingly, O’Connell took more shots (45) than Leko, Blackett-Taylor, Burstow, Davison, and Aneke last season. He clearly feels confident going forward which isn’t a bad thing, however having scored just once last season, his accuracy isn’t the best.
On paper, he appears to be the sort of ball-playing defender that Garner favours, and fairly average defensively. What stands out is the volume and accuracy of his passes, particularly when taken in the context that Rochdale were a mid-table League Two side. Naturally, this enthusiasm needs to be tempered with the fact that he was playing League Two football last year, but there’s nothing to suggest he can’t step up again.