Top Five Newcastle United Players of 14/15

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Having looked at the top five individual player performances earlier this week, today we’re going to examine the players that garnered the highest average ratings. Most of these ratings might seem a little on the low side, but remember that we operate with a baseline rating of 5.50, so high ratings are quite rare, for example only 11 out of 41 rated games had any scores over 8.00 (down from 16 last season). Of course things also got a little bit dire from December through to the final day, which will naturally dampen ratings of players involved in those games.

Note: Minutes played don’t include injury time, and we use our own definition of what constitutes an assist. Rather than just the last team-mate to touch the ball other than the goalscorer, we also give credit where a player clearly created the opportunity, even if the opposition touched the ball, which is more in line with FIFA’s 1986 criteria.

#5 Daryl Janmaat – 5.53

Average Rating: 5.53 (σ 1.33)
Best Rating: 8.52
Worst Rating: 2.34
Man of the Match: 2 – West Brom (a), Liverpool (a)
Mug of the Match: 1 – Crystal Palace (a) (League Cup)
Playing Time: 40 starts, ~3452 mins
Goals: 1 –
Assists: 8 –

Opening up our top five with a depressingly low average rating of 5.53 – just 0.03 over what is meant to be our measuring stick for an all-round average performance – is the almost ever reliable right-back Daryl Janmaat. Having missed just three games all season, two cup ties and one (West Brom at home) through suspension, The Dutchman is the man with the most starts and the most minutes in a Newcastle shirt all season, which makes his placing in this list at all an impressive feat.

After an impressive first two of games, Janmaat followed the rest of the team into a slump for a month or so, before finding his feet in October and early November, putting together a string of high ratings against Manchester City in the cup (7.50), Liverpool (7.41), and West Brom (8.52). The Baggies match would prove to be his highest rating of the season, placing in the top five for the team, and was perhaps the most blatant sign that we had a player on our hands.

Good form would continue, although not quite hitting those highs, through to the new year as he racked up five assists over a two month period, cementing himself as perhaps our most potent creative force, while still generally excelling in his defensive duties.

Through the rest of the season Janmaat would continue to put in at least respectable performances amidst myriad misery, succumbing to sub-4.0 ratings only four times despite playing in a leaky defence and a side sliding towards relegation. The lowest low would, of course, come in this period, as an otherwise okay performance away at Leicester was ruined by a needless second yellow card in injury time, ruling him out of a key game the next week with our survival hanging in the balance.

Highest rated performance: 8.52 in 2-0 vs West Brom (a)

#4 Jonás Gutiérrez – 5.65

Average Rating: 5.65 (σ 1.65)
Best Rating: 9.63
Worst Rating: 4.06
Man of the Match: 3 – Everton (a), Sunderland (a), West Ham (h)
Mug of the Match: None
Playing Time: 6 starts, 4 subs, ~638 mins
Goals: 1 –
Assists: 1 –

Next up is El Galgo, who made an emotional return after winning his battle against cancer to inject a bit of fight and heart back into this dishevelled side for the final eleven games. He made his return as a sub when we hosted Manchester United in March, with Carver claiming his selection was anything but sentimental. While he was understandable a touch rusty, Jonás was like a man reborn and made an instant impact on the side, making a number of good tackles and showing glimpses of the old Gutiérrez that could ghost past defenders at will to earn a 6.20.

This was followed by another sub appearance, this time into a ten man side two goals down at Goodison Park, minutes after his amigo Colo decided to get sent off. Jonás’ introduction would spark our only period of positive play in this one, earning him the man of the match award and a 5.94. For the third game in a row, Gutierrez would be an impactful substitute in the next run out (6.13), this time against Arsenal as we chased the game, but never quite caught it.

Jonás would be handed his first start of the season against Sunderland, and again would try his best to drag the team to victory, earning another man of the match award, but unfortunately the dross around him couldn’t muster the same fight.

His form would drop for the next few games, picking up again against West Brom at home with an impressive 6.39 performance at left-back, which was effectively his old position when José Enrique was constantly overlapping him years ago.

Gutiérrez wrapped up his fairytale season with an incredible 9.63 rated performance on the last day of the season, assisting one and scoring the other in the 2-1 win that put survival beyond all doubt. Unsurprisingly, this one made our top five player performances of 2015.

Highest rated performance: 9.63 in 2-1 vs West Ham (h)

#3 Mehdi Abeid – 5.96

Average Rating: 5.96 (σ 1.51)
Best Rating: 8.28
Worst Rating: 3.73
Man of the Match: 2 – Liverpool (h), Burnley (a)
Mug of the Match: None
Playing Time: 10 starts, 6 subs, ~943 mins
Goals: None
Assists: None

After rejuvenating his young career thanks to a successful year loan to Panathinaikos, Mehdi Abeid looked set for his breakthrough season in black and white. His first two appearances came in the League Cup, a respectable 5.95 against Palace and an incredible 8.11 against none other than Manchester City, earned praise such as:

“He was brilliant. Bossed the midfield and had Yaya Toure in his back pocket… We need to see more of him in the first team.”

He was thrown into back-to-back starts in the league during what was our most impressive period of the season, immediately making an impact and continuing to impress, putting up scores of 8.28 against Liverpool, and 7.39 at West Brom, however this would be halted by a broken toe on international duty with Algeria. Abeid would return a month later against Burnley, and again put in a good performance, but as is so often the case at Newcastle, injury struck again and ruled him out for up to two months.

Come February Coach Carver was in “control” and our collapse was well and truly under way. A succession of short substitute appearances would follow, then a full half while already 3-0 down against Man City (the game would end 5-0), and a couple of full games against Villa (5.77) and the other Manchester (3.73). Following this the French-Algerian fell to injury for the third time.

Another month out and then thrown straight back into starting action in a side without fight, Abeid would muster above average performances, in context of the rest of the team, for the next three games, before being dropped.

It was a promising yet frustrating season for the Frenchman and his fans, and now it unfortunately looks like Abeid is set for sale.

Highest rated performance: 8.28 in 1-0 vs Liverpool (h)

#2 Ayoze Pérez – 6.05

Average Rating: 6.05 (σ 1.09)
Best Rating: 8.18
Worst Rating: 3.88
Man of the Match: 9 – Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Arsenal (a), Sunderland (h), Man Utd (a), Everton (h), Burnley (h), Tottenham (h), QPR (a)
Mug of the Match: 0
Playing Time: 26 starts, 13 subs, ~2523 mins
Goals: 7 –
Assists: None
Cards: None

Perhaps the Carr gem that will shine brightest, our Spanish sensation started the season with little expected of him in the short-term, but quickly demonstrated what a player he was. In many ways a clear choice for player of the season, Ayoze amassed an amazing and record setting nine TFI man of the match awards, almost double that of any other player.

Pérez was initially used as an impact sub, and succeeded at just that from the very start; although only coming onto the pitch with seven minutes to go against Man City, he took the game to them and announced himself with a storming 6.42.

It would be another two months as a sub before Spaniard was granted his full league debut away against Spurs, where he would score the winner in a 2-1 smash and grab, earning his first 7.00+ rating of many. He would also score goals and above 7.00 in his next two games, a 1-0 against Liverpool (7.79) and 2-0 at West Brom (7.93), cementing his place as a starter in the squad.

The impressive form, including an 8.18 against Everton, would continue through to the new year, at which point Carver took over, the supply dried up, and Pérez reportedly began to burn out. His tireless running would continue to earn respectable scores around the 6.00 mark for January, then they would mostly drop to the low average range of 5.00-5.50 as he was meant to be rested, but kept getting thrown onto the pitch in a last ditch effort to earn some points. Things would pick up again in April, and Ayoze found the net twice more, once against Swansea and the other against West Brom.

Pérez has quickly made himself a fan favourite thanks to his work rate, direct running, trickery, and the ability to conjure goals out of nowhere (a handy trait with our lack of creativity), not to mention his modest and grounded personality and online presence. If only he’d not been thrown into losing games while in need of rest a couple too many times he’d have taken the #1 spot…

Highest rated performance: 8.18 in 3-2 vs Everton (h)

#1 Steven Taylor – 6.08

Average Rating: 6.08 (σ 0.79)
Best Rating: 7.35
Worst Rating: 4.25
Man of the Match: None
Mug of the Match: None
Playing Time: 9 starts, 3 subs, ~884 mins
Goals: 1 –
Assists: None

This one was a surprise to me, but man of glass Steven Taylor ranks in first place on this list. It is testament to Taylor’s tendency to cycle between periods of amazing or atrocious performances that last season he ranked second worst with an average rating of 4.76 over a similar number of minutes (~749).

After a season of injury, idiocy, and losing his place to Iron Mike, Taylor found himself part of the League Cup side. Following a couple of decent performances and an injury to Williamson, Taylor took his chance to shine against Leicester, earning a 6.37 and a couple more matches in the side against Tottenham (6.25) and Liverpool (7.35).

Presumably a short-term injury or sudden loss of fitness occurred and Taylor disappeared for a couple of matches, with Dummett filling in in the middle, and then returned as a sub against West Ham (5.71). In the next game Williamson started but wasn’t 100% and was replaced at half-time by Taylor, who again impressed (6.33). He would also play the full game, and well, against Chelsea, earning a 6.24 in a sterling defensive performance against what was an undefeated team, until that day. However the occasion was marred somewhat after things got a bit heated and a wild challenge earned the centre-back a second yellow.

He returned for the derby, and in typical fashion gave his all, earned a 6.59, and flung himself face first into the post, requiring stitches. His worst game of the season, a 4.25 against Man Utd, would follow on Boxing Day, and then he’d celebrate the departure of Pardew on New Year’s Day by scoring a goal and rupturing his Achilles against Burnley, ruling him out for most of 2015.

It feels weird to say, but Steven Taylor was our most consistently and highly rated player, and in fact the only player with a standard deviation of below 1.00. Hopefully he can re-find this form and keep his fitness for a season, we’re probably going to need it…

Highest rated performance: 7.35 in 1-0 vs Liverpool (h)

#0 Rolando Aarons – 6.17

Average Rating: 6.17 (σ 2.26)
Best Rating: 8.07
Worst Rating: 2.50
Man of the Match: 1 – Crystal Palace (h)
Mug of the Match: None
Playing Time: 2 starts, 4 subs, ~236 mins
Goals: 2 –
Assists: 1 –

One of our criteria for this list was that the player must have played at least the equivalent of five full matches, which unfortunately ruled Rolando Aarons out of the running, but I cannot just ignore his performances so I’m cheating and he’s getting rank #0.

Similar to Pérez, Aarons was brought on as part of an injection of youth, pace, and directness towards the end of the opening game, and while he didn’t steal the show as much as the Spaniard, he still announced himself with a respectable 5.70.

Towards the end of August, Aarons would get an hour against Gillingham in an unrated game, and then would come on with 24 minutes to go against Palace and drag us back into the game by conjuring up a goal and by some miracle assisting a Williamson goal, earning an 8.07 rating and man of the match.

Injury and fitness concerns would see Aarons sidelined until October, when Pardew gambled on his fitness against Man City in the cup. Rolando got a goal within 6 minutes, but was to be taken off at half-time (7.86), although just three days later he played very well for more than an hour in a 1-0 win over Liverpool (6.71) following an Obertan injury early on.

Repeated injury and fitness issues would rule out Aarons for most of the season from that point, his only other appearance a half hour sub against QPR in the second last match, which was his worst (2.50) as he was criticised for being unfit at a point where the fans had lost all hope in the team so 1s and 2s were flying everywhere.

Aarons has been involved in pre-season and already has McClaren singing his praises in the media, so hopefully he can get more first-team football this year, and maybe not thrown into matches when he isn’t 100% fit.

Highest rated performance: 8.07 in 3-3 vs Crystal Palace (h)

Do you agree with this list, or is there something we missed? Have your say in our discussion thread.

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