A Rebuttal to the Simon Dawkins Critics
Recently an article has floated around all facets of social media that has lit up an argument over many things, including the relevance of stats in soccer, but more importantly, the worth of Simon Dawkins. Via Twitter, I have always voiced my disagreement with the anti-Dawkins crowd. The author of the previously mentioned article, Dan Burkhead, or better known as QuakesFan has offered for people to write a rebuttal if they disagree with his points. Since I respectfully disagree with his stance on Dawkins, I decided to take that on.
Simon Dawkins has spent many games sitting way out wide on the left in a 4-4-2. A player like Dawkins is best suited in an “inside forward/wing” role within a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Dawkins is not meant to play as a wide midfielder in a 4-4-2. That’s not the place that suits his abilities. Take a look at the three goals that Simon has scored. Each one came from a central position after cutting in from the outside. This move, is typical of “inside forwards”. In a traditional 4-4-2 – which if you haven’t noticed yet, is the bread and butter of Dom Kinnears’ squads- the left midfielder is supposed to be a two-way player that runs and works the channels out wide. Clearly, that is something that Simon Dawkins is not. Throw in the four appearances at central midfield (should be obvious that definitely doesn’t suit him) and you have nearly an entire season of Dawkins being played out of his pure, natural position. Stats don’t account for that though.
So if he’s being played out of position, what’s his best position. Dom Kinnear tends to take things tactically at a game by game approach. The base of his tactics stays the same though, the traditional 4-4-2. As I stated before, there is no room for Simon Dawkins as an “inside forward/wing” in that setup. His best position in Dom’s system may actually be as a center forward. Not your pure #9 striker, but as someone who runs off of them, off the shoulder of the backline, and even drifting wide and cutting back in to combine with another hold-up type striker (Wondo/Quincy) So if he were to play that every game, then you would have to start another left midfielder, and who is next in line on that side? Shea Salinas. I’ll let you take your pick of games as evidence against Shea being on the field regularly. But for now let’s use the game against Houston on Friday, since that should all be fresh in our minds. And for the sake of the argument, let’s use STATS. Shea Salinas had the second worst pass completion rate on the team, at only 69% of his passes having reached their target. He made no key passes, took one shot, made no pass interceptions, and was dispossessed twice, in just under seventy minutes on the field. So with the precious stats, is the alternative to Dawkins on the left any better?
In the article that I am issuing this rebuttal against, there was a table listing the multitude of attacking midfielders that are on DP Contracts. That table was used misused to show the lack of “numbers” that Dawkins has produced this season, in comparison to other more “fruitful” DP signings made across the league. I say misused because only two of those players are actually wide midfield players. Some of them (Gerrard) aren’t even being used as attacking midfielders. The only players on that list who should even be compared to Simon is Graham Zusi and Shkelzen Gashi. They are the only two who are regularly being used as WIDE-Attacking players. What those numbers were used to show you is that Simon Dawkins isn’t good enough to be a DP. If you take a closer look at it all, those numbers actually show that the Earthquakes aren’t utilizing Dawkins enough as a central figure of their offense.
While Simon Dawkins has the third best conversion rate of any of the players on the list, he has nearly the lowest amount of shots on goal. Why is that? A lot of it is due to the fact that only three wide players were put on this list. Of those three wide players, Simon Dawkins is the only one being asked to play a two-way midfielders’ role in a traditional 4-4-2. Shkelzen Gashi and Graham Zusi play left wing in a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formation, respectively. The rest are central attacking midfielders playing off two defensive mids and a hold-up style striker. The San Jose Earthquakes offense is not designed to run through Simon Dawkins. It’s designed to run through the strikers. But that table doesn’t take that into account. The table was labeled “Attacking DP Mids” which is a really broad blanket being tossed over thirteen players whose strengths and weakness are not at all similar. Neither are the systems they play in. Neither are their teammates. Speaking of teammates…
In the “anti-dawkins” article, Quintero was used as a side by side comparison to Dawkins. Frankly, Quintero’s numbers at their root are entirely similar to Dawkins, on the offensive side of things. Defensively they are better. Yes. That is a true statement. Another true statement is that Alberto Quintero’s style of play and overall game is that which is a direct fit into the wide midfielder’s role in a traditional 4-4-2! However, that doesn’t prove that Simon isn’t a DP. Their (Simon and Alberto) offensive production is a product of the system they play in. The defensive numbers are a product of their player type. Dawkins is not a two way player, Quintero is. Those things are true statements, not good or bad statements. Stating that Dawkins is not a two-way player is not a bad thing, it’s simply a fact. Is it his fault that Dom Kinnear’s system isn’t a direct fit? No. Do Simon’s slightly-worse-than-Alberto’s defensive numbers mean he is a DP Bust? Definitely not. While you lament his “measly” three goals, I remind you that without his game-tying and two game winning goals, the Earthquakes would be on 26 points, sitting underneath the Seattle Sounders.
The point I have tried to make throughout here, is that just by looking at numbers alone, you should not draw your conclusion. They don’t factor in the “being played out of position” or “being asked to do things not typical of your playing style” things that greatly affect how a player plays. Imagine if Diego Valeri was being used as a box-to-box mid. Would his numbers look like what they do now? Imagine Wondo as a Central Mid. Would his numbers look the same? The obvious answer is no. But those things would be out of their control right? So would it be fair to assess them as busts? Most certainly not. Statistics tell the story of how a player is performing in the given system that is being used. That’s about it. Other DP players are clearly in systems, and positions that benefit them. Clearly, Simon isn’t.
As I have made my points throughout this, they have all been based off the stats that were given in the original, “The Case Against Simon Dawkins” article. If you just looked at the numbers alone, the evidence would be quite damning against Simon. But stats alone don’t tell the whole story. As journalists, it is our job to tell the whole story. It is our job to paint the full picture for you, and let you come to the conclusion. It is easy to get caught up in numbers and ignore the simple question that should follow a shocking piece of information, and that question is, “why?.” It is our job as journalists to take a look at the “why.” Statistics alone will never tell you the “why.” The “why” when it comes to Simon Dawkins, is purely based on being played out of position, and in a role that doesn’t suit his player type. If the “why” was simply “he’s underperforming in a role that suits his player type”, then we can begin the “bust” conversation. What should be told, is the entire picture of “why”. That picture includes the fact he’s in the formation and system. That picture includes the fact that even if they could play him in his best position, they don’t have another player who can fill in admirably at the current position he occupies. That picture certainly shouldn’t include comparisons with players who aren’t even played in the same system or position. You can mold, and cover up parts of the picture to make it look like something it isn’t. But that is a complete injustice to Dawkins, and an injustice to readers as well. Let’s not jump to conclusions based on numbers alone. Instead, let’s ask why those numbers are what they are.