The Positions Of Ireland's Fullbacks In Bulgaria Proved Their Value In Attack

The Positions Of Ireland's Fullbacks In Bulgaria Proved Their Value In Attack

The Stephen Kenny era is underway and you could already see some major changes to the Ireland's style of play during his first game in charge.

Ireland played some lovely football at times, passing the ball in a manner we have rarely seen from our international side. A bit more cutting edge will be needed going forward, but it is clear that this performance was a step in the right direction.

It was almost unnerving to see Darren Randolph playing consistently with the ball at his feet, as opposed to waving away his defenders and pumping the ball forward. The same could be said of Shane Duffy and John Egan carrying the ball into midfield. All were welcome developments.

If Ireland are to become a more attacking team, it's clear that the fullbacks will play a major part.

The first step in this was the decision to select Matt Doherty ahead of Seamus Coleman at right back. While it was clear that the Spurs man did not enjoy his strongest performance, he will play a key part going forward.

Looking at the average positions of the Doherty and Enda Stevens last night, it's clear they have advanced further up the pitch under Kenny.


The possession value added (PVA) metrics also speaks volumes.

For those unfamiliar with the stat, it essentially measures the value a player added to their team while they were in possession of the ball. Things like successful passes and goals add value, while misplaced passes or losing position can subtract value.

It is telling that Enda Stevens topped this stat in the Ireland team, while Matt Doherty also had a major positive contribution. When you consider that neither player was at their best, you start to understand just how much each player can impact this team going forward.

While the average positions of both fullbacks was already very high, the goal for Sunday's game against Finland will be to get touches even further up the pitch.

Neither Stevens nor Doherty got in behind the opposition defence with much regularity, something they both excel at at club level.

This is definitely something to keep an eye on over the coming months.

Gary Connaughton

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