Is taking on Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand good business for Southampton?
Moving onto loan spell number seven, Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand is fast challenging Andros Towsend as owner of the title of most travelled man in the Premier League.
The 24-year-old left-back is two loan spells behind Townsend’s nine, with the latest addition to an ever lengthening CV taking him to the south coast with Southampton.
Bertrand has signed a season-long loan deal at St Mary’s, having reportedly been priced out of a move to Liverpool. At 24, it is a big season for Bertrand, who has yet to show any more than brief glimpses of the potential that persuaded Chelsea to poach him from Gillingham in 2006.
Bertrand’s Chelsea career has by no means been an absolute failure. He has got closer to the side than the likes of Tom Taiwo and Michael Woods – signed from Leeds at the same time as Bertrand’s move from Kent – and has a Champions League medal to his name.
However, if he is to make an impression upon a Premier League first team, rather than drifting into oblivion, then now is the time.
Chelsea’s practise of stockpiling players has great benefits for the club – just look at the fee paid for Romelu Lukaku by Everton – but comes with the inevitable danger of a player getting lost in the system at Stamford Bridge. Bertrand has been one of those. Not rated by Mourinho and rarely playing in the first team, but kept around just in case he develops into a more sellable asset.
The move to Southampton helps Saints claw back some of the squad positions left open by the exodus from St Mary’s this summer and sees him move to Ronald Koeman’s side as a direct replacement for Luke Shaw.
Based upon his last spell – at Aston Villa last year – this may prove a tough task. While Shaw was impressing as part of a Saints side firmly in the race for European spots, Bertrand was thrust into a Villa side looking nervously over their shoulder at a relegation battle.
The stats reflect the disparities between the two sides, with Bertrand having created fewer chances, making fewer interceptions and winning fewer tackles than the man he is replacing. Even while at Chelsea the season before, he performed fewer tackles and created less than Shaw.
It’s to be expected that a season-long loan signing may not have the same impact as a man just sold for £30 million, but Bertrand will be optimistic of fitting in well at Southampton. He is an attacking full-back, but rarely got the chance to show it at Villa.
Against his new side last season, Bertrand put in three crosses and got forward as best as he could. His heatmap from that game shows his attacking intent, while Shaw’s shows the demands made upon Southampton’s full-backs to provide width.
Only Marc Albrighton put in more crosses for Villa in that game than Bertrand, although the Chelsea loanee only created four chances in his 16 Villa games. However while this figure is low, some of that can be put down to Villa’s poor form. No Villa defender created more than Bertrand during that period, as Villa lost ten of the 16 games played in by Bertrand.
It only seems fair, therefore, to compare Bertrand to his teammates at the time rather than to Shaw, whose stats will inevitably be better given the form of Villa.
Comparing Bertrand with Antonio Luna at Villa and Ashley Cole at Chelsea, his competitors at left-back for the past two years, shows his attacking nature and suggests some defensive weakness.
Bertrand created more chances per 90 minutes than Cole during the 2012/13 season and while his creation for Villa is lower than Luna’s, it is closer in comparison to his teammate – an ocassional midfield starter – than it is to Shaw’s.
His Squawka attack score was also higher than Cole’s during the Rafa Benitez era at Chelsea, although again, Luna edges him for Villa.
The signing of Bertrand was never likely to be an upgrade on Shaw. However, it does give the two-cap England man a chance to finally impress in the Premier League over a full season, for a team that should avoid the loss record of the Villa side at the end of last season.
Bertrand’s attacking stats offer some hope going forward, although defensively he still has a lot to prove based upon his brief Premier League career to date.