Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
There were a lot of questions arising from the Luton match, many of them unpalatable ones. I’m not one to leap to harsh judgement as I think a more considered view is more realistic. Our recent performances have been good, and everyone’s allowed the odd aberration. However, the way we relinquished the FA Trophy was abysmal.
The main question I asked myself, as I walked back to the train station and wondered why on earth I put myself through all that, was whether Dave Artell is really a lot more important to the team than perhaps we realised.
That’s not to diminish his value to the team. Clearly he’s a genuine leader of the side and a cornerstone of our improving back four. The absence of promise from Saturday’s performance, which let’s remember was achieved against a Luton side which was composed of reserve and youth players, made me wonder if Artell’s loss had taken something crucial out of the side.
The thing is, you could hardly say that we weakened the side by the mere act of allowing Artell to recover from a knock. After all, his replacement was one of the few players who could be pleased with his effort in the match. Leon Clowes was drafted back into the side for only his second start since October and was the unanimous choice for Wrexham’s man of the match down our end of the press box.
Clowes’ performance meant Artell’s defensive work wasn’t particularly missed. Perhaps it was his heart which was our greatest loss. From the start of his loan spell at The Racecourse last season, it was clear that here was a proper senior professional. It was obvious that he looked to take responsibility onto his broad shoulders, going so far as to referee the game as far as he could! He’d constantly be in the officials’ ears, looking to put pressure on them and get some decisions to go our way (not that the officiating this season suggests his efforts have been particularly successful!)
The defensive statistics suggest that Artell is massively important to our back four. If you judge our defenders by the goals we concede per minute while each of them is playing in the back four, then Artell is our most effective defender apart from Kyle Parle, whose statistics are corrupted by the fact that he’s only spent seventy two minutes on the pitch.
Perhaps just as revealing is how well the team fares when he’s absent. A comparison of our league results tells us that we’ve won fifty per cent of the games he’s played in, but just fourteen percent of the matches he missed! The disparity in the loss percentages are also striking. We’ve lost thirty eight per cent of the league games Artell has played in, and fifty seven percent of those he did not.
There were plenty of factors that contributed to Saturday’s horror show, but clearly Artell’s value, both as a centre back and a leader of men, shouldn’t be underestimated.