OK, before I start receiving hate mail and threats, let me make my points very clear; I rate Sam Byram, I really do. As a right back, he’s definitely Premier League quality and Leeds United can think themselves lucky that he’s at Elland Road to start the 2015/16 Championship campaign. As Premier League suitors queued up, Leeds’ resolve stood firm and Byram remained a White.
He proved last season that he could do a job, and do it well, as a right-sided midfielder. It wasn’t a case of him ‘filling in’ and ‘doing a job’, he showed skill and poise in that roll. He has an innate ability to get forward and a willingness to beat players. If you factor in his defensive qualities, then you also have a midfielder who tracks back and tackles well. However, does he cut it as a winger, an out-and-out wide player.
Sam Byram – a season in numbers
The categories, below, show Byram’s returns in areas where you’d expect a wide player to excel. However, just how does Byram measure up when looking at returns over an expected and typical 90 minutes?
- 1.3 dribbles – 0.6 successful; 0.7 unsuccessful
- 1.9 cross attempts – 0.4 on-target; 1.5 off-target
- 1.1 shot assist passes
- 0.7 shots at goal – 0.2 out of area; 0.1 inside area; 0.5 inside penalty area
- 3 losses of possession
However, numbers only illustrate aspects of a player’s game but football is more than just numbers and figures, much more. Byram has played well in the advanced role, I’m just worried that he’s not a natural there. His crossing accuracy (21%) doesn’t really mark him out as an accurate provider of quality ball and his dribbling success (46%) doesn’t indicate that he can take on and best players regularly or at a high enough volume.
However, saying that, Sam Byram will have more opportunities to run at players in the more advanced position he’ll be playing for Leeds this year. Then there’s his ability to create goals, he only laid on one assist during his almost ever-present 201415 Championship campaign.
In the recent friendly against Everton, Sam Byram played well, without setting the game alight. Yes he set up Alex Mowatt’s opener in the 2-0 victory against the Toffees, but that was more tiki-taka-toe-poke then genuine wide player play. Yes he’s not afraid to run at players, but is that enough? When he ran at Everton’s defence, they tended to come at him and attempt to tackle him. When Mirco Antenucci came on and ran at defenders, they tended to back off.
Look, Sam Byram is a class player, he really is. He plays consistently in the white shirt of Leeds United, I just don’t think that he’ll be as effective as a wing as a right midfielder…let alone a right back. If Leeds do continue to play the 4-3-3 with emphasis on genuine pace and natural width, will Leeds be looking to add a more natural player on the wide right to complement new signing Stuart Dallas on the other wing?