Dundee United will welcome back one of their most influential performers when Jamie McGrath returns to the squad to face Hibernian on Saturday.
As reported by Courier Sport this week, the on-loan Ireland international has shaken off a calf complaint and resumed full training on Tuesday morning.
Should he —as expected — take his place in the United line-up at Easter Road, it would be his first appearance since the Premiership restarted in the aftermath of the World Cup.
McGrath has scored two goals and notched three assists in 19 outings since his January arrival from Wigan Athletic, while his industry and inspiration in the final third is unmistakable.
However, a deeper delve into McGrath’s numbers this season underline just how much of a standout he has been.
Even in an often struggling Tangerines side, his efforts are comparable with the best the top-flight has to offer.
— Fantasy Football Scotland 🏴 (@FantasyScotland) October 10, 2022
All statistics are provided by StatsBomb.
Eye for a Pass
The former Dundalk man has been deployed as one of two advanced midfielders in United’s box-shape engine room — usually Dylan Levitt and Craig Sibbald providing the platform for McGrath and Glenn Middleton to effect the game higher up the pitch.
It is a role which requires an intelligent appreciation of space and an ability to collect possession and play a killer pass.
McGrath excels here.
He averages 1.91 key passes per 90 minutes, far exceeding his closest challengers in the United squad, Glenn Middleton (1.13) and Dylan Levitt (1.03).
Of the players he will line up against on Saturday, only Joe Newell’s fine tally of 2.06 betters McGrath.
The scatter chart below combines McGrath’s key passes with his ‘deep completion’ — defined as successful passes within 20 yards of the opposition goal, so a worthwhile metric to consider — rate of 0.66 per 90 minutes.
McGrath also averages 2.27 passes into the box per match, albeit those numbers are slightly massaged by the fact he often takes United set pieces.
Again, that is the most of ANY player on the books at Tannadice.
As well as possessing an eye for a pass, McGrath can also move between the lines with the ball at his feet.
He averages 1.39 successful dribbles per 90, the most of any Terrors player and only trailing Elie Youan — a far more traditional winger — when comparing with Saturday’s foes.
Combined with winning an average of 2.71 fouls per game, a picture is painted of an attacking threat who, at best, can surge forward and create range and, at worst, is likely to get the team up the park and win territory.
As shown below, McGrath’s numbers not only compare favourably with United and Hibs players, but to his Premiership peers.
The below graph is adjusted to analyse all midfielders and wingers in the league.
McGrath’s role requires plenty of defensive diligence.
His pressure and counter-pressure stats — basically measurements of pressing — are among the best at the club, while McGrath makes 1.76 tackles per match, on average.
Only Craig Sibbald (2.69) snaps into more challenges.
And he is destined to be pivotal in the club’s fight for survival.