Where do you begin with John McGinn?
Written by: Jamie Kilday
John McGinn finished his first full season in the Scottish Premiership for 2 years on something of a high, which has led to increased speculation as to where the 23-year-old will be playing his football next season.
With only a year left on his contract and no sign of him signing an extension, it’s unlikely that McGinn will add to his 100 league appearances for Hibernian as they look to cash in on their asset.
So if McGinn goes, what are Hibs potentially losing?
McGinn’s primary position for Hibs has been as a central defensive midfielder but he is far from a holding midfielder, his playmaking is one of the biggest assets in his game. He completed 2.18 Key Passes per 90 which was one of the highest in the league putting him right amongst two of the league’s best-attacking players this year Rogic and Candeias who play in much more advanced positions.
His xA (Expected Assists) is also impressive with an average of 0.23 per 90 putting him in the top 20 players.
Combining this two metrics to create xA/KP (Expected Assist per Key Pass) you can get an average quality of the chances he is creating. This is where McGinn is slightly below average. The average of players who have a rate of at least 1 key pass per game is 0.123, he scores 0.105. In layman’s terms, for every 10 key passes, you would expect him to set up a goal. Below average, yes, but still impressive for a defensive midfielder.
These sort of stats are not typical for a player playing as deep as McGinn does but his impressive stamina means he can cover a lot of the pitch. Here we can see the position of all McGinn’s league passes & shots from open play.
So is he the man to replace Scott Brown at Celtic?
There has been more than enough speculation around this and it’s fair to say the reaction has been divided. Some see him as a natural successor to Brown whilst others simply think he isn’t good enough.
The stats here show a comparison between McGinn and Brown, but also for a larger context I’ve included their respective midfield partners in McGeouch and Ntcham as well as another young central defensive midfielder who is entering the final year of his contract, Glen Kamara.
One thing that strikes me is that there is no real similarity in McGinn and Brown's stats.
Ostensibly McGinn appears to be ‘better’ offensively than Brown, but when you look at Ntcham’s stats you get more of an idea as to why Browns attacking contribution is low.
Frankly, Brown and McGinn both do different jobs for their sides and the current aspects of McGinn's game that stand out are already covered by Ntcham, who is able to put up decent attacking statistics due to the defensive work that is done by Brown.
I have included passing statistics and lost balls but this is not to highlight that McGinn is a poor passer. His passing percentage would normally be considered a red flag, and losing the ball an average of 8 times a game is not exactly conducive to Celtic’s high possession game but this is more indicative of McGinn's ambition on the ball.
McGinn actually ranks tenth in the league for attacking & key passes per 90 and attempts 10 passes into the oppositions 18-yard box per 90 minutes. These are passes that you would not expect to have a high success rate.
Compared to McGeouch, who does play a deeper role to McGinn, you can see that their roles are also similarly defined to that of Brown & Ntcham. McGeouch doesn’t contribute so much to attacks and as such is the holding midfielder to McGinn's almost box to box role.
If McGinn does go to Celtic the question is, would it be to replace Brown or to play further forward?
So as we’ve already covered, McGinn role isn’t playing as an out and out 10, but there are aspects of his game that could mean his future could be in an advanced role.
Here I have included Celtic's current options in the 10 role, plus Allen who is still a Celtic player but has also played alongside McGinn, McGeouch & Kamara this season.
It becomes a bit more obvious that we’re comparing oranges and apples. McGinn's impressive attacking stats look less so against the SPFL’s elite attacking midfielders. It also shows that of Celtic’s midfield options, they don’t really have a player playing in a similar role to McGinn.
If Celtic are looking to replace Brown the issue is how do you replace a player who doesn’t look like giving up his position.Celtic could already have a readymade replacement in-house but the minutes are not available to them and Brown has done nothing to indicate that he is on the way out.
If McGinn does replace Brown, if not at Celtic then maybe internationally, then he would need to tailor his game more towards the defensive responsibilities of the role and embrace the discipline of being a holding midfielder and allowing his teammates the opportunity to express themselves rather than being relied on to create opportunities.
That being said there are pockets of the Celtic support that would like to see Scott Brown being a bit more expressive and maybe a McGinn-Esq player would appease their desires.
Looking back at McGinn’s current side, this summer is going to be something of a transition for Hibs.
Loanees Kamberi, Maclaren & Allan all returning to their clubs and McGeouch’s contract expiring, a core of Hibernian’s squad will not be starting next season. If Hibs can convince McGinn to stay he’s not a bad player to build your new squad around.
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.