Wise Men Say: Lionel Messi was right - Aiden McGeady is a class above at Sunderland

Monday’s Wise Men Say podcast sparked a discussion about whether Sunderland function better as a team without Aiden McGeady. Here, Matt Wilson explores the claim in more detail.

Friday, 4th October 2019, 6:00 pm
Aiden McGeady is too good to drop at Sunderland

“I really like the way he plays football. He is a natural talent, who can create a brilliant piece of play in the blink of an eye”

Not my words, not even those of Top Gear magazine, but the words of 6-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi when asked about Aiden McGeady in 2008. Back then McGeady was at Celtic and had gained a reputation as a tricky winger with a penchant for a step over... so not much has changed really in the past 11 years and certainly the essence of Lionel’s words are still pertinent today. McGeady’s talent, particularly at this level, is undeniable, but having missed the last 2 games and arguably 2 of our best performances this season, are we actually better without him?

Here comes the science bit... last season our win percentage with McGeady in the team was strikingly similar to that without him. He made 40 appearances for Sunderland in all competitions and we won 20 of them, giving us a nice and easy-to-work-out 50% win percentage. Sunderland played an additional 21 games in which McGeady did not feature and won 10 of those, giving us a slightly-harder-to-work-out-and-yes-I-did-use-calculator win percentage of 47.6%.

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What about just league games and those all important points? With McGeady, we won 1.9 points per game, and without him 1.7 points per game. Again, pretty similar. If we extrapolate 1.9 points per game across a 46 game season, we’d still have finished outside the automatic promotion places so stats-wise, having McGeady in the side made little difference. This season doesn’t yet provide us with a decent enough sample size to gauge anything that useful but for the sake of argument, our win percentage with McGeady is 50% and without him technically it’s 100% (the 2 League Cup fixtures and last weekend’s game against MK Dons).

Now just like his hatred of tactics, Steve Bruce would probably say “you can prove anything with statistics” and while that obviously isn’t true, they certainly only provide part of the picture. What these stats don’t show is how crucial the contributions are that McGeady makes. Last season, a brace away at Plymouth and match-winning goals at home to Bradford and AFC Wimbledon immediately spring to mind. While this season look no further than his 95th minute penalty to clinch the equaliser against Bolton in his most recent appearance.

Personally, I think McGeady is simply too talented at this level to leave out. And while his ball-greediness and occasional petulance can frustrate and infuriate, he is one of a handful of players we have who could conceivably ping one in from distance or unlock a defence at a moment’s notice.

I’m with Lionel on this one and would have him straight back in the side for Lincoln on Saturday.