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65.6% of defensive duels won: How big a miss will Blackburn’s early season injury concern be?

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Blackburn Rovers are set to be without defender Derrick Williams for the start of the upcoming Championship campaign, after manager Tony Mowbray confirmed that the 26-year-old will be out for up to six weeks with a calf injury.

The natural left-back, who filled in alongside fellow Irishman Darragh Lenihan at centre back for the final six games of last season as Rovers enjoyed their best form of the campaign, could therefore miss several of the club’s opening league games, including visits to Ewood Park from Charlton, Middlesbrough and Cardiff, and trips to face Fulham, Hull and West Brom.

So how big a miss will Williams be for Blackburn at the start of the new season?

Here, we put the spotlight on the defender’s performances last season to find out.

Interestingly, despite the fact that it was Williams who came in for a significant amount of scrutiny for his performances in what was a leaky Blackburn defence last season – conceding 69 goals in just 46 games – the Irishman’s stats actually appear to hold up pretty well in comparison to some of his defensive partners.

With a success rate of around two in three in the defensive duels he entered into across the course of the season, not only does Williams look to be a pretty reliable option for Rovers at the back, he also offers a better return than that of Lenihan (61.7%), whose own performances were impressive enough to see him linked with newly promoted Sheffield United earlier in the summer.

It may be worth noting however that that record does fall slightly of the 70.1% success rate of Rovers’ other centre back option last season, club captain Charlie Mulgrew.

Add to that Willaims’ apparent ability to put a stop to opposition attacks – with an average of more than six interceptions and three clearances per game – just about beating Mulgrew in both categories, while running Lenihan fairly close, and the stats do seem to suggest that the 26-year-old played his part as much as any of Rovers other central defensive options last season.

Furthermore, with less than one foul committed per game, it could be argued that Williams’ place in the starting lineup will help combat the attacking threat to Tony Mowbray’s side posed by set-pieces, with the fewer free-kicks and penalties conceded consequentially reducing the opportunities opposition sides will have to get their attempts on goal away.

One area however where Rovers may not miss Williams is in the air, with Lenihan and Mulgrew – who are both taller than the Irishman – enjoying a slightly better success rate in the aerial duels they took on during the course of the campaign.

It seems, therefore, that with everything taken into consideration, Williams is just as reliable as any of Rovers other options currently available in defence, suggesting that while he may not be a last resort option for Mowbray, he is not irreplaceable.

Something that is clear however, is that with none of the trio making more than 34 league appearances last season, and Williams already out through injury for the start of next season, fitness amongst their defensive options is certainly an issue that Rovers ought to consider addressing going forward.

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