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Palacios in “Better Than Huddlestone” Shocker

Much has been said about the treatment Wilson Palacios received on Sunday against Liverpool when his passing let him down once again. We’ve all seen his form suffer since the death of his brother, whether that’s coincidence is debatable but there’s no questioning his commitment to the cause and no player in a Spurs shirt deserves to be ridiculed in front of 36,000 fans like he was for a short period of time. Thankfully there were enough sensible fans out there to chant his name once the sarcastic cheers started for which I’m sure he would be grateful. I’m yet to hear someone say they were one of those who partook in the cheers, so quite who those people were I don’t know. It’s like when the team gets booed off the field, no-one ever seems to admit doing it.

I was no different to anyone else when I was watching him misplace pass after pass. I was moaning and groaning with every misplaced pass as I’m sure we all were. Then I decided to look into just how badly he had played. Personally I thought he had a shocker in the first half and had we not already had to make two substitutions due to injury I think he would’ve been taken off, but he got his game together and played well in the second half just as he had done against Arsenal a week earlier when Jenas got injured.

Football is a game based on statistics. Maybe not to the extend a sport like cricket is but they’re being used more by clubs, journalists and fans alike, all for differing reasons. There’s the simple stats that we all know, like top goal scorer and top assists, plus goals against and for, and then there are the stats that look at individual player performances. How many times have we heard this season about Bale’s work rate and how far he runs each game and at what speed. There are hugely successful companies who specialise in it. Who’d heard of Opta a decade ago? As someone on twitter so eloquently put, stats schmats! Statistics can be viewed in different ways. For example I could say Palacios had a higher success rate with his passing than Gareth Bale on Sunday. I wouldn’t be lying, but I’d be bending the truth somewhat and not explaining the stats correctly. Obviously a lot of Bale’s passes were actually crosses so it’s hardly surprising that his success rate was nearly 17% less than Palacios’s who will often spend most of his time passing 5-10 yards.

So to gauge just how bad Wilson was on Sunday we need to compare him to another central midfield player who will often spend large proportions of the game in similar positions to him. Modric is an option, especially as he played in the same game but he doesn’t play in the same position, preferring instead to play a more advanced role. So the only fair player to compare him with is Tommy Huddlestone. Regarded by most Spurs fans and non Spurs fans as one of England’s finest passers of the ball. Unfortunately because Wilson was his (and Jenas’s) replacement it’s impossible to compare in the same game but it is possible to take a look at recent games. The chalkboard below is the closest I can get to compare the two, with Liverpool and Sunderland being a similar team and both games being played in November. It’s also the closest the two become with regards to a pass success rate, both being around 80%. For the record the most recent game Jenas played a full 90 was in November too, in the recent 4-2 win against Blackburn and his success rate was only 75% in a game we largely dominated.

by Guardian Chalkboards

As you can see, both Palacios and Huddlestone play in a similar position and most of their passing is done in and around the centre circle, Palacios is slightly deeper i general but that’s probably more to do with Liverpool’s more offensive style compared to Sunderland who offered very little going foward. The main difference is the direction in which the passes are attempted. Palacios tends to pass sideways and backwards with the occasional forward pass but rarely a long ball, whereas THud looks to keep the ball with simple side and back passes mixed in with defence splitting forward passes, in particular long diagonal balls to the left, where I presume Bale is waiting.

Against Manchester City, Wolves and Aston Villa, the only other home games Tommy’s played he had a worse than 80% passing success rate. Only Wigan at home where he had a brilliant 87% was he better than Palacios was on Sunday. At least with regards to successfully completing the pass. It’s obvious to all that Huddlestone attempts far more advanced passes, passes that have the potential to stretch the opposition. I’m not saying his passing is worse than Palacios’s, far from it, but a long pass that doesn’t find a man in lilywhite is as equally wasteful as a short one isn’t it and is there a possibility that because we view Palacios as a poor passer of the ball, when he does fail in an attempt it’s more obvious than when Huddlestone does the same?

I think we would all agree that passing isn’t really Sgt Wilson’s forté but from what I’ve seen, albeit over a small selection of statistics (approx 5-6 games) it’s not quite as bad as we might think. Yes, he doesn’t look to spray balls from one side of the pitch to the other but then do we expect him to? The problem is the passes he fails to make are one’s we look at and think, “I could pass that” and therefore think it’s easy and should always been made. He’s the midfield enforcer we were crying for for years. His form has dropped admittedly which has seen him go from being the first name on the team sheet to being the 4th choice central midfielder and rightly so. Unfortunately he’s no longer good enough for what we as a team want to achieve and while his form has suffered, others have improved. There’s one more thing I want to look at though only because as I said, passing isn’t what he’s known for. His job is to win the ball back and pass it, if possible, to the technically better players around him. I’ll look at the same games as I did for the passing so it’s at least a fair assessment.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Again, there are different ways to look at the above stats. You could say, during the Sunderland game, Tommy didn’t have many tackles to make because they didn’t show much adventure going forward, whereas Liverpool played with 2 strikers and pushed men forward so the fact Palacios attempted more tackles, winning 5 of them, compared to THud’s two isn’t surprising. You could also say, Palacios is more likely to get into positions where he’ll be able to attempt a tackle and in today’s fast paced league football 5 out of 8 is quite a good return. Of course 2 out of 2 is pretty good, especially if they were the only times Tommy was called into action but when we look at other games throughout the season we notice THud doesn’t actually make that many tackles. Against Man City he made 4, winning 3. Wigan at home saw him attempt 2 tackles compared to Palacios’s 5. There were 2 once again against Wolves, when Jenas who was partnering him this time made 5, winning 2. Against Villa he made 3, winning 2 compared to Modric’s 9 attempts winning 4. This is not a coincidence. Huddlestone doesn’t attempt many tackles, even when playing in a deep position as Palacios does.

This doesn’t make Palacios better than Huddlestone. The title of this piece is obviously tongue firmly in cheek, and as I’ve pointed out, stats can be viewed in many different ways. For the record, Palacios also makes more interceptions, blocks and clearances than Tommy, but then that’s what we should expect because they’re very different players. Palacios will never be able to do what THud does and I don’t expect THud to improve his marking, tackling etc to one day be a tough tackling midfielder. You wouldn’t play THud as a defensive holding midfielder. When he plays, the “ugly” side of the game tends to be shared more with his partner, although so far this season his partner, whoever that may be, has been the one to do the majority of it.

Huddlestone is without doubt one of our first 11 when fit, but we shouldn’t compare the likes of Palacios to him when they play in his place. We know what to expect from Wilson and as annoying as his misplaced passes are they don’t occur more often than others produce the same mistakes, we just notice it more with him. So next time he makes a saving tackle on the edge of the area and runs away with the ball only to pass it straight back to the opposition lets give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s been through things hopefully none of us will ever have to and he wears the cockerel on his chest with the same pride we would. His talent has waned but he’s not as bad as some (including me) may think.




  1. steve

    November 30, 2010 at 11:50 am

    he’s not good enough


    November 30, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Why have you picked a game where Hudds only played forty five minuets and also what we never new he was having needles has far back has the Bolton game and was why he Jumped out of the way from the sliding Tackle of Elamander and left his studs in fear of a bad injury . Palacios helped Hudds when some Spurs fans wanted Hudds out saying he was slow Palacios gave him time to pick is pass by winning the ball for him and the thing t


    November 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Sorry for not finishing my blog the keyboard on my new lap top is playing up. My main point is Palacios helped Tom to change his game by showing Tom how to get stuck in and tackle. Then Bale arrived in Midfield and we had a good defence with our attack being a big part of it. With Toms Tackling and Modric sharing the creating with Tom and two of the finest wingers when Lennon his injury free and at the moment he is 85 percent and still great palacios was left out in the cold and his confidents and sharpness left him in poor form and without Tom he is trying to emulate him when there are easier passes he could make. He should get back to winning the ball and play alongside Modric with little short passes and then hit the killer balls in the area where it can make a difference and wont lead to us turning attack into panic defending. This problem would go away if we went back to this team . Gomes Kaboul Dawson Gallas Bale Lennon Palacios Hudds Modric Van Defoe.

  4. abe

    November 30, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Palacios needs to stick to basics, and he needs to improve his decision making and positional sense. Stats can show you lots, but they cannot determine whether you made correct decisions or whether you are positionally aware. It also does not show if a misplaced pass was due to a mistake or due to trying to play a through ball that was intercepted. I general, when Huddlestone plays, he seems to take up better positions while Palacios seems to often out of position. But with all of this, I don’t approve of him getting booed. The trouble at Spurs though is that we don’t have many like for like players. As you mentioned, Hudd and Palacios cannot be compared, but we don’t have someone who can play similar to Huddlestone when he is injured.

  5. Catcher

    November 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I was one of the people that cheered his completed passes, after some shouted at his miss placed passes. I also was the first to sing his name as support, but before you start ridiculeing fans dont always assume it is for bad reasons that we do things. In the same way we used to support Steed Malbranque, some used to think we were booing him.

  6. Essexian76

    November 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm


  7. Essexian76

    November 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    It was tragic what happened to Wilson’s brother, but that aside he’s paid to perform for Spurs, that’s his job that’s his profession. If he’s mentally not up to it, then he shouldn’t be selected but like many others, the moment he steps over that white line, that’s what he’s judged by. Palacios has been off form for over a year and quite frankly he’s a liability at times, the 1st half Sunday proved that, but 2nd half something like his old self reappeared and good on him or Harry, but to compare him to Huddlestone is churlish and quite frankly stupid, two entirely different players, one’s a Roller the other’s a tank! If Jenas performed as poor as Palacios has done, the net would be awash with blood, there are some who get it in the neck and others who are immune

  8. yoni

    November 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    His errant passed were most noticable because we were on the attack , just inside their half when they were made. A footballer at that level should know how to pass one. to his own player. but 2. more importantly, in space where the player can run onto in a advanced position. bad passes happen as games create pressure, and there are defenders, and that is okay which is why we dont attack others as much. but wehn we need to capatilize on our attack, it is frustrating when a wasted play occurs becasue he cannot play ot our player…fundamental and basic.

  9. yoni

    November 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    he has given us steel and did well when we bought him, and needed his grit. but we have become a better side , and although he is still a good player, he doesn’t quite cut it. IMO, he is a better version of Zakora. onwards and upwards for spurs with the players to match our world class ambition. COYS

  10. William

    November 30, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    It’s funny how people booing him and trash talk to him now,
    he is just having a bad season get over it , Everybody was
    talking how good he was when he took ous out of the middle table. At least lets give him till next season.

  11. JohnnyB

    November 30, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I’d think it’d be worse to have short range passes intercepted because the guy cutting out the pass is past you and running at the defence with his first touch, whereas when Hudds long range passes don’t reach their target they’re usually won by defenders meaning the oppo still need work the ball forward.
    Palacios is a good player, when he was a regular he was playing well, maybe he feels under pressure to win his spot back. With Hudd out he may get some more game time and improve his confidence…he’ll prove himself good again!

  12. Oz Spur

    December 1, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Last season Sarge was instrumental in helping us to achieve 4th spot, he was the hot steel in our midfield the enforcer, Hudds was the artist with his distribution, JJ ?? apart from the odd inspired moment not sure what he did.

    Yes he may be “off form” at present for any number of reasons BUT who do we play against the Hard man teams (the likes of Stoke, Bolton) Hudd who can hold back, JJ who can dissappear or Sarge who will clatter them (I know who gets my vote)

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