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In profile: Shane Duffy

Written by Jack Stroudley on 5th August 2022

Jack Stroudley looks at the next defensive recruit Marco Silva appears to be signing.

Over the last few weeks there has been one desperate cry among Fulham fans: sign a central defender. We’ve been linked with an array of options including the likes of Issa Diop, Eric Bailly and Malang Sarr, while we will probably still sign a name of this calibre it appears Fulham have finally pulled the trigger and signed a centre half.

Shane Duffy was announced this morning by Peter Rutzler to be signing from Brighton & Hove Albion on a season long loan. The reaction on Twitter this morning has been fairly divided on his signing, so I figured I’d head online and find out which side of the fence I sit on.

The fact file

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Shane Duffy spent his youth career at Derry City in Ireland before moving to Everton in 2008, the centre half worked his way through the U18 and reserve teams before being handed his debut in December 2009 in the Europa League against AEK Athens. Despite this, his minutes at Everton were few and far between having loan spells at Burnley, Scunthorpe United and Yeovil Town before finally getting a permanent move in 2014 to Blackburn Rovers.

Duffy spent two years at Blackburn and had a fairly rocky start to his time in Lancashire, he lost his place in the team midway through the 2014/15 season and came out openly admitting he was disappointed in himself and deserved not to be in the starting line-up. Despite this, Duffy continued to improve throughout his tenure at Blackburn with the highlight being nominated for Championship Player of the Month in 2015.

Duffy’s impressive championship form rewarded him with a move to his current club Brighton & Hove Albion for a then club record fee for £4 million. The Irish international played a key part in his opening season on the south coast played more than 30 times for Brighton in their promotion campaign before picking up an injury.

Chris Hughton continued to put his trust in Duffy and he became a regular in the Brighton backline along with Lewis Dunk. Hughton was replaced by Graham Potter in 2019 with the club opting for a slightly more expansive style of football. This was something that Duffy evidently struggled with and was sent out on loan to Celtic in September 2020. Duffy did come back and play regularly in the 2021/22 season making 18 appearances, with 15 of those being starts.

A deeper dive

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When the news broke this morning, Brighton fan account ‘Tweeting Seagull’ stated the following. “His loan spell at Celtic showed he needs to play in a system where he isn’t over exposed, but he won Albion’s 2019 player of the season, been less often used under Graham Potter, but regularly shows his qualities.” The concern for me is his need to play in a system where he isn’t overly exposed (perhaps a back five). Marco will want us to keep playing expansive football and play with a high line, something that Duffy appears to struggle with.

Despite this, his stats last season do make for some interesting reading. On the ball, Duffy does not excel. His progressive passing stats are relatively bleak putting him well below average for a defender in the top five leagues, as well as his progressive carries. His pass completion is respectable at 88.8% and he shines in the air.

Duffy is in the top 1% of ariels won in the top five divisions and with his 6’3 stature he will be a danger man from set pieces. He is also in the top 11% for blocks and 13% for clearances, despite this his other defensive stats are extremely alarming. According to FBREF, Duffy is in the bottom 3% for interceptions per 90 minutes, bottom 6% for pressures and bottom 14% for tackles, averaging only one per 90.

Overall, I’d say Duffy needs the support of more capable defenders around him to do the dirty work while he can sweep in behind to pick up anything left over. This is something he won’t find at Fulham and I’m concerned that if we don’t sign anyone else, we are going to be in a spot of bother.

Yes or no?

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It’s a tricky one. We obviously need centre halves immediately so signing a 30-year-old with Premier League experience on a season loan is a bit of a no brainer. Despite this, that doesn’t mean I’m excited over the prospect of his signing. We have been promoted since April and the club have been aware of the prospect of promotion earlier than that. The season starts tomorrow and we’re calling on a player (who I think is of a decent calibre for what it’s worth) who doesn’t necessarily suit our system at all.

While we’ll probably sign more central defenders, this one reeks of desperation, and while I will support Shane Duffy at the Cottage this season, I’m very concerned about our defensive options.

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