Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna has reportedly handed in a transfer request following reported bids from Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest. With Celtic having been credited with an interest in the 22-year-old in the past, should the Hoops be looking to make an offer if Jozo Simunovic departs?
The Croatian has been heavily linked with a move to Lille this summer, who are not short of cash after selling Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal for £72m. Neil Lennon is a big fan of the defender but there is a danger of the defender’s head being turned.
Reports today suggest Simunovic may have already agreed personal terms with the Ligue One side ahead of a possible move, so would McKenna be a decent replacement?
If we compare their performances from last season, the two players do have different strengths and weaknesses. There’s no doubt that McKenna is better in the air. The Scottish international won 64% of his aerial duels last campaign, compared to Simunovic’s 61.5%, according to Wyscout.
That number is more impressive because the Aberdeen defender averaged nearly twice as many (8.13) aerial duels per 90 minutes than the Croatian (4.85).
In contrast, Simunovic attempts more tackles per match. The 25-year-old is certainly the more pro-active defender making on average 0.67 tackles per 90 minutes compared to McKenna’s 0.18. It must be said, though that the Scottish international is more successful at winning the ball (28.57%) than the Celtic defender (22.22%).
In terms of interceptions per 90, the Aberdeen centre-back also comes out on top (5.89 to Simunovic’s 5.04) as well as shots blocked. This trend continues with successful defensive duels (one-on-one battles with opponents).
McKenna (70%) and the Croatian (67%) are well-matched, but again, like with aerial duels, McKenna averages more duels per 90 minutes, making his figures even more significant.
One important area where Simunovic is demonstrably better, though, is passing. An impressive 94% of the 25-year-old’s passes reach a teammate. Last season, McKenna managed just 74%.
It must be noted here, however, that McKenna attempted on average 6.99 long balls per match compared to the Celtic’s star’s 2.84, which would reduce the Aberdeen player’s accuracy. With the Hoops, those passing stats would likely improve with a different style of play.
Looking purely at the numbers, then, McKenna could do a job if he were to be the number one candidate to replace Simunovic. The Croatian is still a Celtic player, though, and it remains to be seen if that will change in the coming weeks.