Wednesday, 7 January 2015

New Signing: Doneil Henry

Doneil Henry

DOB: 04/04/1993
Age: 21
Position: Defender

Previous Club: Toronto FC
Previous Division: Major League Soccer

Transfer Date: 03/01/2015

Reported Fee: £1.5m

In a move that has been chatted about for quite some time now, West Ham United finally tied up the signing of Canadian centre half Doneil Henry at the weekend.

The 21 year old joins the Irons from Cypriot side Apollon Limassol without playing a game for the club. Instead, he has spent his entire playing career in the MLS with Canadian outfit Toronto FC.

Coming from across the pond you might think that the Canada international is a bit of an unknown quantity, but with the recent rise of the MLS, there is a wealth of performance data on our new man. So what do we know about him?

Henry joins what is a rather strong pool of centre halves at West Ham, with James' Tomkins and Collins battling to become Winston Reid's full time defensive partner. So how does the new youngster stack up against his new teammates?

 Obviously the MLS is at a lower standard to the Premier League, and Henry will need to adapt to the new level, but by comparing his performance data from the 2014 MLS campaign to the performances of West Ham's defenders in the 2014/15 season so far, we can get a flavour of his style of play, and see what sort of signing we have made.

We'll start with passing accuracy. In his 21 MLS appearances in 2014, Henry registered a respectable pass completion rate of 78%. This is equal to James Tomkins in the league this season, just behind Winston Reid's 80%, and much ahead of James Collins' paltry return of 70% completed.

It should also be noted that Henry has improved this side of his game dramatically, with a pass completion rate of just 69% in the 2013 season.

In terms of tackle completion, Henry again comes in the middle of the pack, with a 42% success rate. Again, this is higher than James Collins (31%), but is lower than the success rates of both Tomkins and Reid.

It should be noted that Henry put in an attempted 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes last season, higher than Tomkins (2.81) and Reid (2.57), but lower than Collins (4.12).

The final area to compare is success in the air.

This is an area that West Ham's defenders are particularly strong in, and it is something that Henry will need to improve upon if he is to dislodge any of his new team mates.

Henry pails in comparison to his new teammates, with a success rate of just 51%. Of the Hammers existing centre backs, Winston Reid's success of 67% is the lowest, with both Tomkins (76%) and Collins (77%) winning more than three quarters of their aerial duels.

Probably the biggest strength that Henry possesses is his ability to read the game. In the 2014 season, Henry made a massive 4.3 interceptions per 90 minutes. That's more than Winston Reid and James Tomkins combined (3.86) and far beyond James Collins impressive record of 2.64.

The image below is taken from a game against DC United back at the start of the 2014 campaign. In the game, Henry had 100% aerial success, made 11 blocks, and an enormous 8 interceptions, shown below.

And just to prove this was no fluke, Doneil ended the campaign with another 6 interceptions away to New England Revolution, as shown below.

I've also included Henry's heat map from that game. Perhaps surprisingly, given his recent inclusion as a right back for the Canadian national team, is that he lines up on the left hand side of the central pair, possibly suggesting he is now in direct competition with Winston Reid for that slot in the team.

Doneil Henry is a very young centre half, yet to play at a very high standard of football. It is inevitable that there are many areas of his game that will need to develop and improve. However, there is one main thing that stands out as a weakness for the youngster.

Henry's disciplinary record is bad. Terrible, really.

In just 21 appearances in 2014 he managed to pick up 8 bookings. In 20 appearances in 2013 he got 6, and a pair of reds for good measure.

This is something that must improve, fast, if he wants to become a trusted member of our first team squad.

On the surface, this looks like a very good deal for the club.

It is unlikely that Henry will play a huge part in the rest of this season, but hopefully we will see him get a fair amount of minutes under his belt before the season is out, and it is not inconceivable that he could be the long term partner to James Tomkins at the heart of our defence.

We should be patient with him, as he is yet to be tested at the top level, but with a bit of time and faith, we could have a top player on hands.

Doneil Henry, welcome to West Ham United.