Joey Barton of Queens Park Rangers battles with Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers.
Way way back before Spurs started playing total football, before Adebayor revealed a hidden personality as a workhorse second striker, and before I knew what I was talking about when it came to our squad this season, I argued in the summer of 2011 that it was in Spurs interest to attempt to lure Joey Barton away from Newcastle during the heat of his contract dispute with the club's hierarchy. The reasoning that I cited was that he was a tenacious central midfielder who could add bite to our game with his box-to-box play. I even went as far as to call him a "potentially cheaper Scott Parker".
Perhaps unsurprisingly given his inclination towards chronic narcissistic delusion, Barton himself agreed with me. I discovered while researching this piece that Joey Barton had actually called out Scott Parker on Twitter around the same time I was bigging him up over here at CFC last July, going as far as to claim: "He's not in my league. FACT! He's in the Championship".
Well, I can only apologize for being a moron. While Barton has been busy trying to reinvent himself as a big fish in a small pool over at QPR, Scott Parker has enjoyed a rebirth as a relentless machine of an anchor man, bringing the much needed steel that Spurs' midfield has lacked for so long and picking up a Player of the Year Award in the process. Overall, Parker has demonstrably brought more to Spurs than Barton has to the Rangers this season, a claim I can and will back up through the magic of stats after the jump. All figures come to you from WhoScored.
Back when I was fighting Barton's corner, I lauded him for his developing skills as a playmaker. During his time at Newcastle, he stood out to me as a figure who could pull strings and deliver in outstanding crosses when played in a wide role. Since that time, Barton has tried his hardest to prove me wrong.
Overall, he has only completed 74.2% of his attempted passes this season, all the while notching up a mere three assists- a little startling considering he's meant to be the engine of the QPR side. At his worst, in a recent match against Wigan, Barton only managed to complete a mere 50%. So much for the late-blooming side play-making prodigy then. By contrast, with his efficient and non-profligate short passing style, Scott Parker has managed to notch up a completion ratio of 89.5% this season, helping keep play ticking over nicely and contributing directly to Spur's possession-heavy style this season. Indeed, Parker isn't limited to little sideways dinks to the closest man either- as the chart below which catalogues his passes during the Wolves game last October shows, he can keep it tight while playing an effectively mixed passing game:
He's even managed 0.7 key passes a game to Barton's 1.4. Considering Parker's often characterized as a blunt instrument even by his advocates, it says a lot that he's been a dependable recycler of the ball for Spurs this season.
During my Barton-mania, I also argued that his bulldog tenacity meant that he could provide as effective cover for the defense as Parker. I think we all know what's coming next. While Parker has been busy slamming into opponents hard but fair like we know he likes to, notching up an average of 4.1 tackles a game and successfully dispossessing his opponents 90 times thusfar this season, Barton has been comparatively punking whilst out tracking back for his side, managing only 3.1 successful challenges a game and completing 66 tackles overall. I think it's insightful to also point out that Scott and Barton have picked up the same number of yellow and red cards this season- when you compare how much Parker puts himself about in comparison to his QPR counterpart and how often he achieves success in dispossessing opponents, it's Barton that comes off looking like an undisciplined ballwinner.
Coming up short on the creative front and beasted on the defensive side- one might perchance be lead to question what front exactly Barton has beaten Scotty on this season. We could get into limelight-hogging, but then Joey has only managed two Man of the Match awards this season, whereas Parker has already garnered two Player of the Month accolades. We could maybe go down the hair avenue, but we all know the tousled lieutenant beats the Morrissey quiff any day. Passing, defensive contribution, fashion sense- Parker has nailed Barton in every key area all season, and for this reason it's no wonder that Scott is suddenly looking like a prospective England captain candidate, while for his alleged superior even a callup looks like nothing more than a pipe dream.