Let's be Frank about Vincent
I’ll admit that when Frank Vincent signed I wasn’t really aware of who he was; outside of a loan spell at Torquay, where he earned good reviews, he came with very little fanfare, and at the time looked to be a fairly uninspired signing.
Over the first few months this appeared to be the case, until he suddenly burst into the side and began performing. His first start, against Stockport, a side that ultimately won the league, was one to be remembered; a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win would prove crucial.
Over the next 3 months Vincent had a run that established him as somewhat of a cult figure at the club. During that time he played with freedom, showcasing what a magical left foot he has on his day. He also scored crucial goals against Dagenham and King’s Lynn, and who could forget that famous bleached haircut?
Fast forward a few months, and he’s suddenly frozen out of the side. The arrival of a new head coach brought promise of a fresh start, but under Luke Williams too Vincent couldn’t get much action, playing just 9 minutes from the bench. So where did it all go wrong for the former Bournemouth academy graduate?
Ahead of a clash with the side he is now on loan at, Aldershot Town, we here at Notts Stats cast an eye on how Vincent has done so far during his time in Hampshire, and look ahead to how he could impact our side upon his return.
There’s a reason why so many love watching Vincent play. He has flair, but he also possesses the rare ability to actually try and make things happen. Vincent played 1.07 smart passes last season, a pass that is defined as ‘a creative and penetrative pass that attempts to break the opposition's defensive lines to gain a significant advantage in attack’. Vincent actually ranked 4th for this kind of pass, showing the way in which he liked to play; always looking to create in a side that often passed the ball for the sake of passing.
He won plaudits for his free approach to the game, and the 23 year old still has his admirers for the style in which he plays; it’s part of what attracted Mark Molesley to Vincent, with the Aldershot boss brining him in on loan.
Vincent also played 35.49 passes last season, 7.25 of which were progressive. Whilst the high number of passes is of course dictated by playing style, Vincent played a progressive pass with 20.43% of his passes; in other words, every fifth pass Vincent would look to play progressively, once again showing how he captured the imagination of the Notts faithful. The famous phrase ‘Gerrit Forward’ often echoes around Meadow Lane, and unlike our other midfield options Vincent perfectly encapsulates this philosophy; he’s young, brash, but has quality and always looks to play forward.
These stats may have suggested that Vincent deserved a fresh start under Luke Williams, as the underlying theme behind them is one of promise. However, this didn’t come to fruition; despite being involved in all matchday squads, Vincent couldn’t force his way past Francis or O’Brien in the pecking order, and instead was shipped off on loan to Aldershot.
This was of course to gain first team football, but also there could be Vincent’s defensive side as a factor. Notts often play with a 2 man midfield, so not only does Palmer’s midfield partner need to cover a lot of ground, but they also need to be adept defensively. Vincent won just 51.56% of his defensive duels, and made just 2.26 interceptions per 90. By contrast O’Brien won 55.68% of his defensive duels in that time and also made 3.41 interceptions per 90, perhaps explaining why Williams prefers him in a 2 man midfield.
But how has Vincent got on since he made the move on loan to Hampshire? He’s seemingly fit in very well, suiting Molesley’s style of play and earning good reviews from their fans, and after viewing the stats it’s easy to see why. Vincent currently sits 3rd in the smart passes tables, making 1.17 per 90, 0.1 higher than Ruben Rodrigues. Clearly Vincent has adapted to a new system extremely quickly, and is already implementing his own game at Aldershot. He’s often playing Effiong in behind, and Vincent’s creative abilities shouldn’t be underestimated.
Vincent’s game is of course slightly different at Aldershot, down to the fact they see less of the ball than Notts (Notts have 64.2% average possession compared to Aldershot’s 45.7%). As a result, Vincent only plays 25.92 passes per 90, something which makes his other passing stats even more impressive. He’s actually playing more smart passes on average this season despite playing around 10 less passes per 90. Clearly the quality remains, and he still plays 5.83 progressive passes per 90 too; this means he actually plays a progressive ball with 22.87% of his passes, once again an improvement on last season. Vincent is looking good on the ball during his loan spell.
Defensively Vincent’s stats haven’t really improved; he actually makes less interceptions per 90, just 2.04 so far this season, but once again the side he plays for may explain this. Notts have conceded just 6 goals, under half of that of Aldershot, who have conceded 13. It stands to reason that Vincent hasn’t been as impressive defensively, as he must defend far more often.
Vincent actually has an xG of 0.94, mainly down to a chance he missed against Maidstone. In the 18 yard box Vincent turned onto his weaker right foot, but was unable to put a meaningful shot on goal, allowing defender Joe Ellul to block. Vincent has actually had 2 shots cleared off the line, so it seems only a matter of time before he starts adding goals to his game, like we know he can.
So what can we expect from Vincent moving forward? So far at Aldershot he’s demonstrated the technical abilities we know he has, but he’s also shown he’s match fit, last 3 full 90 minutes so far. He also looks physically stronger and quicker, and I believe he may be well suited to playing one of the 10 roles in behind a sole striker, the system we saw Luke Williams favour earlier in the season. However, he would probably still be behind both Sam Austin and Ruben Rodrigues in this department, so still May playing minutes limited.
Whether he is good enough defensively in a 2 man midfield remains to be seen, but at Aldershot he has demonstrated he can cover a lot of ground, so maybe in the long term he could feature more prominently here. He certainly would represent an interesting option from the bench, but this may not be appealing to Vincent; after all he did go out on loan to get minutes.
Vincent may simply have to bide his time; whilst Jim O’Brien has been impressive this season, he is 34, and as the fixtures get even more congested his legs may begin to tire. At this point Vincent may get more opportunities in the side, and then it would be up to him to ensure he retains his place in the side.
A mercurial talent, one who offers us something different, hopefully we will see Frank Vincent in a black and white shirt again before the end of the season.
Your Notts County Stats Team:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson
Header - Notts County FC
Vincent - Frank Vincent Twitter
Mark Molesley - Derbyshire Times