Melbourne City FC won’t have to travel far for its upcoming away fixture, with Western United set to host the game from the familiar surroundings of AAMI Park this Thursday evening.
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Nathaniel Atkinson’s start to the season was hampered by an injury that kept him out of the side for the first few games, but the young right-back has since recovered in a massive way, contributing significantly to City’s six-game winning streak.
Set to appear on the opposite flank on Thursday, Dylan Pierias has been one of the surprise packets of the season so far given his starring role with Western United, with the wingback currently tied with Besart Berisha as his side’s leading goalscorer.
The youngsters have managed similar minutes this campaign, playing 698 and 645 respectively, despite Pierias featuring in two more games than his City counterpart.
The slightly differing roles of the two is highlighted by disparities in their defensive actions, with Atkinson more prominent across the entire defensive metrics line, including clearances (17-5), blocks (4-0), interceptions (11-6) and successful tackles (9-3).
This difference in roles is further exemplified by the pair’s distribution statistics. Pierias’ wingback role sees him quadruple Atkinson for successful crosses and cross accuracy, but the latter’s role as an inverted fullback affords him plenty of time on the ball, playing nearly three times as many passes as the Western United wide-man. Interestingly, Atkinson and Pierias boast a fairly similar passing accuracy despite their differing roles (80.5% vs 83.6%).
An increasingly prominent aspect of the modern wide defender’s game is their contribution in attack, and this is where Pierias’ aggressive approach to his wingback role pays off, having scored five goals this campaign. Atkinson goes about contributing offensively in a more measured way, still managing to record one goal and two assists from his deeper role.