Championship

Tom Cairney Could Be Great For Newcastle

 • by Thomas McIlroy
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Fulham were many people’s favourites to be promoted from the Championship via the playoffs, but after their semi-final defeat to Reading, their loss may be Newcastle United’s gain.

Whites midfielder Tom Cairney is a long-term Newcastle United transfer target.

The Magpies made an enquiry about the Scottish international in January, according to the Chronicle, but they were thought to be put off by the £20million fee quoted by those in charge at Craven Cottage.

But GetWestLondon report Rafa Benítez’s side are keen on making another move for him this summer.

We’ve had a look at what the midfielder could bring to Newcastle.

Cairney’s qualities

You could argue Cairney was hard done by when he was left out of the running for PFA Championship Player of the Year, but he was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.

In what was a much-improved season for Fulham, he was their talisman, taking over captain’s duties with Scott Parker reduced to a role coming off the bench.

He stepped up to the plate indeed, pulling the strings from the middle of the pitch.

And with 13 goals and ten assists in the 2016/17 Championship season, he played a big part in Fulham finishing sixth, and he’s scored some absolute screamers too.

The goal against Leeds United probably changed the outcome of both sides’ seasons, with Fulham ending up in a playoff place and Garry Monk’s side outside of them.

Cairney had the best passing accuracy in the 2016/17 Championship season – a ridiculously good 92.6 per cent – just for context, the highest passing accuracy in the Premier League is Mousa Dembélé with 92 per cent.

Given that the quality of his passes are so accurate, it’s also hugely impressive that he has made the most passes in the Championship this season: 3623.

The player with the second most passes in England’s second tier was Aaron Mooy at Huddersfield Town with 3101 – considerably less.

That works out at an average of 81.8 per 90 minutes.

Only Tjaronn Chery and Pablo Hernández averaged more key passes per Championship game than Cairney’s 2.6, while the ten assists recorded by the 26-year-old in the league was been bettered by Conor Hourihane.

They’re not all short passes either, he’s got the eye for a pinpoint long ball too.

Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney Fulham forward Sone Aluko

Against Cardiff City in the two stills above, you can see where Cairney picks the ball up in the first image and plays a pass into Sone Aluko, whose first touch can be seen in the second image. Pin-point perfection.

It’s not all about long range passes either, the midfielder can play the ball in tight situations too, as you can see below, when he creates chances for Lucas Piazon and Aluko.

Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney

While he is obviously at his best going forward, he has so many facets to his game.

His control is great, as Newcastle would have seen for themselves.

Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder

In the above stills, taken against Newcastle, where he scored the stunner you can see in the video above, he got the ball at an awkward height, before taking it under his control, skinning two players, taking his team forward and laying it off to Stefan Johansen – that move ended with his team winning a penalty.

Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder

Above, against Preston North End, you can see his tenacity to win the ball back.

His press and clean tackle forced the opposition player to give the ball away on the edge of the box.

Cairney then used a glorious bit of skill to cut onto his favoured left foot and force a save from the goalkeeper.

Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney, Fulham midfielder

His reading of the game, intercepting and putting the team on the front foot can be seen again in the images above against Newcastle.

After winning the ball, he races past the opposition players like they are not there and draws the free-kick.

He quite simply runs the show and takes the pressure off his side, constantly making sure Fulham are controlling the game.

Drawbacks to signing Cairney

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The major issue Newcastle will have in regards to Cairney would surely be his lack of Premier League experience.

Despite being 26, he only has 11 top-flight games under his belt and has spent the past seven seasons playing at Championship level.

But if you take into account that Jamie Vardy wasn’t 27 until he played his first Premier League game, you can definitely say there are players in the lower leagues who are good enough to make the step up.

And the midfielders’ age may actually play into Newcastle’s hands.

He’s had the best season of his career and his team will be playing Championship football next season.

While of course Fulham fans will hope he’ll stay in West London to try and kickstart another promotion push, Newcastle will surely be confident of tempting him with Premier League football at a crucial stage of his career.

The only other sticking point might be a fee – given his importance to the Whites, Newcastle were quoted £20million last January.

You would think they could haggle that down a little bit, but you would still see a considerable amount taken out of the £100million budget reported by The Sun.

How does Cairney compare to Newcastle’s midfield options?

Tom Cairney compared to Newcastle midfielders

If you look at the Fulham man in comparison to Newcastle midfield trio Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback and Mohamed Diamé, there is no comparison.

As mentioned earlier, Cairney was involved in 23 goals directly in the league this season.

Shelvey was involved in 13 (five goals, eight assists), Colback was involved in one (no goals, one assist) and Diamé six (three goals and three assists).

And obviously he beats them in terms of passing, given he proved he was the best in the Championship at doing so last season.

But what is probably more surprising is just how much better he is – Colback’s 85.9 per cent pass accuracy is somewhat off Cairney’s 92.5 per cent, with considerably fewer passes per 90 minutes (47.3 to 81.8).

Championship top passers

Diame averages less than half the number of passes Cairney makes per 90 minutes – 29.1.

Given how involved the Scotland international is in the game, it’s no surprise to see him create the most amount of chances per 90 minutes too – 2.73 compared to Shelvey’s 2.34, Diamé’s 1.12 and Colback’s 0.52.

He also is very good at taking people on, winning 76.92 per cent of his take-ons, Shelvey comes closest to him with 67.65 per cent.

The former Liverpool man does beat Cairney in terms of shot accuracy with 57 per cent to 52 per cent, but given Cairney’s goals he wouldn’t be too bothered.

He may not have Premier League experience but he proved last year he was as good as, if not better than, the midfielders Newcastle have, and Magpies fans themselves saw that last season when he ran the show in Fulham’s win at St James’ Park.

If they can tempt him away from Craven Cottage, he deserves the chance to show what he can do in England’s top flight.

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