Stephen Ward vs. Jack Robinson: Who Can Solve Brighton's Left-Back Problems?

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Stephen Ward vs. Jack Robinson: Who Can Solve Brighton's Left-Back Problems?
Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Is Stephen Ward the player to plug the left-back gap for Sami Hyypia?

It is clear that, having fielded natural right-sider Inigo Calderon at left-back in both of Brighton's 2014/15 fixtures to date, the position is a problem for new manager Sami Hyypia.

A 1-0 league loss to Sheffield Wednesday and Tuesday's 2-0 Capital One Cup win over Cheltenham Town have seen the Spaniard perform capably, but it is obvious that this is not Calderon's best role.

Two new options have been tentatively rumoured to be in the Finnish manager's sights in recent weeks: Wolves defender Stephen Ward and Liverpool youngster Jack Robinson.

So, which of these left-back options could solve Brighton's problem?

Key attributes of an effective full-back that I will be considering are the ability to win the ball on the ground and in the air, the ability to read the game and intercept the ball and the ability to dribble and pass to good effect.

Other factors will naturally be considered, such as those from the sphere of mentality. These could include experience and ambition, amongst others.

 

Stephen Ward

28-year-old Wolves man Stephen Ward spent last season on loan with the Seagulls, and was a consistent, impressive member of Oscar Garcia's back four.

The Republic of Ireland international made 46 appearances, scoring four goals and making four assists.

With Wolves returning to the English second tier this season, Ward could have forced his way back into Kenny Jackett's first team.

However, it seems that the defender is still on the periphery, having not featured in the squad for the club's last two fixtures, first against Norwich City in the Championship and then Northampton Town in the Capital One Cup.

Ward is fairly well rounded as a defender, winning 1.58 tackles, 1.51 aerial duels and making 1.65 interceptions on average per 90 last season.

Could Jack Robinson develop into a great player for Brighton?

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With an average of 0.45 successful take-ons and a passing accuracy of 79 per cent, Ward is comfortable on the ball.

The highest passing accuracy for a full-back playing over 10 games in 2013/14 was Derby's Andre Wisdom, with 82 per cent.

Furthermore, with international and Premier League experience in droves, and with a knowledge of the club from last season, Ward can be considered a highly experienced signing.

All that seems to be standing in the way of a move to the Sussex coast this season are Ward's wage demands, which could prove a sticking point.

The Wolverhampton Express & Star claim that Brighton are "unwilling to match the Ireland international’s £13,000-a-week salary at Wolves."

 

Jack Robinson

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Jack Robinson in action for Blackpool last season.

Liverpool left-back Jack Robinson burst through the Anfield ranks as a 17-year-old, impressing in tandem with Jon Flanagan when then-manager Kenny Dalglish's resources were thin.

Highly rated at a young age, Robinson gave an immaculate account of his talents as he was charged with shackling Arsenal's Theo Walcott in a 1-1 away draw towards the end of the 2010/11 season.

Since, however, the youngster has struggled to find first-team opportunities, and with the imminent signing of Alberto Moreno for the Reds, Robinson's career with the five-time European champions is nigh on over.

Robinson spent last season on loan at Blackpool, making 34 appearances and charting one assist.

The 20-year-old is efficient in the tackle, winning 1.95 on average per 90 last season.

Could Jack Robinson develop into a great player for Brighton?

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Average rates of 1.41 aerial duels won and 2.27 interceptions made per 90 outline the defender as proficient both physically and mentally.

With the ball, however, Robinson does lack a certain aspect, with 0.35 successful take-ons per 90 and an average passing accuracy of 72 per cent a little on the low side, even for a full-back.

However, it is important to consider that Robinson is eight years Ward's junior and has great scope for development—this is underlined by the youngster's ambition.

The left-back was hoping to follow in the footsteps of a resurgent Red, Flanagan, this season, telling LiverpoolFC.com, "Coming back into the Liverpool team is going to be a big jump for me, but all I can do is go into training, impress the manager and see what [Brendan Rodgers] thinks."

Now behind Moreno, Flanagan and Jose Enrique, this is highly unlikely.

 

The Verdict

Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Stephen Ward just edges it - but would Brighton benefit from signing the pair?

Overall, both options presented would hugely benefit Hyypia's Brighton squad.

It is clear that Ward is a well-rounded full-back, with considerable defensive attributes along with a penchant for attacking bursts. All this is paired with great experience.

Conversely, Robinson is seemingly the more diligent defensive player, marginally let down by his ability on the ball.

However, the player's ambition could see a huge development under Hyypia.

As the Seagulls are seemingly looking at bringing Ward in on a permanent transfer—providing the player's wage demands are negotiated—and Robinson on loan, perhaps Hyypia could look to sign both players.

Ward would provide the experience and quality apparent from last season, whilst Robinson would provide another able body with a raw drive to prove himself. With 43 Championship games to go, Brighton could do with this depth in their squad.

The Wolves man should be first choice, Robinson a close second.

Who would you prefer to see as Brighton's starting left-back this season? Let us know in the comments below.

All statistics courtesy of Squawka.

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