Key Battle: O’Neill v Beñat
Melbourne City FC and Macarthur FC are set to face off in the second of this weekend’s two Semi Finals, City looking to progress to a second consecutive Grand Final following heartbreak in last season’s showpiece fixture.
Crucial to our chances of progressing to the grand stage will be Aiden O’Neill, who overcame a long spell on the sidelines to become an important cog in the City midfield in the second half of the season.
O’Neill will have to be on top of his game to limit the influence of Beñat, who pulls the strings in the centre of the park for Macarthur.
Owing to his lengthy back injury, O’Neill’s 12 appearances mean he has played just over half the number of games as his midfield counterpart, who has featured 23 times for the Bulls.
In his limited playing time, O’Neill is yet to contribute to a goal, whilst Beñat’s more offensive role has allowed him to provide five assists for his teammates over the course of the season, though the Spaniard is yet to net his first A-League goal.
Beñat’s creativity is also exemplified by his 43 key passes, of course though O’Neill (9) has played far less minutes.
It’s the defensive stats where O’Neill proves his value, vastly outperforming Beñat across blocks, tackles, clearances and interceptions on a per 90 minutes basis. The pair have recorded similar success rates for tackles and duels, but Beñat has proven difficult to beat in the air, winning 77.3% of his aerial duels this season. O’Neill, by comparison, has won 57.5%.
Analysis of the midfield duo’s passing highlights some of the disparities in their roles, with Beñat enjoying more time on the ball than his counterpart. The Spaniard plays 78.6 passes per 90 minutes at 90.6% accuracy, whilst O’Neill makes a slightly lower-volume 61.5 passes per 90 at 89.1% accuracy.
In regards to how they distribute the ball with those passes, Beñat is far more adventurous with his long passing, attempting these at around twice the frequency of O’Neill, and at a fairly impressive accuracy of 78.5%. City’s deep-lying midfielder, by comparison, is accurate with 68.1% of his long passes.