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Talking Tactics

Mitchell has the skills to keep Saka quiet

Adrian Clarke 2 Apr 2022

Adrian Clarke analyses the Crystal Palace left-back's brilliant season ahead of facing Arsenal winger

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 31.

Tyrick Mitchell (CRY)

Fresh from making his first two senior England appearances, Crystal Palace left-back Mitchell will aim to complete a fabulous week by keeping Bukayo Saka quiet when Arsenal visit Selhurst Park on Monday.

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It will be a challenge to contain one of the Premier League’s form players, but the 22-year-old, who impressed against Switzerland and Ivory Coast, will not be fazed.

Throughout a hugely impressive season, the quality of Mitchell's defending and decision-making has been consistently strong.

Excellent at shutting down space, no Premier League defender has made more tackles or ball recoveries than he, protecting the left side with dogged enthusiasm and a level of discipline that means he is rarely caught out of position.

Top defenders in 2021/22
Most tackles Most ball recoveries
Tyrick Mitchell 90 Tyrick Mitchell 204
Matthew Cash 75 Mohammed Salisu 197
Marc Cucurella 66 Trent Alexander-Arnold 192
Mohammed Salisu 64 Marc Cucurella 185
Joao Cancelo 63 Virgil van Dijk 174

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his make-up is the assured nature of his in-game choices.

Of all the top-flight defenders to have made at least 23 starts this season, Mitchell is the only player yet to be booked.

Despite making more tackles than anyone else, he has also committed just 13 fouls.

When you compare that record with others at full-back, he comes out as the best-behaved left-back in the division.

The cleanest full-backs in 2021/22 
Fouls per 90*
Trent Alexander-Arnold 0.31
Tyrick Mitchell 0.45
Aaron Cresswell 0.49
Rico Henry 0.69
Joel Ward 0.70

*Min 23 starts

Accurate crosses

Mitchell is the type of full-back who will happily sit in and keep his shape if Palace are pinned back inside their own half, as they were in a recent 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City.

But when opportunities arise to go forward, he has plenty to offer, with the possible exception of shooting proficiency.

In 29 starts this season, he has attempted only one shot on goal.

Mitchell's left foot has assisted two goals from pinpoint crosses though, and that is his other main attribute.

Best crossing accuracy 2021/22*
Player Accuracy Crosses
Ryan Fraser 39.02% 50
Tyrick Mitchell 36.73% 47
Pascal Gross 32.09% 51
Trent Alexander-Arnold 30.99% 98
Mason Mount 30.97% 49

*Min 40 open-play crosses

From a pool of players who have delivered at least 40 crosses, Mitchell's accuracy can only be beaten by that of Ryan Fraser.

Finding a team-mate with 36.73 per cent of his open-play crosses, he is very precise and deliberate in the way he sends the ball into the area.

While he has set up goals for Christian Benteke and Conor Gallagher from crosses, the player he picks out most is Jean-Phillipe Mateta, who has got on the end of five of his deliveries.

Saka's forward threat

Saka in playing extremely well right now, and is one of just five players to have enjoyed over 150 touches inside the opposition box so far this season.

He is level with Raheem Sterling's 166 touches in the area and behind only Bernardo Silva (171), Sadio Mane (178) and Mohamed Salah (273), which goes to show the extent of his forward threat.

Mitchell's duel with the in-form Saka, promises to be a match-defining contest. 

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