Last season, Jonjoe Kenny made only 15 appearances for Everton. He also made the same amount in the 2017/18 season. He is a versatile defender, who is predominantly a right-back but has also been played at left-back. Being a role player at the Toffees wasn’t going to help the young Englishman make strides in his development and solidify a career in the premier league. This summer he completed a loan move to FC Schalke 04. Their newly appointed manager, David Wagner, convinced Kenny to swap the Premier League for the Bundesliga. This tactical analysis and scout report will look at Kenny’s performances up until this point, and what he can bring to Schalke.
Kenny had suffered at the hands of the British media earlier in the summer following England’s disastrous UEFA U21 Championship campaign. His efforts against Romania drew considerable criticism after giving away a penalty, as well as not making a single interception the entire game.
He did bounce back against Croatia though, making a career-high 8 interceptions and scoring a belter of a strike from outside the box – his first professional goal.
But nevertheless, in the 2 games he played, he was part of a defence that shipped in 7 goals. In the Premier League, this season Everton conceded 1.21 goals per game, but with Kenny, in the side, that figure was up to 1.6 goals per game. Clearly, Everton decided he wasn’t ready to contribute regularly to the first team for the coming season.
Lack of progress
His statistics show that over the last 3 seasons he hasn’t made huge strides in his development either. H levels of performance have actually decreased in some areas. In 17/18 he made 5.37 interceptions per game, but last season was down to 4.16. In the 2017/18 season, he also made 3.23 clearances per game, but last year was again down at 2.66. His win ratio on defensive duels hasn’t improved since the 2016/17 season and last year he made more fouls than any other year in his career.
A lot of English youngsters have been moving to German clubs to aid their development in the last few seasons. However, there is a big difference with Kenny to the likes of Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson. Kenny turns 23 this season and has been given plenty of opportunity in the first team, without cementing a starting place. He needs to start making progress in his career.
Improvements in his passing game
He is improving on the ball, however. Kenny receives more than 12 passes per game than he has done in any of his previous seasons, suggesting his teammates trust him more. The fact his passing statistics have improved with more touches can only be seen as a good sign.
Since playing on loan for Oxford United in 2015/16, he has gone from completing 75.8% of his passes to 82.1%, whilst now making 13 more passes per game then he did at Oxford.
Kenny is positive on the ball, playing three times as many passes forwards as he does backwards. He is also making more passes into the final third than he has done in his career, and his accuracy rating on these kinds of passes has improved from 63% in 2017/18 to 73.5% last season.
Kenny is certainly more fond of a long ball than the other Everton right-backs, Seamus Coleman and Mason Holgate. He registers just under seven long balls per game at a decent, if not spectacular, 52.8% completion rate.
Kenny is a smart defender. He plays very close to his centre-backs and covers his defensive partners with his pace and good reading of the game.
The below analysis is a perfect example of this against Manchester City. As İlkay Gündoğan brings the ball forward the Everton back line is completely out of shape. Michael Keane is out of position and Kurt Zouma is about to press Gündoğan. Kenny comes more central to ensure he can challenge Agüero if the ball is played behind the centre-backs, or challenge David Silva should the ball be played over his head.
His statistics tell the story of a defender who is solid, if unremarkable. Making 5.16 interceptions is credible, as is winning 55.4% of his aerial duels.
He plays safe and is defensive minded. He looks to clear his lines in a quick and efficient manner and rarely plays out from the back when under pressure. His 3.04 clearances a game would back this up.
He isn’t going to transform a leaky defence, as England U21’s European campaign this summer showed. However, he has the potential to be a reliable right-back.
When he makes runs with intent, he causes problems for defences. He has only registered 8 assists in his career so far, but these assists all stemmed from these kinds of runs.
Several chances he created in the recent Euro U21 championships were products of these runs as well, including a cross which was met by Tammy Abraham, only to thunder against the crossbar.
Kenny can run all day and is excellent when overlapping, or underlapping his right-winger.
He has good speed and is composed when looking to pick out a teammate in the final third.
Crossing is one of Kenny’s strengths. All but one of his assists have come from crosses. He strikes the ball with pace and precision. He makes 2.85 crosses per game, at a respectable 36.5% completion rate. However, he is making fewer crosses per game than both Seamus Coleman and Mason Holgate.
Increasing the number of crosses he makes per game, whilst keeping, or even improving the completion rate, will get him a lot more game time upon return to Everton. Admittedly the predominant recipient of his crossing for Everton has been the goal-shy Cenk Tosun. I would expect him to make an increase in his assist tally in the coming season. Schalke’s new signing Benito Raman can help him here. They will also hope Mark Uth returns to the form he showed for Hoffenheim in the 2017-18 season. Last season he scored only 2 league goals in 20 league appearances.
Schalke had a troublesome 2018/19 season, narrowly avoiding relegation last season. This was after finishing second in the 2017/18 season.
David Wagner will no doubt have them playing the high-pressing style that helped Huddersfield reach the Premier League. Kenny is a robust defender with excellent stamina. Wagner will have brought him in knowing he can play his specific system.
Wagner’s tactics are based on playing fast and direct. Jonjoe Kenny’s improvements in passing to the final third, as mentioned earlier, will serve him well under Wagner. However, Wagner will want the right back to be slightly more adventurous when attacking.
He has little competition for a starting role. Schalke have let Sascha Riether leave this summer, and last year had the likes of Weston Mckinnie filling in at right-back.
Kenny should benefit immensely from a regular starting role, however, he has some major tweaks to make in his game. He will hope he can return to England ready to contribute to an Everton side still trying to gatecrash the top six.
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