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ANALYSIS: Is Jordan Ayew that bad? Nope. Here's proof he's not.

ANALYSIS: Is Jordan Ayew that bad? Nope. Here's proof he's not.
Source: Ghana/Joy Sports/Gary Al-Smith
Date: 14-05-2018 Time: 05:05:24:pm
It’s a fact that he has been given several chances to shine for the national teams in the eight years he’s been around. It’s a fact that he only really took those chances in the last two years.
It’s a fact also that his attitude and demeanour infuriates national team supporters to no end.
However, the trolling that has greeted the 26-year old after the confirmation of Swansea’s relegation from the Premier League has been disproportionate, and undeserving.
From being called ‘a relegation merchant’ to allegations that ‘he is cursed’ (as we heard on Joy FM’s Sports Link show this weekend) and tired clichés that he is lazy, a lot of the characterization is based on, loosely, three things:
- Mistakes he’s made in the past in Ghana colours 
- A lingering reputation among Black Stars fans
- His own lack of application in years past.
This piece attempts to examine these stereotypes, and see if they apply to the 2018 version of this Ayew. 
Lukasz Fabianski was crowned the club’s Player of the Season, as his efforts to help the team prevent relegation were awarded. But most footballers will tell you that an award chosen by their peers means more.
That is why the Players’ Player of the Season award for Jordan seemed to overshadow that of his Polish compatriot.
"To me he is one of the best attackers in the Premier League, a fantastic addition to us," Swansea Carlos Carvalhal says of the Ghanaian. 
Ayew has netted seven Premier League goals this season (11 in all competitions). His most prolific league season was in the 2014/15 season, when he netted 12 times for Lorient to help them avoid Ligue 1 relegation.
"It is my surprise people were being negative about him before I arrived."  
And that’s been Jordan’s problem. 
He’s lazy. He’s not committed. He sulks too much.
Joy Sports spoke to Sam Tighe, a journalist who covered Aston Villa at the time Jordan was there, and he summed the player up thus: “He’s a very good player but fans don’t know when will be brilliant or when he will disappoint.”
The word for that kind of thing is consistency. For the past two seasons, Jordan has indeed been consistent, especially in this campaign.
Jordan Ayew stats
As this infographic shows, he was played in four positions this season. But it doesn’t tell the full story of how much work he put into actual games, contributing to midfield and defensive duties, too.
But, maybe, the ultimate assessment of the player is whether he did well only because he played in a team of average players. Would he have had a good season in any other team?
Let’s have a look. 
Some of the teams in the Premier League’s top 10 give the impression that they are populated by world class strikers. The deceptive nature of the league table makes it to overlook hard workers further down the scale, like Jordan. 
Before we move on, here's the criteria used to choose the players used for this comparative analysis:
✅ They are all from teams in the top 10 of the league.

✅ Of the teams, these players either topscored or were among top two scorers.

✅ They are players with similar stats/of similar talent/age bracket in aforementioned top 10 teams.

✅ In the case of Walcott, he was chosen because of his reputation vs the reality.

Jordan Ayew numbers
Take Burnley for instance.
They finished seventh, with Ashley Barnes’ nine goals placing him as the club’s second top scorer – behind Chris Wood with 10. 
Barnes (36 appearances) is a passionate player, who likes to play short passes, chases down every ball and has a decent vision for through balls. In short, a very average player. 
Similarly, Theo Walcott, whose move from Arsenal to Everton brought hopes he could join forces with Rooney to score a hat-load of goals. Instead, he’s managed just three in 13 appearances. He did not merit a regular place because his crossing is poor, and so is his passing, offside awareness and holding on to the ball.
Yet, Walcott bizarrely maintains a certain good reputation.
Jesse Lingard has had 33 games, three less than Jordan, and has scored eight times. A third of his appearances have been as a sub, but he has profited from world class service all around him – Lukaku, Mata, Pogba, Matic and others.
Ayoze Perez, widely seen as Newcastle’s better players this season, managed eight goals in 36 games. Perez has strong finishing, good link up play, keeps the ball at his feet during his regular dribbles and hence attracts fouls for his side. And therein lies the irony – he has performed better than his stats suggest, being productive in more ways than goalscoring and assists. 
And that’s the category in which Jordan finds himself.
Jordan was not a player who fancies taking responsibility in the past; it was that reticence that gave his detractors fuel. 
However, since about 2014, every single one of his coaches have hailed his growth and sense of purpose: Herve Renard at Sochaux, Lorient’s Sylvian Ripoll, Aston Villa’s Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde; and, latterly, Swansea’s Paul Clement and Carlos Carvalhal.
His build is an obvious hint that he can play center-forward, but he operates well playing off a main striker. To less effect, he’s been utilized as a winger.
The reward of his consistency this season is seen in the fact that despite the chopping and changing of Swansea managers, the Ghanaian has played 36 Premier League games, with only three of those as a sub.
As teammate Martin Olson said in April: “Jordan has been vital for us this season. He gives us something different going forward.” 
After the 2014 World Cup, Jordan has quietly been the best striker for the Ghana national teams in terms of goals, scoring more than anyone else in 2015 and 2016. 
He was only gazumped last year by the rising Thomas Partey.
For the perception to change, the younger Ayew needs a bit of luck, in the sense that being in technically poor teams does him no favours, no matter how well he performs.
Look at Riyad Mahrez at Leicester, whose season has capped off with 12 goals in a team that’s actively helped him with assists, while he’s also had players who operate on a similar wavelength – Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho, Shinji Okazaki, Demarai Gray.
Since leaving Marseille, Jordan has never had that at any team. 
This season, the Jordan of now has clearly shown what many have for years suspected, that he is a better all-round player than his elder brother, Andre, and that he needs just a lucky break is a decent team filled with good players.
He will surprise us all even more.
Follow Gary on Twitter: @garyalsmith

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