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Albion Analytics: Lewis Dunk

The club captain reached 150 Premier League appearances for the club in the 0-0 draw with Arsenal.

By Liam Tharme • 15 October 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk has played every minute of Albion's 2021/22 Premier League campaign so far.

Brighton club captain and academy graduate brought up 150 Premier League appearances when he started in the Albion's goalless draw at home to Arsenal.

He currently ranks sixth (behind Mark Noble, Hugo Lloris, Jamie Vardy, Wilfried Zaha and Ben Mee) for most Premier League appearances for one club, among current players.

While his longevity alone is incredible, it is Dunk's ability to have thrived in both a deep defending and ball playing side that deserves the utmost praise. He recorded the most interceptions (93) and third most blocks (94) of any Premier League player in Brighton's inaugural Premier League season (2017/18). Dunk was one of just five outfielders to play every single minute of that league campaign.

In both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons he ranked inside the top one-third of Premier League central defenders for opposition shots blocked, switches of play and long passes completed, evidence of his ability to seamlessly blend box defending with ball playing.

The 29-year-old has refined this style as his time in the Premier League has gone on, and now in the 2021/22 season is receiving more passes (57) and playing more passes (66.7 per game) than ever, playing such passes for the most progressive distance (384 yards per game) and the most accurately (92% completion rate) in any of his Premier League seasons to date. Unsurprisingly, he completed the most passes of any Brighton player last season (1,935), and his passes covered the equivalent of over 108 lengths of the Amex pitch.

This season, 83% of Dunk’s ball touches have been passes, and this figure has been on an upward trend since the 2018/19 season, evidence of his seemingly specialised quarter-back style role in the side. He isn’t all build-up and no end product though. He ranks fourth among Brighton players for all-time goals scored (11) in the Premier League, and last season he boasted his best attacking return to date: 30 shots, 13 on target (43.3% shot accuracy) and five goals scored – all of those figures were his best in a single Premier League campaign.

Only Kurt Zouma (also five) could match Dunk for goals scored by a central defender last campaign, and only Virgil Van Dijk (also 10) can compete with Dunk for goals scored by central defenders since the start of the 2018/19 season, with teammate Shane Duffy (7) in close pursuit. Seven of Dunk’s 11 Premier League strikes have been headers with all coming from set pieces and, impressively, he’s scored or assisted against five of the ‘big six’ - the exception being Manchester City.

Dunk’s exceptional aerial ability plays a key role in preventing opposition chances through box defending – he has been on the field for 40 of Brighton’s 41 clean sheets – and has been successful in almost two-thirds of his aerial duels as a Premier League player.

When defending on the ground, Dunk has evolved too. His proportion of ball contact defensive actions (tackles plus interceptions, clearances) have naturally decreased, as a result of Brighton’s increased possession that provides fewer opportunities to defend. That said, his rate of success is soaring. Last season Dunk successfully tackled 52% of dribbling opponents, his best return compared to his other three full campaigns, and under Graham Potter, over 40% of his pressures have led to a turnover inside five seconds.

In terms of his best Premier League performance, SofaScore’s algorithm ranks his performance on the opening day at Watford (2019/20 season) top. That day, he topped the charts for passes completed/attempted (54/59) and ranked second among Brighton players for ball recoveries (7), recording five tackles plus interceptions and winning two fouls. It was his midfield and defence-splitting 48-yard pass that sent Maupay through to round Ben Foster and add a third.