The lowdown on Luton Town's on-loan midfield maestro

          ONE TO WATCH | Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

          2021/01/13 15:16
          Stephen Gillett (Intro)

          After winning rave reviews in an admittedly rushed pre-season, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was reportedly close to Brendan Rodgers' first team plans at Leicester City for 2020/21, but eventually joined Luton Town on loan to continue his development. 

          So far it's worked out well for all concerned, the 22-year-old midfielder enhancing his reputation with some outstanding performances for a Hatters side that sit solidly mid-table in the Championship under the guidance of manager Nathan Jones. 

          To keep tabs on an exciting young English talent, we checked in with Ben from Luton Town Analytics for his take on KD-H's progress. 

          ©Getty / Julian Finney

          1. There's certainly a buzz surrounding Dewsbury-Hall following his performances for Luton this season - just how good has he been?

          So good that we’ve all but given up having a Man of the Match award. He just gets it every week - despite the club still feeling like it needs to do the arbitrary Twitter poll.

          SofaScore have him at an average rating of 7.20 for the season - which puts him as the 13th best-performing player in the Championship. Whilst I do take those kinds of ratings with a pinch of salt, it does feel like it matches up with what we’ve seen.

          When he plays for us there appears to be at least two of him on the pitch. Somehow he is everywhere and to be fair his heat maps seem to back up what my bemused brain can’t seem to comprehend.

          In one of the world’s most gruelling and challenging leagues he clearly stands out from the rest and rarely puts a foot wrong. 

          ©Getty / Marc Atkins

          2. A five-minute Google search will dig up comparisons between KD-H, N´Golo Kante, James Maddison and David Beckham! What type of midfielder is he? Does he remind you of anyone in terms of his playing style?

          Interesting you should ask that. I’m in the process of writing up my journey trying to find “the next KD-H” using the data and statistical analysis of his performances and playing styles.

          In terms of those three that Google has suggested I can understand why.

          Kante matches up because of his energetic style and ability to not only disrupt the opposition's attacks (with crucial interceptions and tackles) but also then progress the ball through the midfield from deep.

          Maddison is a slightly trickier one as we’ve been playing Kiernan in more of a deep-lying playmaker role, but I have no doubt at all that he can play CAM (as well as CDM and CM). Perhaps the Maddison comparison comes from the fact they see him offering a similar attacking threat with progressive passing, a decent set piece and long shot on him.

          The Beckham one has to be the corners. Every corner or set-piece he puts in seems to wreak havoc in the opposition's box. Positioning-wise we’ve not seen much of him as a wide player whipping in crosses like ‘early Beckham’. Perhaps the considered pass-picker of his later years is a more apt comparison if you then add in the fact that Dewsbury-Hall still has the energy of a 22 year old and isn’t afraid to take on a player.

          I asked some of the Hatters faithful on Twitter what attributes/characteristics made him such a good player. Their answers were as follows:

          His reading of the game
          Combative aggression
          Movement on and off the ball
          His lack of fear about receiving the ball in tight areas
          Speed of decision making
          Ball carrying
          Progressive passing

          One of the most notable ones that stands out for me is his confidence. His confidence to attempt the trickier pass, to beat a man, to drive forward in possession, to always want the ball and the belief he has that he isn’t going to lose ball (which probably stems from the fact that if/when he does he’s pretty bloody adept at winning it back again).

          Recently Felix (@lgopfelix), from Looks Good on Paper, offered to find the most similar player (past and present) to any suggested, using his projection modelling and forecasting data. So, obviously I was keen to see who Kiernan was most closely likened to.

          The answer...

          Dunga. Yep, that’s right, World Cup winning Brazilian Dunga, who Wikipedia has this to say about:

          As a player, Dunga was a strong, hard-tackling, ball-winning defensive midfielder with good technique, tactical versatility and an ability to read the game well and organise his teammates; he was highly regarded for his anticipation and ability to time his challenges, only going in for tackles or sliding challenges when he deemed it necessary. He was also capable of contributing creatively and offensively to his teams; he usually positioned himself in front of the defence, which allowed him to break down the opposing team's plays, and start attacking plays with his passing once he won back possession.

          And to be fair, without wanting to overplay the comparisons of a player really only just starting out with a proper legit World Cup winning legend... it pretty much all matches up.

          3. What have been KD-H's highlights for the Hatters so far this season? Any lowlights?

          God! How long have you got?! At half and full-time of each game I tweet out the positives and negatives from each 45. He’s been nestled in the positives section for almost every half of football we’ve played - even when we’ve been utter shite he’s stood out as something to give us both some entertainment and a bit of hope.

          In terms of standout highlights; he won man of the match three weeks running. He bagged his first goal of the season against Bristol City recently (it had been coming) and it showed just what he’s about. He nicked in to intercept the ball and then had the confidence to get his head up, and then down, and smash in the shot (you could argue that the keeper should’ve done better on first view, but on closer inspection you can see how much it was fizzed along the deck).

          ©Getty / James Chance

          His game against league leaders Norwich stands out for me. He took a quick free kick to set Moncur free to sink his goal of the month winning strike from outside of the area (a shot which Daniel Farke said was a once in lifetime strike - which is strange because I’ve seen Moncur hit about four of them in the past couple of years - but that’s neither here nor there).

          For our second he whips a pin-point free kick directly on to (Magic) Matty Pearson’s head. You can see from his celebration exactly how much credit Pearson ascribes to Dewsbury-Hall as he sprints over gleefully pointing at him.

          And finally for our third goal, it’s something you wouldn’t pick up on from the stats or even watching the highlights below, he pressed their keeper, MoGovern, so well (having sprinted from the depths of midfield) that he ended up fluffing his pass to the defender. We won the ball back and managed to put in a cross which was then handled in the area due to the resulting panic that ensued.

          Lowlights? Errrrmmm… I’m really scraping the lowlights barrel here, but he hit one pretty pony free-kick against Birmingham that was blazed over the bar and probably should’ve been left to Moncur. But, aside from that I really can’t think of much else.

          ©Getty / Dave Rogers

          4. What are the most impressive elements of his game? Are there any obvious areas in which he needs to develop?

          Well, statistically he’s right up there with the best progressive passers in the league.

          As I’ve already mentioned his set pieces are weapons grade. He has the fourth highest xA from set pieces according to Wyscout and when you watch them it’s clear to see why.

          He’s eighth in the League for Second Assists and sits 21st for passes into the final third per 90 amongst some excellent company.

          Aside from these though there’s no real clear stand out stats - he’s just bloody consistent in everything he puts his hand (well, in this case feet) to. He feels very much like the complete midfielder; decent at intercepting the ball, doesn’t shy away from a tackle or taking a shot for that matter, rarely loses the ball, he's a tidy passer who looks to move the ball forward, he's got that defence-splitting pass in his locker and can take one hell of a set piece.

          Because of that consistency it’s really quite tricky to look at where he could improve. Perhaps his tackling could do with some work, but we have Glen Rea for that and overall his successful defensive actions per 90 aren’t too shabby at all (5th best in our team).

          Personally I’d like to see him dribbling with the ball a bit more. He’s averaging just over two dribbles per 90, but has a staggeringly high 85% success rate when he does. Perhaps he only choses to do so when he has the space but still I’d love to see him try it more. 

          5. A lot of good judges are tipping KD-H for the top. On what you've seen, is he a Premier League star in the making?

          I think the crucial part of that question is “in the making”. He clearly stands out for Luton and in the Championship. He put up some really strong numbers playing for Blackpool in League One and given that he joined them in January, he settled very quickly getting 10 decent games and 855 league mins under his belt. In his 13 starts for us he’s clearly shown the step (which we know, only too well, is a big one) up to the Championship has been well within his range.

          Despite not having that many clear stand out numbers, it’s the fact that overall every facet of his play seems to be at a decent level. Coupled with his confidence in his own abilities and that no matter the opponent or importance placed on each game he seems almost totally unfazed and has an assuredness that belies both his age and experience.

          As BA Analytics tweeted whilst watching us and him against Birmingham he certainly looks the part.

          I’m very grateful that Leicester have made the shrewd move of letting him come on loan to us rather than hang about on the periphery of their squad. And I’m also very grateful to the boy wonder James Justin for putting in a good word about us to him (#AgentJustin). 

          I think the experience he’ll get from the remainder of the season on loan will not only allow him to evolve as a player, it’ll show his long term employers (he's contracted to Leicester until 2024) that he has what it takes to start providing very valid competition to their already excellent starting midfielders.

          At the end of the season, when he returns to Leicester, I really feel he won’t look back and I doubt we’ll see him at this level of football ever again. Leaving us with some great memories of him in a Luton shirt and the rather ominous task of finding the next KD-H.


          Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall
          NameKiernan Frank Dewsbury-Hall
          Born1998-09-06(22 -yrs-old)
          PositionMidfielder (Defensive Midfielder)


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