Jonathan Grant by the Numbers: What the Ontario journeyman brings to ATOs Defence

Jonathan Grant by the Numbers: What the Ontario journeyman brings to ATOs Defence

After so many transfers that seemed inevitable, a signing out of the blue always spices up the window, and that is what we got with the announcement of Jonathan Grant being signed to the Atlético Ottawa roster for 2024 and beyond. While perhaps not a big name like Ballou Tabla or Aboubacar Sissoko, he will be just as important by filling in one of the final starting XI slots for next season. In the following article I will break down Grant’s strengths and weaknesses using statistics, cover his CPL career thus far, and project how he will fit into Carlos Gonzalez’s roster for 2024. To do so, I will be using a data analytics model I created for this exact purpose, detailed here. If you are unfamiliar with my work or haven’t read one of my articles before, it is recommended to at least peruse that piece. Now onto the breakdown.  


As you can probably tell from the distribution of higher scores, Grant is a typical stay-at-home Full Back. He ranks extremely highly in Tackle Success (92.7), something ATO desperately lack, and Aerial Success as well (95.7). His 84.3 Strength grade and 72.6 Defending (Blocks and Clearances) also show him to be very defensively sound. His tackling, strength and defensive contributions have been extremely consistent across his five seasons in the CPL, so chances are he will continue to excel in those areas in 2024. Going forwards, he can also put in a cross (73.8 success ranking) and contributes every so often with an assist. Considering he gets more assists than creates chances, he picks his opportunities well. Generally speaking, he will stay back when the rest of the team is going forwards, but he can make an impact if he chooses to. 

On the flip side, his Pass% is markedly poor (37.3), and he also can’t beat his man one-on-one (37.8 1v1%). His Interceptions are also pretty average, however he does make up for that with his tackling. I have a lot of confidence in his ability to foil opposition attacks and recover the ball, but I would hope that when he is in possession, he will pass it off more often than not. When placing his stats next to Tissot’s, the only comparable FB from the 2023 roster, Grant projects to be slightly better defensively, and also generally better offensively (although both were stronger behind the ball). Notably, Grant's Passing grade, while poor, was still miles better than Tissot’s (48.2 compared to 18.7). Grant’s WPA was also better, 65 compared to 59.2

However, there is one thing that should be noted. Grant only played 1000 minutes last season, mostly due to injury, and has shown a tendency for that throughout his career (something I will address below). While his minutes are low, and certainly he logged fewer than the average player, they are still above my threshold of significance (800), so although a product of a smaller sample, his statistical results are just about strong enough to be able to make a proper analysis.


Now to address the elephant in the room: Jonathan Grant has played five seasons in the CPL, and has never played more than 1300 minutes in a campaign. In fact, during his four non-Island Games seasons, he has played 882, 1279, 62 and 1052 minutes respectively. The big reason why is through injury, being a combination of multiple short to long-term knocks that keep him out of the squad sporadically across the season. When looking at his WPA results over those seasons, you can certainly see a trend for when his grades dip. In 2020 and 2022, where he played fewer than 800 minutes, his grade plunged to the 30’s and 50’s respectively, whereas in those other seasons it rests around the high 60’s. Therefore, a conclusion we can draw is that when he IS healthy (relatively speaking) he can make a decent impact. 

As for how he will slot into the 2024 ATO roster, we can assume he will be the starting Right Back. He has played Centre Back occasionally, and certainly has the profile to, however considering the lack of other options at RB I think it's an obvious choice. What is up for speculation, however, is how the team will shift around when in or out of possession. 

When looking at Matteo de Brienne, who will presumably start at Left Back, both players profile pretty much the opposite. Whereas Grant is a defensively-solid FB, de Brienne is more suited to pushing forwards and joining the attack, leaving a gap on that side. This movement can either be prescribed by the coach or improvised by de Brienne due to his natural aggressiveness and talent for it, but either way, it will need to be covered for. Assuming Carlos Gonzalez will play a 4-at-the-back formation when out of possession, a solution for this would be to slide into a back-3 when ATO have the ball. Thus, MdB will become a LWB/LW, and the question becomes who fills that extra CB spot and the vacant RWB. One option could be Zapater dropping back and playing in front of those defenders (leaving Grant at RWB, something he is unsuited for). 

Personally, I believe Grant would slot into CB, and Twardek (the presumptive starting RW/RM) would slide backwards into RWB. It isn’t the most elegant solution, however it would remedy having an asymmetric pair of Full Backs. It also involves the least amount of positional finagling, as moving Zapater requires shuffling in the midfield, and takes into account Grant generally losing a step due to his age and various injuries; CB would be easier on him than RWB. Either MdB plays a defensive-minded FB and stays back when ATO has the ball, something I don’t believe he is suited for both statistically and dispositionally, or the entire formation shifts around a bit to accommodate de Brienne going forward and joining an overlap with Ballou Tabla. This latter solution is probably the better option and fits more with the starting players’ strengths and positional adaptability. 

Overall, I think this Grant is a very solid pickup for Atletico Ottawa. He fills a much-needed spot in the starting XI, brings CPL experience to a young roster crying out for it, and also remedies some historical weaknesses in defensive composition (namely in tackling). However, his injury history can’t be overlooked: he hasn’t spent a single season without picking up at least two knocks (save 2020), and has never played more minutes than the average player. He is also 30 years old, and that combined with his injuries won’t make him the most dynamic player on the pitch. That being said, when he does play, he plays at a good level; whether he can stay healthy remains to be seen, but I think if he does, he projects to be an essential piece for a threadbare defensive unit. Of course, Fernando Lopez and company are not finished yet, and who knows what pieces are yet to come. One would hope that a depth option behind Grant, and of course another CB option, are on their way. We will just have to wait and see. 


About Alexander:

When he isn't busy playing or watching sports (or going to school at uOttawa), Alexander is busy managing his Atlético Ottawa database, which he started in 2020, and tracks everything you can think of about the club and its players. He also runs a Twitter account dedicated to analyzing and rating CPL players using statistics, CPL by the Numbers.

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