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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League

by Daniel Alston @efc_danalston

Ahead of the Friday's big FA Cup showdown with Fulham, we decided to look at two of the key defensive protagonists as we continue our new feature, Head-to-Head.

John Heitinga and Philippe Senderos were teammates at Everton for half a season. The Fulham defender only made two appearances in a Blue shirt following his January 2010 loan move from Arsenal, but has since established himself at Craven Cottage.

Using our new stats tool, we can see how the duo match up across league and domestic cup fixtures this season.

As defenders, getting in the way of shots and dangerous passes is vital. Our Dutch international has made 17 blocks compared to Senderos' 11, whilst also boasting the better disciplinary record, having only been cautioned twice.

The Swiss claims the most clearances however, 34 to 14, which is perhaps indicative of plenty of last-ditch defending.

Former Everton striker Graeme Sharp highlighted the difference between the two and their playing styles, when he said: "Senderos is more a centre-half who wants to go and head the ball whereas Heitinga is more like the second centre-back. He likes to sweep up things. He'll let most of the aerial challenges go to Shane Duffy if he's playing and John reads the game very, very well.

"Senderos has been in the English game for a long time, but I think Heitinga's performances have been fantastic.

"Looking at it, it didn't happen for Senderos here at Everton. He's still a decent footballer but one that you'd hope that whoever's playing up front for ourselves can cause a few problems for."

With encounters likely at set-pieces, it is Heitinga who boasts the better attacking stats at present. His first goal of the season against Tamworth in the last round means he has netted more than his opponent and has shown greater intent with 11 efforts at goal to Senderos' six.

As has been the case throughout his time at Goodison, our World Cup finalist has often been deployed in a defensive midfield role, although Sharp believes he is more at home in the backline.

"He's been asked to do a holding role in midfield at times," he added. "For me personally, I think he's a better centre-back.

"He struck up a good partnership with Sylvain Distin when he has played there, he struck up a good partnership with Phil Jagielka and it looks as if he's doing the same with young Shane Duffy at the moment.

"It's difficult for him at the moment with the young lad who is inexperienced. He's got to obviously talk to him and coach him through the game. John's experienced enough now and personally speaking, I see him as a centre-back rather than a midfielder. That's no disrepect - when he's asked to play in midfield, he goes in there and does a job, but I think he would probably tell you himself that he sees himself as a central defender."

See the stats for yourself here, and remember you can compare any Everton player to any other in the Premier League. Have a go and tell us what interesting comparisons you can find.
*Stats provided by the Press Association.

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