Proof Nisbet’s season has been even better than you think & the insane stat Arnie can’t ignore

WATCH: The highlights reel that earned Josh Nisbet his first Socceroos call-up.

Central Coast Mariners star Josh Nisbet has been rewarded for a stellar Isuzu UTE A-League campaign with a Socceroos debut. Using Opta data, we explain just how impressive he has been this term – and why more international caps could follow.

Strikers may take the headlines, but while goals win games, the ability to keep a team ticking is just as important. And in Josh Nisbet, Australia have a midfielder on their hands who can just do that.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a brilliant season for the Central Coast Mariners under coach Mark Jackson.

Watch Nisbet and the Mariners take on the Wellington Phoenix in a top of the table Isuzu UTE A-League clash this Saturday. Get your tickets here >>

As the end of the regular season approaches, the Mariners are fighting it out with Wellington Phoenix for the Premiership – and Nisbet has played a key role in their success so far this term.

After his assist for the Mariners’ winner in their 2-1 defeat of Melbourne City on Tuesday, Nisbet has now set up eight goals in the Isuzu UTE A-League, making him the leading assist provider in the competition. He has also netted twice himself.

As his assist tally would suggest, Nisbet is one of the league’s most creative players. He has crafted 48 opportunities – the sixth-most in the competition – with all of those coming from open play, which ranks second, behind only Joe Lolley of Sydney FC.

Nisbet has, to be fair, been the beneficiary of some above-average finishing from his Mariners team-mates. His expected assists (xA) tally of 2.7 does not rank particularly highly, but his xA to assist differential of +5.3 is by far the greatest positive difference of any player in the league.

Six of Nisbet’s assists have come from a carry (defined as any movement of the ball by a player which is greater than five metres from where they received the ball), which leads the league, while only two players Lolley (25) and Tolgay Arslan (21), can better his 19 chances created at the end of a carry.

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Nisbet is also a steady passer, having completed 86.93 per cent of his 949 attempted passes.

So, Nisbet is both creative and an effective ball carrier. But what about when it comes to his off-ball work? Well, it’s pretty effective! 

He has made 24 interceptions, won 99 of his 188 duels and has been successful in 19 of his 36 tackles. Most impressively, only three other A-League players have won possession more times than Nisbet (139) – they are: Luke Brattan (173), Jay O’Shea (171), Alex Rufer (142).

Nisbet’s impressive form earned him a maiden Australia call-up in the March international window, as a replacement for the injured Lewis Miller, and he made his debut for the Socceroos as a substitute in the 67th minute of a 5-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Lebanon in Canberra.

But how does he stack up against the other midfield options that Graham Arnold has at his disposal?

Riley McGree (four), Connor Metcalfe (three) and Jackson Irvine (three) have all scored more goals than Nisbet in league play, with all of those players featuring in Europe, but only Irvine can come close to matching Nisbet’s creativity.

Irvine has provided seven assists, but has only created 27 chances, 21 fewer than Nisbet, who also boasts the best passing accuracy out of this batch of players, which also includes Keanu Baccus. 

Nisbet’s ability as a ball-carrying midfielder also stands out, with Irvine (four), Baccus (0), McGree (five) and Metcalfe (three) combined only managing 12 chance-ending carries in total, seven fewer than Nisbet alone.

Unsurprisingly, Nisbet has made more total carries, too. Indeed, prior to the Mariners’ win over Melbourne City, he had tallied up 284 carries, accumulating a carry distance of 3,183 metres. The next-best out of the Socceroos’ midfield options in that metric is McGree, with 2,058m.

Watch Nisbet and the Mariners take on the Wellington Phoenix in a top of the table Isuzu UTE A-League clash this Saturday. Get your tickets here >>

And, when it comes to minutes in the legs, Nisbet is also clear of any of his rivals, too. He is playing regularly, playing well and proving a creative force – Arnold would be a brave man to ignore him for the next set of internationals.

Finally, let’s draw on some comparisons from European football.

When compared to midfielders who have featured for at least 1,350 minutes in Europe’s top five leagues over the past 15 years, Nisbet ranks in the 78th percentile for touches in the opposition box, showing his effectiveness at getting into dangerous areas, the 57th percentile for possession won and the 87th percentile for chances created.

Nisbet is an excellent ball-winner with a knack of getting into the final third and a potency to create when he is in those areas.

Some notable comparisons come from the 2022-23 campaign, with Nisbet’s metrics from this term coming out similar to those of Julien Ponceau of Lorient, Oliver Torres of Sevilla and Filip Kostic of Juventus.

Like some of the other talents in the A-League this season, Nisbet may well be destined to take a step up, especially to boost his international hopes.

But right now he has a Premiership challenge on his hands and he is one of the Mariners’ driving forces in that, with a possible Finals charge to follow as Central Coast aim to retain their crown.

Watch Nisbet and the Mariners take on the Wellington Phoenix in a top of the table Isuzu UTE A-League clash this Saturday. Get your tickets here >>