Samson he is notBy
There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the form of Manchester City’s inspirational new captain, Carlos Tevez.
Apparently “El Apache” still cannot still cannot speak enough English to address his troops, but if there was a player in world who greater exemplifies “leading by example” on the pitch, I haven’t seen him.
His enthusiasm cannot fail to rub off on even the most challenging of team mates. Well, maybe Emmanuel Adebayor was a bridge too far.
Flying around like Duracell bunny is a fantastic trait in any player, but when you combine that with the natural talent and instincts of an elite footballer it really does make for something special.
I thoroughly enjoyed cheering on young Carlos last Saturday against Chelsea.
As he drove at the Blues’ defense and fired home what turned out to be the match winner, for a split second it really did feel like he was on “my team” once again.
Anyone scoring against Chelsea gets a cheer from me. But doing so for the third time in a row whilst simultaneously embarrassing both “Captain Fantastic” John Terry and “Mr Maturity” Ashley Cole, has once again elevated Carlos to “full hero status” in my eyes.
I wasn’t the only one rather excited about little Carlos either. The commentary team were equally excited about his performance, and the guys back in the data truck had provided them with a whole raft of aimless statistics to help support the “fact” that Carlos Tevez was in fact super human.
29 goals in his last 32 games I believe was the statistic of choice. Mighty impressive it has to be said.
However, as they spoilt my own person little moment with this outpouring of man love for the wee man, I couldn’t help but think that that statistic sounded a little dodgy.
Had Carlos Tevez really been THAT good for the best part of a season? All whilst playing for a, shall we say “above average” side? (If I had an editor he really wouldn’t have allowed me to say that and to risk the potential backlash. But I don’t, so I get to have my fun haha)
So I went away and spent a couple of hours last Sunday doing a bit of digging.
Here is what I came up with and my thoughts on the situation.
Now before we get into analyzing any of this data, I best explain what I am doing.
Each of these tables will show the players goal contributions over a set period of 30-40 games from which they were “on a tear” for want of a better phrase.
This analysis will consider games against top flight EPL opposition, irrespective of whether they are league or cup games. European fixtures and games against lower league opposition have been removed to ensure a level playing field.
To allow us to value their contribution a little more accurately, I have split the games by the quality of the opposition, using the respective league placings of the opposition as discuss in my preview series of the 2010-11 EPL season. After a “flat track bully” is a lot less valuable than a player with “big game cojones” right?!
I have also split out a players penalty goals from those from open play/free kicks. Taking a penalty is certainly “a skill”. But not a very difficult one when we are looking at some of the best strikers from the best league in world football.
Gary Neville would probably score 50% of the penalties he takes. John O’Shea probably 60%.
All of the players considered here I would back to succeed from the spot 80%+. So really, over the course of a season, how much value does a player add by taking penalties, even if rather well.
Very little is the answer. So when we are considering the contribution of players as a great striker, we don’t want any soft or padded statistics.
Yes, that’s you Frank if you are reading this… Only kidding!
Let’s start by having a look at Carlos’ statistics over this fantastic run and compare it to a few other strikers around the league.
Carlos Tevez – December ’09 to September ’10
Carlos really has been in hot form since December last year. Although he has scored a rather lofty 25% of his goals from the penalty spot, bagging 29 in 32 is still a fantastic run.
Anything up towards a 1.0 goals per game (“GPG”) ratio is torrid stuff, as is his circa 0.70 open play goals per game (“OPGPG”) ratio.
And how about those cojones?! 8 goals in 8 games against the “Big 4″, including 6 from open play.
However, as I stress on a weekly basis here on BOTW, everything in the world of Sport is relative. After all, even we all probably scored at a goal a game clip on the playground as kids right?!
So I thought the best thing to do would be to compare CT’s recent run of form with the hottest periods of the most comparable strikers (in terms of quality, not style of play) from recent years.
And the list I came up with consists of last seasons top scorers Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba, the £80 million machine that was 2008-09 Cristiano Ronaldo and the two hamstrung version of Fernando Torres from the 2007-08 season.
If you don’t think these are the most appropriate comparison… tough. Get your own website and do your own research!
Let’s have a look how they all shape up.
Wayne Rooney – August ’09 to March ’10
As you can see Wazza was on a very similar run prior to that fateful injury time ankle turn in Munich last March. 25 goals from open play in 33 games (0.76) is quite something.
My only other observation would be that 14 of them came against the weakest sides in the League.
His numbers against the top half of the league are still easily strong enough to not raise suspicions about his overall contribution, but it is safe to say 9 goals against the an insolvent Pompey side and the watertight defense of Hull City may have somewhat inflated his numbers.
Didier Drogba – August ’09 to May ’10
Didier really is the complete striker. An OPGPG ratio of over 0.8, both overall and against the leagues premium opposition, besting both Tevez and Rooney. Staggering stuff.
He really does has everything.
Maybe if he had the latter, he could have taken one more penalty for Chelsea and JT would never haven gotten the chance to bottle it and fall over in the rain.
Chelsea might have won a Champo League (or two!) and SAF might even have retired by now..
Funny old game football isn’t it.
Fernando Torres – August ’07 to May ’08
Moving on to El Ninio. Another awesome run of performances this, and although at first glance his numbers may not appear to hold up against the others, don’t be fooled by “counting stats”.
His 0.75 OPGPG ratio bests both Rooney and Tevez, and although he may be a goal or two down in the biggest games, he makes up for that against the “Euro 4″ where he outperforms the rest.
Although you can’t see it in the table, some of you may be aware that Torres has crazy home/away splits in his goalscoring record. Of these 24 goals, only 3 came away from the comfy surrounding of Anfield.
But don’t be too hasty in holding this against him.
This may say more about the Liverpool squad, and particularly Rafa Benitez than it does about FT.
There is more on the impact of each individuals supporting cast in the summary and comparative analysis below.
Cristiano Ronaldo – October ’08 to May ’09
Wow. No wonder he cost £80 million. 0.88 open play goals per game over a 33 game stretch.
Ronaldo was a solitary open play goal against Big 4 opposition from achieving a complete green clean sweep from me.
Before we jump to any conclusions, let’s now have a look at the players OPGPG ratios together.
|Player||Top 4||Euro 4||Mid 5||Btm 7||Total|
The first point I would like to stress here is how little there is between any of these numbers.
A substitution here, poor cross there and a single fluffed opportunity from anyone could bump them around a place or so.
Carlos Tevez really has been on a tear, but his numbers are slightly padded due to a relatively high number of penalty conversions in a very short space of time. From open play he has still been great, but not quite as great as the others.
It seems that a little bit of ”flat track bully” mud would stick if flung at Mr Rooney, but there is more than enough evidence in the top half to indicate he more than pulls his weight in the big fixtures.
Didier appears to be the complete goalscoring centre forward and a picture of consistency, however it is Ronaldo’s 2008-09 season that takes home the bacon.
He really is a footballing freak of nature, and when you consider he didn’t even play as an out and out centre forward for large chunks of that season it makes the numbers even more mesmerizing.
However, as I hinted at early, one huge intangible factor in this analysis is each individuals respective supporting cast.
After all, you don’t score goals single handedly. Well, maybe Ronaldo has scored a few, but that is by the bye.
So in reality, maybe Carlos and Fernando’s respective achivements are in fact greater than those of Messers Drogba/Rooney/Ronaldo?
After all, Ronaldo directly benefitted from playing with a more withrwarn Rooney himself during that blistering 2008-09 campaign.
It is pretty clear this would be of benefit versus linking up with Andriy Voronin.
This next piece is rather crude, but hopefully it serves is purpose to illustrate the point…
Overall team contribution analysis
|Player||Games||Goals||GPG||% TG||Pens||OPG||OPGPG||% TOPG|
As part of that analysis I established that most good quality strikers score approximately 30% of their respective team’s goals. Great strikers will push this up to 35% and in periods of total dominance this can even rise to circa 40-45%.
However, I would stress that if any team was to run at such a rate for any length of time, there would be scope to seriously question the structure and style of play as to whether it leaves them over reliant on that one individual and over exposed to any possible loss of form or injury to that player.
Such a one dimensional attacking threat isn’t going to fly when you turn up to face Jose and his boys at the San Siro/Santiago Bernabeu that is for sure!
As you can see in the table above, all of our subjects in question fit perfectly into this mold.
The three red mustakeers all settle around the 40% mark, with Didier’s numbers slightly suppressed due to his lack of penalties at 35%.
And given Tevez’s high number of spot kicks, his numbers are slightly inflated at a lofty 48%.
But look what happens when you strip out the contribution of penalties altogether and look at the % of their team’s open play goals (“% TOPG”) each individual scores.
You could throw a blanket over them all at 35% give or take a hair’s breadth… except Fernando Torres.
For me this is really, really powerful data.
I often use comparison’s to other sports with more clearly measured performance statistics and and performance metrics when trying to rationalize player performances and comparisons in team sports such as football.
Consider all the modern day track and field athletes and how small the margins are between success and failure. A couple of percentage points here and there and you go from “world class” to “also ran club athlete” that cannot even make the national finals.
Think about how small the margins are between each Formula 1 driver when given a level playing field. Again, the difference between each of the elite drivers is a small as a 10th of a percentage point at times.
Football is fundamentally no different.
OK, we do not have distinct measurable statistics like in athletics and Formula 1 and performance analysis is severely hampered by the interdependent variables inherent to an invasion game.
But that said it is still a sport, played by human beings. The elite cream always rises to the top via market forces. And the margins separating those at the top are very small.
Although we are clearly looking at relatively small data samples in this instance, do we feel that their is scope to suggest Torres is cut from a finer cloth than his compatriot in the striking elite?
I don’t feel that neither this data or the reality of historic performances suggest that this is the case.
However, I do think that there is some weight to an argument that the Liverpool squad of recent years have been far too reliant on their slightly effeminate talisman and his dodgy hamstrings, and that the clubs previous management regime (and board/ownership group) should have seen the extent to which they exposed and taken mitigating action.
This is certainly a separate argument for another day… All I shall say on the matter is that it is pretty clear to all that neither Andriy Voronin nor David N’Gog qualify as acceptable insurance cover for one of the top 10 strikers in world football. Let’s not get into the Robbie Keane fiasco now either…
My second, and by far most important conclusion is that rather than splitting hairs in an attempt to prove which of these players undoubtedly great players is “the best”, we should just enjoy them each for who they are and the differing qualities they have brought to our league over the last five years.
Hopefully Torres can recover from his ongoing injury problems, Rooney can get his personal life in order and that Tevez is not tempted by life in Mardid or the lifestyle offered by his homeline anytime soon.
Hell, whilst I am in a good mood, let’s even hope the Drog hangs around to terrorize defences up and down the country for a few more years yet.
Although, not too many years mind…