Player Comparison – Didier Drogba vs Mario Gomez

24 May

Granted, they’re not in the same league (in every sense), but with the recent Champions League Final in mind, I thought it was interesting to note that the whereabouts of the Trophy could have been very different if the strikers had swapped teams. This is less a comparison of two equal competitors, more a study into a Big Game Player versus a Big Game Bottler or Flat Track Bully (to keep in theme with the rest of the site). The fifth entry into the Player Comparison Series looks at Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez

The Contenders:

Going into the Champions League Final, Didier Drogba of Chelsea and the Ivory Coast had recently turned 34. It was his final game for the club after eight successful seasons which saw him pick up three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and finally, a Champions League medal. In 338 games for the Blues, he scored 157 goals, at a rate of a goal every 2.1 games. Before the final, the two time African Player of the Year had just 12 goals for Chelsea this season, 5 of which were in the Champions League.

Mario Gomez on the other hand is in his striking prime. Aged just 26, he could lay claim to being the most prolific Champions League striker in the history of the competition, with a goal every 96.8 minutes (24 goals in total) as seen here. The Germany International has league titles with both Stuttgart and Bayern Munich, as well as cup success domestically. Since joining Bayern Munich in the summer of 2009, he’s scored 94 goals in 142 games for the club. This season, he was going into the final with a whopping 41 goals, 13 of which were in the Champions League.

Looking at the scoring stats, if there was a player to bet on, it was surely Gomez.

Champions League:

Not only had Gomez scored 13 in this season’s European Cup, he also hit 4 in one game – against Basel in the second round. In the earlier group stage, he hit a hat trick against Napoli, a brace against Manchester City, and in the Semi Final first leg at home to the mighty Real Madrid, he scored the winner as Bayern beat Mourinho’s men 2-1. I know what you’re thinking, Big Game Player? Well not really. The four goals against Basel was undoubtedly a great achievement, and I’d be a fool to suggest otherwise. Whilst Basel aren’t exactly giants of the European game, they had knocked out Manchester United in the group stages. This however, was not the same Basel. Gomez’s four goals came in a 7-1 victory for Munich. The hat trick against Napoli and brace against City were also good scoring feats, but these were in the lower pressure environment of the group stage. The pressure was certainly on in the Semi Final against Real Madrid, and whilst you can point to his winning goal, i’ll point to the fact that he missed several good chances before scoring from 4 yards, off his manhood after missing the ball with his feet. Every dog has his day.

Drogba on the other hand was a lot more selective with his goals. He scored 2 in the group stage against Valencia – a game that would see the winners go through, adding the extra pressure of a knockout environment. He scored one against Napoli in the 4-1 second leg win, after losing the first Quarter Final 3-1. Once again, pressure of the knockout, and at the time he scored, Chelsea were losing on aggregate. The Semi Final goal against Barcelona had the pressure of a Champions League semi final, added presure of playing the best team in the world, and also scoring with just about Chelsea’s only shot. The big man delivered once again. And then onto the final – 88th minute, losing the biggest game in club football – up steps the man for the big occasion for the equaliser, and later, the winning penalty.

Finals:

The thing is, it should have been no surprise. Drogba is a Big Game Player. Looking at the Finals he’s played in, and the contribution he’s made:

Nine Major Finals appearances have seen 9 Final goals. That’s quite simply unbelievable. Add in five more scoring Semi Finals and you have the picture of a Big Game Player. And what’s more, every goal has been decisive – not one of the Finals was a walkover. Not only that, look at the opponents – Man Utd, Liverpool (twice), Arsenal, Bayern Munich – none too shabby. He doesn’t have a goal in the Champions League Final of 2008, though that’s partly due to being sent off. If he’d still been on the pitch then it’s likely that he’d have taken the final penalty instead of John Terry.

And whilst Gomez hasn’t played in the number of Finals that the Drog has, he has still had the chance to make an impact on the biggest stages:

Granted, some of the appearances were as a substitue, but it’s fair to say – there’s still a trend. In fact, the only real big game with real pressure that he’s bothered the scoresheet in, was the aforementioned Champions League Semi Final against Real Madrid. He’s still young, and plays in a team that creates a lot of chances, but for one of the most prolific strikers playing in Europe today, he’d be expected to do better than one goal in all of the Finals and Semi Finals he’s played in. Flat Track Bully? I would suggest so.

League Form:

And as if further proof were needed, here’s some stats from my last Bundesliga Updates:

It was only his last goal of the 26 that saw him finally score against Top 6 opposition as Bayern beat 6th placed Stuttgart 2-0 at home in a game that neither side had anything to play for. He had 10 games agaisnt Top 6 opponents, and scored in just one of them. In my eyes, this pretty much confirms the Flat Track Bully status. When Bayern needed him most this season – in the title decider against Dortmund, he went missing, posting just one shot.

Drogba? Well it’s fair to say that it wasn’t a vintage season in the Premier League for the big Ivorian, scoring just 5 goals

The goal return, whilst poor for his standards, still has a pretty even split throughout the level of opposition. What this does illustrate though, is just how much Drogba rises to the big occasion. Five league goals? So what, I’m gonna score decisive goals in two big knock out competitions. Looking back through Drogba’s more recent past, he scored the winning goal away at Old Trafford in 2009-10 to put Chelsea Top of the league with just a handful of games remaining. In terms of Big Games in the league, to score the winner away at the team challenging you for the title, in a game that would ultimately decide who wins the league, there aren’t any bigger. You could argue, that he could do it on the final day of the season – like Alan Smith for Arsenal against Liverpool, but that would be splitting hairs. In fact, all throughout his Chelsea career, he’s tormented Arsenal (13 goals), Liverpool (7 goals), Spurs (5 goals), Man City (5 goals) and Manchester United (3 goals). He is a man for the big games.

International Goals:

Lastly, whilst at Club Level, Drogba is pretty much untouchable in the big games, I thought i’d give Gomez the chance to tap in a consolation goal by looking at their International Records. From memory, I know that Drogba has missed decisive spot kicks in the final of the African Cup of Nations (2006 and 2012) to cost the Ivory Coast a deserved title. However, when looking at his international goals, whilst there are many against the likes of Benin and Equatorial Guinea, I was somewhat surprised to see goals against Argentina and Brazil. And not just friendly goals either – these were in World Cups. He has 7 goals in the African Cup of Nations, and 8 in qualifiers. Add to that 15 goals in World Cup qualifiers, and all of a sudden, his international career is pretty good with 32 competitive goals. In all, he has an impressive 54 goals in 84 caps for his country (0.64 goals per game).

Gomez also has a decent strike rate at international level – with 21 in 51 (0.41 goals per game). Being in Europe, he has the opportunity to play against higher ranked teams in qualifiers than Drogba would, and also by playing in a better team, he will have more opportunities. However, a closer look at his 21 goals, and all of a sudden the Flat Track Bully tag raises it’s head. Four goals in a friendly against the UAE (then ranked 122nd) stand out. Okay, well there’s still 17 other goals. How about two against San Marino, and one against Kazakhstan? I am painting a slightly negative picture here – to be fair, he’s also got 3 against Austria (currently 73rd), 3 against Switzerland (then 40th), and strikes against Australia, Uruguay, Turkey and Belgium. However, it’s when looking in the games he hasn’t scored in that illustrates him going missing – Brazil (won 3-2, no goals), Argentina, England, Spain, Sweden – decent opposition = no goals.

In Conclusion:

It’s not really much of a debate. For all the plaudits that Gomez has received for admittedly impressive goals scoring feats, he’s not the man to rely on for the big occasion. It’s not that he doesn’t get chances, he does. He has plenty of shots, even in most of the big games, it’s just that he has very little composure – more power than poise. In the Champions League final, he managed a decent five shots, the Germany Cup Final saw him have four shots without scoring, whilst the second leg 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid, saw a whopping 8 shots! Of course, there was no goal. That’s three big games, all high pressure, and his 17 shots yielded zero goals. I am of course being a little harsh and overlooking the goal in the first leg against Real Madrid – so if we were to include that then it’s a whopping one goal from 23 shots.

Drogba on the other hand is lethal, and actually thrives under the pressure of a big game. His three goals in the Champions League Final, FA Cup Final and Semi Final win over Barcelona came from just 9 shots. You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

In all honesty, I could have just showed the tables of Final appearances and goals and left it at that. But I’m nothing if not thorough. Whilst Drogba is coming to the end of his career as he jets off to China, Gomez is still very much in his prime. Someone as prolific as him will no doubt effect a big game eventually, but I think the evidence suggests that as of now, he’s very much a Flat Track Bully, and doesn’t justify the price tag being thrown around next to his name. He doesn’t appear to have the right mentality to take the good chances that are fewer in Bigger Games. He takes plenty of shots – some ridiculous – but the nerve and confidence seems to dessert him when it really matters. Anyone who watched the Champions League Final and Semi Finals will have noticed how often he skied the ball, or just shot straight at the keeper.

Going into the European Championships, I’d back him to get a few goals in the lower pressure environment of the group stages against Portugal and Denmark, but do very little against the Dutch in game two, and sod all if they get into the knock out stages. Of course, if I’ve called this wrong, this article will magically disappear and a tribute to Super Mario will be quickly thrown together.

Farewell Didier, you’ve been immense – the epitome of a big game player.

Mario – you must do better (1 min 15 secs is my favourite miss)

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One Response to “Player Comparison – Didier Drogba vs Mario Gomez”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Euro 2012 – Golden Boot Contenders « average opposition .com - May 30, 2012

    […] Mario Gomez – See the below article for my thoughts on Mario Gomez. In short, he’s the biggest Flat Track Bully/Big Game Bottler […]

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