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Player Comparison: Rio Ferdinand vs John Terry

23 Nov

Up next in the World Famous Player Comparison series is a slightly controversial one. England defenders and definitely not best friends, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. Two of the best defenders in Premier League history, this is the first comparison of defenders, and could be the last depending on feedback….

Given the recent disharmony between Terry and the Ferdinands, this may seem a bit on the reactive side, but I’ve had this request on more than one occasion (twice) so thought I’d give it a go. Both are entering the twilight of their careers (Rio has just turned is 34, JT, approaching 32), both have been League winners and Champions League winners. Both have played at one of the biggest clubs in the world for 10 years or more, and for a long time, the two were playing alongside eachother at the heart of the England defence. With that in mind, and the added spice of club and personality clashes/rivalries, they’re ideal candidates to compare.

The Rules

Usually I’m comparing goals and assists, but in this instance the focus is all about the dirty business of stopping them. So when looking at the range and average opponent, it’ll be by goals conceded and clean sheets. The primary focus will be on Premier League stats, but there will be a look at international and cup games. The calculations can be found in the rules and workings page on the top menu, but simply enough, it’s a look at their stats but by the level of opposition.

The time period is from when Ferdinand signed for Manchester United at the start of the 2002-03 season, up until the end of 2011-12 – 10 full seasons. In that time, Terry has played 311 Premier League games to Ferdinand’s 269.

Background

Despite being born and bred in South London, Rio Ferdinand began his Football career in the prestigious West Ham academy. Initially a central midfielder, Rio was taught the art of defending under the tutelage of Tony Carr, and was hailed as the heir to Bobby Moore’s throne for club and country. With his ability on the ball, Ferdinand also played for the West Ham first team in central midfield, wing back and even up front – scoring his first senior goal in just his second substitute appearance, after his debut aged just 17. Seen as talented but unfocused, eyebrows were raised when Leeds United paid £18m for the young defender in November 2000 – both a British Record transfer and also the World Record price for a defender. But Ferdinand excelled under fellow Centre Back David O’Leary and helped a young Leeds team to the Semi Final of the Champions League later that season. Another good season later, and Ferdinand was starting for England in the 2002 World Cup, as they got to the Quarter Finals. His displays for both Leeds and England were enough for Sir Alex Ferguson to pay over £30m – making him once again the most expensive British footballer, and regaining the title of World’s most expensive defender from Lilian Thuram.

John Terry on the other hand, has been a one club man. Despite also training with West Ham as a youngster, the Barking born defender signed for Chelsea at the age of 14 after playing for famous boys club Senrab, along with the likes of Bobby Zamora, Ledley King and JLloyd Samuel. During his early years around the Chelsea first team squad, he saw his chances limited due to Marcel Desailly and Frank Le Boeuf, and subsequently found himself at Nottingham Forest on a short term loan to get first team experience under David Platt. Despite making his Chelsea debut in the 1998-99 season, Terry didn’t become a first team regular until the 2000-01 season, playing 22 league games as Chelsea finished in 6th place. The following season, Terry further cemented his place as a first team regular, playing in 33 of the 38 league games, as Chelsea once again finished in 6th place. Seen as a typical British defender, Terry made a reputation for putting his body on the line for the cause, but it his ability to pass the ball was often overlooked as a result.

Premier League

Clean Sheets

And so on to the hard numbers. First and foremost, the appearances and clean sheets by season:

Both have pretty good records with close to a one in two clean sheet rate. Ferdinand’s appearances have been slightly limited due to injury and an eight month ban for forgetfulness. Over the ten years, Ferdinand has made an average of 27 league appearances per season, and in that time, has kept an average of 12.9 clean sheets per season. In total, he’s kept a clean sheet for every 2.085 games. John Terry’s 311 appearances work out at an average of 31 games per season, with a clean sheet rate of 15.9. So on the face of it, Terry is ahead, with a clean sheet every 1.955 games.

Terry’s high of 25 in Chelsea’s title winning season of 2004-05 dwarfs Ferdinand’s 19 in 2007-08, when United won the total. In fact, Terry has kept 20 clean sheets or more in three of the ten seasons. Surprisingly, neither player has completed a full 38 game season.

So Terry’s ahead on the overall defensive stats, but in reality, both keep a clean sheet every second game – a phenomenal rate over a ten year period. But what of their quality of the opposition? Step this way.

First up (due to age and alphabet) is Ferdinand. A decent 27 clean sheets against the teams that finished in the Top 6, 65 against the Mid table teams and 37 against the teams struggling against relegation. An average ranked opponent of 11.21 over 129 clean sheets, his highest number of clean sheets against the big teams was five, which was achieved in three consecutive seasons between 2005-06 to 2007-08, with Man Utd winning the league in the latter two seasons. His highest average was in 2010-11, with 7.50 average from his eight clean sheets – of which, half were against the Top 6 teams, with Spurs (twice), Arsenal and Man City all being kept out. Tellingly, no clean sheets were kept against the Top 6 in the 2011-12 season as United lost the title on goal difference, with Ferdinand being part of the United team that lost 6-1 at home to Manchester City.

Terry’s best season was by far and away the 2004-05 season. Keeping a whopping 25 clean sheets against an average ranked opponent of 10.12 as Chelsea went on to win the league for the first time in 50 years, breaking, posting the best defensive record in the history of the English top flight. The season after also saw a stellar defensive display from Chelsea, and Terry was partly responsible for 20 clean sheets, including five against the Top 6 teams. Last season however, saw a drop in the number of clean sheets as he posted just 9 during his 31 league appearances. This could be down to a number of things, such as off the field problems, or defensive partners. Long gone are the days of Carvalho, who has been replaced by Luiz and Cahill. As a result, the number of clean sheets have dropped significantly.

So John Terry is more likely to play first and foremost, and he’s just ahead of Rio Ferdinand in terms of games per clean sheet. But……

If we take a closer look at Clean Sheets against the Top 6, taking into account Ferdinand’s appearances. Each player has finished in the Top 6 in each of the ten seasons, meaning there’s a maximum of ten appearances against Top 6 opposition. So here’s the clean sheets and appearances by player versus the best in the league:

John Terry’s clean sheet rate of one every 1.955 games becomes a clean sheet every 2.61 games, compared to Ferdinand’s clean sheet every 2.44 games. So Terry’s more likely to keep clean sheets overall, but Ferdinand did it more against the best in the league. In United’s last title winning season, he kept an impressive four in just six appearances.

Goals Conceded

Moving on to goals conceded. First up is Ferdinand again. Over the 269 Premier League games for United in the last 10 years, he’s let in on average 0.75 goals per game – comfortably under the magical 1 per game target. His best season, being the 2007-08 title win, where he let in only 21 goals in 35 games – 0.6 goals per game. The season before, he played 8 games versus the Top 6 teams, and only conceded 4 goals, whilst in 2010-11, the other Top teams only managed to score twice during his 6 games against. In total, he conceded 70 goals in 66 apearances against the best teams in the league – a number damaged by the 6-1 Manchester Derby.

Moving on to Chelsea’s Captain, on the same comparison, Terry conceded 83 goals in 81 appearances against fellow Top 6 teams – just ahead of Ferdinand’s rate. His best season against the Top 6 was in 2004-05 when just four strikes got past him and his team mates in 9 appearances. His overall goals conceded rate is 0.72 per game – almost identical to his rival’s 0.75. His best season was the phenomenal 2004-05 when just 13 goals were conceded on Terry’s watch – a phenomenal 0.36 goals per game. No wonder they won the league so comfortably.

Discipline

This isn’t taking into account the many off the field issues affecting each player, but a very quick look at the yellow/red card count in their last ten years. It’s fair to say that the records are like Chalk and Cheese in this regard. In just the Premier League games, they’ve shared 5 Red Cards – 4 of which were for Terry. Reds against Spurs (twice), Everton and Man City have cost his team as they managed just one win in the four games. Ferdinand’s one red was in the 4-3 defeat to Blackburn, that saw young up and coming midfielder David Bentley score a hat trick against United. A platform for great things…..

On the yellow cards, it’s pretty much the same story – Terry has 52 to Ferdinand’s 20 in what is in keeping with the general expectation of the players – Terry seen as a British Bulldog, win at all costs type, with Ferdinand seen as the cultured type. In all competitions, for club and country over the 10 years we’re looking at, it’s 31 yellows and 1 red for Ferdinand, and 80 yellows and 5 reds for John Terry, with the last Red costing him a place in the Champions League Final – not that he missed the celebrations.

Goals

One area where there really is no contest is at the other end of the pitch. Whilst Ferdinand scored 7 Manchester United goals in the ten years we’re looking at, John Terry scored a massive 43 in the same period. Whilst it has nothing to do with who is a better defender (Philippe Albert anyone?), it’s certainly an interesting angle, and some could use it when looking at the all round footballers. Terry can point to goals against Roma, Arsenal, Man City and Barcelona in recent years, whilst Ferdinand’s highlights in front of goal would be scoring against Liverpool in back to back seasons.

Champions League

Of course, both players have Champions League medals and both have tasted defeat in the final, so it’s worth comparing their records in Europe – both at a group stage and a knock out stage – where in theory, the opposition are better.

Once again, Terry leads the way with the overall number of clean sheets – posting 39 against Ferdinand’s 36, however, when you take into account the number of games, then Ferdinand has the fewer number of games per clean sheet at 1.94 from 70 appearances compared to Terry’s clean sheets every 2.23 games from his 87 appearances.

Champions League break down:

So in keeping with the Premier League stats, Ferdinand is more likely to keep a clean sheet in the bigger games. Terry has kept a clean sheet for every 1.7 group games in the Champions League, but just one every 3.42 in the knock out stages. Ferdinand on the other hand is pretty consistent – averaging a clean sheet every two games regardless of the stage.

Other big games

Both players have played in three league cup finals. Ferdinand has two medals, keeping clean sheets in two games, and conceding two goals in the three games, whilst Terry’s three finals have seen five goals conceded, and one win. Moving on to the FA Cup, Ferdinand has played in two FA Cup finals – keeping a clean sheet before losing on penalties to Arsenal in 2005, and the equally thrilling 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in 2007. Surprisingly, after ten years at Old Trafford, he doesn’t have an FA Cup winners medal (he was suspended when Millwall were beaten in 2004). Terry on the other hand has four winners medals in that time (to add to his 99-00 one), keeping clean sheets against Portsmouth (2008) and Man Utd in the aforementioned snorefest. Two 2-1 victories over both Merseyside clubs completed the set. So Ferdinand has three clean sheets in five domestic Cup Finals to Terry’s two in seven.

England

So we’ve established that both are great defenders in their own right, but how we’re they together, and did they fair better with or without each other for England? Ferdinand won the first of his 81 caps in 1997 as a teenager, and even made it to the World Cup the following year as a non playing squad member. Terry would have to wait another five seasons for his first cap, and up until his recent international retirement, made 78 appearances for the Three Lions.

In the last ten years, Ferdinand’s made 59 appearances to Terry’s 72 – playing alongside eachother on 34 occasions:

In terms of clean sheets, there wasn’t really much difference. Together they kept a clean sheet every 2.20 games, Ferdinand without Terry was 2.27 and Terry without Ferdinand was 2.17 – a slight edge to Terry. In terms of goals conceded, together they let in 0.82 goals per game, with Ferdinand keeping a slightly better 0.8 conceded without Terry and Terry keeping a consistent 0.82.

Once again, there’s not a great deal in it. In terms of highlights, Terry’s clean sheet against Italy in Euro 2012, compares with Ferdinand’s clean sheet against Argentina in the 2002 World Cup. In terms of goals, it’s a bit closer than their club appearances, with Ferdinand scoring three goals for England compared to Terry’s six. Interestingly though, all of Ferdinand’s have been in competitive matches, with five of Terry’s six being in friendlies (including Brazil and Germany).

The Makelele Factor

It’s hard to put an exact impact to the Chelsea clean sheets that John Terry kept, but from 2003-04 to 2007-08 Claude Makelele played the holding midfield role so well that it was renamed the Makelele role. During that time, John Terry kept 91 of his 159 clean sheets, keeping 68 in the five seasons without him. Ferdinand meanwhile had Roy Keane for his first three seasons at the club with his best defensive performances coming after the departure of the influential skipper. And it’s fair to say that he wasn’t quite as defensively disciplined as Makelele.

Conclusion

Shock Horror, I’m going to declare this one a draw. Terry was slightly more likely to keep a clean sheet, but Ferdinand was slightly more likely to do so against the best opponents. In the big games, Ferdinand had the edge in terms of both clean sheets and goals conceded (such as domestic Cup Finals and European knock out games) but Terry was much more likely to trouble the opposition by scoring. Looking at their England records, it was near identical with and without each other. There was only ever going to be one conclusion based on the stats.

So despite your view of each player as a person, no one can honestly say that they haven’t both been excellent players – perhaps two of the best in English history. Both are coming to the end of their careers now, but for those ten years, there are very few who can compare.

Cheers,

Liam

Player Comparison: Thierry Henry vs Robin van Persie

29 Jul

Not a full blown player comparison as Henry has already featured (and come out on top) against van Nistelrooy here, but a quick look at the two Arsenal strikers that hit 30 league goals – who they did it against, and how important they were

With it looking increasingly likely that van Persie has played his last game for the club, now seemed as good a time as any to compare the two prolific strikers on their most prolific seasons. Each had a massive impact on the team and essentially where they finished, and below i’ll try and illustrate who was most important, and who was the better man for the big occasion.

The seasons in question are 2011-12 for Robin van Persie and 2003-04 for Thierry Henry. Whilst Henry’s Arsenal famously went the season unbeaten in 2003-04, van Persie’s Arsenal looked like relegation contenders at times, before steadying the ship and finishing a very respectable 3rd.

Before each season started, Henry had 82 league goals in 136 games for the club, whilst van Persie had 66 goals in 156 games. these were the Arsenal league stats for each by career and previous season. And so onto the stats:

Goals

So moving onto the numbers, at first glance it’s pretty even. Both started 37 games, with van Persie also making a substitute appearance to make the whole 38 game season. That he appeared in every game is borderline miraculous given his past. Both hit 30 goals at a rate of 0.81 goals per game for the Frenchman and 0.79 for the Dutchey – we’ll call that a draw. Similarly, both scored in 20 games.

Where the differences start to show is in the range of opponents scored against. Whilst van Persie had a very decent 7 goals in 10 games against the Top 6, Henry had an even better 10 in 10. Nice. More on that later.

Aside from the big games, van Persie specialised in punishing the mid table teams resulting in an averaged rank opponent per goal of 11.77 compared to his former captain’s 11.93 – driven by 14 goals against the Bottom 6. Once again, based on the average, they’re pretty much neck and neck.

Assists

Moving onto assists, there’s not much difference there either, with both setting up 9 goals for their team mates. Van Persie mainly did this against the teams at the bottom end of the table, though he did pop up with assists in wins against London rivals Chelsea and Spurs.

Henry on the other hand only managed the one assist against the Top 6 teams, a decisive one too, in the 2-1 win over a Chelsea team that would go on to finish second in Abramovich’s first season in charge. Most of Henry’s assists came against the teams in mid table, leading to his better average of 10.77 compared to van Persie’s 12.89.

Big Game Player? Records vs Top 6:

The main measure I use to single out who the big game players are on this site is looking at how they do against the best opposition. When looking at league performances only, that’s the Top 6 teams who are generally that bit better than the rest. So how did each do against them? Both played in the maximum 10 games against the other teams alongside Arsenal at the top end of the table:

Last season saw a very impressive 7 league goals against the top teams for van Persie, including that memorable hat trick in the 5-3 win at Chelsea, a game that also saw him provide and assist, in what turned out to be a season changing performance for the 2011-12 Gunners. Those seven goals were second only to Wayne Rooney’s eight strikes against the Top 6, although based on position at the time of play, van Persie was top.

As good as 7 goals in 10 games against the league’s best opposition, it’s here where Henry really shines through. He had a goal per game record versus the Top 6, also scoring a memorable hat trick – at home to Liverpool in a 4-2 win that Jamie Carragher still has nightmares about. It wasn’t just Liverpool that suffered though, Henry scored against every team in 2nd to 5th place, showing a consistancy that drove the team on to the unbeaten season. Both manage plenty of shots against the decent opposition, although the Home and Away split predictably shows a significant difference.

Importance to team

Okay, they’ve both scored 30 goals and set up nine others for their team mates, but what about their importance in terms of the over team stats.

Firstly is the percentage of team goals that each scored. To my surprise, I recently discovered that the great Invincibles team of 2003-04 only scored 73 league goals. Also surprising is that van Persie’s Arsenal team actually outscored them (albeit by one goal) despite winning 20 less points and finishing 19 points behind the teams in first and second.

Of the team goals, it’s pretty even – Henry scored 41% of the team’s goals in 2003-04, whilst van Persie also achieved this, with a bit of rounding involved. Once again, the two are incredibly equal.

Where van Persie outshines Henry though is the points won from his goals. It’s not a perfect science but if you take away each players goals from the final scoreline then you’re left with the difference they make. Henry has a very decent 20 points from his 30 league goals, which worked out to be 22% of Arsenal’s 90 points that season, whereas van Persie’s 24 point haul is not only better, but it’s more crucial to the team, being worth a massive 34% of 2011-12 Arsenal’s points tally. It’s fair to say that both made a massive contribution, Henry in winning the title, and van Persie in keeping the team in the coveted Champions League places.

Other Considerations

Obviously Henry did it in a better team, not only were they champions, but they went the season unbeaten in the league. He had the likes of Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Reyes and others around him, helping him score, and also scoring the chances he created. That’s not to say that it was an unfair advantage on van Persie though. The Dutchman got to play as the lone striker, or the central point of a 4-3-3 depending on your interpretation of Arsenal’s line up. As a result, most of the play and chances went through him, making it appear as though Arsenal were a one man team for large parts of the season.

In terms of the opponents, Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, yet only finished 6th in the Premier League, whilst Manchester United and Manchester City both went out in the group stages. Henry’s Arsenal face a Man Utd that reached the last 16, and a Chelsea that beat them on the way to the Semi Final. The difference between 1st and 6th in 2003-04 was 34 points, compared to just 25 points in 2011-12. In short, the van Persie season was more competitive.

In Conclusion

I honestly don’t write these pieces with the intention of declaring a draw everytime, but it’s very hard to avoid that conclusion when looking at the above data. I know stats only tell half of the story, but on this occasion, I think it’s a fitting result. Henry inspired his team to win the league title, whilst going the season unbeaten. That team has since been named the greatest in the history of the Premier League and it was very much Henry’s influence that was the biggest factor. Robin van Persie on the other hand dragged what has widely been described as the weakest team of Wenger’s era, into 3rd place and the all important automatic Champions League spot. Both proved essential in their teams outcome.

In terms of big game performances, Henry just about edges it, but will always have a slight cloud hanging over him for the biggest of games – the finals of major competitions, but in just comparing their league seasons, he comes out on top, only for van Persie to lead on the points won.

So all in all, whilst there’s no real comparison on their full Arsenal careers (especially with van Persie’s behaviour after the season), it’s fair to say that they were both instrumental in their teams fortunes. As van Persie has decided to leave, we’ll never know if he could have maintained that level for more than one year, but for one season only, he could live with the King.

Cheers,

Liam

Player Comparison: Carlos Tevez vs Sergio Aguero

22 Jul

Argentinian? Check. Prolific striker? Check. Skilful and small enough to be described as diminutive? Check. That’s basis enough to be the next in line for the player comparison series

Contenders

First up is keen golfer, Carlos ‘Carlitos’ Tevez. Born and raised in the tough Buenos Aries area of Fort Apache, Tevez has played for some of the biggest clubs in World football – Boca Juniors, Corinthians, Manchester United, Manchester City and of course, West Ham United. Tevez made the controversial move across Manchester in the summer of 2009, after winning two league titles and the Champions League with United. He was never prolific in his time with the Old Trafford club, often played out wide to accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo, that would change though at City. When he signed, City had just finished 10th.

When Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero joined in the summer of 2011, City had finished 3rd and qualified for the Champions League, and had just won the FA Cup. Signed from Atletico Madrid (where he was Fernando Torres’ replacement), he joined City as a replacement for the wantaway Captain Tevez. A child prodigy, he made his professional debut at just 15 years of age for Independiente in the Argentina top flight, breaking the record of future father in law Diego Maradona, and made a big money move to Spain in 2006. After scoring 101 goals in 234 goals for the captial club, only a handful of teams could afford both his transfer fee and his wages, fortunately for City and the Premier League, his new club was one of them. Born just 13 miles from Tevez, Aguero is four years younger.

Rules

As usual, the statistical comparison will be based on their form in the league, comparing Aguero’s 2011-12 season with Tevez’s debut season with the club. I’ll be looking into the variables and will take a look at their international form as well. For queries on how the calculations are made, see the Rules and Workings page on the menu bar above.

Stats

First and foremost, the all important measure for a striker – goals scored. Tevez came into his debut City season on the back of a disappointing season fro Man Utd, scoring only 5 league goals (14 in all competitions) after the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov – his worst return since his debut season for Boca. Sergio Aguero was fresh from his best scoring season, hitting 20 La Liga goals (27 in all competitions). The starting point for both was very different, in terms of their own form and the team they were joining. But surprisingly, they had near identical scoring records, both scoring 23 league goals in their debut season’s for the club.

In terms of goals per game they both have around a goal every 1.5 games, which is prolific in anyone’s book (apart from whatever book Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi read). Looking a bit closer into the strike rates, and going down to minutes per goal, Tevez actually played almost 300 mintues more than his younger compatriot, or over three games. Advantage Kun.

Next up is the lifeblood of this site – looking at the standard of opposition that the players perform against. Those familiar with the rest of the site (are probably related to me), know that there are two main measures, firstly the average rank of the opposition per each of their goals, and the second is splitting the opponents into a ranges – Top 6, Middle 8, and Bottom 6. Basically, it’s a check to see if a player is a Big game player, Flat track bully or Big game bottler.

Once again, it’s pretty even on this front. Both players have pretty similar averages, with Tevez scoring against teams ranked on average of 11.52, to Aguero’s 11.13 – Tevez’s extra two goals against the bottom 6 means he has a slightly worse average. Advantage Aguero again. Both players scored four goals against the Top 6 – Aguero against 2nd to 6th, and Tevez against 1st to 4th and 6th. Looking a little closer though and Tevez regains a bit of ground, three of his four Top 6 goals were scored against eventual champions Chelsea, and each time they were decisive goals. In the 2-1 win at the City of Manchester Stadium, Tevez scored the winning goal, and in the 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge, Tevez scored a brace. Big game player? His other goal against Top 6 teams was in a 3-1 win over Villa. Aguero’s goals against the Top 6 were against Man Utd (2nd), Spurs (4th), Newcastle (5th) and Chelsea in 6th.

So far, pretty even – with Aguero just about ahead. They’re both goal scorers first and foremost, but how much did they do for their team? Well there’s few in the game that work as hard as Tevez, in terms of closing down opponents, but equally, anyone watching Aguero will notice just how good his movement off the ball is. However, that’s not something I can measure, so how about assists instead?

Once again it’s incredibly close in terms of numbers, Tevez got a credible 7 assists in his debut season, compared to Aguero’s 8. It should be remembered though, that Man City scored 73 goals in 2009-10 compared to the 93 last season. Tevez in general provided assists against the poorer teams, with five coming against the likes of Burnley, Hull, Wigan and Wolves. He did however almost embarrass old team Manchester United with two assists in the 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford – a game famous for Michael Owen’s late winner. Aguero on the other hand had a pretty good average ranked opponent per assist, with 9.75. Only one was against the bottom 6, with most against the mid table teams. Like Tevez, he also managed to get two assists against Top opposition, creating Balotelli’s early goal in the 2-1 defeat to 6th placed Chelsea, and then an assist in the 2-0 win over 5th placed Newcastle.

Whilst Aguero’s slightly ahead on points so far, it has to be remembered that whilst his City finished in 1st, Tevez finished in 5th. So how about their importance to the team? Well on the basis of points won from their goals (see Rules and Workings), it’s a pretty convincing win for Tevez.

That’s pretty comprehensive. Whilst Aguero’s debut season has been very impressive, in terms of their importance to the team, Tevez was miles ahead. He scored almost 32% of City’s goals in 2009-10 compared to Aguero’s 25%. And it’s a similar story in points won, with Tevez winning 22% of the team points, compared to just 8% for Aguero. So that’s another one back for Tevez, but at the end of the day, Aguero did score THAT goal (worth 2 points for those interested, and a Title).

So that’s the stats taken care of, anyone wanting to know a bit more? Well Tevez scored five penalties to Aguero’s three, Tevez scored his 23 goals with four shots less (126 to 130) whilst both average one shot on target in each of the games against the Top 6 teams. They’re pretty even, even to that level of detail.

Team mates

I’ll leave the commentary light on this one, just listing the usual line up for each season:

In the space of just two seasons, there’s been a pretty drastic change in line up, with just three players in the strongest XI for both seasons. Comparing the midfields in particular that each played with it’s all the more impressive that Tevez managed 23 league goals and seven assists. The two that stand out in particular are the attacking midfielders – City Youth Teamers Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips may have enjoyed some good times with the club, but those days had long passed by this point. Compare them to Silva and Nasri, and you’re an idiot. Each had multiple strike partners with Tevez partnering Adebayor, Santa Cruz and Bellamy at regular times each season, compared to Dzeko, Balotelli and Tevez for Aguero.

International

At the time of writing, it’s 15 goals in 36 caps for Aguero, and 13 in 59 for Tevez. That’s a pretty clear cut win for the younger striker right? Maybe not. Tevez has three World Cup goals to his name, and in the 2004 Olympic games (taken a lot more seriously in South America than here), he top scored with eight goals as Argentina won the Gold. As that was officially an Under 23 Tournament, those eight goals don’t count to his full tally. Both have three Copa America goals, and both scored in 2010’s 4-1 thrashing of Spain.

High Tens if you love Argentina

What Else?

Well the eagle eyed among you will have noticed that I’ve left out Tevez’s 2010-11 season stats, which were pretty important given that he was essentially the difference in qualifying for the Champions League and not. Why? Well I thought it was only fair to compare the debut season of each player, although Tevez did have an unfair advantage of 3 previous seasons in the Premier League.

When looking at his 2010-11 stats, he was once again responsible for 15 points, he scored 20 league goals in 31 games (which was enough to see him share the Golden Boot with Dimitar Berbatov), and he had an average opposition of 12.15 per goal, with a split of 6-11-3 for Bottom 6-Mid 8-Top 6 goals. Pretty consistent. He had six assists.

Conclusion
It’s fair to say that Manchester City’s recent past has been dominated by the two Argentinians. Tevez was key in changing both the mentality at the club and in qualifying for the Champions League. It was only once that qualification was complete that it was possible to attract players like Aguero. Robinho may have been been the marquis signing of City’s transformation into a superpower, but it was Tevez’s signing that signalled the intent. Not only were they signing a world class talent, but it’s who they were signing him from.

Of course moving from Top 4 to Champions is another thing altogether, and although he helped near the end of the season, Tevez’s contribution to City’s greatest triumph of modern times was pretty small compared to Aguero. Although he didn’t dominate the team like Tevez had previously, he was the top scorer and he scored the goal to win the title. That one moment is the biggest single contribution that any player made tonL City’s title win. All the work before hand, including Kompany’s winner against United would have counted for zero.

So in what is no way a cop out, it’s a draw!!

They should try and keep them both – they’re pretty handy together:

Player Comparison: Romario vs Ronaldo vs Rivaldo vs Ronaldinho vs Messi

27 Feb

From the early 90’s to the current team, Barcelona have relied heavily on the magic of their South American superstars. One club, two nationalities and five of the best players of all time. All won the World Player of the Year Award in their time with the Catalan club. But who performed most in the big games? And who was most important to the team? The fourth feature in the Player Comparison series compares those brilliant Barcelona boys – Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Messi.

The Contenders:

First up is Romario, the Brazilian marksman was a ruthless finisher, and one of only two players to have scored 1,000 career goals – depending on what you class as official (more on that one here). He played in 6 different countries for 10 different teams, including footballing giants Adelaide United, Miami FC and Al-Sadd. For Brazil, he scored an incredible 55 goals in 70 games, winning the World Cup and the Copa America (twice). Described by Johan Cruyff as a “genius of the goal area”, he won La Liga and the Spanish Super Copa during his time his short stay at Barcelona.

Ronaldo came next. And it was an even shorter stay. For the single season that he represented Barcelona, there were absolutely no doubts who the best player in the World was. Although he didn’t win the League title with the Spanish Club, he did win the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and despite later going on to play for bitter rivals Madrid, he is still considered one of the Barca greats. Like his predecessor, he also won the Two Copa Americas and a World Cup with Brazil – and is the tournaments all time top scorer with 15 goals. In total he scored 62 goals in 98 appearances for Brazil. He suffered three career threatening injuries, with many suggesting that without them, he could have been the best of all time. Despite this, he still managed to win the World Player of Year award on three occasions.

After Ronaldo’s sale to Inter Milan, Rivaldo was identified as the player to fill the “Brilliant Brazilian” hole that had been left behind. More of a playmaker than the two before him, he was still a prolific scorer, particularly in his 5 years with Barcelona. Deadly from set pieces, he also had the eye for the spectacular – none more so than his hat trick to beat Valencia on the final day of the season to pip them to the last Champions League spot in 2001. The third goal was an over head kick from outside of the area in the last minute (as seen here), and possibly better than Pele’s in escape to Victory. He had a left foot like a magic wand/traction engine, and like Ronaldo, he enjoyed his greatest moment in the 2002 World Cup, as part of the 3 R’s attack. As appears to be the pre requisite, he also won the Copa America, and scored 34 goals in 74 appearances. He’s had even more clubs than Romario, and at 39, is still playing.

Fourth in the list, was cheeky schemer Ronaldinho. As with Rivaldo, he was also more of a playmaker, one blessed with incredible dribbling skills. He is one of the few Barcelona players to have received a standing ovation from fans of Real Madrid in the Bernebeu. Although mainly deployed from wide positions, he has close to 300 career goals (stop laughing Romario) including the 33 for his country (from 93 caps). At 31, he is still strutting his stuff in the Brazilian league with Flamengo. He’s regarded by some as a wasted talent, but during his time with Barcelona he won two World Player of the Year awards. Not bad for an International Playboy (I met him once in Las Vegas – the reputation is justified). Ronaldinho’s partying and the emergence of another skillful playmaker resulted in a somewhat premature exit from the Nou Camp, after he signed for AC Milan (like Rivaldo and Ronaldo before him). As with the players above, he also has World Cup and Copa America medals.

And so on to the last and current Barca player in our list – Lionel Messi. He has the vision of Rivaldo, the dribbling of Ronaldinho, and the finishing and pace of Romario and Ronaldo. He, like Ronaldo has 3 World Player of the Year titles. Where he differs from his Brazilian predecessors (apart from his nationality) is that he’s been a one club man. He had to overcome similar physical challenges as Rivaldo before making it as a top class player. The undoubted best player in the World at the moment, he just has to do it on the International stage to truly cement his place as one of the best, if not the very best of all time. He currently has 222 goals in 309 games for his club (as at the time of writing), and a rather more modest 19 in 66 for Argentina.

“No hard feelings, I just want your Number 10”

Rules:

As per usual, it’s primarily a comparison of their Leauge goals rather than all goals. Why? Because it’s similar opposition (give or take for relegation) – and these opponents are ranked, meaning that we can calculate an average. As they played for different amounts of time for Barcelona, it’ll be a look at their most prolific season in the league. This is calculated on final league positions, rather than at the time of playing.

Of course these players aren’t just about goals, but I don’t have the assists available for Ronaldo and Romario, so will leave them out for this comparison.

Background:

Romario, then 27, signed in the summer of 1993 after 129 goals in just 5 seasons with PSV Eindhoven. Under the stewardship of Johan Cruyff, he had just one full season with the Spanish Giants, so we’ll be looking at the 1993-94 season.

Like Romario before him, Ronaldo made his European club bow with PSV, though only stayed for 2 seasons – his 54 goals in 57 games were enough to persuade Barca to part with $17m for a teenager. Under Bobby Robson, Ronaldo played just the one season with Barcelona – 1996-97.

Rivaldo joined aged 25, from La Liga rivals Deportivo La Coruna for a fee of $26m. Though he played for Barca for 5 seasons, it’s his most prolific that we’ll look at – 24 league goals in 1998-99. Free from the shackles placed upon him by Louis van Gaal in previous years, he thrived under Ferrer.

Ronaldinho’s most prolific season was actually after his two World Player of the Year awards. 2006-07 saw him bang in a decent 21 in the league in Frank Rijkaard’s penultimate season with the club.

And lastly, Messi’s best haul in La Liga was as a 22 year old. He looks set to have his best season in goal scoring terms this season, but for the purpose of this piece, we’ll use his prolific season under Pep Guardiola (Romario and Ronaldo’s team mate) in 2009-10.

This was initially going to be about the 4 Brazilian’s, but you can’t leave Messi out of this. He fits the South American World Player of the Year criteria, and plays up top, so we’ll leave him in. Even though his name doesn’t begin with R and end with O.

Statistics:

Apologies for the long build up, but we can now move onto the stats. I’ve decided to look at it based on three criteria – goal scoring out right, big game players, and importance to the team.

Goalscoring:

First up is the the goal scoring records of each player – based on goals per game and goals per minute:

Firstly, Ronaldinho’s 21 goals in 32 games would be an incredible season in most players careers, and a rate of 0.66 goals per game is an awesome strike rate. When you add to that the fact that he played wide of a front three, then it’s even more impressive. However, this comparison is against some of the greatest and most prolific forwards of all time. Whilst Ronaldinho is perhaps only second to Messi in the dribbling stakes, he’s last in the goals table. Similarly, Rivaldo was more than just a goal scorer, so 24 league goals is a great season. To put it into perspective, it would have won the golden boot 4 of the seasons from 1997-2004.

And so onto the super strikers. In all honesty, there’s not much in it. Ronaldo and Messi lead the way in terms of goals scored with 34 (Messi in two games less). Romario wasn’t too far behind with 30 league goals from just 33 games. They all have close to a goal a game strike rate with 0.91, 0.92 and 0.97 goals per game for Romario, Ronaldo and Messi respectively. To add some perspective, in the last 20 years only 3 other players have broken the 30 goal mark in a season – Cristiano Ronaldo last season, Diego Forlan the year before that, and Pizzi for Tenerife back in 1996. Pizzi did so in a 42 game season (he played 41 games), and whilst Ronaldo also did so in a 42 game season, he only played 37 games – within the confines of a normal season now. It’s interesting to see that the 30 goal mark has been broken in the last 3 (soon to be 4) seasons. Is La Liga getting easier?

When looking at the goals per minute, it’s Messi once again that does this business with a goal every 83.53 minutes. That works out better than a goal a game, and when allowing for injury time at the end of both halves of football – Ronaldo and Romario pretty much equal that with goals every 94 and 91.9 minutes. In terms of games scored in, Ronaldo walks this one, with a massive 23. It’s up to you the reader to decide if it’s better to score in more games, or to score multiple times in fewer games. Ronaldo can certainly say his goals influenced more games than the other players.

Winner: It’s a joint win for Ronaldo and Messi on this one. Messi equalled Ronaldo’s 34 in less games/minutes, but Ronaldo did it in more games. It’s also easy to argue that Messi’s team mates were better than Ronaldo’s. Honourable mention to Romario.

Big Game Players:

And so on to round 2, and the lifeblood of this site – who was most effective in the big games? Once again, unfortunately I don’t have the assists available for each player – so whilst they may have dominated the game without scoring (see Messi vs Real Madrid in 2010/11), we’re solely looking at goals.

Well well well. I didn’t just put it together like this so that Ronaldinho and Rivaldo could prevent it from turning into a 2 horse race. It’s certainly interesting that the two Playmakers have the best average ranked opposition per goal. Even though they scored the least amount of goals, they had the mentality to perform in the big games – more so than the small games. They’re the only two on the list that have more goals against the Top 6 than the Bottom 6. It was certainly levelled at Ronaldinho that he didn’t always turn up for the small games (mentally not physically) – and this goes some way to proving it.

Big game? That’ll be Real Madrid. Interestingly, all 5 players scored against arch rivals Real Madrid in their Barca careers, though Ronaldinho didn’t manage it in his most prolific season (a young Messi did though). Romario banged in a hat trick in a 5-0 whitewash, Ronaldo scored the winner in a 1-0 win whilst chasing the Madrid club for the title, Rivaldo scored in a 3-0 win, and Messi scored in a 2-0 win at the Berbebeu.

Although Ronaldinho didn’t have the goal against Madrid, he did score against the teams in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th. And this was a league table where 3rd placed Sevilla were only 5 points off the title, rather than the 24 points that Valencia are behind in today’s table.

Messi has the most goals against Top 6 opposition with 10, but this was in a league where 3rd placed Valencia finished 28 points behind the Champions, and 6th placed Getafe were 41 points off Top spot – whilst only 22 off relegation. The gap between 1st and 6th was only 16 points in Ronaldinho’s 2006-07 season – the lowest by someway – adding to the importance of Top 6 goals.

Ronaldo and Romario fall victim to being consistent with an expected split weighted towards the middle range, and it’s worth noting that Ronaldo’s goals against the Top 6 opposition were worth more points (6) than any of the others.

Winner:Although his star had started to fade, it was Ronaldinho’s big game mentality that shone through. He scored twice the amount of goals against Top 6 as he did against Bottom 6, had the best Average ranked opposition for each goal, and the league he played in was still very very competitive. The only he didn’t notch against Real, he did against all the other challengers.

Importance to team – goals as points:

The last measure is based on the importance of the goals. It’s not an exact science but it does give a basis to measure the importance of a goal. For the mathematics behind it, click on the Rules and Workings page. So if we take Romario’s hat trick against Real Madrid as an example, he’d receive zero points for his treble as the team won 5-0. If you take his goals away, then they’d still win 2-0. Similarly, Rivaldo’s hat trick against Valencia in 2001 was worth all 3 points as they were the only Barca goals in a 3-2 win. Take them out and the team lose 0-2. So with that in mind:

Despite scoring less goals than Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, it’s Rivaldo who’s goals were most important to his team. His 24 goals were woth a massive 20 points to Barcelona’s final tally of 79. This means that he also leads the way in the percentage of team points he was responsible for, with a mightily impressive 25.32. Barcelona went on to win the title that year and usually you’d expect the Champions points spread quite wide across a team. It’s not unusual to see a struggling team have a stand out player for points, as the team points is that much lower, so to score goals worth a quarter of the final tally is very impressive.

Ronaldo once again is there are there abouts. His 34 league goals were worth 17 points as Bobby Robson’s team just missed out on the title by 2 points to Real Madrid. If he’d played all the games, it’s likely that he would have made the difference. He edges out his predecessor Romario who had a credible 16 points. Surprisingly enough, Messi and Ronaldinho’s goals were only worth 13 points – 13.13% and 16.67% of the the over all points tally.

Although they were less important that the other players, Messi is ahead on the percentage of the team goals scored with 34.69% – narrowly ahead of Ronaldo and Romario.

Winner:This one has to go to Rivaldo. Whilst he scored less goals than than 3 of the other contendors, the goals he did score were worth more to his team. Honourable mention to Ronaldo who won 17 points, and scored a third of his teams goals.

Overall Winner:

With wins for each player (aside from Romario) across the three categories, it’s incredibly hard to call this one. Each reader will have their own opinion as to which parameter is most important. Some may well argue that stats don’t tell the whole story – and i’d agree to an extent, as there is no measurement on assists, on brilliance, beauty, style etc…..Personally, Ronaldo is my favourite footballer of all time, regardless of the stats, but regular readers will no that I don’t like to sit on the fence, nor let my preconceptions shape the outcome.

As a result, I decided to rank the players on each measurement and work out the average position. And so, without further ado, I give you:

Overall Winner:

Well it looks like Messi has done it again. Taking into account every single parameter, he just edges out Ronaldo with a average rank of 2.4 across the 10 measurements, with Ronaldo averaging 2.5. It’s no surprise that the order is the same as the number of goals scored.

Whilst he appears set to be crowned Barcelona’s all time greatest player – and 3 Champions League titles of their 4 would suggest it’s justified, it’s worth noting that Ronaldo’s 34 league goals (and 47 overall) came when he was just 19 years old. Messi’s season at 19 read played 26, scored 14 (17 in 36 overall). So whilst Messi is the winner here, i’d stick my neck out and say that had Ronaldo stayed at Barcelona, and avoided injuries, then he would have won.

Interestingly, if you remove the percentage of team goals statistic, then Messi and Ronaldo are level.

In Conclusion:

All five players were among the best of their generation, and arguably of all time. It’s a shame that Romario and Ronaldo’s stay was so short as they both had their best seasons with the club, and it meant that the comparison was restricted to just one season per player.

Whilst Messi tops the league in this comparison, he still falls short on the international stage. The four Brazilians have World Cup and Copa America glory, and until Messi wins big and performs well on the biggest stage, there will still be some doubting his place on the football pantheon, alongside Pele, Maradona and Zidane. I would also put Ronaldo on that list. He’s the all time top scorer in the World Cup, he’s the three time World Player of the year, and he had to overcome three career threatening injuries resulting in having to change his game. A good piece of trivia is that he is the only player to have scored on both sides of the Clasico and the Milan derbies. Ronaldo aged 17-21 is one of the greatest players of all time, and better than Messi at the same age.

Luckily for Messi, there were no measurements based on partying.

Further Viewing:

Enjoy:

Romario 1993/94

Ronaldo 1996/97 Top 10 (The top 3 are ridiculous)

Ronaldo 1996/97 All Goals

Rivaldo 1998/99

Ronaldinho 2006/07

Messi 2009/10

Apologies for the length of this one, but with five players (and five of the all time best), it’s hard to keep the word count down. Make up your own mind who you think was best for Barca. The stats say Messi, my own personal choice is Ronaldo, but it differs for everyone. I hope you enjoyed the latest Player Comparison, and as always, all suggestions are welcome. Whether you want an in depth anaysis, or are just wondering about the stats of a few players to settle a pub argument.

Cheers,

Liam

Player Comparison: Thierry Henry vs Ruud van Nistelrooy

27 Jan

Hot on the heels of the Lampard vs Gerrard comparison, the third in the series is another of the Premier League’s most discussed duos – Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy. For the 5 years, that they both played in the Premier League they dominated the goalscoring charts with five winners, three runners up and one 3rd place in the race for the golden boot. But who was the bigger game player?

Henry getting away with another blatant handball

The Contenders:

France and Arsenal’s all time leading scorer, the man who brought va va voom to the Premier League and who is one of the most unpopular players in Ireland, Thierry Henry. Signed from Juventus after a less than convincing spell, Henry won 2 league titles and 3 FA Cups with the Gunners before moving on to Barcelona. On the Oranje side is Holland and Man United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy. Ruud has top scored in the Champions League 3 times, as well as golden boots in the Dutch, English and Spanish league. He moved on to Real Madrid in 2006 after winning 1 Premier League title, an FA Cup and a League Cup.

The Background:

Henry at Monaco

Henry began his football career at Monaco under the tutelage of his future Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Initially played on the wing, he was eventually moved up front. He made his professional debut in August 1994 – going on to make 141 appearances for Monaco and scoring 28 goals in all competitions. He made his France debut in 1998 and went on to win the World Cup that same year, and earning a big move to Juventus. Henry struggled to make an impact with the Old Lady (I wonder would Wayne Rooney thrive there?) and found himself back out on the wing. After 3 goals in 19 appearances, Henry was reunited with his first manager  in North London. It’s fair to say his strike rate improved with 46 goals in his first 100 games for the Gunners – taking us up to the summer of 2001.

Ruud van Nistelrooy had to overcome several hurdles at PSV

Ruud van Nistelrooy’s early career wasn’t quite as glamorous. He started his professional career with Dutch minnows Den Bosch. Like his French rival, he also started out as a midfielder but was moved to centre forward early on. He made his debut in 1993 and went on to score 20 goals in 71 appearances for them. His form in 1996-97 caught the eye of Heerenveen who shelled out €360k on the Dutch thoroughbred. His stay with them was a short one – his goalscoring record secured a move to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven (for €6.3m – a tidy profit). It was here that his career really took off, scoring an impressive 71 goals in 95 games for the Eindhoven club. A move to Manchester United was all but tied up in 2000, but a serious knee ligament injury delayed it for a year.

The Rules:

As per usual, it’s primarily a comparison of their Premier Leauge goals rather than all goals. Why? Because they played against the same opposition over the same time period – and these opponents are ranked, meaning that we can calculate an average. International goals will also be taken into account. The time scale is the 5 year period from 2001-2006, from when van Nistelrooy joined, to when he left.

Premier League:

2001-2002:

And so on to the stats, their first season head to head was Henry’s 3rd in the league, and van Nistelrooy’s first. With that in mind, it’s particularly impressive the impact that the Dutchman had, and just how close he ran Henry for the Golden Boot. Henry played one game more and scored 24 goals to van Nistelrooy’s 23. Their goals per games tally were virtually identical – 0.73 vs 0.72. Who did it in the big games?

Well once again it was very close. Henry scored 4 against Top 6 opponents on his way to winning the league title with Arsenal. Chelsea (6th), Man Utd (3rd, two goals) and Liverpool (2nd) were all victims to his goalscoring touch. On the other side, van Nistelrooy scored in both games against 4th placed Newcastle, and once against Chelsea. From an average opposition point of view, the Dutchman edges it with an average opponent per goal of 12th place compared to Henry’s 12.25.

Winner: A Draw

Too tight to call this one, so a draw. An incredible debut season for Ruud, whilst Thierry stepped up to score over 20 league goals for the first time in his career. Henry had 4 against the Top 6 (one pen), whilst van Nistelrooy had a better average. This is just based on goals scored – Henry provided more assists by far, but this comparison is just on the goals….for now.

 

van Nistelrooy’s only title came in 2003

2002-2003:

Round 2, and after Arsenal won the title in 2001-02, Man Utd were out for revenge. And revenge they found. Powered by van Nistelrooy’s goals, United won the Championship, in what would be the Dutchman’s only Premier League title.Once again, they were pretty much neck and neck in terms of goals scored, this time van Nistelrooy winning the Golden Boot by one goal. He did it in 3 games less, taking his goals per game to an impressive 0.74 to Henry’s 0.65.

And they’re not the only stats that he wins on. His Average Opposition Index (AOI) was a very impressive 9.28, compared to the French hitman’s 12.25. The driver behind the AOI was a whopping 8 goals vs Top 6 opposition. On their way to the title, van Nistelrooy scored against 3rd placed Newcastle (4 goals including a hat trick in a 5-3 win),  Blackburn Rovers (6th), Liverpool (2 goals) and most importantly, against title rivals Arsenal. In comparison, Henry scored 5 goals against the Top 6 teams, including both goals against United in a 2-2 draw.

Winner: Ruud van Nistelrooy

Although the number of goals were once again similar, the AOI and goals against Top 6 were heavily weighted in his favour.

RVN showing customary calm under pressure. From a nutter.

2003-2004:

In what was an historic season, Arsenal would once again take the crown of Premier League Champions from United but this time would go the whole season unbeaten. Not only was this Arsenal’s greatest season, it was also Henry’s best in the League with 30 in 37 (0.81 goals per game). Ruud van Nistelrooy hit 20 league goals for the 3rd season running, but was way behind his rival.

Once again, it was the Dutchman who had the best AOI rating with 10.6 compared to Henry’s  11.93 but that was the only area he bettered Henry who smashed in 10 goals against the Top 6 (in a maximum of 10 games). Once again for the 3rd season running, he scored against United, this time in a 1-1 draw, whilst the highlight was a Hat trick against Liverpool in a game where his team was behind twice.

Winner: Thierry Henry

Ahead in goals and against Top 6 opponents. Inspired his team to go the season unbeaten on the way to winning the league. Sadly for Arsenal fans, their last at the time of writing. Ironically, van Nistelrooy could have ended the unbeaten streak, but missed a penalty in a 0-0 draw – much to Martin Keown’s delight.

Henry carried Arsenal to the title in 2003-04

2004-2005:

And so after 7 years of what seemed like Man Utd vs Arsenal for the title, Chelsea and Mourinho took over. In terms of the Player Comparison, this season was a write off for van Nistelrooy, with injury and form going against him. Just 6 goals, 3 of which were penalties, were scored in his 17 League appearances. On the other hand, Henry continued his impressive form with a 4th straight season of 20+ goals – hitting 25 in 32.

Not really much in way of comparison here, although interestingly, despite playing almost double the games, Henry only scored 1 more against the Top 6. Two of the three goals were against the Champions Chelsea in a 2-2 draw. Undeniably a big game.

Winner: Thierry Henry

For the first time, Henry’s AOI rating was better than the Dutchman’s, along with every other stat. No comparison. If the Dutchman were a horse, he’d have been put down.

2005-06:

And so onto the final season in the comparison, and van Nistelrooy’s final in England. Chelsea once again went on to claim the title, but Henry won the Golden Boot for the 3rd season running. But what of the comparison, and the big game scoring?

It was certainly a return to form for van Nistelrooy after a poor 2004-05. However, once again he was just no match for his French rival. Henry outscored in both goals and goals per game, had a better AOI rating (although still below the 10.5 aim), and did it more often in the big games vs the Top 6. In this season, he scored against 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th, whereas van Nistelrooy only scored against 6th placed Blackburn Rovers.

Winner: Thierry Henry

The stats do tell the full story on this occasion.

Premier League Conclusion:

Just looking at the Premier League goals, it’s a 3-1 win to Henry in the 5 seasons.

He’s done it against Top 6 opposition on more occasions, with 28 goals to 21 and has 0.76 goals per game vs 0.63. However, food for thought is that van Nistelrooy’s split is as you’d expect – 23-51-21 which converts to 24% of his goals were against Bottom 6, 54% vs Middle 8 Opponents and 22% vs the Top 6 teams. Henry’s split isn’t as consistent at 34%-44%-22%.

International Goals:

From the off, you look at Henry’s International career and see a World Cup medal, a European Championships medal and a Confederations cup medal. In terms of strike rate, he has 51 goals in 123 games (0.41 goals per game) and is France’s record scorer – over taking Platini’s haul. By comparison, van Nistelrooy has a better strike rate with 35 goals in 70 games (0.5 goals per game).

Of those goals, Henry has 6 World Cup goals and 6 European Championship goals. For Holland, Ruud has 1 World Cup goal, but matches the tally of 6 in the European Championships. And so once again onto the stats:

Once again, it’s a win for Thierry – he has more goals, a better AOI of 50.98 vs van Nistelrooy’s 61.11 and is ahead on Top 10 opposition goals. Whilst he didn’t score in the two biggest international games of his career – World Cup final 2006 and European Champonships Final 2004, he has done it against big teams. Goals against Portugal, Germany, Brazil, Italy and Holland points to the fact that he can do it against the best, indeed the winner vs Brazil in the 2006 quarter finals is undoubtedly a big game goal. For Holland, van Nistelrooy has a disappointing 3 goals versus the upper echelons of Footballing nations. His best moments for Holland came in Euro 2004 when he scored 4 goals – against Germany, Czech Republic and a brace against Latvia.

Both have a good International record and Henry’s medals would point to a great record. However, neither have really done it in the biggest games, something that separates the likes of Henry and van Nistelrooy to Brazil’s Ronaldo. Not many strikers have really done it in World Cup finals of late – Iniesta settled 2010, Materazzi and Zidane scored in 2006, and it was Zidane again with fellow midfielder Petit that settled the 1998 World Cup. Before that it was penalties in 1994 and a penalty by defender Brehme in 1990.

For Further Consideration

When looking at their big game credentials, it’s worth taking into account a few more details that aren’t easily comparable as the opponents aren’t ranked, and differ. In the Champions League, Henry has a medal with Barcelona, but again, failed to score in both the 2009 final, and the defeat for Arsenal in 2006. Ruud van Nistelrooy has 3 top scorer awards in the competition, and is second only to Raul in the all time European Cup scorers list. Guess who’s in 3rd? Thierry Henry of course.

In terms of cup finals as a measure of big games, van Nistelrooy scored twice in the 2004 FA Cup final – although as a caveat, this was against Championship side Millwall. He also played in the 2005 final versus an Henry-less Arsenal, the game finished 0-0. He also failed to score in the 2004 League Cup final defeat to Liverpool.

In terms of importance to their teams and value added to them, the below once again has Henry on top. Even taking into account van Nistelrooy’s poor 2004-05, Henry still wins in points gained and percentage of team points earned. 

In Conclusion:

The whole point of these player comparison’s is to find who was the better player from a big game perspective by looking at the opposition. In that sense, Thierry Henry wins. He does it more often against the Top 6, which is the measure to track by. Ruud van Nistelrooy edges it on the Average Opponent per goal rating, but that’s because Henry also heavily punished the Bottom 6. He has more tournament goals than his Dutch rival as well – another measure of a big game player.

Ruud van Nistelrooy has undoubtedly been a great goalscorer, and perhaps to say he isn’t a big game player is harsh as he hasn’t had as many final appearances as Henry. He still had 21 goals versus Top 6 opponents – which is still one of the best records of recent years. To van Nistelrooy’s credit, there wasn’t much in it against a player twice in the Top 3 for the World’s best.

So well done Thierry, he proved that beautiful football could win over a ruthless finisher. Although comparing the two, they are different types of players, and it’s worth remembering that in those 5 seasons, Henry also provided 59 Premier League assists.

BUT.

He may rate as a big game player in the Premier League, and indeed he had his moments in Europe – a hat trick at Roma, a brace in the San Siro and the winner against Real Madrid showed this, however, no goals from the below games unfortunately excludes him from joining the greats:

  • 2001 FA Cup Final
  • 2002 FA Cup Final
  • 2003 FA Cup Final
  • 2000 UEFA Cup Final
  • 2006 Champions League Final
  • 2009 Champions League Final
  • 2000 European Championships Final
  • 2006 World Cup Final.

Personally, I think he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen, it’s just a shame he never did it on the biggest stages.

Thanks for reading, it’s a bit of a long one, but when looking at two such decorated players, it was hard to cut it down. You’ve seen the stats and facts, make up your own mind.

If you’ve any ideas for the next Player Comparison, leave a comment or send me a mail.

Cheers,

Liam

Player Comparison: Frank Lampard v Steven Gerrard

15 Jan

Post and open comments now appearing here: http://www.averageopposition.com/2012/01/player-comparison.html

2011-12 Stats: http://www.averageopposition.com/2012/12/goal-scoring-player-comparison-for-2011.html

This Season: http://www.averageopposition.com/p/premier-league_16.html

 

After starting the Player Comparison series with the two best players in the world, how do you follow that? In terms of quality of player, you can’t (unless I had the Pele/Maradonna stats handy). But the idea behind this series was to not only look at two comparable players based on stats, but also to help settle pub debates. And so with that in mind, and from a Premier League starting point the contenders choose themselves. Fewer players have been at the heart of debates and comparisons, both for rival club fans, but also for England fans.

Piggy back football never really took off

The Contenders:

In the Red corner, we have Liverpool’s home grown King of the Kop, Stevie G (whilst Luis Suarez is the heir apparent to the throne, I’m certainly not going to make a cheap joke about the court jester and Andy Carroll). Gerrard has been strutting his stuff at Anfield since 1998, and for the national team since 2000. In the Blue corner, we have his Southern counterpart, JT’s BFF, Frank Lampard. Whilst Gerrard has only known life at a big club, Lampard began his football education at West Ham’s prolific youth academy. Under the tutelage of Tony Carr and then Uncle Harry, young Frank made his debut in the 1995-96 season (first on loan at Swansea) before eventually moving on to current club Chelsea in the summer of 2001 for what at the time seemed an excessive £11m but in hindsight, was something of a bargain. He made his England debut in 1999.

The Background:

Lampard is 2 years older than his Mersey rival and has been on fans radars that bit longer. Having always been an attacking central midfielder, he perhaps had a head start on Gerrard in terms of goals scoring. Those of you who can remember far enough, will recall that Gerrard initially broke into the England team as the deeper lying defensive midfielder next to the attacking Paul Scholes. It appeared as though Lampard was being groomed to play the attacking role from the middle, whilst Scholes was pushed out left. However, by this point Gerrard had started to display his attacking instincts, rather than being the holding player he first appeared. The result being a headache for their national coach for the best part of a decade. Gerrard’s been pushed forward, Lampard back, Gerrard wide, and Lampard as part of a diamond. Yet still, England have never really performed with the two players in tandem.
National team aside, there’s also been their club form, with both known throughout the World as two of the best goal scoring midfielders in football. Add to that a bit of bad blood between the clubs and Gerrard’s aborted move to Chelsea, and you have a debate on your hands. Who is or was better?

Rules:

As with the Messi vs Ronaldo comparison, I’ll be comparing their league form as there are no rankings applied to the Champions League. The comparison will begin from the 2001-02 season when Lampard began his Chelsea career. I’ll also review their international goals as well. Unlike the Ronaldo v Messi comparison, this will be based on final league positions.

Premier League:

And so onto the Stats. At first glance, and much to my surprise, there’s actually no comparison at all. In the ten and a half seasons since Lampard joined Chelsea, he’s scored 123 league goals in 362 games to Gerrard’s 78 in 320. That’s a rate of 0.34 per game compared to 0.24 or on the other hand, a goal every 3 games for Lampard aginst one every 4 games for Gerrard. Case closed.

All Hail Frank Lampard – king of the goalscoring midfielders. He’s got more goals, more assists, and more against the Top 6 with a very impressive 24 goals compared to Gerrard’s 14. And he can be relied on to play more games each season. Gerrard only comes out on top in terms of Average Opposition. On average, across the 10 and a half season, his goals are against 11.82 ranked opponents, compared to Lampards 12.39.

Well, that didn’t take long at all, I should probably start on the Henry vs van Nistelrooy comparison.

But wait. Scratch a little under the surface and things are indeed a little closer, and worth a comparison. Since Zola left Chelsea at the end of the 2002-03 season, Lampard has been taking his teams penalties, and he’s scored 33 of them. Take the penalties out and he’s on 90 goals. In that same time, Gerrard has scored 12 penalties, taking his goal tally down to 66. Now 90 vs 66 is still a decent gap, but if we took Gerrard’s goalscoring rate and applied it to 362 appearances, he’d be on for 75 goals.

Lampard is still on top, but once you take away the penalties, the goals per game is now just 0.25 to 0.21. Gerrard is still doing it against better opposition as well – his Average Opposition Index is 12.29 compared to Lampard’s 12.80. The most telling numbers though are in the goals against Top 6 Opposition. With penalties removed, Lampard loses almost half of his goals against the top ranked opponents. It’s now only 11 goals vs Gerrard’s 10 goals – and this is essentially in a season more of appearances – 42 extra.

So from a big game player point of view, the stats are now leaning towards Gerrard. What must also be taken into account is the teams that they play in. Since 2001, Chelsea have won the title 3 times and finished 2nd a further 4 times. Their average position over the 10 full seasons is 2nd. In the same period, Liverpool have finished 2nd twice, but more tellingly, have finished outside the Champions League Top 4 spots in four seasons. Their average position is 4th. Even the most die hard Liverpool fan would have to admit that Chelsea have consistently had better players. Goal scoring opportunities, and indeed assists are largely dependent on team mates.

Looking at the above graph, both players best goalscoring seasons have coincided with the team’s highest finish. In 2008-09, Gerrard scored 16 league goals (12 after penalties) in the season that they’ve come closest to winning the Premier League, finishing the season on 86 points. Lampard meanwhile scored an incredible 22 goals in 2009-10 (13 after penalties) to end Manchester United’s 3 year spell of dominance. This would suggest each player’s goals were significant to the club’s final positions.

It’s not an exact science, but if you take out the goals scored by each player, Chelsea would be worse of by an average of 3.5 points per season, whereas Gerrard’s equivalent contribution is 3.6. Nothing in it. But what about the percentage of the overall team points – to allow for the quality of the teams. Well once again, it’s very close. Lampard’s goals are directly responsible for 4.33% per season of Chelsea’s points over the last 10 seasons. Gerrard’s goals are worth 5.33% of Liverpool’s total points per season. On this measure, Gerrard is more important to his team. For the record, with penalties, Lampard’s percentage increases to 7.33% compared to Gerrard’s 6.02%.

What this parameter doesn’t take into account is the order of the goal. As mentioned in the last Premier League update, “you could for example take Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Norwich earlier in the season. As Chelsea won by two goals and had three different goal scorers, take one of Bosingwa’s, Lampard’s or Mata’s goals away and the result would still be 2-1 to Chelsea – meaning that there is no direct impact to the result and number of points. In reality – the opening goal of a game is always important (Bosingwa), and Frank Lampard’s goal in that match was in the 84th minute, which put Chelsea back ahead. Both were important goals, but due to Mata’s injury time goal – the importance in this formula lessens.”

With this in mind, what’s the average order of their goals? We know that the first goal is always the most important for a team, whilst the second can often prove decisive. For Chelsea, for both his 123 league goals, and the 90 from open play, Lampard on average, scores Chelsea’s 2.1 goal. In the same period, Gerrard’s 78 league goals have come as Liverpool’s 1.9 goal, compared to 1.8 after penalties are removed.

So all in all, looking at all of the stats based on their goalscoring, the average and range of the opponent, and the importance to their teams, there’s very little to choose between them. Lampard has more goals, Gerrard has a better opponent per goal. Lampard has more assists, but Gerrard is more important to his team. I hate to sit on the fence, and generally dislike to do so, but there’s nothing in it.

Internationals:

The lads enjoying another high point with England

But what of their contributions to the national team. After all, the biggest talking point around the players is why can’t they play together? Well as we’ve seen above, they’re just too similar. Sir Alf Ramsey famously didn’t choose the best players in every position to win the World Cup back in 66. He played the players that gave the best balance – a balance that’s missing when they’ve played together in the middle. We know that Gerrard is likely to be pushed further forward or even out wide if both players make the starting line up in the upcoming European Championships, but who deserves the attacking central midfield slot?

I’m afraid it’s not much clearer at International level either. They’ve both played pretty much the same amount of games for England, and in that time, Lampard leads the goal count with 23 to 19. However, once penalties are removed, Gerrard has actually scored 19 to Lampard’s 16.

Both have scored against good opposition – Gerrard’s first goal was in the 5-1 win away at Germany in the 2002 World Cup qualifying game. Lampard can count goals against number 1 ranked France (Euro 2004) and Spain in his tally. Of their goals, 7 of Lampard’s have been in friendlies, compared to Gerrard’s 5. The average opposition index leans in Lampard’s favour by 14 places, which would suggest he is the bigger game player for England. Indeed, he was voted England’s player of the year after his 3 goal haul in Euro 2004. The Elephant in the room though is the World Cup. Gerrard has scored 3 goals in the two World Cup’s he’s played in whereas Lampard has received criticism (particularly in 2006) for failing to do so, despite many many shots. He can count himself unlucky that his excellent chip against Germany in the last World Cup was incorrectly disallowed.

So looking at the Internationl records, we’re still in the dark. Lampard has the better Average Opposition, but more goals are in Friendlies, and he takes the penalties. He did have a great European Championships, but Gerrard has scored in 2 World Cups, and has more goals in open play – despite starting off in the holding role.

In Conclusion:

In terms of who’s the better player for the big games, I’m afraid it’s just too close to call. Both players have scored in Champions League finals. Both have scored decisive goals in FA Cup finals. Gerrard has also scored in the League Final and the UEFA Cup Final, whilst Lampard has scored the goals to win Chelsea the title. Both have scored 4 league goals vs perennial title winners Manchester United. Both are big game players. Lampard has 22 European Goals in 89 games (including 4 with West Ham), Gerrard has 38 in 116. Gerrard is more important to his team, whereas Lampard does it more consistantly, albeit against slightly lower opposition.

Looking strictly at the stats, it’s impossible to call this one, and despite hating sitting on the fence, this one will have to be left up to each reader’s interpretation. What can be agreed on by all, is that they are both outstanding players, and will go down as two of the Premier League and indeed European Football’s best goalscoring midfielders.

Any comparisons you’d like to see, please let me know.

Cheers,

Liam

Note: Stats were correct up to January 13th. Typically, Lampard has just scored again today.

Player Comparison: Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo 2009-11

16 Dec

Inspired by the recent el Clasico, I thought now would be a good time to have the first Average Opposition Index player comparison. And who better to start with than the undoubted best players in the world. I’ll leave out Carlton Cole for the time being as he’s not playing in the same league (yet).

Contenders:

Barcelona and Argentina’s Leo Messi, the current World Player of the year vs former World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal. Both play as Forwards – whether that be down the middle or from wide, both are generally part of a front 3.

Rules:

As usual, I won’t be including European Champions League Average Opposition as these are not ranked in the same competition, instead I’ll include La Liga games only from the last two completed seasons – 2009-10 and 2010-11. I’ll also compare their international goal record from an Average Opposition Index perspective.

La Liga:

From when Cristiano Ronaldo finally made his long anticipated move to Real Madrid in 2009, all eyes were on the show down between him and the existing king of La Liga – Leo Messi. By way of comparison, in the two seasons in question, Messi made 68 appearances in the league compared to Ronaldo’s 63. In those appearances, Messi scored a mind boggling 65 league goals compared to the even more impressive 66 by Ronaldo.  In terms of scoring alone, Ronaldo has a strike rate of 1.05 goals per game, compared to Messi’s 0.96.

La Liga 2009-2010:

Surprisingly, Ronaldo wasn’t even Real Madrid’s top league scorer in the 2009-10 season, with Gonzalo Higuain scoring 27 to his 26 goals. However, due to an injury ravaged season last year, Higuain’s record doesn’t stand up to comparison. And so on to the Stats:

The 2009-10 season was Ronaldo’s first in a new league. With that in mind, his record of 26 goals from 29 appearances is phenomenal. Unfortunately for him, this is a comparison against Leo Messi. Messi’s 34 goals in just 35 appearances is even more impressive. Based on the Average Opponent per Goal at the time, Messi’s 10.50 is exactly where you’d expect a player to be and shows his high performance against all opposition. This is emphasised by the ranges of opposition he has scored against. 10 goals against the other 5 teams in the Top 6 excluding his own is a great achievement and inline with the other stats above. This includes a hat trick against 3rd placed Valencia and a double vs Sevilla (5th).

Ronaldo by comparison had an Average Opponent per Goal of 12.38 based on their position at the start of each round. Looking at his ranges, again, there is a good split between Top/Bottom 6 and also the majority in the Middle 8 is where we’d expect to see this. Where Ronaldo falls behind is that he’s 3 goals behind Messi vs Top 6 opposition, and 4 of his 26 goals were from the spot, compared to just one of Messi’s. Both scored in a similar number of games where comparing the Average Opposition Index for the final league positions, although Ronaldo’s increases to 11.85, Messi’s is still better despite it decreasing to 11.18. At the time of play and at the end of the season Messi did it against harder opposition, and more often.

Winner: Leo Messi

Unsurprisingly, Messi who had been playing in La Liga for 5 previous seasons won this fight on all fronts.

La Liga 2010-2011:

So with a season of La Liga experience behind him, Ronaldo and his team mates targeted Messi and the Barca boys, and this time they had Jose Mourinho calling the shots. Despite his reputation for defensive football, Mourinho’s teams have often been record breakers in goals scored and points collected. Ronaldo especially thrived under his stewardship, along with two important other factors – he was now the main man at the Bernebeu after Raul’s exit, and he was also being supplied by Di Maria and Ozil. For Messi, he also had a change in his forward partners with Ibrahimovic and Henry leaving, replaced by Villa and youth product Pedro. And so onto the stats once more:

First and foremost, in a similar number of appearances, Ronaldo outscored Messi by a whopping 9 goals – take out each players penalties and there’s still 5 goals in it. In terms of the Average Opposition both were close enough to the expected 10.5 mark. However, where Ronaldo really shines is in the Top 6 goals. Of his 40 league goals (41 if you read Marca – the Madrid based and in no way biased sports paper), a massive 16 were against other members of the Top 6 including a four away at Sevilla, and a hat trick at home against Villarreal – one of 6 hat tricks scored in the season. It was against other members of the Top 6 that splits the two players – although Messi does come out on top in the number of games scored in.

However, what the stats don’t tell is that 3rd-6th were a long way behind the big two. Valencia, who finished in 3rd were 21 points behind 2nd placed Madrid, whilst 4th placed Villarreal were 30 points behind. Towards the end of the season when it was clear that Barca were going to win the league, the Madrid players were going out of their way to provide for Ronaldo – he scored 11 in his last 4 games. In that same period, Barcelona had one eye on the Champions League final and Messi didn’t score one goal. Upto that point in the season, Messi was actually ahead of Ronaldo in the scoring charts.

Though we should give credit where it’s due – 11 goals in 4 games in itself is an incredible achievement. Boosted by his late flourish, Ronaldo beats Messi in all but the number of games scored in.

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

La Liga 2009-2011:

So looking at their league performances in the two full seasons they’ve played in the same competition:

There’s one goal in it in Ronaldo’s favour, though he has scored 7 penalties more than his rival. Messi is ahead in games scored in and has an Average Opposition per goal of 10.63 compared to Ronaldo’s 11.38. Ronaldo is ahead on goals against the Top 6 whereas Messi trumps him in the other ranges. With the closeness in the goal scoring stakes, when looking for a winner and without wanting to sit on the fence it’s worth looking at some further factors.

With the rest of the opposition so far behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, a better indicator than just looking at the Top 6 goals is the goals in the head to head games. In the four league games played, Messi has two goals compared to Ronaldo’s one. Something that continues to be levelled at Ronaldo is that he rarely performs well in the el Clasico’s. Even in last week’s game, he missed two good chances, and also neglected to pass to team mates in better positions. In the games last season, both scored a penalty in a 1-1 draw in Madrid, whilst in the first game in Barcelona, Messi was outstanding, laying on rather than scoring goals for his team mates in a 5-0 win. And it’s Messi’s ability to create that gives him the edge. Last season saw Messi top the assist league table with 18 compared to Ronaldo’s 10. Going back to 2009-10 season and it was a similar story – Messi leading Ronaldo.

So with that in mind, the Winner is Leo Messi.

Internationals:

For their countries, it’s a similar story – albeit the gaps are wider. Whilst Ronaldo has scored 32 goals in 87 appearances for Portugal (0.37 goals per game), Messi has scored 19 in 66 (0.29 goals per game). However, when comparing the Average Opposition per goal there’s little room for debate. Messi has scored on two occasions against #1 Spain, and also against Argentina’s fierce rivals Brazil. The worst opposition he’s scored against as per the FIFA Rankings at the time of play is Algeria #67. Interestingly, when the two nations faced each other in February of this year, both scored in a 2-1 win for Argentina but crucially, Messi also got an assist.

Both failed to impose themselves on the 2010 World Cup – one of the few criticisms that can be levelled at them. Messi’s solitary World Cup goal being in the 6-0 win over Serbia & Montenegro in a game famous for Cambiasso’s team goal back in 2006. Ronaldo scored in 2010, but it was against North Korea – ranked 105th in the World. This was in addition to his 2006 World Cup goal against Iran. For Ronaldo’s 2 goals in the European Championships (2004) see Messi’s 2 goals for Argentina in the 2007 Copa America.

In Conclusion:

Looking at just the stats, it’s difficult to separate the two players in the comparisons available. What can be agreed is that both players still need to do more at International level – especially in a World Cup, but as both are in their Mid-20s and with a World Cup less than 3 years away, they should both have the chance to do so.

Taking into account the goals against each other and the assists that Messi provides, the argument up until now falls in Messi’s favour. Both are outstanding players, but you can use the recent Real Madrid v Barcelona game as a microcosm of their rivalry. Take away Ronaldo’s goals and there’s not much else on offer, whereas Messi created the first goal after picking up the ball from his Centre Back, beating 4 men, and playing a perfect pass through for Sanchez to score. It was a similar story in the 5-0 win last season – Messi didn’t score but was man of the match.

Ronaldo is a modern great – a former World Player of the year, a scorer in a Champions League final, and the winner of the Golden boot in two strong leagues and in the Champions League.

But he’s not Messi.

Both have 17 league goals this season, as this intriguing head to head continues. Both can count themselves unlucky that they’re playing at the same time as another 50+ goal a season forward (in all competitions), but it’s great for the neutral. Messi is ahead due to his all round game, but it’s far from over.

I’ll revisit this at the end of the season. I came into this expecting a clear win for Messi, but the fact that it was assists that separates them says a lot for the rivalry.

Cheers,

Liam