Giroud looks relieved, like a man who had been waiting for an hour to take a piss at an open air festival

Aerial Duels, dribbles, and tackles: something to tide you over during Nationalism week

Here are some wacky stats to tide you over during the international break.

Stoke City lead all teams in the top five leagues with 27.6 aerial duels won per game, winning 689 of 1172 high balls. That’s 96 more aerial duels won than second place Osasuna. It’s also interesting to note that Osasuna win almost all of their aerial duels defensively. Their top seven players for headers won are all defenders or defensive midfielders. Meanwhile, Stoke’s top three are Crouch, Jones, and Walters.

Stoke are also the 4th worst team in all five leagues in terms of possession with just under 42%. Reading are second worst just under 40% and Levante are the outright worst with 36.2%. Low possession numbers make sense when you are hoofing the ball to Crouch who may win a lot of headers (7.7 per game) but who passes at 59% rate because Stoke don’t have technical players around him.

Crouch is third in the League in aerials won per game behind Aston Villa’s emerging star Christian Benteke. Benteke is listed at just 22 years old, but he plays more like a 28 year old. He has to be 22, though, because well, because it says so on Wikipedia. As you can see from the chart below, Benteke leads the League in aerials won (second per game behind Andy Carroll), has 10 goals, leads all three big men compared in assists with 4, passes better than Giroud (on Villa!), has a useful dribble, and decent vision with 1.5 KP per game and 4 assists.

Crouch Giroud Benteke
Goals 5 9 10
Assists 3 2 4
Aerials 7.7 3.5 8.4
Aerial % 67% 53% 58%
Pass 59% 64% 66%
Shots/Goal 5.2 7.9 7.1
Dribbles 3 6 15
Key Passes 25 17 32
Turnovers 30 48 44

The few times I saw Benteke play I was turned off by his poor touch, which shows up in the high turnover numbers. But I have to admit that he has fewer turnovers than Giroud which is a bit of a surprise. Based on the numbers above, I can see why some folks (notably Arse2Mouse who seems to have a nose for finding hidden gems) thumped for Benteke in the January window. For the record, just because I’m saying Benteke has good numbers that doesn’t mean I think he’s better than Giroud, that I like Giroud less, that I’m denigrating Giroud, or whatever weird fantasy you weirdos are concocting in your weird little fantasy worlds. Weirdos.

Moving from head to feet, we take on the topic of dribbles, tackles, and interceptions. You will often hear me say that the Bundesliga is a “dribble orientated league” and what I mean by that is that for the second year running teams from the Bundesliga comprise 14 of the top 20 teams in terms of dribbles per game.

Frieburg leads all the top five leagues with nearly 17 dribbles per game. Their main expressionist is Danny “the Cabinet of Doctor” Caligiuri who leads Frieburg with 3.9 dribbles per game. King of the dribbles in the Bundesliga (and beyond) is Franck Ribery with 5.4 per game. Arsenal will get to see him up close soon enough when the two teams meet in the Champions League in less than a fortnight — barf bags on standby.

Arsenal lead the League in dribbles per game with 11 and just miss out on a top 20 berth because AC Milan have played fewer games. I suspect Arsenal will be in the top 20 by the end of the season. The reason I feel confident in that prediction is that Gervinho led Arsenal in dribbling last year with just 1.4 (of players who got more than a handful of starts) and this year Arsenal are led by Wilshere (2.6), Diaby (2.5), and Cazorla (2.1). If those three can stay healthy, Arsenal should easily eclipse AC Milan.

Special mention has to go to Theo Walcott. I was roundly criticized when I wrote this article earlier in the year which used videos to prove that Walcott is not as poor a dribbler as many made him out to be. And sure enough, his stats are starting to match my assessment as he is now Arsenal’s 4th best dribbler with 1.6 per game, up 0.6 per game from last year. It’s the hallmark of a great player that they work on their weaknesses. Clearly, Theo saw that dribbling was a weakness and has done some work in that area and it is now paying off.

And finally, another odd thing about the Bundesliga is that along with their dribbling they also have 10 of the top 20 teams in terms of tackles per game. The two stats go hand in hand, actually, tackles and dribbles are usually (but not always) part of the same duel. Being dispossessed is also a stat that is mixed in there with dribbles and tackles. I’ll explain it all one day. The important thing to remember is that the Bundesliga dribbles a lot and there are a lot of tackles.

Meanwhile, the Bundesliga also has 11 of the top 20 teams in terms of interceptions per game. That’s a shift, La Liga regularly led this category and now it’s the Bundesliga. It looks to me like there has been a shift in the Bundesliga toward a more exciting product which might explain partly why Arsene and others are shopping there. Players in the Bundesliga tackle more, dribble more, and overall play better defense and offense than most of the other leagues.

And no, that doesn’t mean that I think the Bundesliga is better than the Premier League or whatever other weird thing you weirdos think I’m trying to say. Weirdos. I’m just saying that the Bundesliga has a lot of exciting players right now and looks like they are playing an exciting brand of football. You should check it out.

Anyway, I hope this provided you with a modicum of distraction and now return you to watching carefully for any signs of match-fixing in this week’s FIFA sanctioned games.


9 thoughts on “Aerial Duels, dribbles, and tackles: something to tide you over during Nationalism week

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    England 1-0 (1st half)
    Luiz elbows 2-0
    Ronaldinho PK made 0-1
    Hart saves of the game (1st half) 2-0
    Neymar misses with goal gaping 0-2
    Cole getting beat like a rented mule 3-0
    Walcott elbows received 1-0

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Sid

    Stats man, its all about the stats man.

    I think the Bundesliga is better than the PL, have done for a while now.

    Far too overhyped over here and far too much drooling and waxing lyrical over obscene transfer fees and wages and sugar daddies etc. Gotta love those crazy Germs and their well run, efficiently organised (who saw that one coming?), cheap as chips (comparatively) and entertaining league.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

    I remain extremely annoyed that ESPN has ceded soccer coverage to beIN (what the hell?!) and eventually NBC. I can’t hop onto ESPN3 and watch random Bundesliga matches anymore. Hate it.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1Benji

    Excellent analysis as always Tim! As a stats guy and sports fan, it’s always fun to hear your numbers driven take on my favorite team.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1BayGooner

    Stats are funny things, depending on what lens you look at them through. Stoke and Villa are numbers 18 and 19 in goals scored this year, whereas Arsenal is number 3. Crouchy has scored about 25% of Stoke’s goals and created 33% of them. Bentecke has scored nearly 40% of Villa’s goals, and has created a whopping 60% of their goals. Giroud? Just under 20% scored, and a total of 25% created. Bentecke is Villa’s only threat. Crouchy just beats out Walters, who also has five goals. Theo has scored more than Giroud, Santi and Podo each one less. Of the three you compare, Crouch and Giroud are close in minutes played (1457 and 1522 respectively), while Bentecke has played 1785. He has added, if I can believe it, 4G and 4A in five CapOne cup ties Villa has played, while Giroud has played 10 cup ties, contributing 6G and 7A.

    One thing your stats tell us is that front men do not complete a high level of passes. I mean, Crouch is 56% and Bentecke is 66%, really not very different. (How do the stats counters distinguish between a bad pass and a missed shot, I wonder.) The nature of the beast, I’d suggest, rather than a function of the presence of technically gifted forward men, or lack thereof.

    In my view, when you are the main guy, as is Bentecke, your stats get inflated by the prime focus you have from the other forward members of your team. If he came to Arsenal, he wouldn’t be such a player — though maybe in three or four years, when he is reaching his mid-twenties?

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Thanks Tim..I am 65% turned on by the stats post..!!!

    what stopped me from going further is…

    “Players in the Bundesliga tackle more, dribble more, and overall play better defense and offense than most of the other leagues.”

    Bayern is leading Bundesliga by a 12 point cushion with 14 games to go. Thats the most comfortable margin in the best of Europe. That is best stat for Bundesliga for the last 5 years at this point in time…

    Two of the top five scorers in Bundesliga are from Bayern (Muller and Mario Madusczezny)
    They have conceeded just 6 league goals at home and scored 26 goals (best home record in Bundesliga)

    Is there a correlation between the statement above and Bayern players..???
    Or is it the likes of Gotze or Kuba Błaszczyzhny pushing up those numbers??

    Kinda worried for the team that plays Bayern next in CL…

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Gooneryank

    German football scares me. If they ever got organised they might aspire to conquer Europe. Late coming aide from the MLS would not be enough to stop the Bundeswaffe. We are doomed.

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