Suarez, Messi, and Walcott: measuring a forward’s Oooh and Ugh factor, pt. 2

Stats are like a bikini, they reveal much and yet cover up the important parts; like, for example, how we didn’t define gender and this particular bikini is on a man. –Tim

There have been countless hours of debate in the pubs, on twitter, and in the comments sections of every blog about whether Luis Suarez is or is not right for Arsenal. Most of that debate has centered around his persona on and off the pitch but a few weeks ago I mentioned, among the other things, that I felt he is a ball hog. That sure, Suarez scored a lot of goals, but that in order to get those goals it looked to me a lot like he was being force-fed the ball like a duck in gavage.

For example, in his time at Ajax, Suarez scored 63 league goals from open play (minus the 18 penalties he scored) on 681 shots. That’s an average of 10.5 shots per goal. In his two and a half years at Liverpool, Suarez has continued his trend of needing about 10 shots per goal. Taking 370 shots in League play and getting just 38 goals for a slightly better 9.7 shots per goal. A number which is buoyed greatly by this season where he took 187 shots to get the 23 goals he scored an 8 shots per goal ratio. These facts about Luis Suarez’ style of play led the Tompkin Times to conclude:

At face value, Suarez appears to be a great goalscorer but this is probably not the case. The reality is that he is a forward who is heavily involved in his team’s attacking play but who is fundamentally wasteful.

But how do we know if 10 shots per goal is good or not? Well, Thierry Henry in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 scored 25 and 24 goals respectively (minus penalties) and he did so on a combined total of 235 shots. That’s 49 goals on 235 shots or 4.8 shots per goal. Prior to that, he required about 7 shots per goal and after that (with Barcelona in La Liga) he dropped back down to below 6 shots per goal. And on average, from 2000-2010, even with the enormous drag factor of his final season with Arsenal (where he only scored 7 goals from open play in the League, but took 89 shots), Thierry Henry only needed 6.5 shots per goal. If Suarez were that efficient, he would have scored 5-6 more goals from open play last season.

But, the critics respond, Suarez does so much more! I wanted to understand why certain players who I always feel are more wasteful seem to be so high in other people’s esteem. So I took a look at the Goals, Assists, Shots, Dribbles, Key Passes, Turnovers, Aerial Duels, Fouls Drawn, Fouls committed, and Offsides for a handful of high profile forwards and then divided that by the number of minutes each forward played and multiplied by 90. That gave me an “actions per 90 minute” metric and once sorted, the resulting table looks like this:

Actions per 90

First, Benteke was a bit of a surprise to me but as it turns out, he was competing for an obscene number of aerial duels: 474 to be exact. That means that Benteke had more aerial duels than Suarez had both dribbles and shots combined (442)! But more to the point, you can see that Suarez and Ronaldo are workers and they are both taking a lot of shots, dribbling, distributing to a teammate in a shooting position, and basically doing a lot on the pitch, even after excluding passes. I believe that this is one of the main reasons why people love Luis Suarez. He is, I think, undeniably a hard working footballer. The same goes for Benteke and Messi as well, though Messi also scored 46 league goals and each one seemed cheekier than the last.

Lewandowski and Giroud are similar to Benteke in that they are challenging for a lot of aerial duels. Meanwhile Gervinho’s number is pushed up by the fact that he’s quite the dribbler and Walcott and Rooney finish off the list with the lowest metrics of the bunch. Rooney, it should be noted, has had quite a poor season*. But Walcott’s relative lack of activity probably doesn’t surprise anyone as we have all seen him disappear from games for long stretches.

But the perception that the player is working hard isn’t the only argument. My main complaint about Suarez isn’t that he’s lazy, rather that he’s profligate. So, in order to try to measure that perception I decided that certain actions were more positive than others: things that players do on the pitch that make you go “OOH!”

For example, getting a shot on target isn’t 100% positive (it could be a tame effort) but it’s more positive than getting a shot off target. Same with completing a dribble, scoring a goal, and so on. I did the same math as above and came up with a measure of 7 events which I consider largely positive. Here’s how each player performed:


Benteke still comes out on top! Like I said, the man won a lot of aerial duels. He also got 53 key passes (passes that lead to a shot) and 43 shots on goal, so it’s not like he wasn’t doing anything with the ball once he won it, but mostly he is winning a lot of aerials.

Meanwhile, Messi and Ronaldo are positive stats stuffers. They do so much positively on the pitch that it’s no surprise to see them at the top of the list. Suarez, meanwhile, completed 95 dribbles and made 90 shots for his teammates and that latter stat means that combined with the 187 shots he attempted, Suarez made or took 277 of Liverpool’s league shots this season. That’s 37% of the team’s shots.

Couple of weird things about this chart, Walcott completed 47 dribbles last season, a career high, but he’s actually a well rounded player, much like Higuain. He does a lot of things pretty good but nothing spectacularly well. Meanwhile, players like Benteke and Suarez are very good at one or two things and they are the sole focus of their team, which bumps their stats up enormously. Oh, and I forgot to add Rooney to this chart. He had 6.75 positives per 90, a few points more than Gervinho. Obviously, Rooney is better than Gervinho but he did have a poor season by his own standards.

But what about the negatives? You know, turnovers, failed dribbles, shots into the stratosphere, dropped aerial duels, those things that make us all groan or say “ugh”.


When I say “I don’t think Suarez would fit at Arsenal” this is what I’m talking about. I’m not saying that Suarez is a bad player or that Suarez is useless. I’m saying my preference is for players like Walcott and van Persie who tend to be more efficient. Rooney also has a negatives of 7.51 per 90 and Higuain fits in to that profile as well.

But Suarez’ numbers all over the place are just absurd. He had almost twice as many failed dribbles as Messi and nearly twice as many turnovers (unforced errors) — making him not so much Messi as just kind of sloppy. Similarly, Falcao is one of the most profligate players in the game who had 105 turnovers (led the group with his poor touch), lost 91 aerial duels, had 71 failed dribbles (third highest), and 57% of his shots were wasted. In fact, Falcao’s goals tally is largely a product of the fact that he scored 8 from the penalty spot.

This, and this is very important, does not mean that Falcao is a terrible footballer. Nor that he wouldn’t fit at Arsenal, nor that Falcao, Suarez, Lewandowski, Benteke, etc. don’t fit into Wenger’s system or his plans. This is just a quantification of many people’s perception of various players and the attributes that the person watching the players probably prefer.

It drives me crazy to see players lose the ball, dribble into a blind corner, or shoot it into the stands. That’s what I don’t like about Suarez’ game and what drives me nuts about Gervinho. It looks a lot like his teammates are out there winning the ball back just so that he can waste possession, time and again. It’s a team sport and players like that don’t seem like team players to me. That’s what I feel that these stats show.


*Rooney is an odd case. Since his breakout season a in 09-10 he’s had a one-on-one-off career. Last season was a poor one, so my guess would be that he will probably score 20 goals next year!


49 thoughts on “Suarez, Messi, and Walcott: measuring a forward’s Oooh and Ugh factor, pt. 2

    1. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1YankGoonerMD

      I really wish Wenger read your blog everyday. When you lay out the stats like above it just makes it seem so obvious. Conclusion: Suarez to RM to be Ronaldo’s evil twin and Higuain to AFC to be a good, consistent, all around striker. And #%$@ RvP!

  1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Benji

    It’s interesting how many players have around the same number of positives and negatives per game. The players that are in the top part of the chart for positive actions taken tend to be in the top part of the chart for negative actions taken as well. Which makes sense (more active players do more both good and bad).

    The exceptions? Messi (lots of positives not many negatives) and to a lesser extent Suarez, Falcao and Gervinho (all more negatives than positives).

    When you announced this was coming in pt. 1 I was curious whether this way of parceling stats would pass the “laugh test”. But it seems to be a good way at quantifying different types of strikers. Have you thought about weighting the different positive and negative actions by their impact on the chances of winning (goals are weighted more heavily, aerials duals are weighted less heavily, etc.)?

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Benji

      Another analysis I would love to see, inspired by the Rooney section. How well does a player’s statistical performance hold up year to year? What is the correlation between, say, unsuccessful dribbles one season to the next? Obviously it’d have to be normalized by game to account for injury.

    2. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Abu

      I was also thinking about weighted positives and negatives.. how much each action should weigh is of course debatable, but that will definitely give the numbers a better perspective.

      Also, in one of the earlier posts, Tim pointed out that Suarez has a high key pas to assist ratio (18) and somehow marked that to be a sign of inefficiency. But is it really? Doesn’t it mean that his team mates are not that good at converting? I tend to think (or hope) that if we do sign him, he’d be able to contribute more with the overall build up of the attack.. Arsene does not seem to want to play Giroud as a second option striker. So, what he might be looking at is a striker who can play behind Giroud.. I thought Jovetic would be perfect for this position, and you know, less of a bitey racist.. but well…

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    Interesting quantification of perception Tim. So who are we actually signing this summer besides Sanogo

  3. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1mac

    but what your not considering is the team around them – with misfiring liverpool suarez had to take up the slack and pounce on any oppoptunity how ever half chanced it was, at arsenal and with good service he can focus on interlinking play and that deadly finish, plus keep the knowledge of how to create something out of nothing when needed, he is a quality player in a struggling team, he knows and is proven in the premiership which is why he is worth more money, you dont want to wait seasons for results (thuink van persie originally and giroud currently) – vp moves to man utd and guess what he’s up and flying knows the gig, make the transfer from a different league and suffer 2 seasons of coming of age, which is why arsenal should never have sold vp, you put all that time and effort in and for a few million man utd reap the benefits – arsenal dont want that, certainly not this year, suarez is worth twice higuain as, he knows the league and is proven – and top tip – dont sell your bestplayers its false economy, and cost you twice as much to replace them in time and effort – buy suarez, buy fabregas (proven) and buy cesar plus a defender, and if you got the cash get higuain as well, and take this year (the best ever year because of managerial changes) to stamp arsenals boot down on the epl and keep it there :) my tuppence worth mac

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      Suarez has actually played with very efficient finishers for most of his career and still been a ball-hog.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Biff

        Do you have any stats from his Ajax days? I just know that if I’m a Liverpool supporter, I’d rather Suarez keep the ball than pass to Downing /Shelvey/ Henderson to muck up a chance. I think that’s what a lot of Arsenal fans are thinking (maybe hoping).

      2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Biff

        Also, do you know how comes up with their player ratings? According to them, Suarez was the 2nd best player in the league last year. Which is it? Something doesn’t make sense…

        I love sabermetrics, moneyball, etc. I just don’t know that they apply to soccer.

  4. +7 Vote -1 Vote +1iowagooner

    This is an excellently researched and well-written article…but I fail to see any use for it if we are trying to evaluate different players’ potential ability to succeed at Arsenal.

    Football stats illustrate a team’s style of play much more than individual ability.

    These stats do a great job of illustrating how players are being used at their current clubs. From these stats you can discern that Benteke is a very imposing aerial threat, playing for a team that likes to play direct football and plays to his strengths. You can understand that Messi plays for a team who prioritizes short passing, and you can see that Messi himself likes to play a large role in that short passing attack.

    One can also surmise that Suarez is his team’s focal point (or in your words, ball hog) but playing alongside very little attacking talent. A player with a substandard supporting cast would most likely have the highest negative score but also the highest positive score, because of the lack of passing options and the pressure put on the player to do more on his own–this is exemplified in your tables by both Benteke and Suarez.

    Perhaps the best way to use statistics is therefore to only compare players in similar situations, as far as their team’s style of play and their reliance on that player.

    I’d be curious to see what Suarez’s statistics look like next to 2012 Robin van Persie? I feel like pre-Cazorla Arsenal and the current Liverpool team are very similar insofar as attacking ability and creativity, and therefore I think Suarez and 2012 RvP is the best available statistical comparison if we are trying to figure out how he could fare for us.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Biff

      Great post. Or similarly (and this is impossible), what would Messi’s stats look like if he had to play on Liverpool? He would no doubt force more things, take a long range shot or extra touch, knowing there wasn’t an Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc to pass back to, or Pedro on the wing who can still score goals or make killer passes.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells

      This exemplifies the long-standing perception that he “goes missing” during games.

      Not many negative, but then again, not many positive either.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Benji

        I wonder if part of this is a result of the fact that wingers tend to have less actions per game than strikers do. I have no idea if that’s true, but I’d guess at least in terms of shots and aerial duels wingers fall behind.

  5. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Interesting presentation, Tim.

    I think, generally, folks who don’t want Suarez don’t want him for behavior / character issues, but this gives us / them a bit of ammo when confronted with the response, “he may be a nutjob, but he’s a first-class footballer.”

    All that said, I can’t get over the fact that Wenger clearly wanted (wants?) him at Arsenal. That tells me he’s not overly concerned about the antics, and believes, in any case, that Suarez’s ability trumps any potential suspensions. It also helps that, unlike Liverpool, we have more depth in forward positions, meaning if he does get suspended, it’s less likely to hurt us as it did them. I also believe the players would be fine or even happy if Suarez signed for the club. And, I do hold some hope that at Arsenal, and under Wenger’s influence, Suarez could blossom not only as a player, but as a person, too.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about Suarez, and…I’m okay with him joining, so long as we tried our damnedest to get Higuain first…which, unfortunately, I don’t think we have, and don’t think we will. For me, Higuain must be the number one target, but, as far as consolation prizes go, Suarez is pretty amazing. He’ll work hard for the team, and he’s a proven Premier League goalscorer. Furthermore, it looks like the club doesn’t give a monkeys what I think, and so this will be a case of us having to get used to the idea.

    More pitiful still, all this deliberation and stat-crunching will be for nothing in the now almost inevitable scenario that we don’t sign either of them.

  6. +8 Vote -1 Vote +1Nick

    Ratios of good to bad:
    messi 1.546948357
    ronaldo 1.124895222
    RVP 1.06866417
    Theo 1
    Bente 0.954692557
    Higua 0.825396825
    Lewa 0.808259587
    Giroud 0.770816812
    suar 0.760278746
    cavi 0.741308793
    falc 0.680396644
    gerv 0.639713408
    *Sorry for the format.
    So for every bad thing Messi does, he does 1 and a half good things. Walcott is even, which is amusing.

    Suarez does about 3/4ths of a good thing for every bad, yet he is still above High Price movers Falcao and Cavani.

    While I personally would prefer Higuain, I would not be opposed to Suarez. For better or worse, he is going to affect every game that he plays in, and Arsenal have lacked that kind of energy in many games.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim

      I actually did this as well, but once I looked down and saw that I was at 1500 words decided not to include it. I’m so glad you did. It’s just one more way of looking at the data.

    2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1feygooner

      Messi 1.54
      Ronaldo 1.12
      RVP 1.06
      Theo 1.00
      Benteke 0.95
      Higuain 0.82
      Lewandowski 0.80
      Giroud 0.77
      Suarez 0.76
      Cavani 0.74
      Falcao 0.68
      Gervinho 0.63

      Fixed that for you :D

  7. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Nikki

    Ok, I can see it now. Thanks for all your hard work for this Tim.
    With this stats, I believe that we can conclude that there are certain types*of player in the striker/attacker position. There are dribbler (Ronaldo, Suarez), aerial duelers (Benteke, Giroud, Lewandowski), and finisher (van Persie, Higuain, Falcao). In the aerial duelers (player whose main effectiveness is in winning the aerial duels), I believe that we have one of the best in Giroud, with his positive and negative met in the middle. Benteke frankly has a better positive attribute, but his negative outweigh it. Then we have dribbler (players who like to dribble and demand for the ball but in return will get you key scoring opportunity), like Suarez, and finisher (players who don’t need much of the ball and relied in his instinct to find goal scoring position) in Higuain.

    Usually, when having one main strength, they might lack other strength for the other type of striker, for example an aerial duelers might lack the strength of a dribbler in their dribbling skill or a finisher in their accuracy and vice versa. There are those special players that can combine these types which make them stand above the rest. I believe that Messi is a dribbler that lack the weakness of a dribbler, which is losing the ball too much and also combine it with a deadly accuracy of a finisher. Ronaldo also has these kind of attribute, like a much better stats in aerial duel won than an average dribbler but also he seems to be quite good in shooting and dribbling than most of dribbler. Lewandowski is not just an aerial duelers, but also a finisher. van Persie, I believe is a finisher who is also good in dribbling when needed to.

    Suarez on the other hand, I feel is stand just like Giroud and Higuain. They seems to relied only on their main strength. You can see that Giroud ability in aerial duels do stand out most of the time and to stand out above the rest of the aerial dueler, he will need to work out more in his finishing ability (which shows in the pre season tour) because he will never be a dribbler. So, Giroud aspiration will be to be as good as Lewandowski in comparing stats effectiveness. Suarez is a dribbler and honestly, I can’t quite find anyone comparable with him. No, I can’t compare him with Messi or Ronaldo because they are the special player who should compare again each other. So, that is why people like Suarez. Because his type is rare (The other well established that I can think of is Neymar, the one who Wenger want to buy if he have the money and the player is willing). Most of the time, striker fall into the finisher or aerial dueler. And in finisher, we have Higuain as one of the best. But he lack any other attribute of an aerial dueler or a dribbler. He will need to be like van Persie, who not only deadly but also has the ability to find key scoring opportunity, whether in himself or for others.

    If we talk about Suarez ability wise, if Giroud can aspire too Lewandowski and Higuain in van Persie, then I believe Suarez can aspire to be like Messi, Brazilian Ronaldo, Henry or Maradona. This potential that makes people droll over the opportunity to have him. Not every striker can have the potential to be like Messi or B. Ronaldo. That kind of striker is the one who people describe can make something out of nothing. That is the striker who always destined to be the best of the best in a football player. The question will be, will Suarez reach or close to the same height as them? If he can improve more on his finishing ability, which seems to be if we look at last season, then I believe he can at least close to them. But he is too much of a risk, I believe, to be able to be like them. And even if he can, he is just too much of a wild card (antics and suspension lingering heavily) for us to consider him for a long term project, especially considering his price.

    To conclude, if we really want a dribbler type. We might as well go for prospect like Muriel. But then, he will be a prospect first and a first teamer later. So sadly, he is a no go. Off to you Arsene, want a dribbler or a finisher?

    *Now, I can’t make up my mind for Cavani and Rooney. It might be that Cavani goes into the finisher type but maybe there is another rare type which is harasser type, which l usually picture Rooney to be. But I’m still not fully in to that type description. Maybe this type also goes to Drogba and Bony.

  8. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    So I’m trying to make sense out of all the data in relationship to how Arsenal play. What do fans all say when Arsenal are in the final 1/3, “shoot!” When Cazorla takes a shot from outside the box, everyone says at least he took a long range shot which is against the Arsenal trend. Arsenal sometimes need someone willing to shoot on sight rather than wrapping up a goal with a bow on it. 10 shots per goal ain’t great but Henry’s ship has past and Suarez looks to be the least entangled striker still ‘available’ for the asking. I’m thinking of a number and that number is 45 for the player to become agitated and the club to feel pressured.

    I remember Ramsey’s pre-season debut and thought he was ahead of Wilshere that summer in his overall play. I’m seeing a Ramsey this preseason who will be a monster this year, mark my words.

    The player of the summer for me has been Zelalem. Nagoya didn’t know who he was but they sure as hell know his name after his passes turn their defense into Swiss cheese.

    Sagna continues to show his CB role is not a one off.

  9. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NiltotheArsenal

    The work that goes into this kind of quantitative analysis on 7 am Kickoff is so well presented (including disclaimers and qualifications) that it really deserves a wider audience. Well done, again.

    Qualitatively, Suarez still sucks big time. Quantitatively, he’s very good but not outstanding, not great. When putting the two together, the overall value equation is still terrible in my mind.

    If we tarnish the canon with his presence, he better help deliver anything and everything shiny with ribbons.

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1Ickenhamgooner

    As noted by many, Suarez is not many people preferred option but would be acceptable if it was him or nobody. I’ve been worn down by this wndow and have reached the stage where i now agree, reluctantly and sadly.

    I just cannot believe we are less then 2 weeks to the Emirates Cup with no major signing despite all the promises at the start.

    Silly I know, but I am clinging to the hope that we have at least one status signing for that weekend. I cannot conceive that the club would want to host is marquee pre-season tournament without unveiling someone.

    Or is my hope nearing desperation?

  11. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeediddy23

    Def would like to see goals weighted heavier as we are looking at strikers, maybe assists and key passes as well. Something like goals count as 3, assists 2, key passes 1.5, not sure.

    Also, how many of Suarez’s “positive” actions per game are him drawing a “foul” and rolling around on the ground like a child?

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  13. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Okay, and this is totally off-topic and based on absolutely nothing but the tedious Cescnado saga coupled with the baseless Cazorla to Atletico Madrid rumor. But it did make me imagine an unlikely scenario that would also, I think, get at our current feelings about Fabregas, as well as the idea of player loyalty and fan favoritism.


    How would you feel if we sold Cazorla and replaced him with Fabregas?

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        Wow. Nick got a thumbs down for sharing his opinion. What a fucked up thing the internet is. (Oh, and if you disagree with Nick, why not reply to his comment with your own opinion instead of doing the lazy, non-thinking, no-effort, brainless troll thing?)

      2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1kevinterrobang

        What would you have the original thumbs downer say? “NO! I prefer Santi!” There is nothing to disagree with in the original comment other than stating the opposite viewpoint.
        The thumbs counter shows how many people agree and how many disagree, which is especially useful for short comment with little substance (no offense, Nick). On the other hand, if Nick wrote an essay, I might want to quantify my thumbs down with a statement of my own, like I’m doing here.

        It’s a thumbs down on a comment not a threat on a life. I think it’s good to be able to express dislike as well as like. People need to be able to handle a little bit of rejection, which is very different than name calling or being a brainless troll.

    1. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Jimmy

      It would be giving us our Old Arsenal back!!

      And it wouldn’t be good. I would never knowingly sell a player who enjoys the club to buy somebody who left it

      1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        Fabregas enjoyed the club. It just wasn’t his dream club. Perhaps all it would take is an acrimonious departure from Barca to make Arsenal his new dream club!

      2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11ntta

        This is true. Fabregas is a Calatan through and through. He was only on loan here. Barcelona is where he belongs and I wish him the very best. Unless of course he appears in a Man U kit any time in the future…

      3. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        He won’t go to United. But, if Barca were willing to sell to them, it would mean his club effectively rejected him…meaning he might be more amenable to a return to Arsenal.

        Let’s see: Fabregas feeling lonely and rejected, now considers where to see out his prime years: under David “That’s The Way We Do It Up North” Moyes, or under his spiritual father at the club whose fans idolized him.

        Tough call.

  14. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1virtualevil (@virtualevil)

    Great article. I have to say I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, you and blogs, gunnerblog and A2M are my daily circle of getting up to date on all things Arsenal, but I do particularly enjoy the way you break things down statistically and really make people think logically about players.

    Well done and thank you!

  15. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Bay Gooner

    Two things. First, great work. if you turn the plusses and minuses into a percentage ratio, it brings our some clear conclusions.

    Messi — 60.1% Positive
    Ronaldo — 52.8%
    RVP — 51.7%
    Theo — 50%

    Just four of these guys are at 50% or higher. And Messi — he’s the Babe Ruth of this sport.

    Then, there are three players in the 45-50% range

    Benteke — 49%
    Rooney — 47.3%
    Higuain — 45.2%

    A bunch at 42-42% (which is probably the range for “top flight, normal”:

    Giroud — 43.5%
    Lewandoski — 43.4%
    Suarez – 43%
    Cavani — 42.6%

    And the two at the bottom

    Falcao — 40.4%
    Gervinho — 39.1%

    A couple of other comments:

    This would be fascinating to do for all forwards, to get norms, and to determine league differences, so to see if a number in the EPL needs to be adjusted up or down when compared to La Ligua, Serie A or the Bundesliga.

    Also, it would be nice to think about how this efficiency translates to the team as a whole. Can a Ronaldo or Suarez or Benteke achieve the same efficiency in a team where they are not the ball hogs they are? I mean, all the happy guys in your photo — are they so much worse than Suarez that Liverpool achieved its best production and distribution by what they did? And how did Liverpool do from a scoring perspective once he was suspended?

    Finally, crosses. yes, it is good if you do them better than others, but my impression is they are the least productive way to attempt to score (one word: Tony Pulis), so having that ability and not others may require an adjustment.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

      I like what you’ve done here. Clearly Messi is an ‘outlier’ who can be removed and not affect your percentages. What if any is the statistical significance (i.e. P values) that can make the point that Suarez at a 43% ratio is less than Higuian at 45.2 (+2.2%). That difference may not be statistically significant enough to translate into who is the better player on paper. Whoscored gives Suarez 8 positive attributes (dribbling, passing, key passes, through balls, etc.) versus 6 for Higuain. The devil in the detail though is that Suarez only gets one very strong on dribbling while Higuain gets two very strong on finishing and key passes. i will only report that Arsenal can never have enough good passers and we certainly need clinical finishers and you can decide the value of a dribbler who gives the ball away.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bay Gooner

        Is a 2.2% difference material? I don’t think we know. What we had here was an arbitrary subset of all the players at these positions, and they broke down in a number of ways — clearly, 50-50 or better is a major difference. And if Ronaldo is 52%, and he is way superior, and then Messi is over 60%? There is a number that shows how special he is.

        These are all pretty stellar players. Shows how good RVP is, and also shows that Theo and Giroud are right up there, much higher than the AKS crowd would admit. I am surprised that the only player Falcao beats is Gervinho. And I wonder if a review of all the players would show that Gervinho is not very good, or he is quite elite. That said, I don’t think all the acts are the same value to scoring, so they need to be weighted. Finishing, whatever Whoscored thinks that is, seems pretty high up. Higuain seems a better player than Suarez. Wish we could get him.

  16. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1kevinterrobang

    interesting. i’ve been largely in the anti-suarez camp because… oh wait no, i forgot: because he’s insane! he’s the stat in a bikini who’s also man. no, no, and no.

  17. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

    Fascinating post Tim.

    I do disagree with your lumping of Gervinho together with Suarez as “not team players”. While that label does to some degree fit Suarez, I don’t think it is an apt description of The Five-head. I see the Ivoirien as a guy who is working hard for the team and is a very unselfish player in terms of looking to create opportunities for his team-mates. He just lacks the finishing and the game-smarts to deliver on his potential.

    Regarding Suarez, I’m certainly not keen for us to sign him for various reasons. However, I do think he would bring one key thing that we lack. Currently, the downside to our team-oriented, no-superstar approach to the game is that we have no go-to guy. The Spuds have that in Bale, we used to have it in RVP and others. Suarez reminds me a bit of Carmelo Anthony a bit; he’s selfish and requires the team to be built around him, but he’s got the confidence and ability to be the go-to man when no one else seems to have any answers.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1BayGooner

      Good points. But what they and others point to, to me, is that Tim is really on to something, but it hasn’t been fleshed out. For example, the comparison of the negative to positive shows that 50-50 or better is pretty rare, and that Messi is incredibly better than all others today. Reaching success on just half your significant touches is rare, and Theo has done it. On the other hand, he does it half as frequently as Leo. Why is that? Could be partly position – wing vs center – could be team emphasis – Barca always look to Messi. Of course, Arsenal does with Theo, but since his big edge is his pace, rather than his first three steps in close, maybe the opportunities are fewer.

      I’d like to see comparison with number of touches, number of passes received. What percentage of those are neutral, for example? And as someone suggested, they might be weighted differently. Why should a won cross be given as much emphasis as a shot or a shot on goal? Maybe it should, but I doubt it. If Arsenal or United have 20 crosses a game and Stoke or Villa have 50, yet Villa and Stoke score half as many goals as United or Arsenal, I’d say that is proof of the lesser value of crosses. (Numbers made up to focus on one big difference between two high-scoring, flexible clubs and two low-scores who aren’t. Maybe crosses should be discounted, either based on how far over the norm the team relies on them, or on statistically how less effective they are.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1jop

      The Walcott numbers are the most interesting to me. Tangibly demonstrates his drifting in-and-out of games, but also highlights his progression into a tidy forward.

  18. Vote -1 Vote +1NW

    Very interesting and Good work.

    There are three interesting things I like to point out.

    1) In Henry’s two best years, his score: shot ratio suddenly improve. Is there any reason or he is just in form? Can that happen to Suarez too? If he can bring his ratio down he can work well.

    2) In case Suarez join Arsenal (although I still oppose it… 40 M price tag in particular), what he should be told to do is simple: no need to work so hard. Do fewer things. Take fewer risk. Keep the ball. There is no need to try too hard. As long as one keeps the ball, the chance will come.

    May be … Work hard without the ball to unbalance the other side. Make runs, press and intercept to recreate chances. Be patient when the team have the ball.

    3) Proves what many have said many times: Giroud isn’t bad. He is not the few best guys out there but he is still quite good.

  19. Vote -1 Vote +1AP

    I feel there is more here to ponder about. Arsenal’s interest in Suarez may not be real, however, for now we are working under the assumption that it is.

    That said, stats is the art of what-is. However, what Arsene practices more regularly is the art of what-if – and there is a huge gap between the two.

    Is it mere coincidence that RVP and Walcott are at the top of the effectiveness charts? Or does it also show something about Wenger? We have all seen their progression and at their starting points would one have imagined this would be the level of effectiveness in a few years? Figuring that at the starting point is the art of what-if. And due to its inherent intangible nature, it is bound to failures like Gervinho and incidental successes like arshavin. Suarez to me looks like one in that mould, but with a higher work rate.

    What if Wenger can take Suarez’s work rate and chisel out the rough edges. Its much better to see theo, cazorla, giroud, poldi when u look up, instead of sterling, borini, downing. One thing that Arsenal do not have is a solution for those days when they are facing a parked bus and are playing with the handbrake on. Those days result in atleast 2 dropped points per match against crap opponent. And on those days one can see a visible difference in the off the ball work rate and runs being made and also imagination. A player in the mould of Arshavin or Gervinho (theoretically) or Suarez is needed to break that deadlock situation. We cannot play more than one of those because that will lead to too much negatives, but we cannot also afford to have nobody like that in the squad.

    A lot of the discussion around Suarez is focused on his personality and profligacy (with the perspective of being central striker). I feel that misses the point. If he is bought i would expect him to be at the wing (arshavin role) or behind striker (early last season cazorla role). We got good goals from our front 3 last season and CBs, but not much from central midfield (when cazorla played on wings), and from a team perspective that is the extra difference that we do not possess yet, compared to top teams. So my guess is either we get Suarez for that role behind striker, or get him on wing and get cazorla central. Or if ManU can soften Fab, then maybe Fab and someone like Higuain and forget abt Suarez. And given those permutations, i guess we may see this drag till late in the window as our starting matches are not the toughest.

    That said both Arshavin and Gervinho have been failures – one due to work rate, other due to confidence. Suarez has both and that could make the difference, but this could become another failure for a player of that mould in the arsenal team. Its history vs imagination – so are u a statistician or a dreamer :)

  20. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1craig

    First. Thanks for doing it as actions per 90. You lose a lot of value when you’re comparing 10 minutes as a sub to 90 minutes as a starter.

    Here’s my weigthing for a forward. It would be different for other positions.

    Goals – 6 pts. Goals change games. The Sine qua non of a forward.

    Assists – 4 points. If you get two assists, is that a little better than 1 goal? I think so. What about 3 assists? About equal with 2 goals? I think so. 3 assists is much more rare, but I don’t think it is necessarily way better in terms of helping the team.

    Key Passes – 1.5 pts. Is 4 key passes as good as a goal? Well, it’s pretty close. Is 3 key passes better than an assist? Hard to say, but I think you could argue it might be slightly better. It’s not Cazorla’s fault if Gerv puts one in the stands.

    Shots. 1.5 pts. Shooting matters. If you award 1.5 pts for rolling the ball to me, shouldn’t I get 1.5 pts for pulling the trigger? We saw Poldi not shoot yesterday at one point, and it probably cost the team a goal. So 1.5 pts for stepping up.

    Fouls drawn – 1.5 points. Set pieces matter. For teams that emphasize them, it can be the key to their game plan. For Arsenal, it’s a chance to get counterattacked (I jest). Still, 1.5 pts for setting up the team with at least a half chance.

    Dribble – 1 pt. Definitely a good action, but if it didn’t result in a key pass or shot at the end, then it didn’t necessarily create a chance. So 1 pt because it is slightly less valuable than actually creating a chance, which is captured by the key pass and shot category. Anyone who thinks dribbling should be worth more, remember Gervinho. Excellent dribbling that doesn’t end up in key passes or shots. (And no I don’t hate Gervinho, I just know that I get sympathy if I use him in my arguments. Sorry Gerv).

    Aerial Duels – 1 pt. See dribble. If it doesn’t create a chance or isn’t a shot, it’s a good action, but not quite as good as shooting or creating a shot.

    Any thoughts about doing bonus points for efficiency – Goals/shots, with each .1 above average being a 1.5 point bonus for not giving away possession on a shot off target and not pissing off your teammates by fluffing chances. Negative 1.5 pts for each .1 under average for costing your team points that an average finisher might have gotten them. I could even see doing this as 2 points for each .1 over/under average. Taking chances is what makes the difference SO many times.

    Negatives – -.75 points each. To me, all three are equally bad. Each one gives the ball to the other team and takes it away from yours. For a forward, the negatives really aren’t that harmful, as Wenger just mentioned when discussing Akpom. Except missing chances, which is why the negative efficiency penalty is so much higher than the negatives for giving the ball away.

    So that’s my scale. Anyone have feedback, suggestions?

    Tim, any chance at getting an opportunity to convert your raw scores and see where these guys fall?

  21. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Arsenal rightly or wrongly did not want to pay 10-11mil more for Higuain to possibly take up to 6 months to get up EPL speed. Napoli apparently are willing to gamble 37mil that Higuain can slow down to Serie A speed. We now may have to spend 14mil more just to activate Suarez’s clause and possibly a total of 45-50mil to do a deal and he can’t play for 6 games. I would have preferred that we showed more desire for Higuian at 37mil than Suarez because it would leave us funds to shore up our injury riddled defense. Hey, but what do I know sitting in my arm chair crafted with Yankee ingenuity.

  22. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1adam

    arsenal’s suarez interest is a mystery in its own right to me. even more perplexing, if real madrid sell higuain to napoli, won’t they step in for suarez and be able to offer him twice is much money and the possibility of winning the champions league, as oppose to the possibility of playing in it?

  23. Vote -1 Vote +1Irfan

    Suarez hits the post a LOT, which is being quantified as a negative action. He takes fewer shots on average playing with Uruguay, draws more fouls, makes more interceptions (haha), makes fewer passes meaning he sees less of the ball. He came on as sub three times (twice in europa league and once in the confed cup) and scored three times. He can score from freekicks. He could be decent as he’s got quality. He can make something happen out of nothing. Most players who dribble too much are infuriating except Messi.

    If Arsenal were to sign him and Bernard I would be happy. I just don’t think Higuain can terrorize defenders like Suarez (be it his workrate, movement, his face, defenders’ awareness of his footballing ability)

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