Tag Archives: Dribbles

Santi Cazorla

Man City v. Arsenal: Cazorla the keymaster

Arsenal play Man City tomorrow morning and I’m going to get to the preview, but first…

Someone asked what the best zodiac sign is for strikers and based on my research I can say definitively: in the Premier League it is Leo. Harry Kane is a Leo. Thierry Henry, Leo. Alan Shearer, Leo. Robin van Persie, Leo. Kevin Phillips, Leo.

My mention of Kevin Phillips should be a clue about how I came to this conclusion. I looked at the Premier League Golden Boot winners and matched their astrological signs. Turns out that Leos have won the Golden Boot 11 times since 1992 and there have been five different Leos who won the Golden Boot. That’s more than any other sign.

Aquarius (Ronaldo, Berbatov, Tevez, and Suarez) are second. Pisces are tied with Aquarius with 4 also but only three different players (Drogba, Anelka, Chris Sutton). Two different Aries have won it: Sheringham and Hasselbaink (2x). The rest have all been one-offs, except Capricorn and Virgo. There are literally zero top-goalscoring Capricorns and Virgos in Premier League history.

Sagittarius is an interesting sign. Like Leo it’s a fire sign (fire signs won 16 total Golden Boots, more than any other group). Michael Owen is a Sagittarius, so is Gonzalo Higuain and our very own Alexis Sanchez!

Looking further afield: Messi is a Cancer; Lewandowski is a Leo; Lacazette, Aubameyang, and this Janssen cat are all Geminis, the same as Kun Aguero; Lukaku is a Taurus and the only other Golden Boot winning Taurus was Dion Dublin; Zlatan, Giroud, and Andy Cole are all Libras.

So, there you have it. If you want to bet on a Golden Boot winner, pick a Leo. Pick Harry Kane.

Right, here’s the preview…

Will Man City bother to show up? How can they? Imagine playing in a Champions League semi-final and not even bothering to put in a performance? That actually happened this week with Man City.

People are blaming the appointment of Pep Guardiola and I can’t disagree much. The announcement earlier in the season clearly disrupted the play of Toure who is a sensitive soul. Maybe the Man City owners should have bought Toure a cake, one a day for every day since the announcement.

But Man City have structural problems that run deeper than Toure’s motivation. They have the worst tackling record in the League. They have been dribbled past 451 times this season, Arsenal are 17th in that category with 327. City will find it particularly difficult in this regard as Arsenal have more successful dribbles than any other team and the best dribbling rate of any team in the League at 69% of 724 dribbles.

Man City is the second best dribbling team in the League with 62% success rate but Arsenal are 9th best tacklers in the League. I think this is a key duel for both teams: the team that wins the dribble/tackle battle will create the most havoc in the opposite team’s system. Incidentally, the best tacklers in the Premier League are Liverpool and Tottenham who are only dribbled past at the rate of 28 and 29 percent.

In the first match between these two clubs, back in December, Arsenal only had 3 more dribbles than City and the match hinged instead on Arsenal’s turnovers. Arsenal were without Cazorla and played a midfield duo of Flamini and Ramsey. Giroud had one of his worst matches of the season, losing the ball 10 times, 8 of them just poor touches. In that match, Arsenal were so dominated that they needed to make 26 blocks (6 blocked shots, 20 blocked crosses). Arsenal average 6.6 blocked shots and crosses per game.

If Wenger can play Cazorla, I’d love to see him. He’s Arsenal’s best dribbler at a crazy 81% and he might be matched up against Fernandinho, who is one of the most dribbled-past players in the Premier League. Cazorla is also Arsenal’s second best creative player. His three assists and 2.6 key passes per game takes pressure off Özil but more importantly, frees Alexis from his creative burdens. With Alexis running in behind, Özil roaming free, and Cazorla creating havoc through the City midfield, Arsenal could take this match.

Moreover, if Cazorla can play and can play at his usual high level, Cazorla could prove to be the key player in this match.


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.