Tag Archives: Luis Suarez


Stats I got wrong: Suarez is now the best center forward in the world

Here’s a thing you don’t read very often in the press or on a blog: I was wrong.

For example, Jonathan Liew penned a piece the other day claiming that referee Lee Mason was “relegated” to 4th official because he failed to send off Coquelin in the match against Crystal Palace. It’s a strange article from an otherwise fantastic writer. Liew knows that being 4th official is not at all like being dropped. And even a casual glance at the Premier League’s Referee Appointments list shows the reader that Mason has been doing 4th official duties on a week on, week off basis this season. One week he’s 1st official, the next week he’s 4th official, this week he is due to be 4th official.

The article also makes a huge assumption that Coquelin should have been sent off, which I don’t know if I agree with, before making the guess that failure to send him off was the reason why Mason was “dropped.” I almost think that the article gives more evidence that Coquelin shouldn’t have been sent off. The logic of the article is that Mason was dropped, which proves Coquelin should have been sent off. But Mason wasn’t dropped, he was just on his normal rotation, therefore by the logic of the article, Mason was right to not send Coquelin off. Coquelin therefore should not have been sent off.

I pointed these facts out to Jonathan Liew via twitter, he didn’t respond. I doubt we will ever hear him say he was wrong about that article.

But I don’t mind being wrong. As Jake the Dog once said, “Dude, sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.”

This is especially true with stats. I’ve had to learn to be much more circumspect about stats than I was when I first started.

Perhaps my most embarrassing use of stats was when I declared that Luis Suarez wouldn’t fit in with the Arsenal system. My logic was sound, the data shows that Suarez had been, up to that point in his career, a ball hog. He not only demanded the ball constantly, but he was horribly profligate when he got the ball. And my argument was very specific in regard to that: he would drive Arsenal fans nuts with his wastefulness.

And you can see that Arsenal fans do get driven to the brink by wasteful players. Look at Alexis. Whenever he turns the ball over (usually trying to do something in attack) people groan. But Alexis is not a bad dribbler! He completed 115 of 196 dribbles last season, that’s 59% dribbling. That’s very good. Suarez, in contrast, was a 37% dribbler going 95/255 dribbles in the season I analyzed his stats. In pure number of turnovers, Alexis had 81 and Suarez had 160. Twice as many.

And shooting is another problem. Look at Giroud’s wastefulness. People pounce on Giroud whenever he misses as proof that Arsenal need another forward. Suarez, in his first three years (really 2.5 years) at Liverpool scored just 38 goals on 370 shots! It’s absurd. No top team lets a player get that many wasted chances.

And assists as well. Suarez only had 16 assists in his first three years at Liverpool. Alexis had 12 assists for Arsenal last season alone.

Combining the stats with the biting, the committing racisms, refusing to shake hands afterwards, the public circus around everything he did, it looked to me like Suarez was a guy who couldn’t put his ego aside for the betterment of the team.

But that’s exactly what Suarez has done at Barcelona. He’s still a 43% dribbler (best in his career) but if you combine all of his stats from La Liga and the Champions League, he only attempted 123 dribbles. In his last season at Anfield he attempted 237 in League play alone. He only took 113 shots for Barcelona, at Liverpool he took 181. And he has contributed roughly the same number of goals for Barcelona, in roughly the same number of minutes, as he did in his breakout season at Liverpool; 40 for Barcelona (combining Liga and Champions League goals and assists) and 43 for Liverpool (all Suarez/Liverpool stats are league play only).


In his last two seasons, at Liverpool and then at Barcelona, Suarez has become much more efficient, contributed much more to the team and less to himself, and has in turn won a well deserved treble at Barcelona, including the Holy Grail, the Champions League.

The evidence points to the fact that Suarez takes his time to warm up to a new situation: at Ajax he wasn’t a scoring beast until his last full season, at Liverpool it was also his last full season, and even at Barcelona he took 7 games to get his first goal, a fact which had the Spanish press declaring him a failure.

But apparently, Suarez did have the right attitude when it came to football and because of his work ethic, combined with his raw talent, he has fashioned himself into possibly the best teammate, and thus the best center forward in the game.

So, I guess I got that wrong. Maybe Suarez would have been great for Arsenal.


*The reason is that the companies like WhoScored, Squawka, and 442 just haven’t figured out how to display that data. I bet if I dig around that data will be there in some sub text of some popout window that happens on a mouse-over of the event. In other words, the data is there, I just don’t know where to look yet.


FIFA bite off a chunk of Suarez’ season

FIFA have banned Luis Suarez from all footballing activities for four months for his bite on Italy’s Georgio Chiellini. The ban means Suarez will not play for Uruguay until next year and will not be allowed to train with his professional football club or play in any matches with them until November 2014. A four month ban is a hefty chunk out of Suarez’ season and people are now questioning whether biting rises to the level of deserving such a harsh ban.

The argument that biting “ain’t so bad” goes like this: which is worse, a leg breaking tackle or a little bite? Considering the fact that Roy Keane was given just five weeks for admitting that he intended to end Alfe Haaland’s career with a knee high tackle or that Eric Cantona “oohed and ahhed” the crowd of his living room for 9 months after attacking a fan in the stands with a kung-fu kick there is merit to the argument. But for me, this isn’t an ‘either/or’ situation: Suarez deserves four months for his third career bite and leg breaking tackles deserve harsher punishment.

Players who break another player’s leg through reckless or violent conduct should be punished for more than three games. It is incongruous that spitting on or near an opponent is a 9 match ban but swinging your leg wildly in a scything motion and cutting down a young man’s career is only 3.

But what makes it easy for FIFA and the English FA to have such weird disciplinary standards is that hard tackling is part of the game and only recently even frowned upon. When Martin Taylor broke Eduardo’s leg with a studs up, over the top lunge, Steve Bruce publicly proclaimed that “some would say it’s not even a yellow card.”  That was just six and a half years ago.

It’s easy to see why the powers that be are reluctant to change tackling culture in football. For as much as certain Americans like to make fun of football as a “wussy” sport, hard tackling has a long history in the game and we all still marvel when a player flies in on the edge of control and wins the ball with a good hard tackle. Roy Keane, who intentionally broke a man’s leg, is still revered at Manchester United. I have a portrait of Patrick Vieira, who has more red cards than any other player in Premier League history (one for spitting, I might add), hanging on my wall.

But the rules for tackling need to be dealt with on their own terms. We don’t want to eliminate tackles but we want to make sure that players like Ryan Shawcross are rightly punished for scything down players like Aaron Ramsey and nearly ruining the young man’s career. And we do that within the rules of the game.

The “rules of the game” are important because all contact sports are codified violence. You can punch a man’s nose into his face until he’s unconscious in boxing. You can elbow a man in the face repeatedly until he submits in MMA. You can hit a man with your shoulder so hard that you give him a concussion in American football. And apparently, you can break a player’s leg with a reckless tackle and get away with a three match ban in football. If you want to change any of those rules, you can petition to have those rules changed. But no matter how brutal the sport, no matter how bloody the participants at the end, no sport allows players to bite.

A human biting a human indicates a loss of control in a very primal way. Primal. As in something our primate ancestors did to each other. I’m not being flip and I’m not calling Suarez an animal, he’s not. But when he was having a terrible match and with his country facing elimination, he bit a defender. The second time in as many years, under the same circumstances, and with the same result. Suarez isn’t an animal but he acted like one.

Biting indicates primal, animal behavior that humans have drilled out of them by age three. Animals who bite humans are considered wild or feral. Biting humans is behavior that we breed out of animals in order to domesticate them.

That’s why the rules of football and the rules of each sport are one thing but the rules of society trump the rules of sport. As violent as some sports can be (boxing and MMA come to mind) no sport allows biting.

And that’s why Suarez got 4 months. This isn’t a witch hunt. This isn’t about morality. This isn’t about Chiellini’s masculinity. Luis Suarez bit a man (thrice) and he liked it.

And as psychologists pointed out last year, he will bite again



Arsene talks, I make pancakes, you define success in the transfer market

It’s Saturday, there will be no transfer news today regardless of whether you wish there was. That means your only options are to get duly indignant about what you wish Arsene Wenger did or didn’t say yesterday or enjoy your weekend and wait until work on Monday to get indignant. Personally, I’d rather get upset on someone else’s dime and enjoy what little free time I have to do something fun like go to the zoo with my 5 year old.

But since that’s not how some of you operate here’s some other options.

First, have a pancake


This recipe is simple.

1c. of milk
1T. lemon juice
Combine and set aside until curdled (I do this at 5am)

1c. AP Flour
1/2t. Baking Soda
1/2t. Baking Powder
1/2t. Salt
Sift into a large bowl

1 egg
2T. melted butter
2T sugar
Whip in a bowl big enough to take the curdled milk

Combine the wet ingredients in the egg bow and pour into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Combine until still slight lumpy. Let stand for a few minutes, things should be bubbling a bit.

Pour by 1/3c. into a heated skillet, flip when dry around the edges, serve with strawberries and whip cream.

Ok, so Wenger’s statement

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating every time Wenger gives a quote: I wish that Wenger said “no comment” more often. But since he’s not going to do that then I am given to either laugh at what he says or ignore it.

But hey, let’s parse the statements.

“We are ready to do quick deals but all the transfers do not depend only on us.”

100% factually accurate. Arsenal have bid £40m+1 for Suarez and are ready to close the deal. However Liverpool have rejected that offer and Suarez has not agreed to terms with Arsenal.

I also take solace in the words “deals” and the phrase “all the transfers”. Sounds to me like he’s lining up more than one move.

My guess, based on the way things are going is that Arsenal’s main target is Suarez to fill the creative role needed at Arsenal and to play forward. But I also think Wenger has a backup to buy the Brazilian Bernard if Suarez falls through for any of the reasons you might imagine.

I also believe that Arsenal are in the market for a midfielder. Wenger is exceptionally good at not telling you what he’s actually working on. Two years ago we were trying to get Mata, when that fell through, we tried to get Cazorla, that fell through again, so he waited a year and landed Cazorla. When asked a week before the Cazorla deal was done Wenger actually said “I don’t know this guy.”

“But we are prepared to wait. It looks unlikely before the Emirates Cup.”

I know that a few buttholes got clenched when they read this but I don’t see what the big deal is, Suarez can’t play until October. Seriously, I understand that we all want deals done early and last year they were actually pretty good about that. This year, things have been different. I think the club put out a lot of feelers (Jovetic, Higuain, Suarez) and had to wait to hear back. Some players gave signs (Higuain) but then something happened (we don’t know what) and other players apparently rejected Arsenal outright probably having already been tapped up by City (Jovetic). That left us with Suarez. Now we have to be prepared to wait, because Liverpool are trying to save face here. But I feel strongly that Arsenal have interest in Bernard as the backup to Suarez.

What about other positions that we want signings in? I think they have some, especially keeper, and I think the quiet we are hearing on that front is actually a good sign.

“We still have a strong squad but we are there on the market to try to strengthen our team. With or without additions we can be title challengers next season.”

He always says this. We could have Lee Clattermole as captain at Arsenal and Barren Dent as the sole forward and he would say this. I don’t think he actually believes that this squad is a serious title challenging team — if he did, why would he bid a gajillion dollars on Suarez?

But wait, I also don’t think he’s lying. I think he has a percentage chance for Arsenal to win the League next year floating around in his head. So, he says “we can be title challengers” and what he means is “without additions Arsenal are probably 15% likely to win the League. With top quality additions, we are more like 25% chance to win the League.” Something like that, he’s an economist after all; in his mind everyone can be title challengers.

“Of course we want to do as many top players as we can. But we also have to focus on the players we have and develop them. We have plenty of candidates in midfield now and there is a big fight there. Bacary Sagna settles in well at centre-back with Thomas Vermaelen out.”

Again, this is Wenger 101: develop players, big up the ones we have, talk about cover, even while other teams are buying cover.

I haven’t heard anything about DM (dungeon master!) or CB except what you’ve heard, which is nothing. Which could be good or could be bad, depending on your point of view.

Is Ramsey ready to take over from Arteta? Is Wilshere ready to be a full-time starter in the Premier League? I don’t know the answers to those questions, though I’m sure a bunch of you do. I admit that I am in favor of Fellaini coming to Arsenal but I can also see some merit to suggesting that Arsenal’s midfield is one of the best midfields in the League. The Gunners have young players who look strong and have a lot of experience under their belts coupled with experienced players who are the best in the League (Cazorla and Arteta were, in my book, the best two midfielders in England last season).

Of course I would like a tough midfielder for those cold nights in Stoke, I would also like a wide player who can deliver an outswinging cross, and a sure-handed keeper who can keep Szczesny on his toes. Since we are shopping, I’ll also have a creative player to break down the Mourinho’s Chelsea and Moyes’ Man U when they bark the pus, and the perfect goal scorer to put away Arsenal’s many big chances in the small games.

The economist in me sees the likelyhood of signing all those players about the same as Stoke winning the League.

So, I’ll make pancakes instead.

Which leaves me with just one last thing before I go: what would it take for you to consider the transfer season a success? For me, two big named players to energize the fans and the players and for Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey, and Jenkinson to show marked improvement.