In the latest edition of the Scouting Report, I will be taking a look at some player statistics from the first part of the season and in this piece, I will be looking at appearances, goals, assists and passing statistics. So far this season, Manchester United have played 20 games, winning 15 of those and losing the remaining five and, as the season moves towards the Christmas period, it is an appropriate time to focus on some of the United players contributions during the current campaign.
Statistics were gathered before the West Ham United game on the 28.11.2012, and consider games played this season in the Premier League, the Champions League and the League Cup. A quick overview of the player’s appearances tells us that Sir Alex Ferguson is quite an active rotator of the squad. Players who are key players in Premier League games, don’t necessarily have to be so in other competitions. Examples of this rotation policy are perhaps Anders Lindegaard, Anderson and Javier Hernandez. The rotation policy is perhaps one of the strongest assets of the squad when considering how the team has previously has handled injuries, suspensions and tiredness among other factors but it can be as division as it can be inclusive as some players benefit from rotation and others simply do not.
A truly positive aspect of the 2012-2013 season is the form of our right full back, Rafael da Silva. With 17 appearances from the start this season, Rafael is showing that he is the most developed player of the season, having also filled in with goals, an assist and strong chemistry with various wingers. The 22 year old defender, whose biggest assets perhaps are his tackling, aggression and passing, is averaging a 7.4 rating on the Whoscored.com, making him our second best performer with a regular spot in the team behind RvP.
Michael Carrick is, as usual, playing steadily and logging appearances in several competitions whilst it also looks like David De Gea is benefiting strongly from Lindegaard’s injuries this season. On the other side of the table, players like Nani, Vidic Giggs, Anderson and Fletcher have figured less than they all would have liked and will be hoping to make more of an impact after Christmas, injury permitting.
Goals and assists
Looking at goals and assists, we have to be delighted to have Robin van Persie at our disposal. Eleven goals and four assists in all competitions is a formidable total in just 14 appearances. After a slow start, Javier Hernandez too has also picked up the pace and is making a strong case for more playing time, judging by his impressive goal scoring rate. Wayne Rooney has moved down the pitch, combining play in midfield alongside players like Carrick and Cleverley, and is benefiting with a flurry of assists so far this season.
A rather interesting note is that our wingbacks, Rafael and, Patrice Evra, have scored two goals apiece, as well as central defender Jonny Evans who has already hit the high notes of three goals this season. In Vidic’s absence, it is great to see others stepping up from the back to supplement our goal tally and diversify our attacking potential.
I wanted to finish this short piece by focusing on the passing play of the squad by looking at both the average passes of each player per game, their pass success in percentage and the average key passes per game. A good pass can be characterized by its necessity, accuracy, timing, weight and the players ability to disguise the direction of the pass. However, these traits are hard to record and can be not considered objectively below unfortunately.
Quantitatively, it is unsurprising that Michael Carrick is one of the most active passers in our squad with 87.3 passes a game. Carrick averaged 73.1 passes per game last season and is followed by fellow midfielders Paul Scholes, Tom Cleverley and later by defenders such as Rio Ferdinand and Rafael. In the bottom half we disappointingly find players like Hernandez, Welbeck, Giggs and Nani, whilst players like Van Persie, Anderson and Valencia also will look to improve their numbers.
When judging players passing percentages it is important to remember what types of passes the players are hitting, as some players job is to move the ball forward in a safe manner, whilst others job is the deliver decisive passes into the box or a scoring area. This truly affects their numbers and is therefore a reflection of their pass success. While midfielders tend to average more passes, the pass success of defenders is often higher as they, as previously mentioned, move the football forward into desired positions.
Antonio Valencia, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney are players that frequently create goal scoring opportunities for team mates, while central defenders like Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand less frequently make the decisive pass.
In today’s game, speed is an increasingly important attacking weapon. Passing the football frequently with one touch does not give the opponent enough time to properly defend game situations. Having players that both know when to keep hold and move the football in the direction at the right pace are vital. Another aspect is a player’s ability to play the decisive pass and key passes per game is one way to measure this type of pass. Attacking players like Valencia, van Persie, Rooney, Young and Kagawa are all players that operate in front of or in the wide areas around the penalty box and are therefore contributing parts when breaking down the opponents defensive line.
This, numbers based observation report, is an overview of how different players have contributed so far during the campaign. Whilst some players have played outstanding football at times, some haven’t. Appearances, goals, assist and passing statistics are just one way to judge a players form and can be seen as a measurement of the players offensive participation success. Getting every player to, at the right moment, perform to their highest ability is something that the coaching staff is always considering. Optimal offensive performance need a team that runs on all cylinders and one where every player plays a part in breaking down the opponents defensive lines. After a close 1-0 win against West Ham, the team will be looking to improve against Reading on Saturday. With most probably both Valencia and Nani out, getting a good performance from the wingbacks and our midfielders will be key in winning a tough away game.