Gervinho and Songinho: By the Numbers

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A few weeks back, I was asked here to compare the numbers for Gervinho with the players we had been linked to this Summer. I wanted to get a feel for who everyone else thought we were linked to so I asked my followers on Twitter. The most common answers were Mata, Goetze, Hazard, Valbuena, and M’Vila. Following them was Parker, Barton, Kaka, Gourcuff, and Marvin Martin.

This presented me with a bit of a dilemma. Comparing M’Vila to Gervinho is akin to comparing Robin van Persie to Eden Hazard, both are fine talents but they play in different positions.

My initial reaction was to create a spreadsheet with all of them using data from their League games only and add in Song, Arteta and Ramsey because the thing about Arsenal’s midfield is that we don’t have as many purely defined roles as some other teams. The result was this, unsatisfying, graphic:

What’s missing here is M’Vila and Parker first of all but also it’s a very basic look at these players. We know for a fact that Arsene approached Valencia over Mata this Summer and that a deal was close to being done.

Key passes are passes that create a scoring opportunity. That means that Mata not only leads all of these players with 7 assists in his first 12 starts (it’s 13 now) he also has one of the highest key passing rates among them. Just look at Arteta’s numbers to see the difference; Mata (and Valbuena) are not only picking out key passes, they are also getting assists. And Mata is doing that in the Premier League.

You can also see from that graphic that Ramsey has some work to do on his possession. A little more tidiness in that department would go a long way.

Drilling a little deeper I decided to compare just the attacking players (Goetze, Mata, Valbuena, and Hazard) and take a look at how each of them play the game by looking at totals* instead of per game numbers. The result was this chart:

Now I think you can clearly see why Arsene went after Juan Mata as a replacement for Cesc. He is a pure passing midfielder. He’s not going to dribble past a lot of players (though he did that pretty well against City a few times) but his crossing is solid, long balls solid, and he creates a lot of chances, especially in using the through ball. Gervinho is more inclined to take his opponent on with a dribble though unfortunately his crossing after he does get to the line is the worst of the bunch. Yes they are both sort of midfielders who like to play wide but that’s where the comparisons end.

What surprised me the most was Goetze’s tackling and dribbling numbers. That kid plays like an out and out wide man. Goetze plays more like Gervinho, though his crossing is well beyond better than the Ivorian.

Oh, and I included Leighton Baines because every time I mention Baines for Arsenal I get people saying that he’s shit. Sorry, but I think those numbers paint the picture of a player who is tidy in defense, keeps possession, puts in a great cross, and has the vision to pick out a man with a key pass.  He could play fullback, wingback, and outright wing player for me any time.

In general, what I hope this chart shows is the distinctive character of each of the attacking midfielders that Arsenal were linked to. Valbuena and Mata are passing mids, Gervinho and Goetze dribblers, and Hazard is your sort of all around attacking midfielder who has some pretty astounding numbers in terms of goals and assists.

And then there’s the M’Vila/Parker/Song comparison. Here, I wanted to look at the defensive abilities of various players. You can already see from my first chart (or the assist to Robin van Persie in the Everton match) that Song is among the best in terms of picking out key passes to teammates and setting players up for goals but what about his tackling?

Again, you are looking at a chart with totals and not per game numbers. Also, like the chart above, numbers in bold mean that players leads his team in that category. Just like the chart above I think what we are seeing here is more a difference in playing style.  Scotty Parker is a pure tackling midfielder. He’s also that guy who will throw his body on the line for a block. But what he won’t give you is much in terms of going forward. He’s a tidy little side-to-side passer who will kick you off the pitch when his team loses possession.

M’Vila was the surprise for me. At just 6′ tall he wins an amazing number of aerial duels. France is not quite Spain but they don’t have nearly the number of aerial challenges that England have to to see a player like M’Vila winning headers at that rate is pretty impressive.

I also included Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry in this chart for two reasons: first because Arsenal play them on Sunday and second because before he signed for Man City, Yaya was touted as that big body defensive midfielder that Arsenal needed to dominate teams like Stoke. Clearly that’s not the case. If you want a player who will win the ball in the air, who is tidy in possession, who passes well, and yet who will kick people all over the pitch then Yaya is not your man, Lucas is. Which I have been saying to everyone who will listen for the last three years.

But that’s exactly the point. “If you want…” Arsene certainly wanted Mata and from what he’s shown at Chelsea he would have fit in perfectly. Instead Arsenal got Arteta (for stability) and Gervinho (for attacking) and put Ramsey in the Mata role. Not quite as effective but we can hardly argue with the results of late.

Meanwhile, people calling for M’Vila and Parker are asking for a player that Arsenal don’t really have a counterpoint to: a “midfield destroyer.” Arsene has shied away from that type of player over the last 5 years not because they didn’t exist or weren’t available but because I suspect he feels that Arsenal doesn’t need one. But this also raises another point; what would Parker or Lucas’ assist numbers look like in the Arsenal system? Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know.

As for Gervinho, he’s a mixed bag so far this season. I think his crosses are brilliant but that his teammates don’t quite know to look for them yet. So that number should improve. Also his scoring record is decent but just observationally most folks would agree that he could do to find the net a bit more.

I know that this will leave many people dissatisfied because we want to have simple answers but the simple answer is that almost none of these players map very well to an Arsenal counterpart. But the reality is that we don’t need them to, Arsenal are doing just fine with our “misfits” — thank you very much.

*Turnovers here is a combination of both the player’s dispossessed numbers and his turnover numbers

Qq

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Sabrina

Aww look at all these players we should’ve signed! :c( Was that what this was for?
I’m very happy with the team we have now but for sure there are areas where we can improve and players that we can get like Gotze!!!!!

7amkickoff

Of course not! I love these guys. I was asked to compare and this is what I came up with.

The grass is always greener in the marijuana dispensary across the street… Or something

Sabrina

Ok

Devil

The only stat I am shocked with is Rambo’s passes that create scoring opportunities. I think every game he gets at least 2 or so killer passes that puts Grvinho or Theo one on one with the keeper. I still remember his curved pass to theo that ended up being tapped in by RvP. My pass of the season. Or may be since Rambo is my favorite player I am biased towards him. And we rightly didn’t buy any of them and I really think I would have been more happy with Arteta than I would have been with Mata.… Read more »

Seb

What we can’t/don’t have we shouldn’t get disappointed over. The current squad are good enough, let’s stick by them

Sabrina

I agree!

danny

3 things stuck out to me in this article.
1. ‘ Gervinho is more inclined to take his opponent on with a dribble though unfortunately his crossing after he does get to the line is the worst of the bunch.’
2. ‘Goetze plays more like Gervinho, though his crossing is well beyond better than the Ivorian.’
3.’As for Gervinho, he’s a mixed bag so far this season. I think his crosses are brilliant but that his teammates don’t quite know to look for them yet.’

doesn’t really add up there.

7amkickoff

Danny, he finds a way to squeak so many crosses though that for the moment his teammates don’t seem to see until too late. It’s a timing thing for me.

Gooner

In the first point he is talking number-wise not quality-wise.. the numbers are bad coz even tho his crosses are good his teammates dont do much with it.. At least thats what i got from the article

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

It’s the Arsenal story of the last three years at least. We don’t get players into the box to receive crosses. They have’nt really played that way. Therefore most of our crosses, from anyone, are wasted.

I think that we should be putting a target man in there if we want to make use of Gervinho’s (or Jenkinson’s or even Walcott’s now that he has started to learn how to do them) crosses. Trouble is, we don’t have one except for Chamakh, who only plays when RVP doesn’t.

Dave

Amazing work…great read.

Thanks

Gary

I agree. This is a great piece of analysis. I really enjoyed reading that. Thanks.

danny

I think Gervinho has been fantastic this season, I was just questioning the contradiction of the writer, seen as I think he is being under-rated here.

7amkickoff

I think Gervinho’s directness is refreshing. He just needs time to gel with his teammates.

Nubbles

Interesting. It’s impossible to compare players by numbers because there is just too many factors effecting a player’s performance. More importantly, numbers only give us a rough idea of the skill of a player, but as we have seen, equally important is team chemistry, which is something I feel most of transfers have. The partnership between van Persie and Walcott, the superior trio midfield of Song, Ramsey and Arteta etc. is simply the most beautiful thing about football, and this sort of teamwork is something money can’t buy. This is also the reason why Arsene is so reluctant to buy.… Read more »

joakal

Great work Tim. Baines does look like a good bet to me, and probably wouldn’t cost us too much, or at least not as much as the others.

Witoldo

I’ve always rated Baines, but I doubt Wenger moves for him with Gibbs and Andre Santos in the squad.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

Probably won’t cost us too much? He’s English. He’d cost more than any of them unless his contract is up in 2012.

Cromulus

This is a fascinating read. Thank you for compiling the numbers and breaking them down. Having watched Mata in a bunch of games, I can say that my first impression was “Cesc type player” at first and that valuation hasn’t changed a bit. He would have fit very well with the Arse and his deep, incisive passes would have found Robin on the break from surprising and pleasing angles. Oh well… Fuck Barcelona for dragging the Cesc thing beyond forever, thereby fucking up our shot at getting Mata. Regarding Baines, anyone who thinks he’s not a player, needs to have… Read more »

7amkickoff

My problem with Mata was his size. But he’s proven so far to be stronger than he looks. We’ll see if that lasts for 50 games.

Merlin's Panini

Eventually Mata will just fall on his face because his head is way to big for his body.
Looks like one of those soccer stars models they used to make in the 90s. Do they still do those? I’m still waiting for my Les Ferdinand to complete the Euro 96 squad. I sent for it but it never arrived. Who needs that useless cunt anyway. Had Ian Wright in it even though he wasn’t in the squad. Fucking Venerables.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

Ah, but you see, it wasn’t that he is small, it’s just that his big head makes him look small. You should have included a comparison of hat size in your analysis. That would’ve shown you that your subjective impression of Mata was wrong. It also would have answered once and for all whether Gervinho does in fact have a large head / enormous forehead or whether it’s just a wacky haircut.

TexasGooner6

During the World Cup, Spain would bring Mata on as a sub and the commentators would mention that his greatest ability was to pump in crosses for David Villa. At the time he was 19. I remember thinking that if he is getting playing time for Spain, than he must be really talented especially at that age.

Gmt

Yes I agree wit ur analysis but wot arteta is doing right now mata and cesc can not do it for the team in terms of midfield stability and physical presence, cesc tried it alot but couldn’t . We may not be able to see his work rate now becos of rambo up and down, you will get to know that arteta can do the same with wilshere in the team instead of rambo cos wilshere played alot in that role last season. But I still prefer rambo if his present will continue given us 3 point cos this team… Read more »

Merlin's Panini

Yes silver wear. Like some nice shiny pants. I’d prefer silverware

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

Somebody get me a translator. This is so long it might be making an interesting point.

Comedian

Seeing Gervinho sometimes is awwww!!! He can take like four at same time and dribble past them but then you picture the chance against dortmund where he was one on one and he didnt shoot it the first time it seemed like the ball was stronger than him frankly that reminded me of watching 3 or 4 yr olds who use run along with tyres with a stick in their hand.
Great work with the stats though mate.

La Gooner

Kudos

Gooners & Roses

As always, great write up and details. Seems like Gotze dribbling rate is off the roof. I also like the stats of Valbuena. But nevertheless, lets hope Gervinho can improve more as he is still in transition period. Such a pity that he has to go to ACN. On a side note, i wonder if we can come up with statistics comparing how we play against open play team and against team who park the bus. It worries me that Gervinho and Theo (esp Theo) strength are exploiting open space using their pace. We used to have Hleb (remember him?)… Read more »

jos

baines?lol! keep hyping him like this and we have the next downing.thank goodness arsene is not daglish or redknap.
by the way,if you run the numbers on mikel obi of chelsea,he’d be among the best in the world.numbers tell one story and our eyes tell us another story.i watch football alot and i believe what i see.
baines?lol!

Glory hunter

No numbers could make Mikel look good!
0 goals, 0 assists in 7 years, cant tackle, he makes Denilson look great, it’s a disgrace to be honest.
What exactly is he good for?

Steve

War?

garyfootscrayaustralia

Huh! GOOD GOD!

plunkitt

Absolutely NOTHING!

Gooners & Roses

baines is not that bad though. He might find extra resources to up his game if he ever move to bigger club. Its a matter of attitude after that. I guess what separate decent player with great player hugely depends on their mental strength (sorry Mr. Arsene for using your favourite phrase, heh). Baines looks great technically but who knows if that is all about him (i cant quite judge his mental strength as i only watch Everton plays either in highlight or against Arsenal). At the moment, personally i have no concern on our left back. The first two… Read more »

Jth

*Defence

Egeeonu

Get mikel Wenger and remodel him and u will see d best. U r the best player sculptor I have ever known

Egeeonu

Gervinho will come of age the stat u hv run here is not reflective if his abilities. He make good I know.

Egeeonu

Can wenger please go get that Gonzalez kid from Inter. Hes amazing.

E-Bo

Great post and analysis, well done. I feel (and hope) there’s a lot of improvement to come from Ramsey and Gervinho, and should they keep fit their numbers towards the end of the season will be more reflective of what sort of players they’re going to be for us. As for Song he’s clearly as creative a holding midfielder as you’ll get, and his interceptions and passes per game are as good as anyone on that DM list. Also interesting to note how little he clears (clearly an Arsenal philosophy) and how much he fouls (often seen as a holding… Read more »

ramgooner

if we buy an m’vila we can become like the dutch team with de jong and van bommel(song and m’vila)…if we buy gotze then ramsey will have a tough task and rosicky and benayoun will find it a bit harder.if we buy podolski we’ll have to switch 4-4-2 or else strikers dept. will be huge.if we buy a leftback we’ll have trouble after 3 months when santos is back.we are not going to buy a defender.so arsene has a huge headache.but what i know is we certainly have to buy in january.1 player atleast to bring in some freshness and… Read more »

Bromley Gooner

Thank you my good man hope that wasn’t too much work for you sterling job! I always find it strange that people on here dig you out about the stats blaming you for players they like not coming across well?!?!?!? Danny remember this he only reports what he see’s the numbers aren’t made up and if you don’t like stats dont read the article! I for one love stats so thank you again sir !

TexasGooner6

I think one of the things Wenger wanted to do was improve the team speed on the wings. With Theo, Oxley-Chamberlain and Gervinho, this team can really bomb down the side. That allows our backs to be a bit more conservative than in the past. Santos was just rounding into form when he got hurt. I think looking at these numbers that what is lost is how a player like Parker bosses the midfield. Some teams need “glue” guys. Chelsea’s glue guy is Essien. Just look at their history. They don’t win when he is out of the lineup yet… Read more »

TexasGooner6

Now that Goetze, Hazard and M’Villa are in high demand you can rule out Wenger making an approach for any of them. 20 mil, maybe but 30-40mil, no way. With Arteta fitting in nicely, Ramsey looking healthy and Wilshere coming back in 6 weeks, Arsene is not going to spend big on a mid. He isn’t even getting Coquelin or Frimpong in the games and they are really talented. (Side Note: Really wish the boss was better at rotation. He only gets these games into games thru injury which creates a feeling of crisis). Rest Song and Arteta every once… Read more »

E-Bo

Completely agree I think the Fulham match was perfect opportunity to rest some exhausted players (who all played anemically until the last 20mins) and give a match to, benayoun and some other players who’ve done well whenever they’ve been given the chance. I appreciate that stability is important too but using the exact same 11 over and over unless there’s an injury is overly conservative, and causes players who are out of the rotation to lose their confidence and game shape (which badly hurts us when there is an injury and they have to come in)