Player of the Year, Alexis v. Hazard: By The Numbers

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Those of you who follow my column know that I’m not a fan of comparing two players’ stats from two different teams. And you also know that the reason I find this problematic is because individual stats are often driven more by the team than by the player themselves.

For example, how many tackles a player makes is usually a sign of how his team is set up or his job on that team rather than how much of a “beast” the player is in the tackle. Some teams, West Ham is one, despite their reputation as a tough defensive team and the fact that they eschew possession, simply refuse to tackle and/or play passing lanes to intercept the ball. As far as I can tell, this is a deliberate tactic by Sam Alardyce, he wants his team to be more controlled in defense and not dive into tackles all the time. Another is example is that the team that is 4th best in possession, Arsenal, are league leaders in interceptions per game. A lot of stats are more about how the manager wants his team to play than how fantastic a player is.

Still, people love comparing two players. It’s just… a thing people do. They can’t help themselves! And there are a few instances when comparing players can be intriguing.

Chelsea and Arsenal are fascinatingly close to each other in terms of stats this season and that makes fertile ground for player comparisons. First, here are some League stats for both clubs:

arsenal-chelsea

The only stats that are massively different are Interceptions, Dribbles, and (ehh) Assists. The assists difference is basically down to the Costa-Cesc partnership and the Hazard-Cesc partnership. According to Transfermarkt, Cesc has assisted those two players 11 times this season. Arsenal’s leading assists combo is Cazorla to Giroud, with 3.

But the interceptions and dribbles stats are down to managerial preference. Wenger likes his team to play passing lanes and gamble on interceptions, Mourinho likes his teams to… uhhh.. not.. the interceptions… so much. I suspect this is a discipline thing for Moumou but if you have a better explanation I’m 1% ears (I can’t really be “all ears”, that would be gross, how would I.. eat? Also I don’t read with my ears.).

Now that we see similarities between the teams (and differences) it’s slightly easier to draw comparisons between players.

Here’s a screen shot of the Squawka comparison matrix for Coquelin v. Matic.

coquelin-matic

 

Given what we know about the two teams and the two players, I think we can make a reasonable assertion that Coquelin is the better tackler of the two players. Given that both teams tackle at about the same rate and that Coquelin is significantly more efficient at tackling than Matic, it’s fair to say that he’s a better tackler.

Interceptions, however, is a close call. Matic averages about 21% of Chelsea’s total interceptions. In fact, between him and Azpilicueta almost no one else on that team even bothers. Coqelin’s 3.65 INT per game towers over Matic’s 2 but it’s actually a smaller percentage of his team’s overall production, just 17%. So, how do we square the fact that Coquelin is obviously doing more work (making more interceptions) but Matic is the best on a team which seems reticent to go for interceptions? I don’t have an answer and I would hesitate to say one is better than the other.

And finally, we know that Coquelin doesn’t carry the passing load for Arsenal. Neither does Matic, but he is playing along side Fabregas who is second in the League in passes per game. So, it’s not a surprise that Matic completes more passes than Coquelin.

Let’s switch tack a bit and look at the headliner matchup. No. Not Özil v. TheguywholefthisDNAinBarca, I’m talking about the two players Arsene Wenger tipped for player of the year: Alexis and Hazard.

First, let’s look at some key offensive stats:

hazard-alex

Hazard is a very good dribbler and leads the League in dribbles per game with 4.8. He’s also adept at drawing fouls with his dribbling and leads the League in that category as well with 3 per game (he drew a penalty with a dribble and foul in the first meeting). Alexis, however, is no slouch! He’s 3rd in the League in dribbles per game (behind Ox, who is second) and 4th in fouls drawn.

What is really telling, however, is that Hazard’s 4.78 dribbles per game are 37% of Chelsea’s attempts. In comparison, Arsenal spread things around much more and Alexis accounts for “only” 22% of Arsenal’s dribbles. Another caveat to the numbers above is that Hazard has scored 3 goals from the penalty spot and Alexis hasn’t scored any. If we remove pens, Alexis’ goal scoring record is significantly better than Hazard (per game), though they both convert goals at about the same rate of 6.6 shots per goal.

Defensively it’s another story entirely.

Alex-Hazard-def

This is what so many of us love about Sanchez! Just look at those tackles and interceptions numbers, it’s ridiculous for a forward to rack up that many tackles and interceptions. If you look at players who play left, right, and center forward only Coutinho tops Sanchez in terms of tackles attempted per game. And in terms of interceptions, Welbeck leads the league’s forwards with 1.4 with Alexis right behind him!

Even accounting for the fact that Arsenal are an interception-happy team, the stats show Alexis is working his buns off up front trying to score and when he loses the ball, win the ball back, so that he can score.

If I were to hazard a guess, it’s Sanchez’ overall workrate, not just the dribbles and goals, that is the main reason Wenger sees him as player of the year.

Qq

@7amkickoff

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ThurrkeyOnRye

I’m pretty sure Alexis is better at decision making also. After all, when given the opportunity, he did choose The Arsenal!

Bould's Eyeliner

What a cheesy line, but who doesn’t love cheese?! Mmmmmm… sancheeseeee

ThurrkeyOnRye

Emmentaliano Martinez? Nacho Monterey? Per Mertzarella?

… I’m staying. I think someone took my coat.

Master Bates

Ospinach?

alx96

Jack Westchester?

Smudger

I’d take Sancheese over Edam Hazard any day.

Finsbury Park Gooner

Hectorrrr Babybellerin

Swish

Alex Oxlade Ami du Chambertin

Chris

Santi Gorgonzorla?

MegaJulz

Olivier Girouda

SCANDALGooner

Maybe it might be good to add one more parameters, how many points the team got from their direct contribution (i.e. important assist/goals when the scoreline is 0-0), to show the importance of both players

Strevs

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Hazard is better defensively than he was, but third best player in the world? No.
I think he should be scoring more goals. He’s 24, look at what messi had done by 24, different players I know but Hazard would be a better player by now had he been managed by Wenger.
He’d have more freedom to his play (as good as his stats are). The team should be built around a player like him. Mourinho shackles him.

Arsene's Selfie Stick

They’ve won the league with those shackles.

Smudger

I think what Strevs was saying is Mourinho wants his team to be 11 players doing specific jobs, which can limit them as individuals (but, like you say, is clearly effective). Wenger gives players more freedom.

Strevs

That’s exactly what is was saying, Sanchez.

meletios

True..for me the team win comes before individual freedom and talent display. If thats what it takes to win trophies so be it.

ryan.4.afc

It’s interesting to see how Arsenal spread a lot of the work around the team with regards to tackling, goals, dribbles etc. I don’t think we focus too much on individuals anymore whilst our depth in the squad means that players can come in almost seamlessly. I think Chelsea rely a lot on key players (Hazard) and their ability to keep them fit has had a big effect.

Arsepedant

Which is why Chel$ki struggle when you mark Hazard and Fabregas out of the game. The Scum shut down those two players a few weeks back and look at the result they got. Aynthing the Scum can do, we can do better, so I say make Hazard and Fabregas invisible and we’ll win 6-0.

Third Plebeian

It’s like comparing Ronaldo to Messi. One, like Hazard, plays for his own glory, the other, like Sanchez, plays for the joy of the game.

This piece was eye-opening to me. Given the way the media has been jizzing about Hazard lately, you’d think he was streets ahead of Sanchez. But really, when you look at the numbers, the main difference between the two is style and personality.

Third Plebeian

Oh, and the Coquelin v. Matic comparison made me immensely happy. For me, he’s the story of the season, in a season where there have been a few great stories.

alx96

They should include how much their respective clubs had to pay to obtain their services :p

alx96

They should include how much arsenal had to pay for Coquelin and chelsea had to pay for matic.

Holyviper

That’s after buying him, letting go, and then realising he’s actually good and buying him again. Sheesh.

MTZ

Hardly. He creates even more chances for others than Alexis does. His overall number of shots is also much lower. If anyone was to be singled out as a “solo” guy based on the stats above, it would actually be Alexis, but neither player fall into that category at all. They are both team players, and they’re both very creative offensively.

WengersNoseHair

Hm, a bit of drama before the game tomorrow, saying Fabregas’s departure was ‘not as clean as that’. All the more reason to boo him on Sunday. The more we know about Fabregas, the more cuntish he appears.
http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/arsenal-option-to-sign-cesc-fabregas-last-summer-was-not-clean-cut-claims-arsene-wenger-10200364.html

Mesut

What little “affection” I had left for fabregas died when I saw how he embraced John ‘the cunt’ Terry on MOTD last week. Also the way he seemed to buy into moucuntnho’s shit.

Rich

I hate Mourinho he’s a complete cunt

Arsepedant

Nicely and simply put, can’t really improve upon that comment.

AnonymousGun

John Terry and Jose Mourinho are complete cunts.

wash_dc_gunner

Charlie Adam, Ryan Shawcross, everyone else at Stoke, Michael Owen, bacon shortages, John Terry, and Jose Mourinho are complete cunts.

naijagooner

Where would Hazard be without all the penalties? He really hasn’t scored enough from open play given all the hype around him this season.

london

Hilarious how the Chelski manager finds it funny how we lost 3-1 at home to Monaco when his own team lost the tie against PSG who had Ibra sent off and played with 10 men for over 90mins. Why don’t they ever call that chelsea manager out when he makes cheap jibes which aren’t actually very smart.

Karl

I think that Hazard is a fantastic player, but I do also think that Alexis is better. And I am sure he would have done the exact same as Hazard has done this season for them. Chelsea is sadly, the most ‘complete’ squad in the Premier League. There are not really any weaknesses in that squad.

joe

I’m more the Christmas fella,Santi…

Imua Gunners

Hi 7amkickoff, First off, love your articles, and I really admire the work you’ve been trying to do. Football stats tend to be focused purely on outcome, so keep up the great work with teasing out real meaning from the numbers. Expected goals, shot probability, and the like are all very underused and not well understood in media coverage. Regarding why Mourinho’s teams tend not to intercept, here’s an excerpt from the excellent and insightful Thore Haugstad: “[T]hese figures might reflect a reluctance to step in front of the opposition. An interception often requires a player to leave his original… Read more »

gunnanerama

Let’s stuff these arrogant wankers…

southFl_Gooner

Excellent column!!!! And in my opinion(not saying that it matters) I agree 100%.

Ankit_gooner

Interesting view from stats angle.But in my view,hazard has outperformed alexis this season because of consistency.Game after game,he is brilliant.Alexis unfortunately had a small slump in the middle(not criticizing),which makes hazard more consistent.

Thierry Bergkamp

The bias is strong over here. Hazard has been the more consistent and effective player this season. The majority are making yourselves seem clueless

MTZ

I’d say De Gea’s probably the most consistent player this season, all things considered. Has he even had a poor match?

In fact, he’s the main reason Manchester United are in the top 4 at all.

Яков Аршавин

You forget that this is Alexis’ first season and hazard has had time to perfect his trade in the BPL

Paul

I love Alexis!

Jersey gooner

Am I the only one bothered by the fact that Alexis’ stats were blue and Hazard in red? It’s driving me mad (hence the comment)

trapper

It is also worth noting that this is alexis first season in the premiership and should improve further.

Ahmad

A very interesting read. Thanks 7amkickoff!

Diaby's Glassware

are penalties also counted as shots/shots on target? And does consistency mean playing well today and missing in the next game? I dont remember seing hazard yesterday except on twitter

santori

Don’t need all these fancy stats Simply put for less minutes on the pitch, Alexis has scored more goals and an equal number of assists. Why he isn’t ahead of Hazard is anyone’s guess. Ozil has better assist rate, chances created, and key passes than Coutinho but is left out of team of the year. Instead Shearer and company would deem to highlight Hazard’s dribbling rate. That’s one way of looking at it depending on your agenda I suppose. Someone should highlight these salient points to the media pillocks, Henry included. Seen Giroud’s ‘statistics’ makes for good reading compared to… Read more »