Monthly Archives: December 2015

Neymar is the player with most successful dribbles in the Liga 2015/2016 and in the Top 5 League, with 68 successful dribbles. He is undoubtedly one of the best dribblers in the Spanish football, at least during the last 6-7 seasons. Let us have a look at the below graph:


Here we have graphed the dribbling of all the Liga players since the 2009/2010 season, considering all those players with more than 50 attempted dribbles per season and more than 2 attempted dribbles per 90 minutes. The orange points represent Messi’s seasons. As we can see, he is separated from the rest, especially his dribbling during the current season. The green points in the graph represent Neymar. Starting from the 2013/2014 season, when he joined Barcelona, his dribbling has been improved in terms of success rate. During the current ongoing  season he is in full ‘Messi dribbling zone’, featuring a relatively high number of dribbles per 90 minutes and a relatively high dribble success rate.

It is quite remarkable for Barcelona to have in the same team two players with such distinctive dribbling ability and they are benefiting the most from this.

The impact that Luis Suárez has had in the results Barcelona have achieved in the last one-and-a-half seasons, since the Uruguayan joined the team, is unquestionable. The attacking trio composed by him plus Messi and Neymar has and is on the verge of breaking numerous goalscoring records. One of the most striking aspects of Suárez’s game with Barcelona has been his clinical finishing. He struggled a little bit at the start but once he adapted the team and his partner’s way of playing, his finishing has been nothing but superb. This aspect of his game was clearly expressed in the two FIFA Club World Cup games, where he scored 5 goals from just 8 shots he made, displaying a shot conversion (ratio between goals scored and shots taken) of 62.5%.

Surprisingly enough, such a high finishing percentage has not always been a typical feature for Suárez. As we can see in Figure 1, his shot conversion rate has been less than 10% during his first two seasons at Liverpool. That means that on average he needed more than 10 shots to score 1 goal. During the successive seasons his shot conversion has increased progressively, reaching almost 25% at the current season for Barcelona.


Figure 1

This progressive improvement in finishing chances is not exactly usual in today’s football, as we can infer from Figure 2. Here, Suárez’s shot conversion is compared to Rooney, Ibrahimovic, Higuaín, Lewandowski and Agüero. In the 2010/2011 season, all these forwards had considerably higher shot conversion than Suárez but now he is on top of them all. The same is valid when Suárez is compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two best goalscorers of the last 7-8 years (Figure 3). All the above mentioned forwards have had ups and downs during their last 6-7 seasons while Suárez has been always improving this aspect on this aspect.


Figure 2


Figure 3

There are some forwards who during the years have shown similar progression in their conversion rate as Suárez, although none of them with such a constant increasing rate. Aubameyang, Benzema and Müller (Figure 4) are the current most prolific forwards, if we consider the main European teams. This data has to be taken a bit cautiously regarding Müller, since unlike the other 3 forwards present on the graph of Figure 4, he takes his team’s penalties.


Figure 4

In order to have a summarized and maybe a better overview of Suárez’s improvement, Figure 5 shows his conversion rate compared to the lower and upper bounds of the all 11 forwards mentioned earlier. These bounds basically show the minimum and maximum shot conversion of this set of 11 forwards for each season. In the 2010/2011 season, when Suárez joined Liverpool, he had a shot conversion lower than any of these forwards, while in the current season, he is among the forwards with the highest conversion rate.


Figure 5

Obviously, many parameters affect the shot conversion rate and some of them are very difficult to account for. For example, when playing for Barcelona Suárez takes less shots than in his last two seasons at Liverpool and maybe he takes ‘easier’ ones. Most likely other players (e.g. Messi) have the responsibility or the role to deal with more difficult situations (like taking free kicks, shots after one or several dribbles, etc). Another influencing parameter might be the quality of chances he gets now compared to the previous seasons. Nonetheless, the continuous rate by which Suárez has improved his finishing is exceptional and unmatched in Europe during the last seasons.

Note: All the data are based only in games in the following competitions: National Leagues, Champions League and Europa League.

Does Barcelona’s attack solely depend on the attacking trio of Messi – Suárez – Neymar? During the 2014/2015 Liga season they scored 73.6% of all Barcelona goals, which is 3 out of 4 goals. This is already a high figure but in the current season, the percentage of goals scored by Messi – Suárez – Neymar is above 88% which is really an extremely high number.

How does this compare to the last seasons? Maybe the below graph can answer to this question.


Here we have plotted the relationship between goals per game and the percentage of goals scored by the top 3 scorers of the team, for Barcelona during the last 7 Liga seasons. The two last seasons are clearly separated from the rest. Before the attacking trio of  Messi – Suárez – Neymar was composed, the top 3 scorers of the team used to score 60% to 65% of all Barcelona’s goals. Now the situation is way different. The team’s capacity to score depends massively on their three attacking superstars, who this season score around 9 out of 10 of the team’s goals.

Lionel Messi is undoubtedly the best dribbler in the Spanish football. Since the 2005/2006 season he has completed 1400 successful dribbles, while the second on the list, Iniesta, has less than his half. The same dribble gap can be observed in the UEFA Champions League, if we consider the data of the last 7 seasons. Despite this, the total number of dribbles is not always a good representative parameter to establish if a player is a good dribbler or not, because it is also influenced by the amount of time and the quantity of dribbles a player has attempted. For this reason, other parameters such as dribble success rate (the ratio between successful and total attempted dribbles) and total attempted dribbles per 90 minutes should be taken into account.

Graph 1 shows the relationship between attempted dribbles (normalized per 90 minutes of play) and dribble success rate for the Liga players in the period during 2009/2010 to 2014/2015. Only players with more than 50 attempted dribbles per season are considered.


Graph 1

Messi (orange dots) results isolated form the other players. He attempts considerably more than the rest of the players and still maintains a relatively high dribble success rate. Only Neymar, Yacine Brahimi and Jefferson Montero attempt similar amount of dribbles but they achieve this with a success rate around 10% lower than Messi’s and even more, they have done it in just 1 or 2 seasons.

Meanwhile, during the 2015/2016 Liga season, Messi is having the best dribbling of his career (at least from 2009/2010 and later). As it can be seen in the first chart (green dot) he is attempting more dribbles than before and with a better success rate than ever. Graph 2 shows the change in dribble success rate for some of the best dribblers in the Liga, considering the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 season. Messi distinguishes himself from the rest.


Graph 2

Graph 3 shows the development through the last 7 seasons for Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. From the respective trend lines, we can see better the tendency of dribble success rate for both players.


Graph 3

In order to have a better idea on how good and different Messi’s dribbling is, let’s have a look at Graph 4. It shows once again the Liga players with 50 or more attempted dribbles in the period 2009/2010 to 2014/2015, but in this case Messi is excluded.


Graph 4

The trend line, that shows the average relationship between dribble success rate and attempted dribbles per 90 minutes. As we can see, the trend is descending, which means that the more dribbles one player attempts, the less likely he is to succeed on it. If we build the same trend line but taking into account Messi’s numbers, we will have an ascending one. In simple words: Messi alone changes the dribble success rate trend from descending to an ascending one. We have to keep in mind that Messi here represents just 7 data points out of 492, and still he is such an outlier that he alone modifies the whole trend line.

The Brazilian continues to have an amazing season, leading the club in Messi’s absence, but has he delivered as well as the two protagonists of the Barcelona vs Real Madrid rivalry?


No one doubts anymore that Neymar has proven to be a formidable wild card in the Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry, but he’s only 23 years old and is yet to reach three years in Europe, but can he challenge the two greats’ records when they were younger?

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The definitive comparison of their six season duopoly in Spain and Europe


The Argentinian and the Portuguese stars have created an unprecedented rivalry in the history of football, Grup 14 compares the players in the last six seasons, from 2009/2010 to 2014/2015. The numbers are normalized per 90 minutes of play, showing the relative value of each player compared to the one with the highest value. Data was directly sourced from La Liga and Champions League.

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What does it mean to be a goalkeeper at Barça? Based on Valdés’ golden standard, is ter Stegen the goalkeeper Barcelona needs?


Goalkeeping is the most delicate position in football. Goalkeepers rarely get praised for their performances, and even when they do it is often forgotten after a single mistake. Forwards can miss many clear-cut chances but it is accepted as part of the game, while every goalkeeper mistake that leads to a goal is considered fatal.

This peculiarity seems enhanced at FC Barcelona, where many keepers have struggled to establish themselves. Even Victor Valdés, who now is considered by many as the best Barcelona goalkeeper in history, needed several years to build his reputation and gain recognition from the fans.

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Comparing players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Karim Benzema, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and all Champions League players of the last six years


Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? This question has hovered over modern football’s collective consciousness that it has become a staple in players’ and even coaches’ interviews.

It is no exaggeration to say that everyone connected with football has been asked about it that we could add a Messi or Ronaldo preference in their profile.

Football fans everywhere have debated over the matter extensively if not scientifically, and, most of the time, not diplomatically. The answer is obvious, and is not even close, thank you very much, depending on which side you’re on.

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