Monthly Archives: February 2016

They say “imitation is the greatest form of flattery,” but when you’re a sports journal that wants to be taken seriously, imitation is not just wrong, it is also a crime called plagiarism.

Last Tuesday (February 23rd, 2016), after the Arsenal vs Barcelona Champions League match, I posted two stats (involving Messi and ter Stegen respectively) on my Twitter account:


The next day (Wednesday, February 24th, 2016), the Spain-based sports journal Sport published in their website two articles talking about the stats in my tweets, exactly those stats, but just in a narrative way:

In both pieces, they didn’t mention me as the source of those data. I find this very unfair and offensive, especially considering the time I spent in working on those stats. Such a pity.

When I became aware of the ter Stegen article, I got in touch with the author through Twitter. He claimed he didn’t write that piece (although his name was listed as the author). He said he got the data from my Twitter account and that he forwarded them to his colleague who wrote the article.

He promised to make the necessary correction on the article and to credit my Twitter account as the source. Though he did it later, my Twitter handle was misspelled.

A few hours later, I read the article about Messi and thought it would be pointless if I have to go after them one by one. The Messi article had a different author.

Then I decided to write this, as a constructive way to avoid this. It is really a pleasure and a huge consideration to be mentioned and for my work to appear in big media but not referencing other people’s work is something I don’t find tolerable.

Barcelona are not as solid defensively as they were last season. In 44 games they have already conceded the same number of goals (38) they did in the entire 2014/2015 season (60 games).

In order to further explore this, we made 3 charts comparing defensive parameters of Barcelona with all the other teams of the five main European leagues. For comparison reasons, we added Barcelona’s performance last season (2014/2015).

A short summary of the charts below is that this season, Barcelona allow opponents to have more shots and chances than during the 2014/2015 season. As a direct consequence we have more goals against and Barcelona’s keepers are forced to make much more saves.


Chart 1 – Shots against/game vs. % of shots against that were goals.


Chart 2 – Shots against/game vs. goals against/game.


Chart 3 – Shots against/game vs. goalkeeper saves/game.

We analyzed the passing game of 26 Liga goalkeepers (500+ played minutes) in terms of passing typology, frequency and accuracy. Although he has played just 4 games in the 2015/2016 Liga season, Marc-André ter Stegen has been also included, with the aim to serve as a point of reference. As we’ll see in the further 4 charts, the passing game of both Barcelona’s goalkeepers is similar, and very different from all the other goalkeepers in the Liga.


Chart 1

Chart 1 shows the typology of passes (per 90 minutes) of Liga goalkeepers. Both ter Stegen and Bravo play considerably more short passes and less long passes than other goalkeepers. A high number of short passes is also typical of Rayo Vallecano’s goalkeepers (Juan Carlos, Toño and Yoel), a team which plays in a similar way as Barcelona, in terms of high possession. The high number of short passes is a consequence of these goalkeepers attempt to combine a lot with defenders or defensive midfielders who position themselves close to the penalty box when the goalkeeper has the ball.


Chart 2

Chart 2 shows the total passes per 90 minutes and the percentage of those that are long passes. Here, the tendency that Bravo and ter Stegen have to play less long passes than the rest of the goalkeepers is more visible. Bravo has 35% of his passes classified as long passes (ter Stegen has 36%) while all other goalkeepers have more than 55% of their passes classified as long passes (the average Liga goalkeeper has 76% of passes as long ones). Here it has to be noted that the number of total (attempted) passes per 90 minutes doesn’t seem to be a ‘special’ indicator of ‘passing game’, as a goalkeeper may be ‘forced’ to distribute a lot when his team allows many shots against.


Chart 3


Chart 4

Chart 3 shows the overall pass accuracy in relationship to total passes. Bravo and ter Stegen are very close to each other, having a considerably higher pass accuracy (respectively 84% and 82%) than other Liga goalkeepers (all less than 67%). As it can be observed in Chart 4, Barcelona’s goalkeepers are superior in both long and short pass accuracy, with ter Stegen being a bit more accurate in long passes (a typical feature of the young German goalkeeper).

Messi is not scoring as much as in his peak goal-scoring form but he is currently scoring the ‘most decisive’ goals of his career at Barcelona.

This is the conclusion we arrived at based on what the scoreboard says before Messi scores in a particular game.

We will show how we arrived at this conclusion based on a series of charts below.


Chart 1

The first chart (Chart 1) shows the distribution (in %) of Messi’s career goals at Barcelona according to what the score was when his goals occurred, calculated separately for each season. As we can see, the % of goals of each category are highly scattered.

In the current season, Messi has 62% of his goals in those moments of the game when Barcelona have been losing or held to a draw. This is a higher % than in any of his previous seasons (since 2008/2009, when he was a regular starter).

This is a much higher % than during the last season (36%), for example, where he had a high percentage of goals (38%) scored when Barcelona were already 2+ goals up in the scoreboard.

The same argument can be made for the 2011/2012 season, in which Messi scored 73 goals for Barcelona, but 38% of which was scored when the team was already leading by 2+ goals.

The second chart below (Chart 2) shows the same distribution of Messi’s goals scored in La Liga and in the Champions League. His % of goals scored when the team is losing or held to a draw in the CL (52%) is considerably higher than in La Liga (42%).


Chart 2

Analyzing Messi’s goals like this presents us an interesting set of data: his goals against Real Madrid.

With 21 goals, Messi is El Clásico’s all-time highest goalscorer, but the most stunning fact is that he has scored 17 or 81% of these goals in the most crucial moments of the game when Barcelona have been losing (8 goals) or held to a draw (9 goals).


Chart 3

Is Messi “finished”? He’s only just started.


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