Barcelona have a deadly attacking trio, that’s no secret. They have the most goals hauled in all of Europe last season – 173 in all, and the third highest, at 51, in the current season: 224 goals so far for both periods. Seventy-three point two (73.2) percent of those have been scored by MSN, a whopping 164 goals. Thank you, our friend @barca19stats for these numbers.
How about the rest of the goals? We have analyzed the rest of the team’s converted shots for the 2015/16 and the current season, and we are happy to say that the MSN lets others score, too. Let’s appreciate the indirect and crucial attacking contribution of other players, especially Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
We looked at the origin of these goals and how the ball moved from one player to the other in the final sequence of action. And these are the things we found out.
Goals from interceptions
Barcelona have scored 40 goals as a direct result of intercepting their opponents’ play. It means that roughly, 1 out of five Barça goals in this period arrived from a fast and clinical finishing as a result of interceptions. Three factors that have probably led to this: Barça are – still – good at getting the ball back. Once they do, their extraordinary attacking quality would most probably put the ball at the back of the net: MSN has scored 29 of these 40 interception goals. And finally, the opposing team is not well-positioned to defend in those situations since they were expecting to start their own counterattack after they have just recovered the ball.
As the figure above shows, Busquets is responsible for nine interceptions that have led to a goal. These goals are usually scored within a few seconds after the interception is made. This is one of the most amazing features of Busquets’ play, where he simultaneously prevents the opposition from building a counterattack and activates Barça’s forwards.
If you want to know more about how Busquets plays and behaves “without’ the ball, we highly recommend this video by our good friend @busi1325:
Who else has done this, next to Busi?
He deserves special mention not only because five of his interceptions have led to goals but those five have occurred in just three games this season. It is all the more extraordinary because Rafinha has played considerably less minutes than the rest of the starting players.
In the images below, we have illustrated the path of the ball leading to those goals.
What are the most frequent combinations leading to a goal for Barcelona? We’ve answered that too, in the figure below. They’re almost all MSN — surprise! — pre-assisting, assisting, and scoring between and among themselves, save for that Iniesta “intrusion” in the last row.
If we rank Barça’s players according to pre-assists and pre-assists over 90 minutes, we’ll have the figures below, which give us two different pictures.
Messi tops both categories – again, surprise! – but if you look at the pre-assists-over-90-minutes data, Iniesta is up there, where immortals dwell, far from Neymar, Arda Turan, Busquets, Dani Alves and Luis Suárez who also have notable contributions.
Considering the different ways the ball trajectory developed after the pre-assist and the involvement or lack of it of the pre-assister, we can identify the following pre-assister types:
- The Passive Pre-assister – once he enables the pre-assist, he doesn’t usually get involved further and lets others finish. Iniesta and Neymar belong to this category.
- The Active Pre-assister – usually finishes the chances he himself started with a pre-assist, probably after a fast 1-2 combination with another player, usually Messi or Neymar. Luis Suárez is an active pre-assister.
- The Mixed Pre-assister – does both, he is both a passive and active pre-assister. He is also omnipotent, and yes, his name is Messi.