Argentina without Messi: How strong are they?

It’s not a secret that, Messi aside, the current Argentina national team is not exceptional. There has always been some debate on this and the general consensus is that they have a lot of talent in attack while the rest of the team is “normal”. Since “normal” is not always easy to define, I tried to understand how strong this squad is compared to European football clubs. This might be helpful, considering that we watch club football much more often than international football and it’s easier to create a general idea how good each club is.

I have used a very similar methodology to the one used in this article at Financial Times, written by Murad Ahmed and John Burn-Murdoch. The idea is very simple and can be explained as follows:

  • Argentina’s squad strength is valuated according to the quality of their players, better the players, better the squad (and vice-versa).
  • Each player’s quality is estimated by two parameters:
    • quality of the club they play: good players play on better clubs,
    • level of participation: good players play more minutes.

I have used the data for the 2017/18 season. The quality of the club is represented by the Soccer Power Index (SPI), which is a metric to rank football clubs developed by FiveThirtyEight, while minutes played by each player are from Transfermarkt.

The graph in Fig 1 shows minutes played in 2017/18 and their respective club’s SPI for all Argentina’s NT players. In simple words, if a player plays in a club with a high SPI and if he has played a lot of minutes in 2017/18 (top-right players), then he increases the quality of the squad. As it is quite obvious, most of this squad strength comes from the 4 forwards, who are all key players in their respective clubs.

To get an overall estimation for Argentina, I calculated a weighted average of their squad SPI, excluding Messi, and another average SPI excluding the 4 forwards (just to get an idea of how good the rest of the team is).


Fig 1

The bottom graph in Fig 1 compares Argentina’s squad average SPI (74.1) to European football clubs who lie on the 70-75 range. This gives an idea on how good this squad is, i.e. something in between Eibar and Marseille.

Note: FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ranking doesn’t include Chinese Super League and, to evaluate Mascherano’s new team (Hebei China Fortune) strength, I used another team rating metric and converted it to FivethirtyEight’s SPI system.

  1. Nice article. By weighted average of SPI, I suppose the weights are the mins. played?
    What would be ARG’s squad SPI, INCLUDING Messi ?


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