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A Closer Look at Nuri Şahin’s Passing

April 24, 2011 3 comments

Nuri Şahin was voted the best player of the first half of the Bundesliga season by his fellow players and he is the favourite to win the overall player of the year award. In this post I take a closer look at his passing using statistics gathered from the official Bundesliga website.

Şahin has been one of the most active passers in the league, as far as I can tell only Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm have attempted more passes. With 1803 total passes he has attempted almost 400 more passes than any other Dortmund player, and adjusted for playing minutes he has contributed 14.9% of Dortmund’s total passes, which puts him up there with the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Paul Scholes in terms of what percentage of a team’s passes a player contributes.

On average Şahin completed 47/62 passes per 90 minutes. For the above graph I took the four match rolling averages of successful and attempted passes to see how those figures have fluctuated over the season. As you can see both have stayed roughly constant, his successful passes fluctuating between 40-50 and his attempted passes between 55-70. Note that in this and in all future graphs I omitted his last match against Freiburg because he only played 28 minutes.

To get a more accurate sense of his passing I separated his passes into forward, sideways and backwards passes both in the opponent’s half and his own.

Of his passes 49.6% were in the opponent’s half, 50.4% in his own. Of his passes in the opponent’s half 63.8% were forward passes, 20.9% sideways passes and 15.3% backwards passes. Of his passes in his own half 59.1% were forward passes, 20.2% sideways passes and 20.7% backwards passes. To look at how those numbers fluctuated over the season I again took the four match rolling averages.

After an early increase in his percentage of forward passes both in the opponent’s half and his own, and a corresponding small dip in the percentage of sideways and backwards passes, his passing direction percentages stayed roughly constant until there was another small increase in forward passing in his last few matches. It is clear from these graphs that he is not content to simply pass the ball sideways and backwards, instead he looks to play the ball forward whenever possible.

The accuracy of his different passes and the total number of successful/attempted passes of each kind are summarised in the following table. The graphs show the fluctuation over the season.

Opp Half | Frwd Pass | 63.3% | 361/570
Opp Half | Side Pass | 85.6% | 160/187
Opp Half | Back Pass | 96.4% | 132/137
Own Half | Frwd Pass | 65.6% | 352/537
Own Half | Side Pass | 92.9% | 171/184
Own Half | Back Pass | 95.2% | 179/188

According to the data he misplaced about one-third of his forward passes. While this is an area he could look to improve it is not necessarily a bad thing. From watching almost every match he has played this season I can say that his first instinct is always to look for the ambitious, forward option, and for a playmaker this is a good thing because the way you create chances is not by playing it safely, it is by taking calculated risks and playing those difficult but potentially highly rewarding passes. The most creative players and the players with the highest assist counts often have below average attacking third pass completion rates and as long as Şahin is creating a lot of chances it seems to me like his lower pass completion rate is a trade-off worth making.

So does he create a lot of chances? Yes, he absolutely does. His 3.61 key passes per match is not only best in the league but according to the data from WhoScored.com also the best in any of the top five European leagues. Below are lists of the top chance creators in the Bundesliga and in all of Europe.

Nuri Şahin 3,61
Christian Tiffert 3,13
Diego 2,81
Mario Götze 2,67
Arjen Robben 2,36
Tamas Hajnal 2,33
Marco Reus 2,31
Mehmet Ekici 2,25
Franck Ribery 2,22
Juan Arango 2,05

Nuri Şahin 3,61
Andrea Cossu 3,48
Mesut Özil 3,35
Christian Tiffert 3,13
Francesco Totti 3,04
Florent Malouda 3,03
Duda 3,00
Nene 2,90
Wesley Sneijder 2,88
Cesc Fabregas 2,83
Diego 2,81
David Pizarro 2,78
Mario Götze 2,67

So far I have only discussed Şahin’s passing in open play but he also takes corners and free kicks.

This season Şahin has taken 114 corners of which 6 were taken short. Of the 108 that were delivered straight into the penalty area 41 found a teammate, a success rate of 38.0%. He also took 86 free kicks of which 72 were crossed into the penalty area. Of those 27 found a teammate for a success rate of 37.5%. Combining his corners, free kicks and crosses from open play overall he delivered 211 crosses with a success rate of 37.4%.

In a future post I may look at his shooting, dribbling and defensive work, but for now hopefully this post has provided some insight into what kind of player, and specifically what kind of passer, Nuri Şahin is.

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Categories: Players

Goalkeeper Performance in England, Spain and Germany

April 13, 2011 4 comments

I have written in previous posts about the importance and value of shot stopping. So how have goalkeepers in the real world done so far this season?

I collected data on the current Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga seasons from Sports Illustrated’s website and put it all together into the following graph. The data includes every match played from the start of the season to April 13th. Note that I included only goalkeepers who have played at least 1500 minutes.

Shots On Target Conceded vs Goals Conceded

In the following table I have listed every goalkeeper’s goals allowed, shots on target faced, minutes played, saves made and EV Diff, which is a measure of how much a goalkeeper has over- or underperformed relative to expectation based on how many shots on target they have faced. Ben Foster’s 18,46 goals means he has conceded 18,46 goals fewer than would have been expected based on how many shots on target he has faced. Scott Carson on the other hand has conceded 12,73 goals more than expected.

Player GA SOT Mins Saves EV Diff
Foster 43 198 2790 156 18,4555833
De Gea 41 165 2790 124 8,682483054
Hart 30 134 2880 104 8,622904031
Baumann 33 142 2250 108 8,47698894
Cech 25 119 2790 95 8,271494827
Calat’d 45 175 2689 125 8,25008919
Kameni 38 152 2430 114 7,044595077
Ricardo 37 146 2790 107 5,904031395
Gomes 31 129 2340 98 5,839100963
Alves 54 192 2790 139 5,315019622
Neuer 33 133 2610 101 5,266143418
Jääsk’n 38 147 2646 108 5,260792009
Valdes 14 79 2430 65 5,001070282
Begovic 29 119 2070 91 4,271494827
Weide’r 17 84 2520 68 3,78487335
Lopez 36 137 2790 100 3,693185872
Green 55 189 2790 135 3,244737781
M Reina 25 103 1620 79 2,563325009
Schwa’r 29 114 2250 86 2,487691759
Wetklo 18 82 1645 64 2,071352123
Toño 45 157 2790 106 1,828398145
Aranz’a 29 110 2250 81 1,060649304
Bravo 54 180 2790 125 1,033892258
AlHabsi 40 139 2520 98 0,4067071
VDS 28 105 2520 78 0,276846236
Casil’s 22 88 2612 67 0,211915804
Migno’t 24 93 1530 69 -0,004281127
Benag’o 33 118 2049 85 -0,085265787
Codina 33 117 2054 80 -0,4420264
Aouate 42 142 2700 94 -0,52301106
Robin’n 48 158 2655 110 -0,814841242
Pablo 23 86 1642 62 -1,501605423
Friedel 53 167 2880 114 -2,603995719
Iraizoz 45 144 2790 97 -2,809489832
Reina 38 124 2880 87 -2,944702105
Kessler 39 126 2048 87 -3,231180878
Ulreich 54 166 2610 113 -3,960756333
Palop 28 91 1632 61 -4,717802355
Kingson 38 119 1698 81 -4,728505173
Sippel 42 130 2250 89 -4,804138423
Howard 41 126 2880 88 -5,231180878
Nikolov 28 89 1755 61 -5,431323582
Henne’y 31 97 1620 66 -5,577238673
Adler 32 99 2430 69 -5,863717446
Rost 36 110 2203 76 -5,939350696
Starke 29 90 1800 62 -6,074562968
Schäfer 37 112 2579 75 -6,225829468
Harper 22 68 1565 46 -6,923296468
Wiese 45 131 2158 88 -7,447377809
Butt 21 63 1575 43 -7,707099536
Franco 30 84 1671 55 -9,21512665
Froml’z 34 94 1748 61 -9,647520514
Carson 46 119 2340 75 -12,72850517

Clearly this analysis isn’t perfect. For starters it considers all shots as equal, which clearly isn’t true. Some shots are more difficult to save than others, and some goalkeepers will have faced relatively more difficult shots while others will have faced relatively more easy shots. For example, has Petr Cech really performed 8,27 goals above expectation or has he just faced a disproportionately large number of easy shots which serve to make it look like he has performed better than he actually has? I don’t know. Certainly these numbers shouldn’t be taken as gospel and should instead be thought of as a supplement to your eyeball test when evaluating goalkeeper performance. But perhaps they are useful, if for no other reason than to get people to think about why they may not be an accurate representation of reality and what could be done to improve on them.

Categories: General