Midfield Creativity, Stats and Comparisons

MadDogg

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With the talk of the lack of creativity from our midfield and suggestions that we should be looking at midfielders from other teams in the league, I was looking at stats for a few players. Figured I'd extend it to the deeper midfielders of all the top teams and the other notable ones I could think of. Came up with some things that were to be expected but also a few that were quite surprising, and thought I'd share. I'm half expecting this thread to just die but it might be interesting to some. I'll do it in two posts so it's not too big.

I want to stress that stats only tell half the story. There's a lot that aren't shown in these stats, and just because somebody is at the top of a certain stat doesn't necessarily mean they are great. The tactics and style of a team will obviously have a big impact. But they can be useful when used correctly. I'm using fbref.com for the stats.

These are only from the Premier League this season, with the exceptions being players who normally play in midfield but haven't been this season. I'm using 18/19 for Fernandinho as he hasn’t played much this season and was in defence last season, 19/20 for Henderson and Fabinho, and I've also only counted the games in midfield for Pogba and Sissoko (both of whom have played some games out wide). I did these stats yesterday so they don’t include the games from this round.

Firstly, actions leading to a shot per 90 minutes. This tallies the two offensive actions taken before a shot. This includes passing the ball (which I’ve counted separately), dribbling, taking a shot that was blocked or rebounded, winning a foul, winning the ball with a defensive action, or taking a set piece (which I’ve also counted separately). So basically if Fred passes the ball to Pogba who then passes it to Bruno who takes a shot, both Fred and Pogba get credited with an action. It’s the classic ‘assist the assister’ stat, that you would have expected players like Scholes and Carrick to score highly for in their day even though they weren’t getting the final assist.



In terms of all open play actions, we have two of the top three with Pogba in second (fractionally behind Thiago) and Fred a comfortable third. No surprise to see Pogba up there but having Fred that high up is very surprising. Indeed when limiting it just to passes he actually moves ahead of Pogba into 2nd. Even including set pieces doesn’t change much with only Moutinho catching him.

On the flip side, Matic and McTominay are quite low. When limiting it to just passing McTominay drops down to the 6th worst, although his 'other' numbers are amongst the highest of everyone else (with Pogba being an outlier ahead of everyone) which brings his total up to a similar level as some others. The gap between our top two and bottom two is quite significant though.

From other teams, Ndidi’s complete lack of any involvement in the creative side of things stands out. He has significantly less than half the involvements that the next worst (Sissoko and Soucek) have. You can say he’s not in the team for that side of his game but the size of the gap is amazing.

Fabinho and Henderson show what many have said - Liverpool have used their midfield just to provide a solid base and don’t actually do much creatively themselves, with that being left to their fullbacks and attackers. Thiago coming in this season is obviously attempting to do very differently which we know hasn’t been working on the field yet, although his individual stats look good.

Some of the other players who people have name dropped as being creatively better than what we have (the likes of Tielemans, Partey, Hojbjerg, Allan, Rice, Phillips, etc) are significantly behind our top two, although Tielemans does stand out as being quite high considering he plays for a team that doesn’t control the ball as much, sitting in 6th from open play. He does partner Ndidi though so you could also argue he’s being allowed to really focus on that side of the game. The others aren’t really any better than our bottom two, although they do play for weaker teams so in theory you would expect some improvement. The Wolves combo of Moutinho and Neves are the other two that stand out from these stats.

Honestly, Fred being so high up made me cross reference it with other similar kinds of stats but they all match up.

The below shows the Key Passes (the pass directly before a shot on goal) and the Expected Assists based on how good the chances are their passes create. I’m not sure whether set pieces are included in these numbers (I’m pretty sure they are for Key Passes but uncertain about xA).



If set pieces like freekicks and corners are included in these numbers, Fred probably ends up in 3rd from open play behind only Thiago and Jorginho for Key Passes. And he is sitting 2nd only to Kalvin Phillips in Expected Assists even if set pieces are included.

It’s strange as I wouldn’t have expected Fred to be anywhere near this high (although I knew he’d be higher than some people make out). It has been obvious that he’s been creating quite a lot of good goal scoring opportunities over the last couple of months only for our attackers to waste them, but I think the main thing this highlights is that people are expecting more creativity and assists from the deeper midfielders than what any of them really provide.

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Next I thought I’d look at a more general passing stat. The following graph shows the total distance (in yards) each player passes on average per 90 minutes, and what amount of that is passing the ball forward up the field. On top of that I also added how much distance each player carries the ball forward themselves (I didn’t bother with sideways/backwards dribbles since that doesn’t bring much to the table). Don't ask me why it's in yards, it's just what the stat site uses.



Matic is a standout for us but that probably shows the inherent weakness of looking just at stats. He normally only plays against weak teams and he also tends to drop back into the defence more than our other midfielders, which then obviously makes it easier for him to move the ball forward. Otherwise Pogba and Fred are about where you’d expect, while McTominay is on the lower side (6th worst).

Looking at others, the City, Liverpool and Chelsea midfielders (bar Kante who is a bit below average) are all on the high side as you would expect from teams who look to dominate the ball. Xhaka and Neves stand out for their teams, with Hojbjerg, Phillips, Moutinho and Partey all at a decent level as well. More than any other stat, this is quite reliant on how the team as a whole set up so not sure how much can be gained from it, but some things still stand out.

I also did this table up a few days ago for a different discussion that I may as well include here. Same players but doesn’t include Ward-Prowse, Henderson’s stats are from his midfield performances this season instead of last season and I think Fernandinho is from his relatively few appearances this season. This shows how many passes each player makes per game, what percentage of them are short (5-15 yards), medium (15-30 yards) and long (more than 30 yards), and what their success rate is with each pass.



City, Liverpool and to a lesser extent Chelsea midfielders are consistently up amongst the top passers, as to be expected with their playstyles. Henderson’s 97 passes per game is significantly more than what he was getting last season (75) so along with Thiago’s high numbers it looks like they are just passing it around in midfield a lot more this season.

Matic, Pogba and to a lesser extent Fred are up around the amount of passes you would expect. McTominay is a bit lower, with only five midfielders passing the ball less than him. Scott and Fred do tend to play against all the top teams and get rested against some of the lower teams though, so you’d expect that would decrease their tallies a bit. McTominay is still uncomfortably low though and it agrees with the eye test that he needs to increase his involvement in the game. In terms of how far each player passes it, Pogba is actually the least likely to make medium passes in the list, with short passes (2nd highest) and long passes (6th highest) making up large percentages compared to the average.

Phillips and Neves are huge outliers with far less short passes and far more long passes than everyone else (percentage-wise). Not sure how much is the players natural game and how much is a tactical decision by their managers, but it’s probably a bit of both. Moutinho isn’t as extreme as those two players but still is the third most likely to play long passes on the list, so it certainly looks like a tactical decision for Wolves.
 
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MadDogg

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Lastly I also looked at the more defensive stats. The first graph is successfully winning the ball in four different ways - interceptions, tackles won, dribblers tackled (which seems to be counted separately than other tackles) and successful pressing.



Here you can see Ndidi, Kante and Fred as expected in the top 3, but then Jorginho perhaps surprisingly in 4th ahead of Allan.

Other than Fred, our other three midfielders are right down near the bottom. McTominay is 20th, Pogba 21st and Matic 23rd out of the 26 players I checked. Liverpool, City and Chelsea all don’t have a single midfielder who wins the ball back as little as any of our three. I think most people expect Matic and Pogba to be near the bottom but it’s surprising that McTominay is that low. Considering he’s supposed to be one half of our hard-working defensively solid midfield pairing, he’s not actually doing as much defending as expected.

It does appear that most teams have one midfielder that wins it back a fair bit more than his partner. Kante or Jorginho with Kovacic, Ndidi with Tielemans, Hojbjerg with Sissoko, Allan with Doucoure, and to a lesser extent Rice with Soucek. I guess that’s the balance we have when Fred’s in there, but we probably rotate more than any of them so when he’s not playing we do appear to miss that ball winner. Liverpool (who have the highest average), City and Wolves spread it out a bit more.

On a related note here’s successful and unsuccessful pressing as a total, as even ‘unsuccessful’ pressing probably forces the opponent to pass it backwards or sideways half of the time so it’s still impacting the game.



Allan comfortably out in front with the amount of attempts, Fred comfortably in second, while Jorginho and Ndidi have slightly more successful attempts than the top two due to a better success rate. After that there seems to be two groups of players. One, led by Henderson, Phillips and Kante, that still does a lot of pressing but not quite to the level of the top few, and another group that are a fair bit behind. Our three of McTominay (18th), Matic (23rd) and Pogba (24th) are right down the bottom of the second group.

I also checked the success rate for different types of tackles, largely because I wanted to see if Fred and Pogba were as low with their attempts as I think many expected (Fred because he attempts so many and goes in too hard, Pogba because of defensive laziness).



Fred is on the low end of things, but not by as much as expected. Most players seem to have a press success of 30-34%, so Fred at 29.8% is only just behind. Allan (the only player to attempt more than him) has a lower rate with only 28.8%. General tackles and tacking dribblers are similar - probably on the lower side but not particularly low (ahead of both Matic and McTominay at both). Interestingly Pogba has the highest success percentages for all three categories for our team.

----------------

Overall

Going purely by the stats, the three stand outs seem to be Thiago, Jorginho and Fred for a decent spread of creativity, control and defensive work. Which could be used to argue that these stats mean jackshit, as Thiago is struggling to fit into Liverpool, Jorginho was arguably behind Kante and Kovacic in the pecking order under Lampard (although he’s been a starter so far for Tuchel), and some of our own fans firmly dislike Fred. On the other hand it does agree with my ‘eye test’ that Thiago is actually doing quite well on the individual level for 80% of the time but he just doesn’t suit how Liverpool are currently playing (and the other 20% is him making mistakes and being brushed aside), Jorginho is a good player if they set things up properly which they may be starting to do, and while Fred isn’t perfect he is important as our best all-rounder.

From outside the ‘big four’ of Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool (the teams that are financially strong enough to refuse any realistic bid), the Wolves duo of Moutinho and Neves seem to be the best all-rounders. I’m always surprised that Moutinho never played for any of the top clubs, he feels too good of a midfielder to have spent his career in Portugal, France and now Wolves for the last few years of his career. If we could get him for cheap I’d still be tempted to sign him even though he’s 34. I’m actually a bit surprised Neves is up there as I thought he was struggling a bit this season and had never really played to his potential (maybe harsh considering he’s still only 23).

Other decent all-rounders seem to be Partey, Hojbjerg and perhaps Phillips.

Tielemans and Ndidi have an interesting yin and yang dynamic, with Ndidi being arguably the best defensively while the worst creatively of all the midfielders, and Tielemans next to him pulling up good creative stats but one of the lowest defensively. Of course his ‘poor’ defending stats are still similar to McTominay, Pogba and Matic for us. If he got a move to one of the top teams would his creativity decrease without Ndidi covering his back, or would it increase with better players in front of him? Although Leicester would argue they are one of the top teams now...

On the negative side of things, McTominay is surprisingly low on most of these stats. I knew he was on the lower side compared to our own midfielders but hadn’t really compared him to players from the other clubs before. I’m hoping that now that he seems to be getting back into good form (after 1-2 months of poor to average form) we’ll see some of these stats improve. Of course stats don’t win games, so if he does enough to help the team put the results on the board that’s the main thing. Some of the stats do agree with the eye test that he could improve how much he gets on the ball and then what he does with it though.

Lastly, what the hell is Soucek supposed to be good at? He scores a decent amount of goals and is good in the air, but otherwise he’s a stand out for all the wrong reasons in these stats. In the first category of actions leading to a shot he’s 2nd worst only to Ndidi, he has significantly the lowest distance passed (both in general and forward) and ball carries forward, he attempts the least amount of passes and has by far the worst pass success rate of them all, and his total defensive wins is the third worst. I haven’t actually taken any note of him the few times I’ve watched West Ham play, is he actually as bad as what these stats make him look? It seems to be working for them with their excellent season so far, but damn.

Ok, now that I’ve done this wall of text, I expect everyone to ignore this thread and it will die with no responses at all. :lol: There's no real rhyme or reason to most of it, just stuff that I looked up as I wondered what it would look like.
 

ManUArfa

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An excellent piece of work there - a great read. It's surprising to see Fred's stats and how we perhaps undervalue him. These kind of stats are the ones you don't tend to notice when watching a game but it's crucial for any team to have players who can do all the "unsexy" stuff in order to control a football match.

Are the stats PL only? Also is game time factored in to them? Who has been getting the least? I thought, early part of the season, it was Fred who lost his PL place to an in-form Pogba. Can't remember now.

Lastly, would you say that this confirms that the midfield is the least of our worries and we need a better goals to attempts ratio from the strikers and fewer GK errors and goals conceded from set pieces etc? Those would be good analyses too.
 

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Does support what I've been thinking — that the McFred pairing is overrated defensively. Based on this, you could say Fred's the only real factor for defensive stability and his partner should really just be based on their attacking/creative ability.

I'd assume McTominay and Soucek would come out of this looking a lot better if you included shooting stats though.
 

Maticmaker

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Going purely by the stats, the three stand outs seem to be Thiago, Jorginho and Fred for a decent spread of creativity, control and defensive work. Which could be used to argue that these stats mean jackshit, as Thiago is struggling to fit into Liverpool, Jorginho was arguably behind Kante and Kovacic in the pecking order under Lampard (although he’s been a starter so far for Tuchel), and some of our own fans firmly dislike Fred. On the other hand it does agree with my ‘eye test’ that Thiago is actually doing quite well on the individual level for 80% of the time but he just doesn’t suit how Liverpool are currently playing (and the other 20% is him making mistakes and being brushed aside), Jorginho is a good player if they set things up properly which they may be starting to do, and while Fred isn’t perfect he is important as our best all-rounder.
I applauded the effort you have obviously put into this (by the way is it part of a Football PhD?), but your first paragraph in 'Overall' comment (above) seems to de-bunk the arguments. Thiago doesn't fit in at Liverpool, Jorginho is a good player ,if the team is set up properly; Fred isn't perfect but our best all rounder .. perhaps he should be playing at the other OT down the road?
 

MadDogg

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An excellent piece of work there - a great read. It's surprising to see Fred's stats and how we perhaps undervalue him. These kind of stats are the ones you don't tend to notice when watching a game but it's crucial for any team to have players who can do all the "unsexy" stuff in order to control a football match.

Are the stats PL only? Also is game time factored in to them? Who has been getting the least? I thought, early part of the season, it was Fred who lost his PL place to an in-form Pogba. Can't remember now.

Lastly, would you say that this confirms that the midfield is the least of our worries and we need a better goals to attempts ratio from the strikers and fewer GK errors and goals conceded from set pieces etc? Those would be good analyses too.
The stats are only for PL games, and it's all averaged out to be per 90 minutes. Pogba and Fred have played almost the same amount in the league this season (just under 15 full matches), although Pogba has played on the wing in five of the more difficult matches (Everton, Man City, Leicester, Liverpool and Arsenal) so I removed everything that happened in those matches from the stats. Playing in a more attacking position would probably have improved some stats and reduced others, so I just counted his central midfield performances. McTominay has played 13.6 matches and Matic a touch over 8. When looking at matches in all competitions it's roughly 23 for Fred, 22 for McTominay, 20 for Pogba and 13 for Matic.

I do think we need one new midfielder, but that Fred should be good enough (and hopefully McTominay if he improves further) to partner him. We've got too many other things we need to look at to try to get two midfielders for a completely new combination.
 

MadDogg

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I applauded the effort you have obviously put into this (by the way is it part of a Football PhD?), but your first paragraph in 'Overall' comment (above) seems to de-bunk the arguments. Thiago doesn't fit in at Liverpool, Jorginho is a good player ,if the team is set up properly; Fred isn't perfect but our best all rounder .. perhaps he should be playing at the other OT down the road?
Yes and no. No stats will ever be perfect in isolation and they need to be judged alongside what is actually happening on the field.

Honestly, my main 'argument' here is probably that people have too high of an expectation on our midfielders. It's a case of the grass is always greener with people thinking there are midfielders all over the place doing significantly more than ours are. The fact that Thiago, Jorginho and Fred seemed to be the best all-rounders kind of gels with my thoughts before I did this that all three are being treated harsher than others. Thiago hasn't fit Liverpool so far, but he's shown enough that I am worried he'll end up being good for them once they get their other midfielders back in midfield (if he cuts out the individual mistakes which is what these stats don't show). Jorginho is somewhat of a victim of them also having Kante who is a club favourite, but I think Chelsea would be better if they favoured Jorginho and I suspect that is what Tuchel will do, and Fred is much better than some people make out and has been our best midfielder for the last 18 months.

I just did this because I was interested in what I'd find. At first I just wanted to compare our midfielders to a few others in a couple of stats, then I figured I may as well add all the noteworthy players, then I kept finding another new stat to include until I got all of the above. I also wanted to see if there were any midfielders in the league that really stood out that we perhaps should try to buy.
 

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tl;dr

Seriuosly, good job on gathering all that data and thoughts. I will refer in categories:

Surprises
  • I've stated my opinion on Fred many times on this forum but just for the record, I really think he is very good box to box midfielder. In terms of his overall ability he's average, but his energy make him a crucial player in our midfield. He is also NOT a defensive midfielder, he will never be the player who sits in front of the back 4 as a shield. Nevertheless, I expected him to be in the lower-to-mid area of chances created/90' parameter so that's surprising. He's not getting the numbers from direct assists/goals and some seem obsessed with every player adding in, that's why he's not rated by a lot of people. Average/decent player, but playing to maximum of his abilities. You just can't exepect him to do too much and he'll be fine. Far from our biggest problems on both ends of the pitch.
  • Ndidi is a proper DM, but it's surprising to see him being an outlier on passing leading to chances created. Looking at the heatmaps from game vs Liverpool, he's staying in front of the box but he's not completely static, moving right to left. He's also rather high on number of touches in a game so probably need to watch Leicester more to understand what type of player he is. It is however quite interesting that he has one of the best passing accuracy (long passes), only beaten by Rodri, Kovacic and Matic.
  • Rice doesn't look like a stand-out player. Seems to be highly rated on here?
  • Pogba passing looks rather shit. One of the worst in long-range, I wonder if that is because he tries a lot of passes which are well executed but the defender is able to catch it?
No-surprises
  • McTominay having low number of touches/passes. I'd argue whether that is down to him or instructions he's being given. He also tends to be rather static.
  • Pogba not doing a lot of medium range passes.This would be my guess, as he often looks for Hollywood pass and if it's not on, makes a simple sideways pass. He's rarely looking for players between the lines (what Fred is pretty good at btw).
  • McTominay poor defensive stats. Another player who is not a DM, and I've been advocating using Matic instead of Scott for a while. He's becoming more and more of a goal-threat box-to-box though.

Interesting point about Ndidi doing all the defensive work in midfield (and Leicester defensive record is pretty good too). More and more he looks like a player we should go for, because he'd fit as a DM in any setup. And he is actually playing as part of midfield two.
 
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MadDogg

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Fred's not creative nor a great passer. I don't care what the stats say.
I actually agree that I wouldn't truly call him creative despite these stats. However he is more creative than a lot of people make out, and the way they go on about it seems like they think he's down near Ndidi level. Going into this I would have said he was on the higher end of average so was expecting him to be around 8-13th position in those stats. I'll try to remember to update this at the end of the season and it wouldn't surprise me if he's dropped a few places by then, but he'll still be in a good position.

  • Pogba passing looks rather shit. One of the worst in long-range, I wonder if that is because he tries a lot of passes which are well executed but the defender is able to catch it?

Interesting point about Ndidi doing all the defensive work in midfield (and Leicester defensive record is pretty good too). More and more he looks like a player we should go for, because he'd fit as a DM in any setup. And he is actually playing as part of midfield two.
Pogba's long range passing accuracy is probably a limitation of stats. Passes from the middle of the field out to a fullback in a decent amount of space will be counted the same as a long high ball over the top of the defenders for an attacker to run onto (something he tries quite a lot) as long as they are both over 30 yards. His long passes are probably both longer and significantly more difficult to pull off than the vast majority of people on the list. Whether it's worth it or not is another question and I guess it depends on whether it's working. I feel like there's been quite a lot of times Rashford has run onto them but has then stuffed it up (not sure if it would count as a missed pass if the recipient has gone offside?).

With Ndidi I think it depends entirely on what kind of balance you want. Should we have two fairly balanced midfielders who provide a good amount of both defensive and creative ability (most likely with one favouring each but still a balance), or do we go for extremes and go for one amazing defender and one amazing creative player. Personally I'd prefer the former, but if we did go for the latter then it's hard to look past Ndidi for the defensive role. If Pogba ends up signing a new contract Ndidi is perhaps the one that could make it work, although I would still have doubts over building up from the back.
 

MU655

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Great analysis.

One thing I would say, though, is that Ndidi does sit back a lot more than the other players on the list, comparing their heatmaps. He barely leaves his own half of the pitch and is positioned very deep (near his own box) a lot of the time, which does contribute to his very low level of creativity. He is almost like a defender. The others play in very similar positions to each other, predominantly on either side of the halfway line, but Ndidi's heatmap does stand out in him being far further back. Considering this, it is also not surprising that he is number one in defending (I seemed to miss him off the analysis I did in another thread because he has only 600 minutes of play so far - in comparison, most are over 1200).

Again, I would expect Ndidi's defensive stats to fall with more game time, so the gap may be reduced when it is more comparable.

I think a reduction in pressing success is probably likely with more presses attempted. It seems to be the pattern there with Allan, Fred, and even Henderson. You could argue that a more organised press, in terms of teamwork, would actually benefit and increase the success rate. I wouldn't say we are the most organised in this manner, but I think it has improved recently.

Overall, I think it aligns with my thoughts that people are expecting too much. They are asking for a midfielder who doesn't even exist in the PL, and I doubt exists elsewhere. Someone may bring up Gundogan, but he spends most of his time in the opposition half; he is almost like an attacking midfielder. I think people are too drawn into what they think a player is (CM or DM etc.) without actually taking into account where they are predominantly positioned.

It also goes with my thoughts that McTominay has a lot of work to do. I do think he has improved recently, but there is a lot of progress to be made in terms of passing and defensive work.
 

Borys

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With Ndidi I think it depends entirely on what kind of balance you want. Should we have two fairly balanced midfielders who provide a good amount of both defensive and creative ability (most likely with one favouring each but still a balance), or do we go for extremes and go for one amazing defender and one amazing creative player. Personally I'd prefer the former, but if we did go for the latter then it's hard to look past Ndidi for the defensive role. If Pogba ends up signing a new contract Ndidi is perhaps the one that could make it work, although I would still have doubts over building up from the back.
I'd like to find out if Ndidi is that limited in the first place. I never got that feeling when I watched him, seems comforteable on the ball and good at starting attacks so good enough to play in our two man midfield as the defensive one.

I don't see if our midfield needs to be more creative to be honest. We seem OK in terms of attacking, it's the defensive side that is killing us (and finishing, but that's not midfield problem).
 

youmeletsfly

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Expected to see Fred there.
Of course half the redcafe still sees him as a bad passer and a bad 50m buy, but we're talking about the caf anyways.
 

Ali Dia

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Great analysis.

One thing I would say, though, is that Ndidi does sit back a lot more than the other players on the list, comparing their heatmaps. He barely leaves his own half of the pitch and is positioned very deep (near his own box) a lot of the time, which does contribute to his very low level of creativity. He is almost like a defender. The others play in very similar positions to each other, predominantly on either side of the halfway line, but Ndidi's heatmap does stand out in him being far further back. Considering this, it is also not surprising that he is number one in defending (I seemed to miss him off the analysis I did in another thread because he has only 600 minutes of play so far - in comparison, most are over 1200).

Again, I would expect Ndidi's defensive stats to fall with more game time, so the gap may be reduced when it is more comparable.

I think a reduction in pressing success is probably likely with more presses attempted. It seems to be the pattern there with Allan, Fred, and even Henderson. You could argue that a more organised press, in terms of teamwork, would actually benefit and increase the success rate. I wouldn't say we are the most organised in this manner, but I think it has improved recently.

Overall, I think it aligns with my thoughts that people are expecting too much. They are asking for a midfielder who doesn't even exist in the PL, and I doubt exists elsewhere. Someone may bring up Gundogan, but he spends most of his time in the opposition half; he is almost like an attacking midfielder. I think people are too drawn into what they think a player is (CM or DM etc.) without actually taking into account where they are predominantly positioned.

It also goes with my thoughts that McTominay has a lot of work to do. I do think he has improved recently, but there is a lot of progress to be made in terms of passing and defensive work.
that’s what frustrates me in the Fred thread. There’s no other player in his position doing more. Pogba is most likely looking to be the highest paid player in the league and he actually provides less overall and slows us down. He’s not a match with Bruno. Fred is the perfect foil for Bruno.
 

MadDogg

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I'd like to find out if Ndidi is that limited in the first place. I never got that feeling when I watched him, seems comforteable on the ball and good at starting attacks so good enough to play in our two man midfield as the defensive one.
Possibly. I haven't really watched Leicester much over the last 18 months (other than when they play us but I'm normally focusing on us too much to judge how the opposition are doing), but he did seem to be the only Leicester player who held his own against Liverpool yesterday while everyone else was just giving them the ball over and over. I still have no idea how Leicester won that. :lol:
 

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Firstly, actions leading to a shot per 90 minutes. This tallies the two offensive actions taken before a shot. This includes passing the ball (which I’ve counted separately), dribbling, taking a shot that was blocked or rebounded, winning a foul, winning the ball with a tackle, or taking a set piece (which I’ve also counted separately). So basically if Fred passes the ball to Pogba who then passes it to Bruno who takes a shot, both Fred and Pogba get credited with an action. It’s the classic ‘assist the assister’ stat, that you would have expected players like Scholes and Carrick to score highly for in their day even though they weren’t getting the final assist.

Can you explain why winning the ball with a tackle is considered an offensive action but an interception, winning the ball in the air and winning a 50-50 are not considered an offensive action according to your list? That makes no sense whatsoever. None of them are actually offensive actions, unless they directly lead to a shot. So for example if someone was tackled on the edge of their own box by an attacker who then gets a shot away then thats probably an offensive action. But if you win a tackle in your own half it wouldnt be.

And obviously whoever is playing in a team with the most creative players that can be found quite easily - usually midfielders who will be fairly close to them, is obviously going to benefit the most from coming up with this stat. Not many players get to play a 5 yard pass sideways to Pogba or in front to Bruno and then have it counted as being their offensive play when those players do something out of nothing.
 

MU655

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I'd like to find out if Ndidi is that limited in the first place. I never got that feeling when I watched him, seems comforteable on the ball and good at starting attacks so good enough to play in our two man midfield as the defensive one.

I don't see if our midfield needs to be more creative to be honest. We seem OK in terms of attacking, it's the defensive side that is killing us (and finishing, but that's not midfield problem).
Ndidi plays very deep in comparison to the rest - his heatmap shows this. In fact, he barely leaves his own half and spends a lot of time near his own box. The other players spend most of their time on either side of the halfway line.

In terms of creativity, we match up to Liverpool's midfield last season, and that is without considering Fernandes. It is in attack where we really fall short and the right-back position. We just do not create enough quality chances from those positions in comparison. Improve that, and stop giving away stupid goals in defence, and I think we will be good enough to challenge City.
 
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MadDogg

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Can you explain why winning the ball with a tackle is considered an offensive action but an interception, winning the ball in the air and winning a 50-50 are not considered an offensive action according to your list? That makes no sense whatsoever. None of them are actually offensive actions, unless they directly lead to a shot. So for example if someone was tackled on the edge of their own box by an attacker who then gets a shot away then thats probably an offensive action. But if you win a tackle in your own half it wouldnt be.
That stat comes from fbref so I'm not sure. I originally didn't think tackles were either but the pop-up that comes up says that they are. Maybe the others you mention are as well and they just aren't mentioned, although I don't think so.

Edit: Actually, looking more into it I think they are included. There's two different pages with the stats, the more comprehensive one says 'defensive actions' as the last category so probably does include those things. Either way they only make up a very small percentage of the total though (for instance only 0.14 of Fred's 2.72 is made up from defensive actions, and I'd expect him to be one of the highest).
 
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Ekeke

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That stat comes from fbref so I'm not sure. I originally didn't think tackles were either but the pop-up that comes up says that they are. Maybe the others you mention are as well and they just aren't mentioned, although I don't think so.

Edit: Actually, looking more into it I think they are included. There's two different pages with the stats, the more comprehensive one says 'defensive actions' as the last category so probably does include those things.
Makes a lot more sense if they are included. Thanks
 

AltiUn

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I didn't read anything you wrote but the format is very pretty, 10/10 would glance over again.
 

Maticmaker

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Fred is much better than some people make out and has been our best midfielder for the last 18 months.
Sorry, lost all confidence in your analysis after this statement.

I also wanted to see if there were any midfielders in the league that really stood out that we perhaps should try to buy.
We have been looking for a replacement for Michael Carrick since SAF retired, I think if there was one, we would have been after him by now!
 

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Sorry, lost all confidence in your analysis after this statement.
Who's been better? It's not so much a statement of Fred being fantastic, more that he's been more consistent while the others have struggled.

Pogba has spent most of that time injured, struggling to recover from Covid or just playing poorly. Matic had a brief good period after lockdown but that's about it. Fred and McTominay have played about the same amount and Fred's average performance has been better. So Fred's been the best of a bad bunch.
 

criticalanalysis

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Great thread. Very interesting read. Reaffirms what many of us know in that Fred is an effective all arounder. Forget subjective terms like 'good/quality', 'technique', 'ability' etc. He's a stat padder in pretty much all the right areas and compares favourably against his peers.

Would love to see something done for our defenders ;)

Some think Maguire is as worse as Lindelof and there's no difference between the two. Some think Maguire is a fraud and some think Lindelof is all an around solid defender.

I guess my curiousity is are there stats that can give more context than the usual numbers? Something like 'yards retreated when facing an opposition', 'defensive pressure', 'presses which lead to an active defensive action', 'progressive passes', 'passivity', or something to that effect.

I mean there are no stats that can tell me Lindelof is a proactive defender, who manages each situation with a high level of engagement and effective measures (e.g retreating and waiting for others is not 'good' in my books) but I guess it would interesting to see an analysis beyond 'aerials attempted/won'.
 

Sky1981

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These averages are moot since we tend to play night and day.

In good games good stats are racked. In bad games good stats are non existent.

It's like a 7 average but with 3 and 10. Instead of 7-7

Inconsistencies in short.

If we can play closer to our average with small deviation we'd done so much better. We might lose a game here and there but on average we'd win more
 

SadlerMUFC

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Raise your hand if you are applauding the effort but just didn't bother to read it because...

A: We lead the league in scoring
B: It was just too damn long
C: Charts are too small
D: All of the above
 

Valencia Shin Crosses

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An excellent piece of work there - a great read. It's surprising to see Fred's stats and how we perhaps undervalue him. These kind of stats are the ones you don't tend to notice when watching a game but it's crucial for any team to have players who can do all the "unsexy" stuff in order to control a football match.

Are the stats PL only? Also is game time factored in to them? Who has been getting the least? I thought, early part of the season, it was Fred who lost his PL place to an in-form Pogba. Can't remember now.

Lastly, would you say that this confirms that the midfield is the least of our worries and we need a better goals to attempts ratio from the strikers and fewer GK errors and goals conceded from set pieces etc? Those would be good analyses too.
I've always thought people undervalued Fred simply because of the bad first impression he had with us. But I would say Fred is great when he can be put out to just hound the opposition and carry the ball out of defense. I always preferred him to Matic in that sense next to Pogba especially against better opponents. However, the weaknesses of Fred are exposed in games like West Brom where he is given acres of space to attempt to create himself, as it's just not a technical strength of his, along with scoring. Fred is essentially the more reckless version of a Kante. He'll run for days and recover a ton of balls, but he'll also challenge recklessly and isn't going to pick out great passes very often. Very useful player but also a player that you have to cover for with a suitable partner.

As for your last question, I think we've had a strange season from our main attackers as none of them have been in any sort of goalscoring form bar Cavani all year comparatively to last year. But I also think getting an all around DM that can basically be slotted into any side without really needing a specific type of partner is vital. All of our options have glaring flaws in one way or another (similar to our CB problem) and I think constantly having to cover for this also affects our platform for creativity going forward, especially against teams playing low blocks.
 

Maticmaker

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Who's been better? It's not so much a statement of Fred being fantastic, more that he's been more consistent while the others have struggled.

Pogba has spent most of that time injured, struggling to recover from Covid or just playing poorly. Matic had a brief good period after lockdown but that's about it. Fred and McTominay have played about the same amount and Fred's average performance has been better. So Fred's been the best of a bad bunch.
Sorry, still do not agree!
When Pogba has played he is streets ahead of anything Fred can produce, same with Matic, when he plays, he is much less error prone than Fred, and McTominay's overall performances (+ goals) are better than Fred's.
I will acknowledge that in terms of energy and commitment Fred will run all day, but every time he tackles your heart is in your mouth, that he wont give away a free kick or get booked, his concentration at times can still be woeful, his passing has improved in some areas, but his shooting skill is almost none existent. Fred has been poor value for money up until fairly recently when teamed up with McTominay, their combination looks as though there could be something there for the future, especially as McTominay gets better, in leaps and bounds, he will drag Fred with him.
For me the worst aspect of Fred's play is lack of concentration at times and he, more than any other United player, loses the ball or gives it away more in the wrong areas. Fred's loss of the ball like this especially aids the opposition transition, and puts massive pressure on our back four, especially the two CB's, who have problems of their own. This combination of Fred's errors and the sometimes weakness of our two CB's is our 'Achilles heel'. If you now add De Gea's mistakes, we are becoming weaker down the middle in defensive terms, that other teams will exploit.
 
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bsCallout

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Fred leaves too much space defensively that we are exposed, especially with our CB pair. And he isn't a creative enough passer or able to control the game ala Scholes or Carrick.

If we got a better CB we could get away with a good passing CM to play alongside Fred or McT and we'd be good.
 

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That's an absolutely fantastic OP, thanks @MadDogg.

This kind of aligns with what I've been thinking, Fred is a much better passer than some people give him credit for, Pogba I think has been having a bit of an off season in terms of his passing, McTominay has been relatively poor outside of his goals and Matic just doesn't do enough of anything.
 

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Good post @MadDogg - the stats also confirm what I see. Fred is our most consistent Cm and crucial to our current success. Even off the ball if you watch games he directs traffic when other players especially those in the back don't see passes. He is also much better at beating a press and carrying the ball from defense to offensive third than our other CMs, including Pogba (not due to lack of ability here). Pogba actually waits for the tackle and ends up losing the ball half the time when he ash the ability to play faster - i think Paul loves the engagement and the accomplishment in beating players but it gets him (and us) in trouble much of the time.

Mc T is MUCH better at goal scoring and so will always be considered by some to be better than Fred, but Fred orchestrates a lot more than he does. If Fred actually practiced shooting he would be a very solid weapon in attack outside of enabling the forwards. He isn't (and probably never will be) a consistent passer like Carrick but he has it in his locker as we saw vs Sociedad, and if our strikers like Rash and martial were less wasteful I think all our CMs would have quite a few more assists.
 

Idxomer

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Imagine we have to see McTominay and Fred in midfield for a whole season when Pogba leaves.
 

lost7

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Imagine we have to see McTominay and Fred in midfield for a whole season when Pogba leaves.
And there are people seriously saying we don't need to replace Pogba if he leaves. Absolutely deluded, as long as McFred is our main midfield we'll never reach the levels we need to be at. So average
 

nmm85

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Theres really no need for creativity stats when talking McTominay and Fred. Well, unless you're blind.
 

Idxomer

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And there are people seriously saying we don't need to replace Pogba if he leaves. Absolutely deluded, as long as McFred is our main midfield we'll never reach the levels we need to be at. So average
I saw a post the other day unironically stating that McTominay is a better box-to-box midfielder than Pogba.
 

Gio

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Referred here from the Soucek thread - some really good analysis @MadDogg.

My only point is the selection of statistics here will favour two things. First the players who are designated playmakers in their teams. And second they will favour possession-based teams rather than those who have a more transitional style. So for example, McTominay doesn't come out great in the first case and the West Ham players don't come out that well in the second. There are no real off-the-ball statistics and I presume that's because of what is available?

Given players are only on the ball for something like 2 - 4 minutes of the 90 in every match, so much of the game is about what they do off the ball in creating space and tracking runners. The Athletic did a piece recently on Lingard's physical efforts this season - sprints, top speed, high intensity runs, accelerations, distance covered, etc - which helps to show his contributions and why he has found himself in goalscoring positions so often. I imagine McTominay would come out quite well on some of those metrics. And probably the same for Soucek, although I can't admit to have watched that much of West Ham this year.