Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Aguero: Is He Worth It? Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at Aguero's stats suggesting that he may indeed be worth a similar amount to Carlos Tevez. The problem is that this transfer is not happening in a vacuum and Aguero's value to Man City is very much related to whether Tevez stays or goes.

Let's imagine Tevez stays and Aguero is brought in. Assuming the want-aways (Bellamy, Adebayor) leave, City would then have four principal strikers: Balotelli, Dzeko, Tevez, and Aguero, all of whom transferred to City for over 20 million pounds with high wages to match those fees. Aguero, in that scenario, is just not going to provide enough value to justify his wages, let alone his transfer fee, because there are too few games to go around. He needs to be consistently starting to deserve the wages reported. Even if he does start, that pushes Dzeko and Balotelli to the bench and their value relative to their cost drops.

Plus, if Tevez stays, the club will have paid the transfer fee for nothing. At the moment, no other club is bidding for Aguero. It is likely that had City not stepped in, Aguero would still be an Atletico player. If we still have Tevez, why not wait until Aguero's contract runs down and we have more leverage when negotiating a fee with Atletico?

At this point, a Tevez move is looking less and less likely. City have shot themselves in the foot by resolving the Aguero situation before Tevez because now clubs KNOW City have to sell Tevez. Put it this way, that 50 million fee is not happening anymore. If we get as much as we paid for Aguero, we'll be lucky.

Aguero: Is He Worth It?

Sergio Aguero himself has confirmed that he is currently meeting with City officials about a proposed transfer from Atletico Madrid. The fee is believed to be in the range of 38 million pounds, breaking our transfer record previously held by Robinho. We can hope that he will work out better than our previous two record signings, as both Robinho and his predecessor and fellow Brazilian Jo did not exactly have long, productive stays at the club. It also appears that Aguero is commanding almost as much money as Tevez on the market, begging the question is he worth that kind of money?

Again, evaluating individual player production is very, very hard in soccer, but let's give it a whirl nonetheless. I took a look at Aguero's past five seasons in La Liga and compared them to the EPL stats of the man he is ostensibly going to replace: Carlos Tevez.

2011 30 1 20 6 120 45
2010 32 3 23 7 126 56
2009 18 11 5 3 66 21
2008 31 3 14 7 92 57
2007 19 7 7 5 78 34

130 25 69 28 482 213

Aguero GS SB G A SH SG
2011 31 1 20 2 125 55
2010 24 7 12 4 86 41
2009 34 3 17 9 91 36
2008 36 2 19 7 97 53
2007 25 13 6 3 64 22

150 26 74 25 463 207

The difference in games started seems to be a function of Tevez's being rotated in a bigger squad at United (he had 11 substitute appearances) and playing only half of a season for West Ham in 2007, rather than any injury history. For the purpose of this analysis, we can assume that both are fairly injury-free.

Tevez's goals per game started ratio is slightly higher than Aguero's (.53 to .49), but he scores less efficiently than Aguero. Aguero's Finish Rate of 36% is higher than Tevez's 33%. So far though, there is not a demonstrable difference in quality.

We do have to adjust for league quality though. Over the past 5 years, Spain and England have been the top two teams in UEFA coefficients, not much difference there. Scoring is also similar between the two leagues, so goal totals are not inflated the way they are in, say, the Netherlands.

Team differences though are where it gets interesting. Atletico have long been a team accused of all attack and no defense, whereas City have been branded with the opposite label. Are Aguero's goals simply the function of the style of team he played for and will his production subsequently drop when he moves to a more defensive-oriented team?

Since I don't have a ton of data for La Liga, I used total goals (for and against) to proxy for the style of the team. Last year, Atletico had 115 total goals, fifth in La Liga, hence representative of a fairly attack-minded team. City had 93 total goals, second to last in the EPL, and thus representative of a fairly defensive team. It stands to reason that Aguero might lose some opportunities to score because of the change in style. However, he might well gain some opportunities being more of a focal point in the attack than he was at Atletico (Tevez almost certainly earned a greater share of the team's shots on goal by playing a lone striker). Moreover, his rate stats suggest that his totals are not wildly inflated by taking a ton of shots; he can convert the chances he gets. He also didn't take penalties for Atletico last year (except for one) and once that is taken into account he looks better still.

All in all, I find myself thinking that Aguero will be a quality player for City. There might be problems with this deal, but Aguero himself should not be one of them.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tevez Leaving Is Not the End of the World

Carlos Tevez has been, without doubt, one of the best strikers in England since he moved to the Premier League from Corinthians in 2005. His goals saved West Ham from relegation, won United a title, and won Manchester City our first trophy in 32 years. His impending transfer (at this point, he looks certain to move back to Corinthians) has many pundits commenting that City would be very adversely affected by his loss. Is that really true however?

Evaluating individual players is inherently trickier than evaluating a team because it is often hard to decipher how much of a player's skill is his own and how much derives from his teammates and the team's style of play. There is also the fact that there are few stats we can look at to objectively assess a player's performance and the ones we do have often leave out much of the player's impact. However, strikers are easier to evaluate because they are typically given the task of scoring goals, something that is measurable. I know, I know, strikers have other duties, holding up the ball, bringing in the's why Emile Heskey still has a job. But, all that aside, strikers are judged on goals and Tevez is the same.

The top five goalscorers last year were Tevez (20), Dimitar Berbatov (20), Robin Van Persie (18), Darren Bent (17), and Peter Odemwingie (15). Clearly, Tevez was the best forward in the Premier League, right? Hmm, not so fast. The problem is that this tally includes penalty kick goals. Penalties are almost gimmes, anyone who takes them is stealing the plaudits from the player who earned the penalty, and that's rarely the same person. Tevez (when he was on the pitch) took all of our penalties last year, leading to an inflated goal total. After all, if Tevez wasn't around, we can assume that someone else would have taken those penalties and converted approximately the same rate (Man City converted 3 of 3 penalties not taken by Tevez last year). We need to account for this.

What would the table look like without penalties? Berbatov (20), Van Persie (16), Bent (15), Tevez (15), and Odemwingie (13). What does this tell us? Well, it tells us that Berbatov should have slapped Alex Ferguson in the face when he didn't even make the bench in the Champions League Final as he was clearly the best scorer in the league this year, Van Persie had a crazy good year considering he only played in 19 games, and that Tevez's goal total was really inflated by penalties. His return is still good, but it is much easier replacing fifteen goals than twenty.

Still, his goal totals, whether fifteen or twenty, do have to be replaced. However the evidence shows that can be done even without buying other players. Last year, City played 8 games without Carlos Tevez, opting instead for one of Jo, Dzeko, Balotelli, or Adebayor. In those eight games, City's performance is almost unchanged from our average performance. With Tevez, our average goal differential was .63 compared to a season average of .71; points per game were 1.88 compared to the season average of 1.87. Our goals per game over those games was actually slightly higher than our season average. It was not a result of poor competition in the sample either. Our opponent's points per game average over that span was 1.26, slightly less than the season average of 1.33, but it also included five road games.

Long story short, Carlos Tevez is a very good player, but his goal tally makes him look better than he is. I see no reason to believe City will rue losing his services.