Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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.

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