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.

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