Antonio Valencia is an old-school archetypal winger, best suited for Manchester United’s direct and counter-attacking 4-4-2 formation.
Thus, playing as their first-choice right-winger last season, the Ecuador international delivered a phenomenal campaign, acting as the creative hub of the team and establishing himself as one of the most efficient attackers in England.
However, this season, Valencia has seen an apparent dip in form and has also garnered massive criticism from the football pundits for his inability to produce the required spark on the right-wing. This article is a statistical analysis, using EPL Index’s Stats Centre, of the 28-year-old’s sluggish outputs this term.
Note: In all images, the left table shows the stats of the current season (2012-13), whereas the right table shows that of the last season (2011-12).
Apart from his attacking skills, Valencia is also considered a reliable persona on the defensive front.
However, perhaps keeping in term with his below-par displays this season, stats indicate that Valencia’s defensive contributions have also taken a slight hit.
Although his tackling success rate has just gone down by around 3% (76% in 2012-13, as compared to 78.9% in 2011-12), it has to be taken into account that Valencia now commits a tackle only once in every 51 minutes, as compared to last season’s every 32 minutes.
The former Wigan man’s lack of involvement in tackles might be because last year he was often deployed as a full-back, but the decline has been significant, even though he has played this season predominantly as a winger.
His ability to win 50-50 grand challenges have also declined from 49% to 42%, although like the past season, Valencia has only committed one defensive error.
However, a pleasing fact for the Old Trafford faithful is that Valencia’s ability to hold up to the ball has improved. He now loses possession only every 53 minutes, whereas, last season, this stat was as high as every 45 minutes.
Passing and Creativity
Although his passing percentage has just a 1% differentiation, Valencia’s distribution of the ball has taken a diverse turn.
Last season, 27% of his passes were sprayed on the left flank, while 24% were sprayed onto the right. This season, however, only 5% of his passes have been directed towards the right, while a mammoth 48% have been directed left.
Last term, Valencia was a menace in one-on-one situations and also formed a very good partnership with Rafael on the right-flank. Hence, the reason such a large chunk of his passes were directed towards the right was that as either the player tried to beat his marker and then play a cross or aid the overlapping Rafael. He never needed to pass the ball to the midfielders (i.e., towards the left), until he was over man-marked.
This term, Rafael’s uncertainty in attacks have limited the two’s relationship on the right-wing and Valencia’s own inability to beat his marker often forces him to pass the ball towards his left.
Furthermore, often touted as one of the best crossers in the game, Valencia’s crossing percentage has come down to 20% from previous season’s 25%.
Not to forget, the Ecuador international has also been unable to create scoring chances as regularly as the past season (51 minutes per chance this season to as compared to 33 minutes per chance last year) – a result of his weaker crossing skills, coupled with his inability to beat the marker and produce the final ball.
Not only is he having problems in creating chances, Valencia is also struggling to finish off chances.
Last season, he took a shot on goal every 125 minutes, but the rate has gone up to 320 minutes this campaign. His shooting accuracy has also decreased to 25% from 47%.
This suggests that Valencia has been reluctant to take risks and have a go at goal himself, something that in itself reduces the player’s attacking prowess in the final third. If we compare this to Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski, the German has had a shot at goal every 64 minutes and also has a 57% shooting accuracy not to mention his 9 assists and 7 goals. His numbers are much better than Valencia, and perhaps that, of a threatening winger.
We’re going to come into the part of the season where everyone’s performance will make a huge difference, there’s no space for those that come along for the ride. For Manchester United to stay at the top and fight on all three fronts Antonio Valencia must step up to the plate and aid his team-mates like he did last year. Judging on last season’s performance there is no reason to doubt his ability but does he have the determination to ensure he can get back to those levels? Only time will tell.