As a Swansea fan it’s, arguably, difficult to write a truly objective piece about Michu, as he’s been a huge part of our recent success. You obviously can’t choose which games you’re going to score in (he’s scored 4 in 7 games in the Europa league so nothing too wrong there) but, with only 2 goals from 10 games so far in the Premier League, some people are questioning whether last season was a case of over-performing.
In this article, I’ll look in more detail at the type of opportunities Michu’s had in the league so far this season compared with 2012/13 to show that it’s more the type of chances that’s impacted the goal return, rather than any major drop off in form.
If you just looked at top level stats, they’d suggest a major drop off both in goals per 90 minutes played and shot conversion but no real drop off in shot volume. Taken at face value that would suggest a big change in performance.
Digging deeper however, it should be noted that 40% (12/30) of Michu’s shots this season have been from outside the box, compared to only 25% (28/110) last season, with Michu’s only league goal from outside the box – in either season – coming from his first shot as a Swansea player in the game against QPR thanks, in part, to a fumbling attempt at a save from Rob Green.
Shot position is hugely important when determining likely success of any effort; but, misses out on context with regard position: a ‘bad’ position, but an open goal, is a far better opportunity than a good position with three defenders and a goalkeeper standing in your way.
One way of trying to add a layer of context to any shot is Opta’s Clear Cut Chance (CCC) which is defined as where there is a ‘reasonable’ expectation of a goal.
The concept of a Clear Cut Chance isn’t perfect as it’s subjective but it is still a good initial way to differentiate between chances. Across all Clear Cut Chances, conversion is around 35% (after penalties, which have a conversion of around 80% but are also bundled in with Cleat Cut Chances, are removed).
Using the Clear Cut Chance metric gives us a rough guide to the quality of chances and looking at that, it can be seen there is a major change in the quality of chances Michu’s had in the Premier League so far this season.
When you split attempts by clear/not Clear Cut Chance it’s easier to see what may in part be the reason for only 2 goals in the league this season. The number of Clear Cut Chances per 90 minutes played has dropped dramatically from 0.78 per 90 minutes down to 0.31 and, as two thirds of Michu’s goals last season came via Clear Cut Chances, that’s going to have a big impact.
If you look at this video of Michu’s goals last season, the goals are a mixture of being in the right place at the right time and those with quick clinical finishes, Michu is able to get a lot of power with relatively little backlift meaning keepers have less time to set themselves. My favourite bit though is Arsene Wenger furiously trying to undo his jacket after Michu scores his second against Arsenal at the Emirates.
Michu’s Goals 2012/13
There’s also the fact that it’s only 10 league games so far this season (Michu missed the game vs. Stoke through injury) and one good game and all the stats are suddenly back on track.
Looking at where Michu scored last season there were a couple of ‘purple patches’, the start of the season with 4 goals in the first 3 games, and 7 in 7 games midway through the season and, arguably, Bony’s two goals vs. Stoke were exactly the type of goals Michu was scoring in the league last season (I’d also have put my house on him scoring the 1v1 Bony had in that match).
Bursts of goals also mean it’s easy to select a convenient cut-off when the goals stop to suggest a drought e.g: 13 goals in the first 18 league games of 2012/13 versus 5 goals in the last 17 league games that season. As I mentioned at the start it’s difficult to be truly objective when you’re attached, but I’ve seen enough of him to believe that the season as a whole was representative of his ability not the goal return from the second half of it.
Repeating the feat of 18 league goals in a season may be a stretch but if him and Bony get 25+ in the league between them I’ll be happy.
Although the top level stats in the league may not be great, Michu is still a classy finisher, he just needs the opportunities which have generally been lacking across the team so, the next question is, ‘Where have Swansea’s Clear Cut Chances gone?’