“I think the rigours of the Premier League are starting to catch up with him. He’s looking pretty tired to me!” Those were the arguable words of Mr Alan Shearer on the BBC’s Match Of the Day show about Manchester City’s David Silva and they got me thinking…
When I think of some of the top players that were brought to the Premier League this season, I struggle to come across one in my mind that has been impressively consistent all campaign. That notion leads me to players like Robin van Persie, Gareth Bale, Cheik Tiote and several others, all of which have had experience of the nature of England’s top league before.
There were 5 players, in my and hopefully many others’ opinions, that stood out at the beginning of the Premier League season and did the proverbial ‘hitting the ground running’; David Silva, Juan Mata, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and Demba Ba (although Ba, Suarez & Silva played last season too).
Looking at those players’ performances now, I can’t help but wonder what happened to them. Silva is not the same player he was at the beginning of the season, struggling to score of late or create chances and is part of some debatable performances by the Manchester Blues.
Juan Mata is not ‘struggling’ per say, especially in Chelsea’s form since Villas Boas left, but I rarely see him producing the magic I did earlier on. In Sergio Aguero, City have another player who Mancini doesn’t seem to consider a 100% starter, his form, certainly goal-wise, having dipped of late and we all know of the turmoil Luis Suarez has faced in the 2nd half of his season.
Finally, Demba Ba is a little different of a case as aforementioned, but the Senegalese man has managed just 2 goals since Christmas, participating in the African Cup of Nations and seeing a new forward brought into his club Newcastle United.
So, is it tiredness? Do players from other European leagues underestimate tempo and physicality of the English Premier League? Or is it just that these players don’t get the attention they did earlier in the season but do continue to do well in the undercurrent? A look at the numbers before and after Christmas were used to get an inside into answering these questions.
In term of pass success, 2 of the 5 players have seen a decrease in their accuracy, while 2 have actually seen their passing improve. David Silva remains at his very impressive 88% accuracy.
When it comes to shots, other than Juan Mata, the players follow an expected trend in their numbers in relation to games, but the Spaniard has actually produced more shots since Christmas in 5 less Premier League games.
Another to jump out is the decline in goal-scoring from each of these players particularly the higher scoring two. Whilst every player has obviously played fewer games since Christmas, some of the numbers take a drastic decay and the following graph shows just how clear that is.
All 5 of these players have a drop in the average number of goals per game they have scored after Christmas compared to before. Only Luis Suarez is close replicating his pre Christmas form whereas Silva, Aguero and Ba have significantly regressed.
A look at the averages per game for the previous stats shows the values in a better context. Demba Ba, Sergio Aguero and Juan Mata actually have more touches per game on average now than before Christmas, where as David Silva has had the biggest slip.
Ba joins Mata on the shooting front as having a better shooting record post-Christmas and those two, plus Aguero again, create more chances per game than they previously did, as well as more passes per game.
However, only Demba Ba and Luis Suarez have improved their assist ratio…
While Sergio Aguero has seen the worst deterioration in assists per game since the end of December, Luis Suarez has seen his grow by over 400%.
So, do they get tired? Well, in the case of David Silva, Alan Shearer certainly has a point. He is the only player out of these 5 to regress in every ‘per game average’, most noticeably his touches, passes and goals (although not passing accuracy).
Luis Suarez is of a similar mould, improving only in his assist data, although it could be said that tiredness is not the reasoning after the personal problems he met leading to his ban. What is clear though, is that both players’ performances have matched the degeneration and unsettling results their teams have produced of late.
For Juan Mata & Sergio Aguero, the numbers are quite indifferent. While some of their values have dropped since January began, others have progressed. And, even in the values that have changed, their change is very slight for best part, which is probably what would be found in most Premier League players.
Finally, in Demba Ba, Newcastle United have a player who has actually significantly improved his all round game since the start of 2012, other than hitting the net, which coincides with his teams impressive performances in the league lately and the rise to stardom of some of his colleagues.