Daniel Agger is a fantastic football player. Daniel Agger is slick and stylish on the ball. Daniel Agger, some say, is a modern-day Alan Hansen. But Daniel Agger gets injured, and gets injured a lot. The speculation is, Man City might be willing to pay £20 million plus for him. So the question is; does it make sense, financially or football-wise, to keep a player who in the last four seasons has started on average 18.5 leagues games per year? Furthermore, and a more pertinent question, is Daniel Agger more style over substance?
As I said above Agger averaged 18.5 starts per year over the last 4 seasons, Skrtel 26.75 starts and Carragher 30.5 starts. When you break that down into percentages of games played, it looks even paltrier. Percentages of games started: Agger = 48.68% | Skrtel = 70.39% | Carragher = 80.26%.
Based on time played alone, there is a serious question mark over whether you should keep a 27 year old player who is averaging playing less than half your league games each season. That is before we even consider football ability. But what of that football ability, compared to Carragher and Skrtel how do Agger’s statistics match up over these last four seasons?
Daniel Agger is not what you might call a battling centre back. He is not the type of defender that will fly into tackles, throw himself around the pitch and bully an opposition centre forward into submission. He is a defender who likes to stay on his feet, jockey a player, trying to nick the ball from him, or stand back and read the game and make a well-timed interception. Having said that let us take a look at his “battling accuracies”.
Remember these are averaged out over the last four Premiership seasons. The cells in red are those statistics which come out top on a certain row, with yellow being the worst statistic. It’s quite evident that Martin Skrtel has been our best battling defender over the last four years. He tops every statistic bar ‘Ground Duel Win %’. But we’re more concerned about Agger in this piece. And although we all ready mentioned he’s not that type of defender, nevertheless, it’s surprising he doesn’t come out top in more than one metric, particularly the final two metrics. In fact, only 56% of his total clearances are accurate, which is a lower percentage than both Carragher and Skrtel. For a player who’s known for being stylish and cultured you’d expect him to be more accurate in those last two stats on the table.
Of course, there’s more to being stylish and cultured than getting your clearances accurate. Passing accuracy being one. And as a ‘passing defender’ you’d expect him to be influential in those areas. How many times have we seen Daniel Agger striding from the back with the ball at his feet, gliding into the opposition half and slaloming between opposing players. And how many times have we seen Daniel Agger spray the ball out wide with a 60 yard pass to a team-mate hugging the touchline. A lot you might think. It is the quintessential Daniel Agger image burned into your brain. Well it doesn’t happen as often as you may think.
Agger is not the most accurate passer of our centre halves in focus, that crown goes to Skrtel with an 83.3% passing accuracy over the last four seasons. Neither is Agger our centre half who is most accurate with his long balls, again that is Skrtel with a 68% accuracy. And what about Agger striding from the back into the opposition half and setting up lightning attacks? Well Jaime Carragher has passed more often in the attacking half than Agger over the last four years. Attempting an attacking half pass every 4.39 minutes compared to Agger’s 5.19 minutes. So far, from both tables, and out of nine metrics analysed Agger only comes out a clear winner in one of them. I ask again; Daniel Agger; is he more style over substance?
From our ‘battling’ table above we know Agger is not the most accurate with his tackles, aerial duels and clearances etc. But what of his influence in this area? How often, per time spent on the pitch does he attempt one of these battling statistics? For a player more known for his passing ability than getting down and dirty with opponents you’d expect not very often. Well again, you’d be surprised.
Jaime Carragher certainly might be showing his age here, taking longer to be involved in 4 out of the 7 metrics anaylsed on the table. However, Daniel Agger has plenty of red in his column. You’d expect him to attempt an interception more often than his colleagues, as he does read the game from the back very well. Last year Agger recorded an interception every 36.29 minutes, of all central defenders to start 19 games or more last season only Roger Johnson (33.66), Antolin Alcaraz (33.45), Sylvain Distin (33.09), James Morrison (32.80) and Laurent Koscielny (31.58) made interceptions more often. But perhaps you wouldn’t expect Agger to be involved in ground duels, aerial duels and challenges more often than both Skrtel and Carragher, but he is. A little more substance than style from Daniel Agger here.
Along with passing statistics, what else would you expect Agger to thrive on, given the type of player he is. Possession; how often does Agger lose possession and win possession?
Agger won possession back last season in the defensive third every 30.15 minutes. Both Carragher and Skrtel won possession back in this area more often given the amount of time each spent on the pitch. Taking into account that Agger’s win percentages in ground duels and tackles etc (a big part of how you may win possession back as a defender) weren’t quite high maybe this is not so surprising. Agger comes out tops in the final metric, only losing possession every 9.82 minutes last season, compared to Jaime Carragher who lost possession every 8.33 minutes. An ability which could come in very useful in a Brendan Rodgers possession-based first eleven.
Out of 18 metrics analysed in the above tables, Daniel Agger came out a clear winner in 6 of that 18. Five of those six metrics were what you might call ‘battling statistics’, and referred to how often he was involved in them compared to his colleagues, the other metric was possession related. Skrtel was a clear winner in 8 of those stats measured, with Jaime Carragher coming out top in four.
None of Agger’s ‘accuracies’ were anything to get excited about, passing, long ball, ground duels, tackles, aerial duels, clearances etc were all average to say the least. However, he did excel in minutes per ground duels, aerial duels, interceptions and challenges.
Taking all that into account, if you never seen Daniel Agger play, and you looked at those statistics, you’d conclude he was more a battling centre half than a ball-playing centre half. So, is there a myth around this notion? And is Daniel Agger more style than substance? Or rather, more substance than style, based on these findings? And is it worth turning down £20 million plus for a player who had averaged starting 18.5 games per season over the last four seasons? You decide.