Part 2: Our Top Scorers – A Comparison

This article continues from the previous post in which I shared some comparative scoring analysis between the Top 2 teams from each of Spain’s La Liga, England’s EPL, Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A.




When I shared this info with the BFB mods, Euler had some staggering numbers and information to share.  As Euler is very busy these days and he didn’t have the time to turn his comments into a post, he gave me the go-ahead to publish them on his behalf.

Some interesting analysis from Euler explained the reasons behind the numbers, as well as drawing comparisons between the clubs and their styles of play and tactics.


The Barça – Real Madrid Midfield Comparison
Barcelona has (so far) scored 126 goals this season, with 23 (18.3%) of them coming from our Midfield players.  Madrid’s Midfield has scored 15 (13.9%) of their 108 goals.

Euler: In terms of shooting from midfield, the Real Madrid team is similar to Barça, and this is why the proportion of goals scored from Midfield is around the same, although there are very different reasons for why the 2 teams shoot so infrequently from their Midfields.

Even though the RM Midfield doesn’t shoot much, that doesn’t mean that their whole team doesn’t shoot much.  On the contrary.  It just means that the action is oriented around the forward line.

For Barça though it’s very different.  The Midfielders don’t shoot – but it’s not because they are routing the ball to the forward line to shoot.  Our Midfielders don’t shoot because their primary focus is to retain possession and probe to create high-probability opportunities.  Those high-probability opportunities are created in 2 ways:
1. Either put a player in tremendous goal scoring position, or;
2. Leverage Messi’s absolutely uncanny ability to get the ball on goal.

If neither of those 2 things is feasible, the ball is recirculated.  But what can become a problem is if a disproportionate amount of the possession gets caught away from goal as we look for these high probability chances.  It becomes a negative feedback loop, of sorts.


The Role of Real Madrid’s Midfield
Here’s where the 2 teams’ Midfields are different.  Barça’s Midfield is about possession and Real Madrid’s Midfield is about quick transitions.

Euler: The RM midfield don’t shoot much because their “job” is to route the ball very fast to the forward line.  You can see this partly by the distribution of touches on their team.  It’s not uncommon that Cristiano and Di Maria will have more touches than Ozil.  The RM Midfielders are simply not supposed to be on the ball for very long.

Alonso quickly distributes the ball out to the flanks.  Oezil doesn’t orchestrate play as much as provide a final ball.  Khedira also rarely has the ball for long.  It’s the exact opposite of the Barça Midfield.  The RM Midfield just doesn’t hold the ball – their role is to get the ball to their Frontline as quickly as possible.

Alonso only averages 0.5 shots/game – much more than Busquets, but still not very much.  Oezil and Khedira average around 1 shot per game each.  So, on the whole, RM averages around 2.5 shots per game from their Midfield which is around the same as Barça.


The Real Madrid Frontline
Madrid’s Frontline scored 83 of their 108 goals – 76.9%.  Barcelona’s Frontline scored 79 of their total 126 goals – 68.3%.

Euler:  Madrid’s Frontline shoots a lot.  It’s on the Frontline where there’s a big difference to FCB.  Madrid scores by overwhelming the opposition – not particularly through efficiency.  By comparison, FCB scores largely through efficiency, especially this season where Villa has been absurdly efficient – to a degree which is highly colored by random probability much like Higuain’s great season last year.

Being able to score via efficiency is, in many ways, critical to the FCB system.  It allows the team to retain possession.  Because the team shoots very little in comparison to its total goals scored, the team doesn’t concede goal-kicks or create turnovers in the final third of the pitch as much as they could.


Individual Shots Comparison
Euler then went on to comment about some individual players, comparing the number of shots they take to achieve their totals.

Euler: Cristiano takes 50% more shots per game than Man U’s Robin van Persie; around 49% more shots per game than At. Madrid’s Falcao; 39% more shots than Napoli’s Cavani and 28% more shots per game than Messi.  I point this out, as this really speaks to how Real Madrid scores.

Cristiano Ronaldo is entirely on his own level when it comes to shooting.  It’s really remarkable how much of an outlier he is.  He averages 7.2 shots per game and converts around 17-18% of those into goals. 17-18% is basically the exact average goal conversion rate for a striker.  So the whole idea that Cristiano Ronaldo is a great “finisher” isn’t entirely accurate.

By comparison, Alexis Sanchez’s goal conversion rate this season is – get this – 18%.  He’s converting at around the same rate as Cristiano.  However, Alexis hardly shoots (0.8 shots per game IIRC – which is ridiculous and speaks to his lack of confidence), so in a way his goal conversion rate is misleading for the opposite reason.

In a way, Cristiano is an “average-ish” finisher who takes/creates an overwhelming number of shots.  It’s one of the oddest statistical anomalies I’ve seen in any team sport in recent times.  He’s completely on his own level in this category, although this is a complicated issue as it’s one thing to convert at an average rate (if you’re taking an average to below average number of shots) and another if you’re taking an enormous number of shots.

Di Maria takes 1.9 shots per game, Benzema 2 shots per game, as does Higuain.  By comparison, Pedro takes 1.4; Alexis 0.8 (again – he’s a midfielder basically) and Villa 1.4.  This is remarkable. Messi takes around 5 shots per game and converts an astonishing 35% into goals.

So while both the RM and FCB Midfields average around 2.5 shots per match, the Real Madrid Frontline takes over 11 shots per game and the Barça Frontline takes around 8 shots per game.


On Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona Midfield Players
As Pep is going to manage Bayern Munich next season, it will be interesting to see what changes he makes. 

Recently in the German press, Der Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer took the example of Arjen Robben who relies on playing from the wings into the middle to get his shots away.  As an example of what would not work, (and this is just a small part of what was an interesting article), Beckenbauer said that to mold a player like Robben into a Xavi or Iniesta would be a disaster because Robben is not a dribbler.

To quote Beckenbauer, “An attempt to turn Robben into a dribbler of the ball would see Robben turn into an ordinary player rather than the extraordinary player that he is already.”

Perhaps we could apply Beckenbauer’s quote to Alexis and Pedro?!

The Barça Midfield has scored 23 goals out of 126 – 18.3% of the total.  Bayern Munich’s Midfield has scored 29 out of their 96 goals – 30.2% of the total.  Munich’s Midfield goals have predominantly come from 2 players – Kroos (9 goals) and Schweinsteiger (7 goals), with Shaqiri (4), Gustavo (3), Alaba (3), Martinez (2) and Tymoshchuk (1) chipping in.

Euler: Bayern is interesting as they too (like Barça) dominate possession as a primary tactic.  The player who is perhaps most comparable in terms of quality at the holding Midfield role may be Bastian Schweinsteiger.  He’s played in a total of 29 matches and taken 44 shots at goal – 1.5 shots per game.

Busquets has appeared in 32 matches and taken just 3 shots all season.  Just think about that.  Busquets has taken that many fewer shots than Schweinsteiger who himself doesn’t shoot all that much.  Javi Martinez has taken nearly twice as many shots, per game this year, compared to Busquets.

So Schweinsteiger has roughly taken 15 times more shots this year than Busquets.  That is stunning. 15x more shots.

Busquets is the best player in the world in his position, but it’s striking to see how little he looks to score. In turn, this puts more pressure on the Barça Frontline and confines their roles.  On average, the Barça starting Midfield of Iniesta/Busquets/Xavi takes only 2.6 shots per game.  3 Players take only 1 more shot per game than only Schweinsteiger takes per game.

If the Barça Midfield is going to do that, then it puts enormous pressure on the Frontline to score.  And the issue isn’t Messi taking some huge number of shots.  He really doesn’t shoot very much compared to how often he scores.  That’s not the issue.  The outliers are the Midfielders just not shooting.


Of the 8 teams included in the statistics in the first post, Juventus was the team with the most even spread of goals over their Frontline shooters 15.3%, 14.1% and 12.9%.

Juve and Dortmund had exactly the same ratio of goals scored between the field positions: Frontline: 51.8%, Midfield: 37.6% and Backs: 10.6%.  Both clubs’ Midfields also scored the exact amount of goals – 32 out of 85 – 37.6% which is quite high in comparison to Barcelona’s 18.3% (23 out of 126 goals).

Euler: Juve, like Barça, is very Midfield-oriented but the shooting is completely different.  Pirlo takes 1.9 shots per game – just compare that to Busi.  Vidal takes 2 shots and Marchisio 2.3 shots per game.  The Juve strikers don’t shoot much more – Giovinco 3, Vucinic 2.8, Quagliarella 2.8 and Mari 1.6.

Just think about that: Marchisio takes 44% more shots than Iniesta does.  And think about how extreme the difference in their skill is on the ball is. So the Juve Mids take around 6 shots per match compared to the 2.5 of Barça despite 2 of the Mids being Vidal & Marchisio.


The Messi Factor
How does the Midfield not scoring impact on the other Frontline players, and how fortunate are we to have the economical and efficient Messi?

Euler: A significant aspect of the Barça possession game is contingent on being able to score goals with a level of efficiency that simply doesn’t happen very often over extended periods of time.  That is overwhelmingly due to Messi, and is also a part of “Messidependencia” that is under-appreciated.

Messi has scored 42 (Liga) goals this season from only about 120 shots (35% conversion).  For Cristiano or Cavani to score that many goals, they’d have to take 230 shots.  Just think about that.  They’d need 110 more shots – roughly 2x more.  That is a ton of balls wasted that turn into Goalkicks/Blocks/Loss of possession.

This is also why, when we say we’d prefer Messi to score less and for others to score more, there’s a downside to that.  Those other players will need far more shots to produce the same number of goals and that will result in more loss of possession.  There are obviously advantages to this as well, but that’s a downside trade off.


The Rest of the FCB Team
With our Midfield not actively looking to score goals, this places more emphasis on the goals coming from elsewhere, in particular the Frontline with help from the Barça Backs during set pieces and, as we’ve seen with Adriano and Alba, their goals have been crucial in giving the team the upper-hand in some of the tougher matches.  Barça’s Defence scored 13.5% (17 of 126) of the goals.  They were second only to Manchester United whose Backs contributed 16.3% (15 goals of 92 in total) of their goals.

Euler: Unfortunately, the rest of Barça just doesn’t shoot and that’s become a problem.  There are many reasons why this is the case, but part of it is just a distribution of time.  For FCB, the Midfielders keep the ball for a long time and don’t shoot it.  Just think about how many touches Busquets gets every game.  And he’s just not going to shoot.  Same for Alves (who is basically a Midfielder), Xavi, Iniesta, and even Sanchez.

This is part of why Barça has now become so execution-dependent to such a degree.  To score, the team has grown so dependent on efficiency alone that they don’t look to create goals by generating shots in numbers.  And because football is so low-scoring, efficiency in and of itself isn’t necessarily hyper-critical (as RM shows).  Football is in stark contrast to Basketball in this regard where efficiency really does matter – especially if you aren’t a dominant rebounding side.  (An interesting point is that Messi is a much, much more efficient scorer in his sport than Michael Jordan was in Basketball.)

This is another example where the FCB system has become more and more extreme.  And this isn’t because the system is too focused on Messi.  He just doesn’t take that many shots per game – especially compared to how much total possession Barça has. He’s not crowding out other players.

The Barça players on this team have become so focused on the possession game and the “Midfielder” ethos of the team that they just don’t shoot until they get the “perfect chance.”  That, inevitably, makes them very execution dependent.



This raises a few points for discussion:
1. With the emphasis placed on the Barça Midfield retaining possession of the ball, and the team only looking to shoot at goal when there’s a clear opportunity, has this removed some of the element of surprise from the team’s play?

2. Is this why we see the Wingers hestitate and pass back to the Midfield so often, instead of risking possession by cutting in and either attempting to score themselves or crossing into other players?

3. Is the Midfield’s ball retention hindering the team’s opportunities to score, particularly if they are caught deep down the pitch with the opposition pressing them? If so, what can be done in situations like these?

4. What if the Barça Midfield did take a few more chances and take more shots at goal?  Would this introduce a surprise-element into the Barça game by introducing more players who threaten to score?  Would this alleviate some of the heavy defensive marking on Messi, if the Midfield looked to score as well?  What would the downside be – loss of possession/turnovers?

After watching last week’s Spain vs. Finland game, I’d say that these questions are relevant to that game as well, where the ball was simply passed laterally from side-to-side with very little forward motion.  It says something when Ramos becomes the most vertical player on the pitch – and we have witnessed that with Barca when Adriano/Alves/Alba become our most dynamic players.

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  1. psqd
    March 25, 2013

    Interesting, Thanks!

    On the discussion points…
    1. I believe that this is the case to a certain extent. Although I swear I have seen surprise on some defenders’ faces when barca passed up shots 😉 It does give a certain level of predictability to play which becomes problematic when the side isn’t ticking over at their best.

    2. That’s a tough and a bit open-ended question. One could certainly argue that unless you are messi you really don’t want to be the guy to lose the ball taking on someone. Is this exacerbated by the low confidence/scoring form from pedro and sanchez? I think that’s a reasonable question to ask and in some instances it certainly could be the case. These two points are were tiki-taka is most obviously a conservative and defensive model. I think especially so in the barca version which includes only one true forward, ie a frontline of iniesta, messi, and pedro w/ cesc in midfield.

    3. I am a bit unclear on this one…Are you asking about a preponderance of possession in the offensive half/third w/o any real danger or circulating the ball between the half and the 18 yard box sideways and back? or Are you asking about build up being slowed by pressing teams?

    4. An interesting not. I was going to argue that yes this is the case and use the 2nd milan tie as an example, because in my memory i thought there was a greater willingness to shoot from outside. I went to whoscored to check the stats and the shooting stats were messi 7 villa 2 and iniesta, pedro, alves, alba, xavi, and pedro 1 shot. So I guess that example is out the window.

    Overall, it’s a seemingly simple answer that upon review is more complicated. My first reaction is yes, the midfielders need to shoot more. Especially against teams that “park the bus.” From a numbers perspective, presuming a consistent conversion rate, more shots would turn into more goals. The question I think is twofold in that would the “other guys” taking more shots decrease messi’s and so would you just be shifting your shots to players with a lower conversion rate and thus the assumption of a consistent conversion rate wouldn’t hold and you’d actually have a lower conversion rate for the team or average conversion rate and end up scoring less. The second part of the question is what happens to the ball after the roughly 80% of shots that are missed? Given the way barca give up goals giving the ball away at all can be a rap shoot, hence the obsession with possession. So mostly the question becomes about the positioning and formation of the team when those shots are taken. Because aside from the obvious results from a shot, goal, goal kick, deflection for a corner kick, there is the block category from which you could get possession turning against you, or continued possession, or a scoring chance. The latter is the one that I think is undervalued. The chaotic chances that follow a block by a keeper or post often find attackers with more space than they would have on a normal shot. This can also be true of a block by a defender. We all know what happens when messi gets just an inch more than the defender wants to give him and i think there would be more conversions of second chances by others if especially if someone is playing in front of messi. The other part of this is creating more space for messi. The 2nd leg of the milan tie was an example of the shots he can make with just a glimpse more of the goal. He went from converting 0 from 2 in the first leg to 2 from 7 in the second. He got just a little more space largely from villa. I don’t think you would see a large change in the defensive schemes if others shot more, because messi is still basically twice as likely to score from any one shot as anyone else. However, if defenders have to give him and extra half step of space or spent a split second thinking about whether someone is gonna shoot that’s just a little more time and space for messi, which is more than enough.

    The other part of this is their would obviously be more turnovers because the passing completion rate is basically 90% for the team so shooting is gonna cede possession more often than passing. However, if barca continue to press effectively recovering possession in the attacking half when the opposition is trying to work the ball out and not exactly in their preferred defensive positioning can open up space and create good attacking chances. Again the second milan tie is case and point.

    So yeah I’d say shooting more, given judgement, could be good. I mean telling iniesta and xavi to take two shots per game and telling busi to take one shot every third game doesn’t sound that radical does it?

    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      Great answers – thanks for taking the time!

      1. Surprise on defenders’ faces when shots aren’t taken? Check the surprise on mine, and me yelling “Shoot! Shoot!” at the TV screen! 😆

      2. Good points. Yes, the Villa ahead of Messi has worked well in recent games. The issue with the wingers, as Euler points out with the example of Sanchez, is that they have become an extension of the Midfield. As such, their focus is now on ball circulation and retention, rather than risking shots and loss of possession. The trade-off is that less goal threats are coming from a variety of players on the pitch. So in a sense, Barca becomes more predictable.

      3. It was more about circulating the ball between the half and the 18 yard box sideways and back – should have made that clearer. The lack of any vertical movement simply has the opposition defence sliding across the pitch, holding their lines with little exertion on their part. Barca’s game (during Pep) was built around Barca wearing other teams out with fast passing, quick movement and then going for the kill when the other team started to tire. With the slow lateral movement we see now, the opposition teams aren’t tiring and they manage to concentrate for the fill 90+mins and hold formations. But as we saw in the last leg vs. Milan, that quick movement really tired the Milan players.

      Euler, in his analysis, mentioned that Messi isn’t taking shots from others so if others took shots, I don’t think that it would be perceived as taking shots from Messi – unless Messi was absolutely clear on goal and the ball should be passed to him – or any other player with a clearer shot, for that matter.

      I like your closing paragraph! Would really, really love to see Busquets introduce an attacking/shooting/scoring element into his game.

      Thanks again.

      • psqd
        March 27, 2013

        Thanks for the forum and impetus!

        2.You and Euler make an interesting point about the wingers becoming and extension of the midfield. Aside from the keep the ball mentality i think there are a couple other causes. First, when the wingers jobs are to hug the touchline to provide tactical width they tend to have to choose between playing the back to a midfielder, FB, or messi or charging forward taking on players without anyone inside to associate with. This is especially true when iniesta is in the frontline and cesc is in the midfield. Their job seems to be open up the middle for messi cesc and iniesta. This is done mostly by staying wide with some slanting runs behind/between defenders. The idea i think is supposed to be that cesc and messi will make runs to fill the central space that would normally be occupied by a 9. That unpredictability could disrupt the defense. Increasingly though, this isn’t the case. Instead you have a winger with no one to play the ball into and no one ahead or even with to pull players or associate with, requiring playing the ball back or sideways innocuously. To a certain extent you could see it working better if there was speed from the midfield to make those runs more dangerous, but only messi could make those runs with any/enough speed to catch up to play and make it dangerous. Cesc and iniesta are just too slow, especially cesc, and alba and alves generally start from deep enough that they can’t catch up. The exception to that rule being on a break like alba’s goal in the second milan tie.

        So what I’m saying is that I think that the wingers have had the toughest job this season and the system hasn’t been tailored to give them great chances. Playing someone in front of messi especially Villa will help this immensely i think. However, it will take a little time playing with that formation to break some of the habits they’ve built this season as they’ve been asked to.

        3. Yes I agree. Personally I’d be asking for more shots from outside the box in those situations to get the ball bouncing around in the box and create a little more room. However, again this is going to be much more effective with someone stationed in front of messi than it will relying on runs from mid to follow these up. In these situations I usually plead with the tv or computer for a thiago or tello substitution, cause the youngsters are a little more apt to pull the trigger. It’s also those sorts or defenses where you see the difference between an average barca and a good to great barca. Dani has been saying some great things about this. And aside from his form improving I think it’s becoming more obvious how intelligent a player and leader he actually is.

        I agree, the majority of the time Messi’s shots don’t take directly away from others’ shots. At least partially cause they just don’t take them. Indirectly though I have to think there are thoughts in the back of their heads…i could take this shot, but I should probably work it around to try to get messi a shot. And frankly, I get it and would probably be of the same mentality. However, these guys are world class players and need, sometimes, to remember that. For example, I remember hearing that it was bothering iniesta that he didn’t score more and he asked guardiola what to do about it. Guardiola said he responded what do you ask me for I scored one goal my whole career. Whether that is simply self-effacing press talk we’ll never know, but if iniesta asked any of us we’d have a simple answer at the ready. SHOOT MORE.

  2. March 25, 2013

    All these stats and percentiles will get screwed if you consider Messi a midfielder – goal scorer, atleast in terms of average position, etc.
    No, But I Agree, There is a problem of predictability and a midfield as talented as ours MUST certainly pose a bigger goal threat.

    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      As I explained to Blaze0fGlory in Part 1, I had to put a stick in the ground when it came to players’ positions.

      For most part, I took the clubs’ websites as my lead. The official Barcelona website, Wikipedia and Soccerway all list Messi as a Forward.

      If I had put Messi in Midfield, the difference between him and the other Midfielders would have been greater than that between him and the other Barca Forwards.

      Face it, all stats and percentiles would get screwed no matter where you put Messi on the pitch! 😆

      But it does highlight the uniqueness of Barca. We have forward wingers playing as defensive midfielders, midfielders playing as holding defence and defence playing as scorers. That alone should confuse the opposition, and I feel that it would work better IF the midfield also introduced more shooting into their roles.

      • blaze0fglory
        March 26, 2013

        Nzm, euler,

        Guys, what can i say? Hats off. Your research, creativity, understanding, presentation and analysis is not just spot-on but very beautiful.

        It may seem farfetched, but i’d say its worth a try: please e-mail it somehow to tito and co. There must be a way. I’m sure they’ll think about it. This is the sort of analysis that’ll help them plan games against teams.

        Of course they are the managers and they must know all these things…no problem. They could’ve overlooked it. If the tiki-taka is an amoeba in field positions, it shud be one in scoring positions too. If we cannot get a busquets in front of the opponent’s goal, we should atleast have an iniesta or a xavi more often than not. That touch of unpredictability, we need that.

        And thanks guys.

        • nzm
          March 26, 2013

          Thanks blaze0fglory!

          I hope/think that we’ll see a continuation of Tito’s plans when he’s back in charge.

          It all seemed to come to a grinding halt when he left, and the team stuck with the tactics and habits that they know best.

          It had to be that way because Tito’s the driving force with the vision, and it was beyond Roura’s capacities to do anything but survive in the time that Tito has been away.

          That’s not in any way a slight on Roura’s abilities, but it was a big step up for him in many ways. Not only was he suddenly managing one of the best teams in the world, but he was in front of the press, in the press, answering to the Board and to Zubi, dealing with Tito’s illness, running trainings, calling shots from the sidelines – all the while remembering to breathe!

          Now, with Tito about to return, I think that we’ll see some conscious and planned directness coming back into the play. There are roles for Cesc, Alexis and Pedro in this.

  3. mom4
    March 25, 2013

    Eye opening, especially the info on Messi. Really good work by nzm and Euler!

  4. KEVINO17
    March 25, 2013

    Euler, excellent analysis, as usual. To flog the deadest of my horses, I think that a big thuggish centre-forward (with the turning circle of a ballerina and the touch of Messi) would change a lot of the dynamic. Barca would become a lot less execution dependent (because they could fearlessly pump balls into the POMO) and wingers would be more inclined to take on their markers if they knew that, once in the clear, they would have a big target to hit.
    I also think it’s desperately important that Barca develops a good counter-attack to make opponents worried about flooding forward. At the moment, it’s quite shocking how badly Barca counter.

    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      I can think of only 2 Forwards who could possibly adapt to the Barca system and still be successful at maintaining their style and effectiveness – and they would be Lewandowski and Reus.

      Both are good with their feet which is very important at Barca.

      • KEVINO17
        March 26, 2013

        Actually, against the parked bus, I think you only really need size rather than mobility. I wouldn’t be wasting money on a fancy, skilful CF. Always thought Demba Ba would be a good buy.

        • nzm
          March 26, 2013

          Lewandowski has both. At 6′, he’s no hobbit.

          • KEVINO17
            March 27, 2013

            True, but he’ll bloody expensive. I’d take him of course, if Barca has the money. Otherwise, someone for two or three mill who will wear out a furrow between the top of the penalty area and the near post (and will kick Ramos and Pepe when nobody is looking).

          • nzm
            March 27, 2013

            I like Iago Aspas from Celta de Vigo. We won’t be seeing him this week because he’s sitting out a 4 week suspension after head-butting a Depor player in their derby match.

  5. BA
    March 25, 2013

    pointless Bulls-fan quibble: by what metric is Messi more efficient scorer than Michael Jordan? Jordan shot a career .497 in regular season, while Messi is averaging .350?

    • ooga aga
      March 26, 2013

      relative to normal in their respective sports, i would guess

    • psqd
      March 27, 2013

      Yeah, i think the point was to be respective to other players in the same sport. Messi is basically shooting 2x better than the rest of the team, aside from villa. Though I’m not a basketball aficionado, i’d guess an average player shoots what 35-40%, that would mean equivalently jordan shooting 75-80% from the field. A confounding factor though is free throws just not equivalent.

  6. Jafri
    March 25, 2013

    I’d like to see a comparison of shots per game in those games where we’re acknowledged to have been at the top of our game versus our average. pqsd makes a note of the Milan game in his note above, but I’m pretty sure if we could get an average of our so called ‘great games’ and compare it to the usual, it would show that our midfield ups its shooting game as well.

    I’m not seeing a table of average shots per game – the discussion seems to be based on goals scored; which skews the average towards the forwards as it is, because a midfielder shooting tends to be further away from goal and therefore have a lesser chance of converting his shot, so his attempt won’t even register in this count.

    I say that because in our must-win games (purely based on memory, no statistics to back it up), Xavi at least seems to up his shooting rate, and has quite a few attempts from outside the box. Of course, he hardly ever scores, but he should be credited for trying.

    Finally, we are the best team in the world at retaining possession. Our only true vulnerability is counters. Otherwise, we press hard enough to get the ball back after a turnover. What all that means is that we shouldn’t be afraid to take shots and if the ball goes out for a goal kick in the attempt it shouldn’t matter, because we have the best tools to get it back and try again. Dispossession that leads to counters is more likely a result of dithering on the edge of the box and looking for the perfect ball; if we get a shot away it’s more likely to end up going out into touch if we don’t score, giving us time to sit back and adjust ourselves.

    So we shouldn’t be afraid to take shots at goal, and the reason that we are is because we have become subservient to the possession system instead of using it to exploit the game in the way we best can.

    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      I’d like to see a comparison of shots per game in those games where we’re acknowledged to have been at the top of our game versus our average. pqsd makes a note of the Milan game in his note above, but I’m pretty sure if we could get an average of our so called ‘great games’ and compare it to the usual, it would show that our midfield ups its shooting game as well.

      psqd wanted to take the Milan game as an example, but found that even the shooting stats in that game reflected the averages reported by Euler.

      The Forwards shot slightly higher than the average – 10 shots instead of the usual 7-8.

      The Midfield, with an average of 2.5, shot twice at goal.

      The Defence (Alves and Alba) also had 2 shots at goal.

      So, even in the great game against Milan, the shots taken were not that much different to the averages.

      There wasn’t a table of averages per game – those figures are in Euler’s comments and take into account all shots taken.

      Finally, we are the best team in the world at retaining possession. Our only true vulnerability is counters.

      Agree with this, although if we actually did something with that possession (i.e. score goals) then we wouldn’t be so vulnerable to the counters.

      Most counters come when the team is high up the pitch and compressed – attempting to break the defence.

      I know that it sounds easier than it is, but all it takes is one break-through goal, and then the other team has to come out to attack and not defend so tightly.

      Whether more shots on goal from Midfield would help, I don’t know, but it would be nice to see it tried!

      I always thought that this was what Afellay could have been good for, but unfortunately he never really did get the chance, and then his natural abilities were trained out of him and he became cautious and looked to retain the ball rather than go for goal.

      Alexis could also be that player if he was played as a trequartista, but his role is now one of support and creating space for Messi.

      • psqd
        March 27, 2013

        And just to note. Messi took 7 of the 10 shots from the forward line. So, looking at those numbers reall makes a case for messi taking the scoring burden on his shoulders to step up. However, I think it should be taken into context with the first leg where he had 2 shots. So he was definitely getting better chances due to the pace of the ball movement and formation.

  7. March 25, 2013

    Good stuff nzm & Euler!

    I do think CR is an extraordinary finisher. It is just that he takes a lot of ridiculous shots which is why his conversion rate ends up being average (to be fair to Euler, he did hint at that by stating that Lexus conversion rate is distorted in the opposite sense)

    @kevin17 a big strong striker? Had Ibra stayed and Messi evolved into a no 10, perhaps. Yet every team has its style and Barça’s has worked pretty well so far – no need to overhaul our system completely imo.

    @BA I don’t think a lot of comparisons between the two sports are all that useful, but Messi is a lot more efficient scorer in soccer than MJ in basketball, as Leo’s .350 finishing avg is a lot higher than other soccer players than Micheal’s .497 compared to other basketball players.

  8. Jafri
    March 25, 2013

    I felt that the percentage terms weren’t doing us justice, considering how many goals we’ve scored. For example, the data shows that Madrid has 77% of its goals by its forwards, and we have ‘only’ 68%. Yet if you look at the raw data, our forward line actually outscores Madrid, 86 goals to 83.

    I took the liberty of making a table showing the absolute number of goals scored, not just the percentage. I also added a bar chart, because that seemed the best way to visually represent the data collected.

    Table here:

    Bar chart here:

    • Jafri
      March 25, 2013

      Also, the average number of midfield goals scored by these eight teams is 24.5 – so we’re below the average, yet not enough to be concerned that our midfield isn’t doing its job contributing IMO.

      • nzm
        March 26, 2013

        Great charts, Jafri.

        What the percentiles allow is a direct comparison between the teams which your graphs cannot show.

        If the number of goals for each team was exactly the same amount, then your charts would be a direct comparison between the teams because we could then see how many goals were shot by each team’s Forwards, Midfields and Backs as parts of the same sum total value.

        When comparing the % of goals shot by each team’s Midfield as a contribution to the total number of goals shot by each team, that places the Barca Midfield’s 18.3% in 7th place, only ahead of Real Madrid.

      • psqd
        March 27, 2013

        thanks for those. I think as nzm says that % normalizes the numbers to a “portion of the workload” and allows for a different comparison to be made. However, it is interesting to note that strictly from a goals output the midfield is comparable. The other point that gets lost when just talking about the numbers per “line” is that messi’s ridiculous totals obscure the paucity from some of the frontline players.

  9. indiancule
    March 26, 2013

    Guys off the topic… what happened to montoya??? after good clascio performances why he is not given much chances…. hopefully he will play as left back this weekend…

    • March 26, 2013

      There have been rumours in the Spanish press that the coaches aren’t happy with his attitude in training, ie. not giving 100% and being sulky about not playing more. I have no idea if that is really the case, but that’s the word going around.

    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      There’s a good chance that we’ll see him this weekend against Celta de Vigo, and if we don’t, then there’s a good chance that he’s on the way out of the squad.

      It would be a pity because Monty would be one that I’d want to keep, as I think that he’s the next RB for Spain if he continues to develop. However, if his attitude stinks, ship him out. No player is bigger than the team.

      I do hope that Alba is back fit for PSG because I get collywobbles thinking of Montoya on the Left facing either Lavezzi or Lucas Moura!

  10. March 26, 2013

    Brilliant analysis, thank you nzm and Euler. For me, one of the surprise is to know that we are only second to MU, in goals by defenders.

    I think, it is better we shoot more, only if we are facing a parked bus. Every time we shoot, we lose the ball too. Nowadays, every time the opposition is having the ball in our area, our defence seem to panic. And our players spend more of their energy pressing, trying to get the ball back.

    Think about this – If Messi is scoring 1 goal out of 4/5 attempts, any other forward or midfield will score one goal out of 8-10 attempts right? So, as to have our midfielders contribute more, we are looking at losing more balls, and more pressing and more possibility of tiring ????
    Our midfielders still manage to score in important moments and games though.

    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      Yes – the loss of possession is a risk when shooting more.

      It’s a trade-off – the value of which needs to be assessed on a game-by-game basis.

      But we’ve seen the value of that shot out of the blue when it’s been successful.

      Think of Iniesta’s strikes, Xavi’s vs. Milan last year, even Alves and Adriano this season – both against Madrid, I think?

      They change the game because suddenly the opposition has to do more than defend – they also need to score. With the opposition now having 2 jobs (scoring and defending), the defending tends to get looser and then more opportunities present themselves for Barca.

    • March 26, 2013

      Yes, it really is. Aside from showcasing Messi’s amazing ability to explode into action from a standing start, it also illustrates what he does when he is off the ball. Far from being “lazy” or “sashaying around”, he is constantly changing his position vis-à-vis his teammates and opponents and waiting for the right moment to pounce. You can see the absolute concentration on his face. We need a Messi-cam for Barça games. (And a Xavi-cam, an Iniesta-cam, and a Busquets-cam, please!)

        • nzm
          March 26, 2013

          I didn’t really listen that hard as I tend to block out talking heads!

          But they were mentioning how Messi is a natural leader and how he’ll become a captain of Barca when/if VV leaves.

          And marvelling at his skills of course!

          If I get the op, I’ll watch it again and come back unless anyone else does in the meantime, but right now I have a date with some gym equipment!

        • barca96
          March 26, 2013

          Thanks for the share foto. Yeah, I would love to have a tv station dedicate Busi. I’m trying very hard to learn from him. It’s really a thankless job I’m telling you.

          • March 27, 2013

            If I had any power, I would have asked them to follow Busquets during a match. Would be study material.

            I think its the first time some tv is doing this and hopefully others would follow – Some Madrid tv on Ronaldo – some French tv on Zlatan and so on. I hope some Catalan Tv goes for Busquets, before they do it on Xavi.

      • nzm
        March 26, 2013

        It’s brilliant footage – have watched it 3 times over the past 2 days!

        To be fair, it was only about 7 minutes of a 90 minute game and the same actions shot from different camera angles.

        There were moments when Messi came to a standstill in that game but, on the whole, he moves around a lot more when he’s playing at NT level than when at club level. He has a lot more to prove, I guess, although the Argies are coming to love him more and more.

  11. March 26, 2013

    And also? Tito is back in Barcelona!!!!!!

    He may not feel well enough to coach this weekend’s game, but still. He’s back! 😀

  12. Nik
    March 26, 2013

    Via @barcastuff: UEFA has reduced suspension of PSG forward Ibrahimovic from 2 to 1 game. He will be able to play both CL games against Barcelona. [md catr]


    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      Yeah – how about that?

      Where are all the UEFAlona conspiracy theorists now? 😆

      It could play into our favour though.

      Without Ibra, the danger would definitely be 2-pronged Lavezzi/Gameiro forward attack, and those guys are fast and unpredictable, and less is known about them when it comes to studying their tactics when playing together.

      While still a great player, when Ibra is on the pitch, the play becomes more Ibra-centric as the team looks to feed him. Otherwise they’re likely to be round-house kicked!

      Anyway – hope that I’m right! 🙂

      • jordi™
        March 26, 2013

        One worry is they might focus on stopping him and then something like this might happen.

        Another player is unnoticed and scores. Matuidi, Pastore Lavezzi and Menez have all scored variants of that goal this season with Ibra again as the provider.

        We were playing three at the back then, so Cuenca was the the one tracking Nocerino but this time might not be much better if Alba isn’t fit. And if fit he would have to be more conservative like against Milan or the same thing will happen.

  13. barca96
    March 26, 2013

    Just finished reading this article. Michael Cox of Zonal Marking would be proud to have these articles on his site. Amazing work nzm, Euler & the gang.

  14. barca96
    March 26, 2013

    A reader at the Guardian by the name of lollipop suggested that the team is missing Casillas as he is the person who bridges the Barca & Madrid players at the NT. Alonso & Arbeloa are the biggest victim (attacker at the Clasicos though).

  15. barca96
    March 26, 2013

    Anyone here who follows the Bundesliga (nzm?) can give some comments about Draxler? Been seeing his name quite often recently. Based from what I read, this kid has great potential.

    Ambidextrous. Young.

    Usually the YouTube videos can make any player look like world beaters but after seeing this video, meh. Perhaps this could be the time where a player looks better in a real match rather than a highlight reel player 🙂

    Market value is only Euro 17m.

    What do you guys think?

    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      We watched him come on in the final stages of extra time in the Pokal match against Nuremberg and scored the winning goal – what a start!

      However, not that impressed with him, as yet. He’s young – 19 – been called into the German NT, but has a lot to learn.

      Tall, athletic, attacks.

      But seriously, if he’s being considered for Barcelona, we don’t need another Midfielder!

      It would be like Afellay all over again.

  16. barca96
    March 26, 2013

    Read 2 comments recently from Kari & Kxevin taking shots at Rosell.

    1) If Tito or Pep did inform Rosell and his team that they wanted a defender, I think he would really have tried to sign a player but we keep on hearing that we don’t need a CB.

    2) Ok. He may have made it look like he saved us. But let’s be fair and also applaud him for his other comments like about Tito & the Camp Nou.

    • March 26, 2013

      Well, we also kept hearing that Song could play both the holding midfield and central defensive positions…

      • March 26, 2013

        I have already given him credit for the Vilanova remarks, even if there was nothing else that he could say, really.

        Fact is that his austerity measures have damaged the sporting project. Yes. He can say the club has had record profits. Part of that is because it didn’t have to pay any bonuses for winning Liga or CL last season. Another part is because of that Qatar Airways that will “grace” the front of the shirt this season.

        The club made half-assed attempts at Silva and Martinez. We got Song instead, who “can play CB.” Sure. That will work.

        I do not believe for an instant that Laporta would not have gotten either Silva or Martinez for his coach.

        Rosell wants to be able to strut aroubd and talk about how he assured the club’s future. As if such a thing was ever in doubt. The club is a sporting entity. Not a business or a corporation. If the club doesn’t have the toils that it needs, the product is damaged.

        I wouldn’t take pot shots at Rosell if he didn’t make it so easy. Laporta was also a self-aggrandizing little shit. But he wanted to grin unctuously at victory celebrations. Rosell wants to grin unnctuously as press events at which he can talk about what HE has done for the club. Big difference.

        • March 26, 2013

          “Another part is because of that Qatar Airways that will “grace” the front of the shirt this season.”

          Something a lot of people overlook is that the change to Qatar Airways also sabotages any possible renewal of the deal we had with the Turkish Airline.

          I feel that we got played, there!

          • nzm
            March 27, 2013

            Yeah – so we lost the Turkish Airlines money/sponsorship/brand-building to give it to Qatar Airways which won’t pay any more for it because it falls under the original cruddy sponsorship deal made with the Qatar Foundation.

            I have little doubt that Turkish Airlines would have renewed their deal because of the amount of effort that they were putting into their marketing of their FCB sponsorship.

            Great dealing, Sandro.

  17. Ryan
    March 26, 2013

    Great to see VV make a one-on-one save for Spain, as he gets so muck flak from non-Barca fans (and some of us as well!)

    Would be nice to see a goal in this Spain-France game, although Ribery does seem to be causing Pique quite a bit of problems.

    • Ryan
      March 26, 2013

      And a Pedro goal! So far so good, although it’s annoying to see Xavi still on the field so soon after an injury.

  18. Judas Pissed
    March 26, 2013

    French team in French team’s star player’s red card rescinded by French President of UEFA so he can play for French team against Barcelona ‘shock’..!

  19. Jim
    March 26, 2013

    Great result for Spain. Some lovely Iniesta touches to hold the ball in the last ten minutes.

    • Ryan
      March 26, 2013

      And almost a Busi goal at the end! Would have been great too as he was the one who stole the ball and initiated the attack.

      Is it bad that I enjoyed seeing his head bandaged as it was much easier to spot him on my stream? 😛

        • nzm
          March 27, 2013

          He clashed heads with Benzema in the box.

          • ooga aga
            March 27, 2013

            it’s also remarkable to see how fast busquets can get up and move when he takes a tumble or a blow near the opponents box. much faster than when he is at midfield or in his own half 🙂

  20. Jim
    March 26, 2013

    Could be costly though. Looked like a bad knee knock Pedro took, Iniesta suffered some abuse, Busi hurt his head and Xavi played the full ninety while not quite fit.

    • nzm
      March 26, 2013

      And Masch going down clutching his foot in the dying minutes of the Argie game nearly stopped my heart.

      • ooga aga
        March 27, 2013

        and apparently messi was vomiting at half time! should be interesting this week at Vigo…

          • nzm
            March 27, 2013

            He also icked up during the Venezuela match. You can see it in the video about the 4min mark. (If you’re so inclined!)

            It’s nothing new that Messi will throw up when he’s on the pitch – it’s just that the cameras don’t always capture it in close-up.

  21. fiazhamsath
    March 28, 2013

    It’s funny isn’t? No team in Europe has scored as many Goals as Barça this Season. And we’re here discussing Barça should shoot more, to *SCORE MORE*?

    Agree with most of the points. But I’d like to get comparisons between Tito’s Barça & Pep’s Barça. I’m sure we’ve started taking more shots and are more direct this Season than we were in Pep years. And part of Barça’s vulnerability at the back is because of that. We shoot more, we give away possession more, and we are forced to defend more in the exact context of defending.

    • nzm
      March 28, 2013

      Be interested in seeing those stats when you care to look into them.

      • fiazhamsath
        March 28, 2013

        Reply is just beneath this. (Damn!)

  22. fiazhamsath
    March 28, 2013

    Well yes. But my hypothesis was wrong.

    In Season 2011-12 under Pep, Barça took a grand total of 618 Shots in 38 Liga games: 16.26 Per Game. But in 2012-13 under Tito, Barça took just 387 shots in 28 Liga games, 13. 82 Per Game.

    Kinda shocked with that! But looking at the efficiency of conversion, Barça scored 114 League Goals in 2011-12, converting 18.44% of the shots, while in 2012-13 scored 88 League goals, converting 22.73% of the shots.

    So, we are more efficient this Liga Season compared Pep’s last Season, but (for my surprise) is more cautious with possession, having lesser shots per game.

    • nzm
      March 28, 2013

      Cool stats – thanks for taking the time to look those up!

      I must say that I’m surprised re the possession stats as well!

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