Lordy. Barely halfway into David Villa’s first season, and people are wanting to trade him in for a goat. Now, I will say for the record, that if you haven’t had goat’s milk ice cream …. boy, howdy! Now I’m not sure that’s worth a striker, though there are a lot of guys I’d happily trade for some of that goat’s milk goodness. Just sayin’. But David Villa ain’t one of them.
And for the record, I’m a journalist. I work with words. I chose to work with words because they promised me that no math would be involved. And yet, here we go, with numbers.
As I said in the Bilbao Copa match review comments section, we have gone through this with Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and now David Villa. Let’s have a look at just what we’ve gone through, shall we, and where Villa will potentially sit.
First-year numbers for Thierry Henry
Matches started: 27 (Liga), 10 (Champions League), 7 (Copa del Reig)
Shots (total): 108
Goals (total): 19
Offsides (total): 55
Assists: (total): 11
Shots against the woodwork: 3
Shots on goal: 52
First-year numbers for Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Matches started: 23, 9, 1
Shots against the woodwork: 3
Shots on goal: 68
First-year numbers for David Villa
Matches started: 16, 5, 1
Shots against the woodwork: 5
Shots on goal: 47
Samuel Eto’o, by the by, though the club didn’t keep the extensive statistical archive that it does now, had 29 goals from 67 shots in 45 total appearances in 2004/05, his first season with the club. For those wondering, Messi has 24 goals from the exact same number of shots as Villa. No, Villa ain’t Messi. If he were, we couldn’t have afforded him.
So in looking at David Villa’s numbers, any reasonable person would conclude that he is going set club records for shots and offsides, right? Where’s my goat? And with 25 total matches left (that we know of, more Champions League and Copa to come, presumably), he is only 6 goals off of Henry’s first-year total, and 8 off of Ibrahimovic’s total. When he was signed, I said that he was pretty much going to end up with the same numbers as any of our first-year strikers. This is looking to be fairly accurate.
Strikers miss sitters. Eto’o, during his last season with the club, missed more sitters than than a room full of sugar-buzzed kids playing a game of musical chairs. Ibrahimovic missed his share and so did Henry. What Villa is going through is normal. It’s the second year in a system that a player comes into his own, and what augurs well for the future is his shots on goal number. Almost 50 percent of his shots are on target. Yes, many of them should have been finished. That’s life.
I dug up these numbers in the hope that they would make a little bit of sense to me, and they do. Villa is on target to be a typical Barca first-year striker in his numbers of goals. Unless he shows an astonishing amount of restraint, he is almost certain to outstrip Ibrahimovic and Henry in numbers of times being offside.
All of which means what? That patience is required. In his best year for Valencia, 2008-09, he had 30 goals in all competitions. David Villa is never, ever going to score at the rate of a freak like Eto’o. And he is going to miss sitters, because that’s the nature of the beast. He is also going to facilitate our play with his movement and passing in a way that is worth considering as a real benefit. One of the laundry list of grouses against Ibrahimovic was that he was static, and bollixed up our play. People grumbled about Henry that he stood on the left wing and didn’t do enough to get involved in the offense. Now Villa misses sitters.
Patience, my people, patience. David Villa is one of the world’s best strikers, plopped into a system in which he is no longer the man. The ball moves more and faster, the players move more and faster and quickness of thought and action are paramount. Nobody is that quick a study. Right now, he’s pressing, and trying to play too fast, trying too hard as if sheer effort will solve matters. Again, this is just like Henry and Ibrahimovic, and the latter was benched in favor of Bojan Krkic. Could anyone see this happening with Villa? Don’t think too long. No.
He’s ours, and will be for a while. So let’s settle in, and see what this relationship brings, shall we?