Put it a different way: 11-1.
Those numbers are, of course, from a very small sample, but would you take those numbers as a ratio for the entire season? I would because I know that the first one is Ibrahimovic’s current scoring rate (5 appearances, 2 goals) and the second goal is our total goals scored to goals allowed. Feel free to extrapolate that to how many goals would be scored in an entire year: 16 goals for Ibra if he makes 40 appearances, 113.67-10.33 in a 62-game season.
My point is, of course, that we need to take a moment to look at the overall picture, the picture that keeps in mind not the price paid for a particular player, but the value of that player within the greater framework of our club and our club’s future. Yes, we’ve had some “funky” displays over the last few games, but during those “funky” displays, we’ve successfully won five out of six matches and we drew the other one. We’ve allowed one goal. We’ve scored 11 from six different players. We’ve incorporated a major new piece of the total footballing puzzle and have been attempting to change our tactical approach in every match. This is not a momentary effort, a light switch that goes from off to on.
No pressure or anything…
It is very easy to compare last year’s team with this year’s team, but that kind of a comparison is a fool’s errand, I think, simply because these are two different teams. Note that in all of our matches so far we’ve rotated more in the midfield, never really becoming stagnate in terms of positioning.
More numbers: 19-26.
Those are, and I’m sure most of you recognized those numbers immediately, Thierry Henry’s goal scoring numbers from his first and second years. Just think that for every goal that Ibrahimovic scores that bests his career average of 0.44 goals per appearance (a goal every 2.28 appearance*), we’re being given a freebie, in essence. His average goal-scoring year is 16.4 goals in 37.3 game season** so if he adjusts correctly and gets 40 appearances with us, he should score 17 or 18 goals during that time. He’s already got 2 in 3 regular season appearances, so he’s well on his way.
Of course, replacing a 25-plus-goal per season striker (Samu) with a 15-goal per season striker sounds like bad business unless you can effectively add more goals over the course of the season via assists and whatnot. So far our first six matches have returned 11 goals to 1, as I said earlier, an average of 1.83 goals per game. That is below last year’s average of 2.53 goals per match, but better than the 1.10 goals allowed per game last year (58 in 63). Put that in your Pythagorean Expectation pipe and smoke it: 113.02 estimated points to 95.88 estimated points with the higher goals for ratio. That means more domination in the league, not less. Now, obviously this particular streak will end when we’re scored on, but we’re currently looking at another very good season and working towards fluency between the various levels (defense, midfield, offense).
I’m not here to praise or condemn Ibra–I was fairly disappointed with his performance against Inter, but Hector makes a good point that perhaps Xavi and Keita should have crashed the box more–but I am here to point out that we’ve got a striker on our hands that has already proven his worth in the league and was put into what amounts to a cauldron of burning oil when he was thrown into the San Siro so early in his Barça career. It was his fifth game. Before we start to break down his goals per euro cost (€23m per goal!), we should look at the overall value to the side, which might also include future returns on investment (if he scores 20 goals per season for 5 seasons and gets 200 appearances, then he’ll be infinitely worth it, right?) as well as assists. He’s gotten 2 assists already this year (both to Messi), so don’t compare just his goal scoring, but also to the total goals scored while he’s on the field.
There is a lot of season left and we will have 3 more Liga games under our belt before Dynamo come to town, so pay attention to how we use all of our players during that time, not just Ibra. I expect Iniesta’s re-emergence to greatly facilitate the goal scoring as well, so expect a rise in that over the coming weeks. There is infinitely better understanding between Messi and Ibra than there was a few weeks ago, something I attribute to their time on the field together. Henry and Ibra will develop a better understanding and Ibra will start to crash the back post more (he’s still thinking there will be a header when it turns out his teammates have the ability to get the ball on the ground across the box and he’s not used to that, I wouldn’t think). And then the goals will come. And then Ibra will settle in and people whill cheer him and it willb e wonderful.
I’m all for criticism, but let’s make it fair. Ibra lost a lot of service when Henry went off against Inter because Iniesta wasn’t put out on the left as most of us would have expected. Guardiola instead went with an extra midfielder, in a sense creating a 3-1-5-1 with the midfield being composed of Keita-Iniesta-Xavi-Messi-Alves. So Ibra was 1 v 3 most of the time, with 1 v 2 being his typical allotment of defenders. If he stands in a corner and has 2 defenders on him, how is that not beneficial to us? It is because it causes a general imbalance everywhere else. So when he slides to the upper corner of the box and drags two defenders with him, that isn’t being lazy, it is giving our skill players a chance to play 2 v1 somewhere else. As I said before, I thought Ibra was very meh and I was disappointed, but I was more disappointed with his finishing than anything else. The same could be said for Messi, Alves, and Keita. Again, let’s just keep these things in perspective.
*I would much rather have goals-per-minute, but that stat is not readily available, so I will stick with per appearance simply because, given a large enough sample, all of this evens out.
** I took all of Ibra’s season that he had 25 or more appearances (there were 9 of them accounting for 336 appearances and 148 goals, which is a 0.44 goals-to-appearances ratio.