It’s been a while since my player snapshots last had an outing, but they’re up and running again – with a few small improvements – and in this post we’ll use them to take a look at England’s striking options for the rest of Euro 2016.
If you haven’t seen the snapshots before, they’re designed to be a fast overview of a player’s strengths and weaknesses, benchmarking them against other players who play in the same position and league. Snapshots aren’t a complete picture, but they’re quick to read and you can get a surprising amount of information from them once you get used to interpreting the different stats.
Let’s get stuck straight into England’s choices. Rooney’s now a deep midfielder. Apparently. And Rashford’s lacking the Premier League minutes for a proper assessment, so this will be a straight three way fight between Vardy, Kane and Sturridge.
Here are their snapshots:
Assessing strikers it makes sense to start with goal scoring and in this department, the output of these three players is startlingly similar.
Sturridge shades shooting frequency, but Kane and Vardy aren’t far behind. Vardy’s % on target is a fraction behind the other two, but it’s not a big difference; 45% compared to 48% for Kane and Sturridge.
Vardy and Sturridge had higher goal conversion rates than Kane last season, but Kane is still very strong.
It’s tough to split the three on shooting. They’re all exceptional.
Where next? This is where things get interesting, because there isn’t a right answer. If you were reading this hoping for, “statistically, this player is the weakest link, goodbye”, then you’re going to be disappointed. Stats don’t work like that. We have options…
Sturridge stands out here as he doesn’t really do defending, while Kane and Vardy put up solidly average (Vardy) to slightly above average (Kane) numbers.
Remember that we’re benchmarking against other Premier League forwards here. Kane and Vardy defend reasonably well, compared to other forwards.
So, leave out Sturridge then? After all, the three shoot with near enough the same quality and the other two chip in with some defence too.
Not so fast.
Take-ons and Ball Retention
Kane’s take-ons and ball retention were a little above average for a Premier League striker last season. He attempts slightly more take-ons than average, succeeds with slightly more than average and is tackled slightly less than average. Combined with very strong shooting, this is the beginning of a very high quality profile.
Something I immediately look for in these profiles is ‘balance’ between take-on volume and success rate. Too many players have a high volume of take-ons, with low success rate, which isn’t good. It means you’re taking players on a lot and you aren’t great at it.
Often, players with an unbalanced – high volume, lower success – take-on profile seem to be players who get labelled ‘exciting’. Ross Barkley is one.
Jamie Vardy is another. Vardy has almost top quintile take-on volume, combined with fourth quintile success. He’s much less capable in this area of the game.
You could argue that this is a result of the way Vardy is asked to play at Leicester and that would be a completely fair point, but for now, we’ll take the snapshots on their own merits and see where they lead.
Finally, Sturridge has the reverse take-on profile to Vardy. I like this profile.
Sturridge doesn’t take players on that often, but when he does, he succeeds. That reads like good decision making to me.
This is the men from the boys section of the player snapshot. It’s in the top-left corner, because it’s what I want to see first.
Taking the stats in order, we begin with passes per 90 minutes. This shows involvement with the game; more highly involved players play more passes.
My word, Vardy is isolated. Again, this could be a Leicester City effect, but based on the stats here, don’t expect Vardy to be heavily involved in build up play. He’ll pop up at the very end of a move and score or assist, but no more.
Kane’s involvement is slightly below average for a striker, and Sturridge’s involvement is average.
Pass success rates separate the three players too. Vardy’s success rate is bad, Kane’s is average and Sturridge’s is good but not exceptional.
Moving onto passing into attacking areas and assists, Sturridge’s advanced passing is properly good. Kane’s is above average and Vardy’s is… weird.
Vardy doesn’t play successful passes in the final third, but he does play them into the opposition area and although he sees the ball infrequently, he creates assists when he does get it. This has got to be a Leicester effect. No messing about; hit the penalty area immediately.
What have we learned? Hodgson has got three very talented strikers available to him, but they have different attributes. Which is the right player to choose will depend on the system and who else is selected to play around them…
Good at almost everything and exceptionally good at shooting. General passing and involvement would ideally be stronger as they are a little below average.
Exceptionally good at shooting and decent defensive contribution too. A question mark for take-ons and massive question marks for passing and overall involvement in the game.
Just to muddy the waters if you were discounting Vardy based on passing, when you do get the ball to him, he contributes very direct final-ball passes.
Exceptional shooting (seeing a pattern here?) lots of very high quality final third involvement and makes good take-on decisions. Doesn’t contribute defensively.
There’s so much more we could do in terms of profiling these three players, but it’s amazing how much a one-page report will yield if you know where to look.
So who do you want for the Slovakia game? And how are you going to deploy the rest of the team, to cover for their weaknesses?