Chelsea have won 7, drawn 1 – 22 points and a 4 point lead over the two Manchester clubs after 8 games. Chelsea have been splendid till date and deservedly hold their lead at the top.
Two players have been standout performers in the Chelsea squad. No prizes for guessing – Eden Hazard & Juan Mata. Like everyone else, I have been impressed by Juan Mata’s form and the way he has been central to several dominant Blue performances. At times, Juan has taken the game by the scruff of the neck, dictated play and churned out results for Chelsea – one of the characteristic signs of a title contender.
In this analysis, in order to set the standard, I’m comparing Mata with his high roller team mate – Eden Hazard, surely the best player in the Premier League at present, isn’t he? I have tried to be as objective as I can in this comparison, so Chelsea fans, please pardon me if I have missed out on some things. I welcome your feedback.
First premise, I’m comparing them as attackers – not wingers/trequartistas/false9s – cause then, the discussion would be endless and subjective. Moreover, it was a bit difficult analyzing both of them since both of them are in the same team. They can’t be at both the ends – as creators and finishers, they compliment each other and also, sadly for the part of this analysis, eat into each others statistics.
First let me get rid of a general misconception, I see stats of pass completion rate on twitter after every game, but I fail to recognize the importance of what these stats mean to them – “He had a pass completion rate of 90%!” – So? That doesn’t mean he had a good game – the basic flaw is – what is the number of passes he actually attempted? It could be that he misplaced 1 pass out of 10 (good game?) or maybe he misplaced 7 out of 70. Also, even from a positional perspective, certain types of players are going to have a better pass percentage than their own team mates – most common example would be defenders against strikers but that does not mean that the striker had a bad game!
The basic stats
Pass Distribution – Digging deep
Let me start off with basic pass completion rates. Hazard has a pass completion rate of 84.5% over 8 games whereas Mata has a pass completion rate of 89.45% over 7 games. This states that Mata has been much more efficient with possession but I wanted to see in what areas, so that I could know how he utlitized his time on the ball.
So, I dug deep into the areas where both utilized possession. Passes are broken into 3 more categories – Forward, backward and square passes.
Hazard on an average has a forward pass completion rate of 76.13% whereas Mata has forward Pass completion rate of 71.21% This clearly states how Hazard has been better in forward passes. However, I wanted to know how efficient they were in the final 3rd where the killer ball, pardon the cliche, really mata’s. So, of the forward passes, the pass completion rate only in the final third for Hazard and Mata was 74% and 70.4% respectively. Work ethic and positional discipline comes into play when you talk about regaining the ball. Hazard’s disciplined positioning has helped him intercept the ball 12 times – these subtle differences are the prime reason which gives him the lethal edge over Mata.
The previous stats shows exactly why Chelsea paid big bucks to land Hazard. On that note, I’d also add that Hazard manages more take-ons than Mata(obviously!) at 14-4 something which adds to his flair and repertoire of producing something out of nothing.
The below stats juxtapose attempted number passes with passes that are completed and also give us the number of attempted passes as a proportion of total number of passes.
Ironically, Mata does come out to be the more offensive of the two players in terms of the nature of passes being played.
After coming to terms with that, consider the fact that Mata has played a game less and yet, has managed to make 10 more passes – efficient passes than Eden Hazard.
The passes to assists are fairly simple – both of them have had 5 assists till date. However, their ability to get involved in a game and be lethal in the final third depends on the chances created not the assist provided – it’s not their mistake if their chances are not getting converted (Yes, blame Fernando!). Hazard has created 18 whereas Mata has created 17 chances to date. Since both of them have played for different amounts of time, running a regression analysis to bring them on a level playing field – Hazard creates an effective chance every 37 minutes whereas Mata creates one every 34 minutes!
Apart from passing the ball and making use of it, I thought it would be interesting to know how many times both of them falter in possession. Over 8 games, Hazard has lost possession 66 times in comparison with Juan Mata who has lost the ball only 46 times in 7 games. Putting both of them on a level field by regression analysis – Hazard loses the ball once every 10 minutes whereas Mata loses the ball once every 12 – that roughly translates to possession lost 9 times per game for Hazard v/s 7 times per game for Mata.
The Final Third
Finally, goals. Mata has scored 3 whereas Hazard has scored 2. Goals are nothing to compare such players especially in such a small frame of time. However, what I could compare was the amount of shots they took and how they took them. Hazard has had 17 shots with 5 on target whereas Mata has had 17 shots with 6 on target. Hazard prefers taking shots from inside the box(10-7) as compared to Juan Mata who has been taking most of his shots from outside the box(7-10). Juan Mata has a shot accuracy of 35% as compared to Hazard’s 29%. One impressive stat that I would have certainly used to highlight the difference between any other player would be shot attempts. Generally as an attacker, players tend to have shots every game. These two however, have a footballing brain which is beyond excellent. There are no unnecessary shot attempts. Both of them show an uncanny maturity to take chances when necessary – both of them have not taken a single shot in 3 games! A Mark of brilliant footballers.
Shots – Digging Deep
I actually went ahead and tried to derive how many shots they took per minute. It turned out to be somewhat similar Mata takes a shot every 34 minutes whereas Hazard takes one every 39 minutes. Not satisfied, I tried to delve deeper into how often do they take accurate shots. Results are stunning – Hazard has an effective accurate shot at goal every 132 minutes whereas Juan Mata has one every 96 minutes!
One of the most painful aspect of drawing conclusions from these stats is that both of them are performing at phenomenally high standards, so just take it with a pinch of salt. Both of them are world class players – Chelsea fans should be privileged to see them week in, week out. That said, I simply cannot stop praising Mata, he is an ace up Chelsea’s sleeve. Beauty lies in simplicity and Mata exemplifies it, gracefully. Even as a rival – here’s hoping he stays fit, and continues his brilliant form, for the sole privilege and delight of watching the little Spaniard play!
Note: I understand that the sample taken for comparison is small ie. 8 games, hence I dug deep into how many minutes each played. The statistics are compared in accordance to their performance per minutes played (663-580) rather than games played (8-7). Each stat relates to per min performance rather than a standard per game. Any criticism is welcomed!