Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Ki Sung-Yueng v Fabregas, Herrera & More: Statistical Comparison

Josh Kilmister crunched the numbers and Ki comes up trumps

After a season out on loan at Sunderland last year, Ki has become one of, if not our best player this season. This hasn’t gone unnoticed in the world of football and particularly since his return from the Asian Cup earlier this month, Ki has been praised by pundits and even fans of other clubs for his recent performances – so how does he compare to others in his position?

Anyone who has watched us on a regular basis will know that for large chunks of the season Ki has played in a more defensive role alongside Jonjo Shelvey, and as they will know that this is not the position he excels, nor particularly enjoys to play in.

Macintosh HD:Users:JKilmister:Desktop:Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 23.20.46.png

As shown in the matrix above, I’ve evaluated Ki’s defensive contributions by comparing him to Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Nemanja Matic (Chelsea), Fernandinho (Man City) and Alex Song (West Ham), all of who are all established defensive midfielders in the Premier League.

Admittedly, the first stat on the board doesn’t look great, with Ki winning over one tackle less than the others per game, but let’s remember that he isn’t a natural defensive midfielder, nor has he played there week in week out. The other stats, however, do his performances plenty of justice. Leading the way in terms of blocks and interceptions, Ki has obviously played a vital part in some of the games we’ve scraped through this season. He also has the least fouls committed of the five players, which given our luck with referees this season, is very impressive.

Trying to look through the eyes of a fan of the sport rather than the club, it’s hard to look past Ki in terms of defensive contribution. He has the greater stats in three of the shown categories, while two of the other three see him narrowly edged out by Matic (This could change with Matic missing out on Chelsea’s next two Premier League matches). For a player who is clearly more of a playmaker than he is a ball winner, these stats are above and beyond what I expected.

Next up are some passing statistics and since returning from the Australia earlier this month, I’d imagine any of Ki’s stats surrounding his creativity would’ve risen slightly.
Macintosh HD:Users:JKilmister:Desktop:Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 23.46.26.png

This time I’ve put our man’s stats up against those of Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Ander Herrera (Man Utd), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) and Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal).

It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that Ki’s creative stats are a little underwhelming, but even then his pass completion is second to none. As mentioned earlier, Ki has played the majority of his game in the defensive half of the pitch, though the signing of Jack Cork seems to have changed that.

Directly compared to Fabregas – who in my opinion has been the best midfielder in the league this season – the only stats that Ki really looks worse of in are chances created and key passes, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone if we’re being honest with ourselves, while it’s worth noting that Ki’s stats are worked on an average and he’s played significantly more games than Herrera, Ward-Prowse and Ramsey.

Finally we have some stats for Ki’s season in front of goal and like his creativity, his role in the first few months of the season has taken it’s toll on his goals per game percentage.

Macintosh HD:Users:JKilmister:Desktop:Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 00.18.37.png

I thought I’d use the same players to evaluate Ki’s shooting as I did his passing, and as you can see he hasn’t been quite as prolific in front of goal this season as he has been in recent weeks.

Essentially the players I’ve compared Ki against are generally more attacking players, and apart from Fabregas, have less games to bring down their average. The next matrix is the exact same as this one, but I’ve changed the filter to show totals, instead of an average per ninety minutes:

Macintosh HD:Users:JKilmister:Desktop:Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 00.36.59.png

Looks a bit better, doesn’t it?

I’ve reiterated it throughout and I’m sure you’re sick of reading it now, but I can’t stress enough the fact that Ki has played the majority of games this season as the holding midfielder in a central partnership. His goal on the weekend against Man Utd should be enough proof that the Korean is more than capable of getting into those goal-scoring positions and as obvious as it sounds, the more we allow him to make those runs inside the box, the more we’ll see him on the score sheet.

Ki has scored two of his five Premier League goals this month, and the way things are going I wouldn’t bet against him bagging himself at least another couple before the end of the season. Especially should either Cork or Britton remain available.

If there’s one thing this piece has pointed out it is that in Ki we have a rare breed of midfielder in our ranks. I could also remind you that if disaster should strike the Korea captain also has experience at centre-back. At Wembley no less! Versatility is all well and good, but there’s not many players I can think of that can do as good a job on the attack as they can in defence.

You can follow Josh on Twitter @JoshKilmister