Disclaimer- You are on a Liverpool blog, this is going to be slightly biased no matter how hard I try not to be. Feel free to refute these stats and/or opinions in the comments.
In all honestly I tried to suppress my bias and let the numbers do the talking. After I started poking around, I was quite surprised by what the numbers told. All these stats come from eplindex.com. A fantastic site I highly recommend you check out. The subscription is well worth it. On to the good stuff.
Who who should it be? Clearly the field should be narrowed to three names: Bale, Van Persie, and Suarez. These awards make me cringe a bit since they seem to be as much a popularity contest as an actual award for good play. Everyone has their corners and at this point many are dug in, but I thought it would be a good time to take a look at some of the statistics and what they show about each player's game.
As many of you (especially kindred) know, I am not a huge fan of using statistics as a means of evaluating actual play and worth to a team. Unlike baseball, there is so much in football that is not accounted for. Mainly, movement off the ball. While stats have gotten much better lately with statisticians keeping track of everything from touches and dribbles to snot rockets and loogies, they still can be misleading. As the great philosopher Homer Simpson once said, "Facts are meaningless, you can use facts to prove anything that's remotely true!"
So here we go. All of the candidates are very offensive minded players. I could keep whacking away at goals scored and we would end up right where we started. Let's look at the other side of the ball, what do these players do when they lose possession and what do they do to make chances for others:
First defensive stats:
|Number of Ground 50/50's||450||245||175|
|% Ground 50/50's won||38%||48%||47%|
|% Aerial 50/50's won||26%||40%||42%|
|Tackle Success Rate (%)||79.5%||70.8||77.8%|
What jumps out at me first is that they are fairly similar in playing time although Suarez does have about two more games (in terms of minutes) than the Bale, the player with the least. However, it is quite clear that RvP is a one trick pony. Sure, he plays higher up the pitch than either Bale or Suarez do now, but don't forget that Suarez was played all by his lonesome until Sturridge arrived. Both Bale and Suarez clearly contribute significantly to the defensive play of their side. RvP's number of tackles and number of 50/50s are much much lower than the other two's.
Suarez clearly likes to get stuck in, and might be a decent holding midfielder. He has over 200 more total 50/50s than Gerrard does. Bale being a wider player at times obviously tracks back and statistically puts in a good defensive shift.
|Possession Won in Def Third||14
|Possession Won in Mid Third||61||56||45|
|Possession Won in Att Third||27||7||15|
The 27 balls won back in the attacking third is the highest mark in the EPL thus far. This would seem to show again that Suarez is much more active without the ball and tenacious in and although he has been dispossessed more than either of the two (although he has far more touches), he works hard to get it back and keep the pressure on.
Lastly we'll look at what they do when in attack mode and their statistical creativity.
|Accurate Final Third Passes||416||244||297|
|Pass Accuracy (%), Final Third||72%||71%||74%|
|Total Chances Created (includes assists)
|Clear Cut Chances Created
So the final round of stats shows how much more Suarez contributes to the rest of the team than the other two do. He has nearly 25% more accurate passes in the final third. It was a but surprising to me to see how far off Suarez was in his number of crosses, although it makes much more sense based on his more direct style of play and desire to take defenders on. Bale obviously would lead this since he is a more natural wide player. However, despite this Suarez is still far ahead of the others in terms of total chances created. It is actually quite the indictment of Liverpool's finishing ability that Suarez only has four assists.
What do I take away from this? Well, it is clearly not a three horse race. It really is a two horse race between Bale and Suarez. The stats together do seem to show that both Bale and Suarez are much more involved in their overall team play. One must take into consideration though that they are the focal points of their respective teams nearly every minute of every game which RvP is not. Much of Suarez's passing stats are padded by the style of play the Brendan Rodgers has implemented at Liverpool.
That said, Bale and Suarez are clearly having unreal seasons, but not just offensively. Their defensive contributions are unappreciated in the general conversation, but should not be overlooked.