I always find debates about which player is better interesting, as the majority of the time the view point is subjective. It is always hard to compare players from different eras, playing in different teams, and maybe even with different roles.
Is it fair to compare Pele to Lionel Messi, for example? They might have both played football, but the era’s are so far apart, it is almost like a different sport.
Comparing Sir Donald Bradman to Sachin Tendulkar. Both brilliant cricketers, but the game changed so much, with changes in technology, rules and covered pitches. The same is in boxing, and cycling, and any other sport.
Then you have the role players play. Look at Dennis Bergkamp. His goals to games is fairly poor. 1 in 3.53 for The Arsenal. That is poor for a striker. But than Bergkamp was not a proper striker. He was a Number 10 before Number 10’s became en vogue. Should you be comparing Bergkamp to the likes of Ian Wright and Thierry Henry, or do you compare him to someone like Mesut Ozil?
Without a doubt he was a genius player. A unique player. One of our greatest, one of our best, ever. But it is hard to compare him to anyone, as there is no one comparable.
Saying that, a lot of the time you can compare players. Such as goal scorers. Want to know who the better goal scorer is? Look at goals to games. How many did they score?
Of course, even with this, things are more complicated these days. Those that are stats obsessed start to bring up data such as goals per minute, rather than goals per game. They look at chances taken, with the view being someone who scores 1 in a game when he has just 2 chances is better than one who scored 2 goals in a game where he had 10 chances.
The latest stat loved by the BBC is ‘expected goals’.
The factors taken into account when assessing the quality of a chance include:
- Distance from goal
- Angle of the shot
- Did the chance fall at the player’s feet or was it a header?
- Was it a one on one?
- What was the assist like? (eg long ball, cross, through ball, pull-back)
- In what passage of play did it happen? (eg open play, direct free-kick, corner kick)
- Has the player just beaten an opponent?
- Is it a rebound?
The idea is that a top player will score goals that are not expected, whilst an average one will only score goals that Harry Redknapp’s mum would score.
A lot of the time, when reviewing a player, people think of style of substance. They remember the skilful players, they remember the goals hit from distance. The amazing shots, the screamers, the goals of the month. But they ignore the players who are efficient, who get the goals without doing much flashy.
The Theo Walcott v Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain debate was always one about style of substance.
In Walcott you had an ugly player. A frustrating player. Meanwhile Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was stylish. He purred with class, going past players without them being their, cross field pings passes. You could make a good highlights reel with Oxlade-Chamberlain , not so much Walcott.
But then Walcott scored 19 goals last season, Oxlade-Chamberlain just 6. And whilst Walcott averages a goal every 3.62 games, Oxlade-Chamberlain averages 1 in 9.9.
I always remember debates with Spurs fans. They would claim that Andros Townsend is better than Theo Walcott. They remember him constantly cutting inside and sticking one in the top corner. But it was not constantly. There mind was playing tricks on them.
Townsend has just 12 Premier League goals to his name. Walcott has 65.
Another one is Mesut Ozil. Our friends over at GunnersTown wrote this interesting piece. The premise was the Ozil ,or his eventual replacement, neds to be a midfielder who scores more rather than passes well. That he needs to be more like Christian Erickson. More like Santi Cazorla.
Christian Eriksen – 1 / 4.24
Santi Cazorla – 1 / 5.16
Mesut Ozil – 1 / 5.26
There is not too much in the statistics. Ericksen does outscore Ozil, but not by much, over a 38 game season, it equates to about 1 goal more. And Ozil and Santi Cazorla have a similar record.
The difference is both Erickson and Cazorla stick them in the top corner from 30 yards out. Ozil does not. You forget when Ozil scores goals. Cazorla and Ericksen’s become goal of the month nominees.
This all leads to the comparison between Olivier Giroud and Robin van Persie.
Both are very different in the way they play, but both have been first choice striker at Arsenal, Giroud followed on from van Persie.
Now most Arsenal fans would put van Persie down as the better player. The better goal scorer. The more influential player. They will say he did more at Arsenal, achieved more at Arsenal, than Olivier Grioud. The lamppost.
But then Giroud scored his 100th goal for Arsenal on Thursday night. His 100th goal coming for Arsenal from 1 less game than Robin van Persie.
There are of course some caveats.
van Persie joined Arsenal younger, often played behind the striker or out wide in his early games. He was not the complete player, the senior professional ,that Olivier Giroud was when he joined.
On the other side of the coin, of his 237 appearances for Arsenal, 75 came from the bench. That is 32% of his appearances. Meanwhile, throughout his entire career, just 23% of van Persie’s appearances came from the bench.
Giroud: 100 goals in 237 games
van Persie: 100 goals in 236 games
It is a statistic that would have surprised a lot of fans. But it is due to van Persie have the style. His goals were memorable. They were brilliant. Whilst Giroud just does those flicky goals to the inside of the near post goals. But they both score.
van Persie kicked on after his first 100 goals. He ended up with 132 goals in 278 games, lowering his overall games per goal to 1 in 2.1. His final 32 goals for the club coming in just 42 games, before leaving for Man U.
It does not matter what goals you score, it matters what you win a pal of mine said when the Giroud v van Persie debate came up in a Whatsapp debate. He was trying to say that it did not matter that Giroud had scored his 100 goals quicker, as what really matter is what they won.
In 5 years at Arsenal, Olivier Giroud has won 3 FA Cups. In 8 years at Arsenal, Robin van Persie won a single FA Cup, of which he came on in the 86th minute.
So it brings me to a conclusion.
Robin van Persie or Olivier Giroud?