Saturday, 23 August 2014

Comparing Schneiderlin

It's been widely reported since Mauricio Pochettino started his job at Tottenham that he'd like to secure the services of Morgan Schneiderlin.  At Southampton last season he largely partnered Victor Wanyama in a predominantly defensive pairing although he had greater license to move forward and was key in their system.

Tottenham are extremely well stocked in central midfield & superficially it's difficult to see why the purchase of Schneiderlin would be deemed entirely necessary.  Having looked at the derived statistics for players from both teams last year, i'd noticed a significant similarity between the numbers provided by Nabil Bentaleb and Schneiderlin; to me it seemed as though a ready made Schneiderlin-style player already existed at the club in the shape of the 19 year old Algerian.

So in order to 'prove' my contention, I made an attempt to show a correlation between the statistics for each player & whilst I was doing this, it seemed logical to compare the midfielders and forwards for each team.  In doing this I hoped it would enable me to 'see' what type of player Pochettino would need or favour to implement the systems he used successfully with Southampton at Tottenham.

Here is a table of Southampton's midfielders and forwards from last season matched and compared to Tottenham's:
I've tried to split them into rough sectors: DMs/CMs, AMs/Wingers and pure Forwards [Ward-Prowse doesn't fit well anywhere, he played all over] and the key thing to remember here is that this is NOT a measure of quality, it is merely a measure of how alike players are based on their statistical output.
Quickly: RED is which Southampton player most resembles a given Tottenham player (ie. of Southampton players, Cork is the player whose statistics most resemble Dembele) and the BORDER represents which Tottenham player most resembles a Southampton player (ie. of Tottenham players, Bentaleb is the player whose statistics most resemble Cork). With regard numbers, higher represents greater similarity.  


So what can I posit from this table?
  • Bentaleb is the most similar player to both Schneiderlin & Cork; he started the first game of the season, to some surprise from sections of the Tottenham support who are cynical towards him due to his perceived association with Sherwood.  Indeed, and pleasingly for the purpose of the article, the correlation between Schneiderlin & Bentaleb is the strongest in the whole table. :)  Pochettino picked the guy who most resembles Schneiderlin.
  • ...and played him alongside Capoue, who strongly resembles Wanyama (Sandro scores higher, but is reputed to be leaving the club)
  • Workrate & resultant defensive awareness are key tenets in Pochettino systems & we can see that Lamela, Lennon & Holtby score high numbers when held against Southampton's DM core. In contrast, Eriksen and Townsend do not.  This supports a possible view that Eriksen & Townsend do not work hard enough in defensive areas to satisfy systematic needs.  We know Lennon has kept his place in the team before due to his positioning & workrate, Sherwood said as much & he started Pochettino's first game.  I'd rather not be too definitive here but it's an intriguing aside nonetheless.
  • Linked to this, Lennon is most similar to Lallana & he started in a similar role. Townsend & Chadli also resemble Lallana and with Lamela seemingly booked for the right forward role (albeit with plenty of interchange across the attacking midfield three), it could be interesting how these players are rotated.
  • Kane resembles Jay Rodriguez.  This pleases me as I have high hopes for Kane & feel he is able to play an advanced left forward J-Rod/Welbeck-esque role, in the absence of J-Rod or Welbeck, who ironically have both been linked with transfers to the club.
  • To many people's chagrin, Sherwood tried to turn Chadli into a central midfielder.  These numbers unsurprisingly indicate he is an attacker.
  • Dembele is unique here.  He's quite unique in the league as a dribbling defensively orientated midfielder but concerns about how he fits into a Pochettino system are probably valid.
  • Paulinho does a bit of everything.  Michael Caley showed how Paulinho had repeatedly got into excellent scoring positions last season and was let down by poor finishing, so bearing that in mind it's not a great surprise he's 'most similar' to J-Rod and other attackers.  Currently his reputation amongst the fan-base is low after a seemingly abject first season followed by a humdrum World Cup and again it's hard to place him in this system, but he does have an all round quality that is scarce in the league.
  • Holtby may well be a jack of all trades, master of none. I may be letting bias creep in.
  • Soldado maps onto Lambert more strongly than Adebayor does.  This is contrary to general opinion, although Soldado has shown small signs of improved form in pre-season.
So do Tottenham need Schneiderlin? 

Well, i'd say no.  But then i'm entrusting the fate of the 'Schneiderlin role' to a 19 year old, and that may not be smart.  I'd like to play Paulinho in there, but his form isn't there right now.  It may well be that Schneiderlin will not get the move he craves, and the noises from Southampton suggest the deal is not at all near being done but with 8 days left until the window shuts, nothing would surprise.  His fitness has been strong over a number of seasons and if the coach sees him as a player who can regulate the tempo of the game & become key then i'd be reluctant to disapprove of his potential recruitment.


Thanks for reading.

*Just to say, this was an experimental piece of work that I enjoyed doing, but i'd be reticent in endorsing it's findings too strongly.  The results were sufficiently explainable for me to believe that the methods involved were sound enough for an amateur piece of work but there's every possibility that some statistical rigour is lacking; I am as it were, learning on the hoof.

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