Originally posted on Finishers Forum  |  Last updated 1/12/13
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Nope. Sorry guys. Unfortunately this article isn’t about a dedicated FBI agent forced to surgically exchange his own face for the face of a known super-criminal to prevent major US calamity (as depicted in the strikingly realistic John Woo film, Face/Off), but I remain optimistic that a statistical face-off between the Prem’s top two scorers will evoke comparable exhilaration. Think that final fight scene with Nick Cage and John Travolta somehow maneuvering all over a swerving, full-throttle speed boat while trading vicious haymakers to the face with an anchor, except this time it’s RVP and Suarez trading scoring figures in an equally full-throttle excel table. I know, your pulse is quickening…  … Recently, Brendan Rodgers proclaimed (for all who cared to listen) that Luis Suarez was absolutely “unplayable”… meaning he can not be stopped… and that he (Brendan) wouldn’t swap the Uruguayan drama-magnet’s services for anyone in the EPL, including league-leading goal scorer Robin van Persie. While any manager would, and probably should, stand behind the player that has scored nearly half of his team’s total league goals this season, if RVP somehow did become available for Suarez in a straight up lunchroom trade, would it be worth considering? Let’s take a look at the super strikers’ stats head-to-head… (Premier League Season statistics from whoscored.com) In the Offensive Stats section above, we see that each player’s goal total is nearly the same (only separated by a single goal), but we also see that RVP achieved his league-leading goal tally in significantly more efficient fashion. To put that previous statement in better perspective, what I mean by “more efficient” is goals converted with what appears to be less opportunity to do so. For example, RVP has only taken 72 shots to achieve his 16 league goals so far, while Suarez has taken 123 to reach his 15. Similarly, RVP has only needed 17 successful dribbles to net his strike total, while Suarez has churned out a soaring 64 successful dribbles to complete his. That’s significantly more work from Suarez to achieve (again) what is nearly the same goal production. Now, this “efficiency” can be looked at in one of two ways. On the one hand, you can praise RVP for taking his chances more effectively, needing numerous shots less and even fewer dribbles to reach a goal production that is currently leading the English Premier League. And on the other, you can equally praise Luis Suarez for taking on the entirety of his team’s goal scoring responsibilities, and being relentless in his ability to create openings by himself and for himself when his teammates have lacked “helpfulness” (hence the high amount of successful dribbles past opponents and endless shots taken on the opposition’s frame). I really think both opinions are valid, and I think that because the difference between each player’s stat count is more a result of differing team playing styles (between Manchester United and Liverpool) and differing personal playing styles than differing levels in actual skill. Under Rodgers, Liverpools’ focus is keeping the ball moving and passing to keep possession. That’s why we see Suarez take the edge in the “passes/game” category, and the more impressive rate in through balls successfully sent on. Suarez is asked to be a part of the link up machine as well as the primary goal scoring (and even goal creating) threat, which has allowed him to complete passes more at the rate of an attacking midfielder than a lone striker. The seemingly opposing fact that he’s had less assists than RVP this season is probably more a strike against the company Suarez has been keeping (in the Liverpool starting 11) than an indictment of his individual play. I only say that because Luis clearly has as much (or maybe more) ability to create for others if he’s converting his through ball passes at a rate 32 percentage points better than Van Persie… that seems to indicate it’s not an issue with Suarez’s passing capability. The problem for Suarez is that he’s not passing to the likes of Wayne Rooney or Chicharito, Liverpool just lacks the personnel to put significant offensive fire power along side its star forward (which I’m sure isn’t news to anyone). Additionally, the final figures we see in the possession statistics section, even furthers the truth that Suarez is asked to play a more on-the-ball role for his team than RVP. Luis has lost the ball more often and turned it over at a higher rate than his Manchester rival because he’s been asked to complete about 8 more passes/game than RVP. More dribbles, more shots, and more passes is always going to mean more total losses of possession and turnovers too. That’s just the nature of being a consistent ball handler for your club. The one area that RVP does distinguish a clear advantage in is Aerial duels Won. Being a couple inches taller than Suarez, the Dutch International has shown more positive influence in the air (posting a 47% win rate of aerial balls sent his way, compared to Luis’ 33%). It’s an additional menace that RVP brings to the table, and it once again places RVP right in line with the quality of Luis Suarez, marking the two forwards as probably the most impactful individual players in the EPL. So trade Suarez for RVP? Sure thing… if you like treading water.
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