Data point: December player performance
In partnership with the EA Sports Player Performance Index, Rant looks the data behind Manchester United’s 2011/12 campaign. The Index covers Premier League performance based on a mathematical model developed Dr Ian McHale (a Liverpool fan) and Professor Phil Scarf (a United fan). It provides objective ratings for players’ performances in a match, and over a season, enabling comparisons across positions, and over time, by identifying how much a player genuinely contributes to a team’s success.
Players are allocated points based on set criteria, including matches won by the team, specific actions during a match, time on the pitch, goals, assists and clean sheets. McHale and Scart have analysed hundreds of matches since the Premier League’s inception in order to quantify the relationships between player actions and the match result.
The top players and the full data set of United’s player performances available here. Sir Alex Ferguson’s and, indeed, the Index’ top performer is Wayne Rooney, who has led for most of the campaign. Robin van Persie is second overall, followed by Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor. Nani, at sixth in the Index, and Patrice Evra at 14 are the only other United players in the top 50.
December 2011 will be remembered among United fans for the strong run of results, including wins over Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, QPR, Wigan Athletic and Fulham. Until, of course, Blackburn Rover’s win at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve.
Selected highlights from United’s December performances:
- Anders Lindegaard and David de Gea continued to share goalkeeping duties in December, with each playing three games;
- Lindegaard made sixteen saves in his three games and kept three clean sheets; De Gea made eleven saves in his three matched and conceded once;
- Twenty seven saves across six games (an average of four and a half saves per game) shows a busier month for the goalkeepers than November when they had just nine saves across three games.
- Patrice Evra was the only member of United’s defence to start all six games in December – the Frenchman made 63 per cent of tackles he attempted in December;
- Meanwhile, Chris Smalling won an impressive 88 per cent of the tackles he went in for, along with making three clearances, three interceptions and two blocks;
- Jonny Evans may have only won three tackles in November, but he made an thirteen clearances, nine interceptions and three blocks;
- Evans’ 6.32 miles against Wolverhampton Wanderers was also the highest total distance posted by a United player in December;
- Rio Ferdinand made just three appearances in December, but contributed eight clearances and eight interceptions.
- After struggling for opportunities early in the season, Antonio Valencia played all six of United’s game in December, along with Luis Nani and Michael Carrick;
- Nani scored three times from seventeen attempts at goal in December, with 59 per cent of shots on target;
- Nani also completed 180 passes in his opponent’s half, and put in 34 crosses and completed 16 dribbles;
- Nani’s 6.85 miles against Villa was also the highest distance covered by a United player in a single game in December;
- Carrick was at the heart of United’s defensive midfield duties during December – he won 93 per cent of tackles while making 12 interceptions and completing 125 passes in his opponent’s half;
- Antonio Valencia completed 183 passes in his opponent’s half in December, the highest number of any United player this month (three more than Nani) and the joint highest number of crosses with 34.
- Dimitar Berbatov is another player who was given the opportunity to shine in December, and the Bulgarian striker seized it with both hands after six goals from just eight attempts at goal in just 206 minutes of football – a goal every 34 minutes 20 seconds;
- Rooney also enjoyed a prolific month in front of goal, scoring four times from 23 attempts with 74 per cent on target;
- Rooney completed 155 passes in his opponent’s half in December;
- Rooney’s 6.38 miles against Fulham was the highest for a United striker in December.