Spanish football in numbers: A statistical analysis of La Liga
Big Game Players
Only one place to start this week, and I don’t mean Deportivo La Coruna’s 0-0 draw with Rayo Vallecano. A Clasico it wasn’t. A few hours to the South West, however, there was one. Yes, it was the 6th of the season (if you include the Super Cup), but it’s still the biggest game in club football. And once again, it was Madrid’s day as they beat Barcelona 2-1 with goals from Benzema and Sergio Ramos.
And although it’s not been a classic season for the French striker, the fact that he scored just his 7th league goal of the season against the best ranked team in the league is no surprise. No player with more than five goals has a higher ranked opponent per goal, with his latest effort meaning his average is 7.14 per goal.
Goals against Rayo (then 8th), Vallodolid (7th), Malaga (4th), Socieadad (7th) and Barcelona (1st) mean that, along with strikes against Bilbao (12th) and Sevilla (11th), he can lay claim to being the big game player in the league. Not one goal against the teams in the bottom 6 certainly means he’s not a flat track bully.
However, he’s still a long way behind Barcelona’s scorer on Saturday in terms of the big game goals. Of Messi’s quite brilliant 39 league goals this season, a whopping 10 of them have been against teams in the top 6.
With goals in both league Clasicos this season, as well as two Champions League Final goals would back this claim up. The thing with Messi though is that it’s not just the big games he shows up in, it’s all games. With a full 12 games left, Celta Vigo (currently 18th) are the only team he hasn’t scored against this season. Cristiano Ronaldo, by contrast, has scored just 3 goals against the top 6 in La Liga this season.
From a big game point of view, behind Messi on 4 goals against the top 6 teams are team mate Fabregas (7.33), Sevilla’s Negredo (12.46), Vallecano’s Piti (9.00) and Sociedad’s Prieto (4.20) – from just five goals.
Elsewhere in Spain, there was another top of the table clash as second placed Atletico Madrid hosted 4th placed Malaga. It’s fair to say that Atleti’s season has slowed down since passing the halfway stage – along with Falcao’s goals.
Up until the half way point, they were averaging 2.1 goals per game. In the seven games since, it’s just 1.1 goal per game. Fortunately for them, they have the highest number of clean sheets in the league with a massive 14 – three ahead of Malaga’s 11. And it’s no surprise that Sunday’s encounter finished 0-0 as the two best defences in the league cancelled each other out.
This was Atletico’s 5th clean sheet in just 7 games, and whilst city rivals Real have closed the gap, it’s the players in defence along with the excellent Courtois between the sticks, that’s keeping them in 2nd place. And just as impressively is that the last 5 clean sheets have been against an average ranked opposition of 8.67.
One team that certainly weren’t likely to keep a clean sheet was Barcelona. As covered here by Cronany, the Catalan giants’ defensive displays this season have been poor. In fact, they’ve kept only five clean sheets so far – the 4th worst in the league.
And it’s not as though they’ve been in the big games either, with shut outs against teams in 17th, 18th twice, and 12th, with just the one top 6 clean sheet against a then 4th placed Levante in round 12. Great to watch for the neutral, but no surprise that they’ve found themselves 2-0 down against a resurgent AC Milan in the Champions League. At least, theirs is the only team to have scored in every game.
Taking a quick look at the current sequences, one of the form teams of the league is Real Sociedad. Their entertaining 3-3 draw with 7th placed Real Betis saw them come back from 2-0 down to record their 8th match without a defeat – the longest in La Liga at the moment, which also included Barcelona’ first defeat of the season.
Whilst that was undoubtedly a big game performance, recent wins against Mallorca (19th), Zaragoza (15th) and Bilbao (15th) show that they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty (along with their reputation).
Getafe are another team currently on a great run of form with 4 wins in 5 games – and once again, it’s by beating the teams they should be beating – beating all of the teams in the bottom 4 in recent weeks, meaning that they’re second only to Valencia for the worst average opponent per win, with 14.18.
Crucial to the recent good run has been forward Adrian Colunga, a player that failed to score in his first 9 appearances this season. However, the last seven games have seen six goals in a significant change of fortunes for the former Recreativo man. Unsurprisingly, he’s the league’s flat track bully, with an average opponent per goal of 17.50.