FanPost

How good has Romelu Lukaku (and every other striker) been this season?

Over the last several days, WAGNH has seen plenty of debates about Romelu Lukaku. On one hand there are those who feel that he isn't ready and that he should be loaned out another year or even be sold if a loan isn't possible. They believe that we need to invest in two world-class strikers this summer and suggest plenty of names - Costa, Mandzukic, Dzeko, Cavani, etc. Then there is the other group who feel he has earned his chance to at least be second-choice at Chelsea through his performances over the last couple of years.

There is, of course, merit to both sides of the argument, but I feel we can get a much clearer indication of how good he actually is by looking at the stats. To serve this purpose, I decided to aggregate the performance data of the top strikers in the Premier League and around Europe for the 2013/14 season. I will be comparing only center forwards who play in the same position as Romelu (thus obviously leaving out the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, etc.). This master data table can be found below:

Player Team Age Matches Minutes Goals Assists Penalties Shots Shots on Target Shot on Target% Conversion Rate Yellow Cards Red Cards Fouls Committed Fouls Suffered Crosses Successful Crosses Cross Success % Offsides Aerial Duels Won Aerial Duels Contested Aerial Duel Win % Passes Pass Success % Key Passes Dispossessed Turnovers Successful Dribbles Tackles Interceptions Dribbled Past
Romelu Lukaku Everton (Chelsea) 21 31 2562 15 7 0 98 45 45.9% 15.3% 1 0 23 11 25 2 8.0% 19 90 238 37.8% 791 66.5% 32 54 49 41 8 8 5
Luis Suarez Liverpool 27 33 2964 31 12 0 183 82 44.8% 16.9% 6 0 53 69 84 25 29.8% 33 23 76 30.3% 1265 74.8% 87 60 91 93 35 11 17
Daniel Sturridge Liverpool 24 29 2275 22 7 0 97 44 45.4% 22.7% 2 0 10 37 21 1 4.8% 19 7 40 17.5% 740 79.3% 29 52 52 37 10 4 6
Sergio Aguero Manchester City 26 23 1539 17 6 0 86 43 50.0% 19.8% 4 0 17 21 26 5 19.2% 17 9 17 52.9% 490 84.9% 35 49 36 35 13 6 7
Edin Dzeko Manchester City 28 31 1991 16 1 0 105 39 37.1% 15.2% 4 0 28 27 17 0 0.0% 7 86 185 46.5% 714 73.7% 18 38 36 12 15 5 9
Wayne Rooney Manchester United 28 29 2448 17 10 3 100 43 43.0% 17.0% 8 0 31 28 182 36 19.8% 17 25 88 28.4% 1324 80.1% 56 66 46 41 29 29 25
Robin van Persie Manchester United 30 21 1584 12 3 2 60 20 33.3% 20.0% 2 0 26 11 47 9 19.1% 22 22 80 27.5% 387 76.7% 16 27 26 15 11 4 5
Olivier Giroud Arsenal 27 36 3081 16 8 1 109 39 35.8% 14.7% 4 0 47 57 21 2 9.5% 29 146 275 53.1% 1114 68.9% 37 80 98 25 31 19 20
Emmanuel Adebayor Tottenham Hotspur 30 21 1808 11 4 1 44 24 54.5% 25.0% 0 0 26 13 17 5 29.4% 29 40 121 33.1% 793 83.1% 34 78 69 20 24 4 7
Wilfried Bony Swansea City 25 34 2472 16 4 4 106 40 37.7% 15.1% 4 0 35 48 3 1 33.3% 24 105 241 43.6% 825 74.1% 25 64 73 24 11 6 6
Diego Costa Atlético Madrid 25 34 2942 27 3 5 108 56 51.9% 25.0% 7 0 61 116 44 9 20.5% 51 47 180 26.1% 781 75.5% 45 127 101 60 20 8 11
Mario Mandzukic Bayern Munich 28 30 2018 18 5 0 77 45 58.4% 23.4% 5 0 46 39 17 3 17.6% 9 89 186 47.8% 528 72.7% 30 32 27 20 18 5 25
Karim Benzema Real Madrid 26 34 2700 17 7 0 98 45 45.9% 17.3% 2 0 29 24 20 4 20.0% 37 25 60 41.7% 819 81.9% 64 41 38 19 19 3 3
Robert Lewandowski Borussia Dortmund 25 33 2803 20 8 4 115 60 52.2% 17.4% 3 0 65 97 17 2 11.8% 17 144 388 37.1% 855 72.2% 62 96 75 104 18 7 19
Edinson Cavani Napoli 27 34 2987 29 5 7 157 70 44.9% 18.5% 6 0 48 39 34 6 17.6% 32 30 74 40.5% 697 77.9% 31 37 71 37 46 15 20
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Paris Saint German 32 32 2705 25 11 7 162 74 45.7% 15.4% 7 0 61 41 38 7 18.4% 44 70 110 63.6% 1488 75.9% 69 70 84 24 11 9 4
Mario Balotelli AC Milan 23 29 2276 14 6 3 152 51 33.6% 9.2% 9 1 73 100 51 7 13.7% 14 22 56 39.3% 623 72.6% 32 60 68 57 12 7 5

*For Edinson Cavani, I decided to use stats from the 2012-2013 season he had with Napoli as I felt they were much more representative of his qualities as a center-forward.

**All statistics are only for league matches to ensure uniformity of the analysis.

Relevant Data:

The above table is huge and is basically just an over load of information. So I decided to combine certain columns to make them more relevant to our analysis. For standardization all numbers were converted to a per 90 minutes unit (except for percentages):

Player Goals excl. penalties Shots Shot on Target% Conversion Rate Assists Successful Passes Key Passes Successful Crosses Possession Lost while Passing or Crossing Possession Lost to Poor Control Aerial Duels Win % Successful Dribbles Possession Regained Fouls Suffered Impact of Cards Fouls Committed Offsides Age
Romelu Lukaku 0.53 3.44 45.9% 15.3% 0.25 18.48 1.12 0.07 10.12 3.62 37.8% 1.44 0.56 0.39 0.04 0.81 0.67 21
Luis Suarez 0.94 5.56 44.8% 16.9% 0.36 28.73 2.64 0.76 11.47 4.59 30.3% 2.82 1.40 2.10 0.18 1.61 1.00 27
Daniel Sturridge 0.87 3.84 45.4% 22.7% 0.28 23.21 1.15 0.04 6.85 4.11 17.5% 1.46 0.55 1.46 0.08 0.40 0.75 24
Sergio Aguero 0.99 5.03 50.0% 19.8% 0.35 24.33 2.05 0.29 5.55 4.97 52.9% 2.05 1.11 1.23 0.23 0.99 0.99 26
Edin Dzeko 0.72 4.75 37.1% 15.2% 0.05 23.79 0.81 0.00 9.26 3.35 46.5% 0.54 0.90 1.22 0.18 1.27 0.32 28
Wayne Rooney 0.51 3.68 43.0% 17.0% 0.37 38.99 2.06 1.32 15.05 4.12 28.4% 1.51 2.13 1.03 0.29 1.14 0.63 28
Robin van Persie 0.57 3.41 33.3% 20.0% 0.17 16.87 0.91 0.51 7.28 3.01 27.5% 0.85 0.85 0.63 0.11 1.48 1.25 30
Olivier Giroud 0.44 3.18 35.8% 14.7% 0.23 22.42 1.08 0.06 10.68 5.20 53.1% 0.73 1.46 1.67 0.12 1.37 0.85 27
Emmanuel Adebayor 0.50 2.19 54.5% 25.0% 0.20 32.80 1.69 0.25 7.27 7.32 33.1% 1.00 1.39 0.65 0.00 1.29 1.44 30
Wilfried Bony 0.44 3.86 37.7% 15.1% 0.15 22.26 0.91 0.04 7.85 4.99 43.6% 0.87 0.62 1.75 0.15 1.27 0.87 25
Diego Costa 0.67 3.30 51.9% 25.0% 0.09 18.04 1.38 0.28 6.92 6.97 26.1% 1.84 0.86 3.55 0.21 1.87 1.56 25
Mario Mandzukic 0.80 3.43 58.4% 23.4% 0.22 17.12 1.34 0.13 7.05 2.63 47.8% 0.89 1.03 1.74 0.22 2.05 0.40 28
Karim Benzema 0.57 3.27 45.9% 17.3% 0.23 22.36 2.13 0.13 5.47 2.63 41.7% 0.63 0.73 0.80 0.07 0.97 1.23 26
Robert Lewandowski 0.51 3.69 52.2% 17.4% 0.26 19.82 1.99 0.06 8.11 5.49 37.1% 3.34 0.80 3.11 0.10 2.09 0.55 25
Edinson Cavani 0.66 4.73 44.9% 18.5% 0.15 16.36 0.93 0.18 5.48 3.25 40.5% 1.11 1.84 1.18 0.18 1.45 0.96 27
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 0.60 5.39 45.7% 15.4% 0.37 37.58 2.30 0.23 12.96 5.12 63.6% 0.80 0.67 1.36 0.23 2.03 1.46 32
Mario Balotelli 0.43 6.01 33.6% 9.2% 0.24 17.89 1.27 0.28 8.49 5.06 39.3% 2.25 0.75 3.95 0.51 2.89 0.55 23

Explanation of terms:

Goals excl. penalties: I felt it would be more appropriate to use goals that were not scored from the penalty spot to give everyone level ground in this analysis. Of course, penalty taking can be an important skill, but Chelsea has no shortage of excellent penalty takers and I doubt any new signing would get precedence over a group of Hazard, Lampard and Luiz (except maybe Balotelli or Zlatan). Also the number of penalty goals maybe distorted due to a lack of opportunity - I'm sure Luis Suarez can take excellent penalties, but just doesn't get the chance due to the presence of Steven Gerrard.

Conversion Rate: Total Goals/ Total Shots

Possession Lost while Passing or Crossing: Number of times the player loses the ball per 90 minutes while attempting to cross or pass.

Possession Lost to Poor Control: Number of times the player is dispossessed through by a tackle or due to poor control per 90 minutes.

Possession Regained: Number of times the player regains possession per 90 minutes through a tackle or an interception.

Impact of Cards: No. of Expected Yellow Cards per match (I gave a Red Card the weight of 4 Yellow Cards to account for suspensions, impact during that match, etc.)

Ranking of Attributes:

Next we rank each attribute of each player against all other players. These rankings are of course out of 17. This gives us a better idea of the strengths of each player comapred to the others:

Player Goals excl. penalties Shots Shot on Target% Conversion Rate Assists Successful Passes Key Passes Successful Crosses Possession Lost while Passing or Crossing Possession Lost to Poor Control Aerial Duels Win % Successful Dribbles Possession Regained Fouls Suffered Impact of Cards Fouls Committed Offsides Age
Romelu Lukaku 11 11 6 13 7 12 12 12 13 6 10 8 16 17 2 2 6 1
Luis Suarez 2 2 11 11 3 4 1 2 15 9 13 2 4 4 11 12 12 9
Daniel Sturridge 3 8 9 4 5 7 11 15 4 7 17 7 17 8 4 1 7 3
Sergio Aguero 1 4 5 6 4 5 5 4 3 10 3 4 6 10 15 4 11 7
Edin Dzeko 5 5 14 14 17 6 17 17 12 5 5 17 8 11 10 6 1 12
Wayne Rooney 12 10 12 10 1 1 4 1 17 8 14 6 1 13 16 5 5 12
Robin van Persie 9 13 17 5 13 16 16 3 8 3 15 13 10 16 6 11 14 15
Olivier Giroud 15 16 15 16 9 8 13 14 14 14 2 15 3 7 7 9 8 9
Emmanuel Adebayor 14 17 2 1 12 3 7 7 7 17 12 10 5 15 1 8 15 15
Wilfried Bony 16 7 13 15 15 10 15 16 9 11 6 12 15 5 8 7 9 4
Diego Costa 6 14 4 1 16 13 8 6 5 16 16 5 9 2 12 13 17 4
Mario Mandzukic 4 12 1 3 11 15 9 10 6 1 4 11 7 6 13 15 2 12
Karim Benzema 10 15 6 9 10 9 3 11 1 2 7 16 13 14 3 3 13 7
Robert Lewandowski 13 9 3 8 6 11 6 13 10 15 11 1 11 3 5 16 3 4
Edinson Cavani 7 6 10 7 14 17 14 9 2 4 8 9 2 12 9 10 10 9
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 8 3 8 12 2 2 2 8 16 13 1 14 14 9 14 14 16 17
Mario Balotelli 17 1 16 17 8 14 10 5 11 12 9 3 12 1 17 17 4 2
Weightage Based on Chelsea's Need 30.0% 2.0% 2.0% 5.0% 15.0% 4.0% 2.5% 2.0% 4.0% 4.0% 7.5% 4.0% 4.0% 2.0% 2.5% 1.0% 1.0% 7.5%

The most interesting part is of course the weight I have given to each attribute. I have tried to distribute these based on our current needs as a team. These are of course completely subjective and open to debate.

Goals and Assists: Given that scoring goals and getting into goal scoring positions have been the major problems for our strikers, I have given high weight to the sheer number of goals scored. Assists are also quite important, obviously, and so it receives a weight of 15%.

Aerial Duels Win %: This receives a relatively high weight of 7.5% as it would an important skill for a Chelsea striker, given the lack of height or physical presence among our attacking midfielders (Schurrle excluded).

Age: I have given a weight of 7.5% for age to evaluate the striker as a potential transfer target from a Chelsea perspective. Given similar performance, we would of course be more attracted towards younger strikers. Incorporating age also serves as a barometer for improvement in coming seasons.

Passing and Ball Retention: As most of the smaller teams park the bus against us and provide little space for our strikers, passing becomes an important characteristic for a Chelsea striker. For this reason, passing attributes such as pass success rate, possession lost etc. receive a combined high weight of 18.5%.

Ball Control: Dribbling ability and Fouls suffered represent the striker's ability to wriggle out of tight spaces. They receive a combined weight of 6%.

Defensive Contribution: As we all know, Mourinho requires every member on the team to give be defensively aware. Strikers are no excpetion, thought they probably aren't expected to do as much defensive work as our AMs. Considering this, the ability to win the ball back is given a weight of 4%.

The Results:

Finally, we find the weighted average rank for each player by calculating the sum of products of the rank of each attribute and its corresponding weight.

To ensure fairness, I have also added an adjustment factor to take into account the strength of the team each striker plays in with respect to its corresponding league. Since we are doing a traditional ranking in descending order, a higher adjustment factor represents the lower value of striker performance. For instance, the goals scored by Zlatan against Ajaccio in Ligue Un cannot be equivalent to the goals scored by Wilfried Bony against Manchester City in the Premier League, given the strength and relative positions of PSG and Swansea City. So if we consider a factor of 1 for Everton in the Premier League, Liverpool is given a factor of 1.1, Manchester City is given 1.3 and so on. In Europe, PSG is given the highest factor of 1.5, while Bayern Munich is given 1.4 and Real Madrid is given 1.35. These factors are again completely subjective.

Player Weighted Rank Average Adjustement Factor Adjusted Weighted Score Adjusted Rankings
Romelu Lukaku 9.38 1 9.38 4
Luis Suarez 5.53 1.1 6.08 2
Daniel Sturridge 6.29 1.1 6.91 3
Sergio Aguero 4.18 1.3 5.43 1
Edin Dzeko 9.63 1.3 12.52 15
Wayne Rooney 8.84 1.2 10.61 7
Robin van Persie 10.93 1.2 13.12 16
Olivier Giroud 11.35 1.2 13.61 17
Emmanuel Adebayor 11.01 1.1 12.11 13
Wilfried Bony 12.39 0.9 11.15 10
Diego Costa 8.99 1.2 10.79 8
Mario Mandzukic 7.10 1.4 9.94 5
Karim Benzema 8.87 1.35 11.97 12
Robert Lewandowski 9.27 1.2 11.12 9
Edinson Cavani 8.70 1.2 10.44 6
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 8.27 1.5 12.41 14
Mario Balotelli 11.40 1 11.40 11

Final Rankings and Thoughts:

Having taken all adjustments into account, the final rankings are:

1. Sergio Aguero
2. Luis Suarez
3. Daniel Sturridge
4. Romelu Lukaku
5. Mario Mandzukic
6. Edinson Cavani
7. Wayne Rooney
8. Diego Costa
9. Robert Lewandowski
10. Wilfried Bony
11. Mario Balotelli
12. Karim Benzema
13. Emmanuel Adebayor
14. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
15. Edin Dzeko
16. Robin van Persie
17. Olivier Giroud

The rankings mostly tell us only what we already know - Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez have been excellent and would be the players most suited to us, while RvP has had an awful year and Olivier Giroud is, well, Olivier Giroud. So I will touch upon only certain strikers that are interesting from a Chelsea perspective:

Romelu Lukaku: All things considered, Lukaku does seem to have had a phenomenal season. Although his passing accuracy is the WORST among all the considered strikers, he makes up for it with his contribution in goals and assists, along with his dribbling and ball retention skills. We should also remember that he is the youngest player considered, with a lot of time to grow, and he is being compared with strikers in their footballing prime. If he can improve his passing and decision making, it might not be long before he reaches the top of the tree. At this young age, he can certainly be proud in ranking so high even against such elite competition.

Mario Mandzukic: This was the real surprise for me. I wasn't really big on the lower-profile Mario, but even after giving Bayern Munich a high adjustment factor of 1.4, Mandzukic comfortably makes the top 5. He combines ruthlessness in front of goal with decent passing, tremendous aerial ability and high defensive work rate, to give us the complete package. If he is really offered to us relatively cheaply, it certainly seems a deal worth considering.

Diego Costa: Costa comes in ranked 8th with the best conversion rate of all strikers in this list, which is a brilliant achievement. Quite surprisingly for such an aggressive player, he has very poor aerial ability, even lesser than Rooney and Suarez. He also has the potentially frustrating habit of losing the ball a lot due to poor control and is also the player that is flagged for the most offsides, which is probably understandable given Atletico's counter-attacking system. But given that he is the fourth youngest player on this list and started his professional football career late, there is perhaps hope that he will be a Drogbaesque late bloomer, if we do end up buying him.

Edinson Cavani: Considering all the expectation, PSG's Edinson Cavani had a fairly dreadful 2013-14 season.(In fact he would have placed last in this list, behind OLIVIER GIROUD!). But then, its probably unfair to compare him to other center forwards given he was shunted to the left to accommodate the mighty Zlatan. Napoli's Edinson Cavani of 2012-13, though, comes in an excellent 6th place. Consistent all across the board, with particularly high passing and ball retention rates, he is certainly someone we must be looking at, if rumors of his discontent are true. Even this season, he has been good in patches, which suggest he might be able to recreate last season's powerhouse performance, if played in his preferred starting role at center forward.

Edin Dzeko: Contrary to the special one's opinion, Edin Dzeko does not really fare well in these rankings. Although he does score a decent amount of goals, does some defensive work and is literally NEVER offside(probably because he never runs), he only comes in 15th out of 17 strikers. This is primarily due to his horrible conversion rate and his equally poor shot on target percentage. He also has the lowest number of assists and key passes, which probably speaks volumes about his build-up play. I have personally witnessed him "Torres" many a Manchester City move and the stats only serve to backsubstantiate this opinion. To my mind, he will probably be surpassed by Romelu in the near future and definitely is not someone we should be looking at. Soon to be 29, he's not very young either.

Mario Balotelli: Super Mario has been at his sulky best this season, showing glimpses of world-class potential while doing absolutely nothing otherwise. His season will be remembered for that cracker of a goal against Bologna. His numbers are only boosted by his penalties, and having missed two in the last year, even those aren't guaranteed to go in anymore. In a related point, he has the highest number of shots, but the lowest number of goals per 90 minutes, which suggests that we should put ball boys at the top of the Matthew Harding stand if we buy him. Since profligacy in front of goal is currently a Chelsea specialty, this is not a purchase I would be particularly thrilled with. He also has the worst disciplinary record in the list and hardly contributes anything from a defensive perspective.

Daniel Sturridge: I come to him last because he's not really one of our targets and he's probably never coming back, but boy does this hurt. He had shown us enough times that he had the killer instinct along with that something special, but I feel we never really gave him a fair chance. Torres' Chelsea has not been a meritocracy at center forward and this led to the loss of one of our brightest young players(with the possibility of another following him). This is one of the primary reasons I want Torres out at any cost this summer. I could go on, but that is probably a rant for another post. Suffice it to say that we should know enough now to never ever to business with Liverpool again!

Conclusion:

I am aware that many of the weights and adjustment factors used in this analysis are highly subjective and might not be agreeable to all of you. But I do believe that they present a fair picture of the performance of each of these strikers this season. It certainly seems that Lukaku's loss of form has been over hyped and he could certainly be good enough to be second choice at Chelsea. Either one of Costa or Mandzukic could be a great purchase at the right price while we should definitely stay clear of Balotelli and Dzeko. With potentially two of the top 8 strikers in this list, we could certainly be one of the major forces in Europe over the next few years.

Note: For those of you who did read the entire post, I hope you enjoyed it. I am happy to discuss the weights and adjustments and provide revised results if required. KTBFFH!!

*Ciro Immobile: I am adding the stats for Ciro Immobile to cater to a request in the comments. The stats and rankings for Immobile for the group of 18 are as follows:

Metric Goals excl. penalties Shots Shot on Target% Conversion Rate Assists Successful Passes Key Passes Successful Crosses Possession Lost while Passing or Crossing Possession Lost to Poor Control Aerial Duels Win % Successful Dribbles Regained Possession Fouls Suffered Impact of Cards Fouls Committed Offsides Age
Stats 0.77 3.52 40.6% 21.8% 0.10 15.73 1.18 0.24 7.31 3.69 31.3% 1.46 0.97 1.60 0.49 2.23 1.64 24
Rankings 5 11 13 5 16 18 11 8 9 7 13 8 8 8 17 17 18 3

Final ranking : 6

Having not seen him play much, I cannot really comment knowledgeably on his attractiveness as a transfer target. But from the stats, he definitely seems an option to consider. His high number of goals and conversion rate but low assists suggest that he is more a finisher of moves, which is exactly what we might need. He also has decent passing and numbers with good defensive contribution. At the age of 24, he is yet to hit his prime and could very well turn out to be an excellent buy. One potential issue might be his high yellow and red cards but the value he could add to the team probably outweighs that.

* Comparison with Chelsea's current strike force:

In case you needed confirmation, the results are exactly as expected:

Player Final Ranking Goals excl. penalties Shots Shot on Target% Conversion Rate Assists Successful Passes Key Passes Successful Crosses Possession Lost while Passing or Crossing Possession Lost to Poor Control Aerial Duels Win % Successful Dribbles Regained Possession Fouls Suffered Impact of Cards Fouls Committed Offsides Age
Samuel Eto'o 19 10 8 15 16 17 16 9 19 4 8 17 11 7 17 5 3 11 21
Fernando Torres 20 21 13 21 21 5 17 8 10 16 9 4 5 15 8 19 7 14 17
Demba Ba 21 7 7 13 13 18 21 17 19 14 12 7 21 13 15 1 20 17 13

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any sort of approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the editors of this site.

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