Pitch Dish

Why Messi is Unstoppable

All of us soccer fans that have watched Messi play, even once, know the amazing talent that he is. Many of us claim he is the best footballer ever just based on the number of goals he has scored so far and watching him move with the ball.

Benjamin Morris decided to do his own research and let the math speak for itself. He looked at all aspects of Messi’s game: shooting, scoring, where he shoots, type of kicks, one-on-one’s versus assisted goals, the type of and accuracy of passes, scoring chances, and his defense.

What he found even surprised himself.

The whole article is fantastic and super dense with graphs and stats. This is just a very small snippet:

  • Messi loves his left foot, shooting with it 78 percent of the time, and scoring 23 percent. But don’t sleep on his right foot: When he uses it, he scores 23 percent of the time. He shoots slightly below average on (a limited number of) headers (10 percent vs. 13 percent).
  • About 8 percent of his shots are “weak” kicks (compared to 6 percent for all players in the data set), but he makes 27 percent of them, and does so more often than we’d expect. He has an average GAA of .026 on those kicks (all players: 5 percent shooting on weak kicks with -.055 GAA). Only 5 percent of his kicks are “strong” ones (compared to 8 percent for all players), but those kicks score 36 percent of the time, and have .251 GAA each! All players have scored on 11 percent of their “strong kick” shots and have an average .051 GAA per shot.
  • About 12 percent of his shots have “swerve” on them (compared to 10 percent for all players); 31 percent of those swervy kicks score, for a huge .202 GAA (all players: 8 percent, .020 GAA).
  • On direct free kicks (like the one he scored on against Nigeria), Messi has scored about 8 percent of the time (compared to all players’ 5 percent), with .021 GAA per shot (Ronaldo has scored on 7 percent with an identical .021 GAA).7
  • Messi has scored on 86 percent of his penalty kicks, versus an average of 77 percent for all players. But put one check-mark in Ronaldo’s column, as he has scored on 93 percent of his penalty attempts. Since both are the primary PK-takers for both their club and national teams, this difference — if it held up in the long run —  would be worth about three-quarters of a goal per year.
Read More: fivethirtyeight.com

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