Who is really the best? Part 1: Dribbling

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Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing a series of posts showing how we use our data to determine which football players are the best in the game. Our first post will be looking at the magic of dribbling. 

There are many who claim that the art of dribbling is not appreciated as much as it used to be; but who can argue that it’s the dribblers who generate the real buzz amongst their team’s supporters as soon as they pick up the ball.

We examined nine of the top dribblers in last season’s English Premier League and after analyzing their performances, arrived at an index which tells us who actually contributed most to their team’s attacking threat as a result of dribbling.

What we don’t examine is the distance covered when dribbling, because a player running blindly with the ball may be a wonderful dribbler, but does running into a blind alley actually benefit his team?

We are not interested in the length of time a player keeps possession during a dribble or how many players he goes past, because these factors will not necessarily advance the team’s attacking threat.

It is our opinion that the best dribbler is the one whose performance helps to advance his team’s attacking threat, even if his dribble only covers a short distance, takes a couple of seconds and he only manages to get past a single player.

The players making up the list were as follows: (Minimum of 16 games played)

Table 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first parameter that we examined related to the source of the dribble; in other words, for players such as Ben Arfa and Taarabt, the dribble frequently originated around the half way line, in an area that didn’t threaten the opposition goal.

Most of the dribbles made by Aguero and Suarez began in advanced attacking areas, often close to goal, where the player was under more defensive pressure, but where there was a higher than average chance of creating a goal scoring opportunity.

The other players in our list were ones whose dribbles began midway inside the opposition half and more often than not started in wide areas.

We then examined the number of dribbles each player made per game and ranked the dribbles according to how much they actually contributed to the team’s attacking threat on the opposition goal, with the top two rankings being good and very good.

Our final parameter looked at the number of goal scoring chances created from dribbles per game by each of our players.

The breakdown of the data is as follows:

Dribbles per game & the quality of those dribbles

Table 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where did the dribble originate

Table 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once all the data is gathered, our formula gives a weighting to each of the parameters, with very good dribbles receiving a high rating, poor dribbles a low rating and the number of dribbles per game also playing an important factor in our final ranking.

Whilst many of you might have expected that last season’s player of the year, Gareth Bale would have been regarded as the league’s most effective dribbler, based on our parameters, we are able to determine that the two players whose dribbles contributed most to the attacking threat of their team were Eden Hazard of Chelsea and Adel Taarabt of Queens Park Rangers.  

The Premier League’s most effective dribbler in 2012-13

Table 4

 

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