Thursday, 2 February 2012

Just How Good is Chelsea's Gary Cahill?

In April last year, I wrote an article questioning how good Gary Cahill is. The research into the article revealed some rather interesting facts surrounding the highly rated centre back.
The findings showed Gary Cahill was a decent centre back. His statistics didn’t shine, nor did they condemn him.

However, Gary Cahill has finally made the move to a bigger club. After years of speculation Gary Cahill has moved on from Bolton, to Chelsea for a fee of around £7million. The fee is far more down to earth in comparison to the numbers being touted in the gossip columns in the summer. There were a number of reports suggesting clubs seriously considered paying fees of around £20million for the 26 year old.

But now Cahill has got his move, it seems wise to compare him to other centre back’s in the division. Unlike last time, I intend to be more incisive by looking at the Gary Cahill’s defensive statistics so far this season. Cahill will be compared to; Joleon Lescott, John Terry, Vincent Kompany, Laurent Koscielny and David Luiz.

Before we start, there are things that need to be put into perspective. Firstly, Gary Cahill statistics are those from his Bolton Premier League games this season and importantly the statistics were taken on 28/01/12. This means he was a figure in the team who have conceded the most goals in the Premier league this season. This will un-doubtly have a negative effect on his defensive statistics in comparison to the other defenders.

So onto the stats.

Gary Cahill John Terry Joleon Lescott Vincent Kompany Laurent Koscielny David Luiz
Appearances 19 22 19 19 20 10
Minutes Played 1638 1980 1630 1694 1726 900
Clean Sheets 2 6 6 8 7 4
Goals Conceded 38 25 17 13 28 9
Goals Conceded Per Game 2 1.14 0.94 0.68 1.4 0.9
Total Tackles 14 43 29 43 53 18
Tackle Success % 71.43% 69.77% 93.10% 88.37% 64.15% 77.78%
Total Ground Duals 163 149 113 110 173 85
Ground Duals Success % 56% 68% 63% 67% 69% 56%
Total Aerial Duals 103 54 35 23 62 14
Aerial Duals Success % 61% 78% 77% 74% 68% 50%
Interceptions 43 47 26 46 67 35
Pass Completion % 74.45% 91% 87.63% 88.36% 84.27% 86.35%

Looking at the amount of tackles made, Gary Cahill has made the fewest with 14. While Koscielny made the most with 53 tackles. There is a clear reason as to why Cahill has made such few tackles. As stated before, Gary Cahill is a covering centre back. Meaning his style of play is not to rush into challenges, but more to get into the correct positions to sweep up loose balls.

On the flip side, Cahill has made a mere 14 tackles in 19 games. Thus meaning he makes a tackle an alarmingly every 117 minutes. One could argue a weakness of Cahill is that he is rather hesitant in going into challenges. After all, David Luiz, (a player who has played only 900 minutes) has managed to make more tackles than Cahill. Indeed, Chelsea will demand Cahill to be less hesitant in going into challenges. This hesitancy could lead to the opposition having more space, time and opportunity to attack Cahill’s team.

In terms of tackling success, Gary Cahill has the 5th best out of the players analysed. Cahill’s tackle success ratio of 71.43% is a decent record. Indeed, it is better than John Terry’s and Laurent Koscielny’s tackle success ratio. This demonstrates Cahill’s solidarity as a centre back. It’s transparent Cahill is a player who more often than not leaves a tackling dual with the ball. Cahill’s highly thought of technique and reading of the game is a key reason as to why the England international’s tackle success ratio is so high. After all, Cahill can effectively determine if he can win the ball, and has the technique to successfully execute the challenge.

John Terry’s tackle success ratio rings alarm bells. After all, most would expect him to be at the top of the list, considering how highly he is rated not only by Chelsea fans but by England fans and the UK press too. However, Man City’s Vincent Kompany made the exact same amount of tackles as John Terry. But in 43 tackles, Kompany won a fantastic 88.37% of them, which is the second best out of the players analysed. This highlights one of the reasons why Kompany is viewed as the best centre back in the league. As Kompany makes a number of attempts to tackle and wins an extremely huge amount of them.

However, Joleon Lescott’s tackle success ratio illuminates Kompany’s and the others tackle success ratio. Lescott has won 93.1% of his 29 tackles. This is outstanding. It displays that Joleon Lescott’s qualities are not entirely overrated. Looking at his statistics collectively, you could say it perhaps justifies the huge fee paid by Man City for his services. It’s evident along with the statistics that Lescott is a valuable asset for Man City. He is a player who can be trusted to win the ball and protect his side.

Arguably, ground duals are crucial in determining just how good Gary Cahill is. After all, Cahill style of defending demands good positioning and impeccable alertness to nick the ball from the opponents feet.

Gary Cahill has attempted 163 ground duals, the second highest amount. While Koscielny has attempted the most with 173. Both Koscielny and Cahill have attempted far more ground duals than the others. However, the difference between Koscielny and Cahill in regards to ground duals is huge. Koscielny has had a ground dual success of 68% which is the best out of the selection of centre backs. While Gary Cahill has a ground dual success of 56%, which is joint worst alongside David Luiz. This is a cause for concern for Chelsea. Luiz and Cahill are viewed as the defensive partnership which will lead Chelsea in the future. But both have struggled to dominate ground duals. This could lead to Chelsea continuing to be porous at the back.
However, Cahill’s reading and execution of the game will improve now he’s at Chelsea. After all, he is now at a team who have a better selection of defensive abilities and more organisation at the back. Not only this, Cahill’s application defensively will improve with the better players he now will immerse himself with around in training with.

What’s intriguing is that the other defender who is viewed as a covering centre back, Laurent Koscielny, has a very high ground dual success figure of 69%. Koscielny’s statistics demonstrate just how effective he has been. The Frenchman has settled and developed sensationally in his second season at Arsenal.But for Gary Cahill, the stats suggest he is not leading the Premier League at all in terms of competing for ground duals. If Gary Cahill is to be viewed as a genuine top quality covering centre back, he needs to win more ground duals amongst other aspects of his defensive game.
Many have stated, Gary Cahill’s true strengths lies in his reading of the game. In some respects this is correct. Looking at Cahill’s interception statistics, it’s not terrible, but neither is it fantastic.

Cahill has the 4th best interception statistic out the players analysed. What’s interesting is Cahill’s new defensive team mate, David Luiz in just 10 games has managed nearly the same amount of interceptions as Cahill. However, the former Bolton man’s interception figure will most likely increase rapidly now he is at Chelsea. This is because Chelsea play a high defensive line, meaning a key feature of their system will be to press more quickly onto the opposition attacker in order to limit the space and time the attacker has on the ball.

The best interceptor, by far, was Laurent Koscielny with 67 interceptions. This is further proof of the Arsenal man’s fantastic development and true quality. Koscielny is often subjected to many criticisms, but the reality is he is one the leading covering centre backs in the Premier League. The second highest interceptor was Chelsea’s John Terry. The Chelsea captain has also been subject to broad criticisms with some arguing he is no longer a top defender. But his interception statistics indicate otherwise. As much as Terry isn’t the defender he once was, but there aspects of his game where he is still sharp and effective.

One area which Gary Cahill dominates in comparison to the players analysed was his aerial abilities. Cahill attempted 103 aerial duals which is by far the highest out of the players analysed. But Gary Cahill had the 5th most successes in aerial duals. Cahill won 61% of his aerial duals. 61% isn’t bad at all, considering the number of attempts he’s had. In fact, it’s solid. But on the other hand it suggests there is clear room for improvement in the aerial aspect of Cahill’s game.

However, Cahill’s new captain John Terry’s aerial success percentage is the best out of the players analysed. Terry’s impressive 78% aerial success ratio is further evidence that the England centre back is still one of the divisions best defenders. Perhaps a real positive for the Chelsea fans is that, Cahill’s aerial and interception success statistics are better than David Luiz’. Meaning Chelsea have brought a player who should improve the depth of the squad. But one must not forget, Luiz has played far less games than any of the players analysed.

Furthermore, considering all the statistics and comparing them to the other players, Gary Cahill has not covered himself in much glory at all. The stats make him look like a decent defender rather than someone touted as one of the best centre backs in the Premier League. Chelsea’s payment of £7million for Cahill’s services seems like a justified price. No one can deny, the centre back is talented, but even for £7million he still has a lot to prove.

The statistics may alarm Chelsea and England fans, after all, Cahill fails to dominate any of the positive areas of the analysis. But one must take Cahill’s statistics with a pinch of salt. Gary Cahill was playing for Bolton, a team struggling to survive in the Premier League. While the other defenders were playing for sides who are winning most weeks and have better defensive players at their disposal.
Conversely, the statistics also tell a simple story. They tell, Gary Cahill must improve if he is to survive at a bigger club like Chelsea. Cahill must hit the ground running at Chelsea and will have to develop with every game.

Furthermore, at Chelsea, there will be more scrutiny thrown towards Gary Cahill. As people will expect him to stablise Chelsea’s brittle backline. Not only this, Chelsea are expected to win every game and keep clean sheets. If Cahill costs Chelsea a sloppy goal or even the game, the pressure will well and truly be on Cahill as his mistakes will be recognised on a much wider scale.

One could argue, the reason why Gary Cahill has not been able to get into the Chelsea team is not because he isnt fit enough, as Andre Villas -Boas would tell you. The real reason could be, as the stats show, Cahill is no where near the the top level defenders in the Premier League. Perhaps, Villas -Boas wants to give Cahill time to settle and adapt to Chelsea's style.

But, Gary Cahill will improve naturally at Chelsea, but the 26 year old faces a big challenge. He must learn, develop and conform to the expectations of a top four defender.

Cahill has shown his competency on the England stage. But now he has to prove he can do it week in week out for a team battling for trophies.

It seems certain Cahill will improve at Chelsea with the better players, but the question is how long will it take for him to be at the similar levels to the other defenders analysed.

Statistics from EPL Index. (Stats taken on 28/01/12)

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