Balotelli vs Welbeck

When Danny Welbeck made his slightly surprising move from Manchester United to Arsenal on transfer deadline day, I noted that there were several parallels with Liverpool’s new signing, Mario Balotelli.

Both born in 1990, the two strikers each moved for a fee of £16m to teams of broadly similar standard. The obvious question to consider is therefore which of the two will score the most goals this season?

This is not a particularly in-depth analysis, it’s just something I looked up for the first episode of the Anfield Index analytics podcast, which I was a guest on (and you can listen to here), so I thought I’d share the findings here too.

Both Arsenal and Liverpool are pretty consistent when it comes to creating clear-cut chances (which are defined as “A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range”), though I have recently expressed doubts as to whether the Reds can maintain this without Suárez.

It’s early days for 2014/15, but the Gunners are currently joint top in the Premier League for these high quality opportunities, having had nine, and Liverpool have had six despite a difficult opening trio of games.

We can therefore assume that the two players here will be presented with their fair share of sitters in 2014/15 (indeed, Balotelli had one on his debut), so how have they fared over the last four years with such fantastic chances?

(I have excluded penalties here, as they are converted at a far higher rate than the rest of the big chances; approximately 75% vs 30%. It also seems fair to do so as Welbeck has never scored a penalty in the Premier League, and Balotelli is unlikely to do so this season as Gerrard is Liverpool’s designated taker).

DW MB Big Chances

Hands up who thought Welbeck would be a lot more potent than Balotelli? Liars, put your hands down! This is a particularly interesting comparison as the sample sizes are only different by one, so it would appear to make for a fair contest.

The data from Balotelli’s first half season with AC Milan is sadly not available, but even if all six non-penalty goals he scored in that period were big chances, and he had no misses (which in reality is unlikely), then his four year average would only move to 35%, so he would still trail the efforts of Danny Welbeck.

It’s a similar picture when we look at all (non-penalty) shots across the same period. For the record, this does include all of Balotelli’s time at AC Milan, unlike the above big chance numbers.

DW MB Shots

I expressed my doubts regarding Mario’s finishing ability in my previous assessment of his stats, and those thoughts are hammered home here as he has been outperformed by the much-maligned Danny Welbeck.

Notice how the former United man had a season converting at just 3% (when league average is 10%), and yet still comes out 3% better across the last four years than Liverpool’s new striker.

Do these stats mean that Welbeck is the better player? Of course not. But they might mean that he scores more goals than Balotelli. It’ll be interesting to find out if this proves that stats can only show you what has happened, not what will happen.

Please check out my articles on Liverpool’s transfer targets, and follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.

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