The always excellent “Revista de la Liga” on Sky offered a thought provoking statistical analysis of the top of the table yesterday. Unfortunately, the stats were wrong: when you work out the accurate figures, the debate becomes even more interesting.
The table showed how the top of the table would look if the goals of Lionel Messi, Radomel Falcao and Cristiano Ronaldo were removed and the league recalculated. It was a discussion piece rather than anything too serious, as Graham Hunter pointed out, and sparked an interesting discussion about whether Ronaldo would be as successful if he played for Barcelona, so it fulfilled it’s purpose even if the numbers were wrong.
However, I was sad enough to follow up my curiosity and quickly foound the numbers were wrong. Furthermore, it seemed unfair to only hobble the top three like that: admittedly their strikers are the trio running away at the top of the Pichichi rankings, but it was obvious the gap between their clubs and the sides beneath them would narrow as Real Betis, Malaga and Levante would be allowed to keep their top scorers’ goals. It would be like forcing the top three to play with ten men every game.
So I worked it all out, removing the leading scorer from each of the top six sides. The accurate table threw up some interesting conclusions:
Surprise surprise, Barsa really would miss Messi, although it’s hard to say whether this is proof of Messi-Dependencia or merely a statement of the blindingly obvious – which club in history wouldn’t miss a player who scored at comfortably better than one goal per game? Still, Barcelona would be twelve points worse off without his goals, and three times they’d have lost without his contribution in front of goal.
Falcao’s goals would be massively missed. Atletico would fall one place, the only shift in positions in the table, and drop ten points, although they all came in a big dollop. That terrific sequence of consecutive wins they enjoyed wouldn’t have happened: in fact, Falcao scored a decisive goal in five matches in a row during that sequence.
Ronaldo’s goals actually make remarkably little difference to Real Madrid’s fortunes. In fact, his goals have only affected the outcomes of two matches in La Liga this season: he got two in the 2-2- draw at Barcelona of course, and one at Levante in the 2-1 win last month. In fact, in this particular analysis his brace at the Camp Nou doesn’t count as the two Barcelona goals were scored by Leo Messi: in the alternative universe we’re creating, that match was a 0-0 draw!
Funnily enough, Malaga emerge favourably from losing their top scorer’s services. Javier Saviola is the superfluous striker in question, and this is partly because he hasn’t scored all that many goals: Malaga being a side reliant on the collective rather than individual flair, they’ve shared the goals around and Saviola has just five. In fact, it gets even better: because Radamel Falcao scored in their 2-1 loss at Atletico, they actually gain a point from the process!
Betis don’t do too badly either. While Ruben Castro’s strike rate is admirable, his goals haven’t actually made a huge amount of difference to the outcomes of their matches. In fact, in only two games have his strikes actually affected the outcome: he got the only goal at Valladolid early in the season and then grabbed two in the 3-2 win over Deportivo two rounds ago. So that’s five points dropped, but they gain back points clinched by the goals of Falcao and Messi, so they end up just one win short of where they actually are.
Obafemi Martins, Levante’s spearhead, has just one goal more than Saviola but the Madrid side would miss their striker considerably more. Quite apart from his bustling presence up front (the damage he did to Real Mallorca last weekend showed that he provides a lot more than just goals for his team). Three times his goals have turned a draw into a win, so Levante would lose serious ground as they looked for a top four place.
It’s all academic, of course, but a great discussion starter, just as Revista intended. So would you swap Messi for Martins?