Rooney and Berbatov rated best players at United

If anyone ever wants to open a can of worms amongst Manchester United fans all he has to do is say the word BERBATOV and you can be guaranteed that heated discussions will immediately follow. The Bulgarian will either be described as having the best football brain at Old Trafford OR that he’s a lazy, useless, overpriced flop. You rarely get anything in between except perhaps a grudging admission that yes, Berba’s not a bad player BUT he’s not suited to United.

If anyone ever wants to open a can of worms amongst Manchester United fans all he has to do is say the word BERBATOV and you can be guaranteed that heated discussions will immediately follow. The Bulgarian will either be described as having the best football brain at Old Trafford OR that he’s a lazy, useless, overpriced flop. You rarely get anything in between except perhaps a grudging admission that yes, Berba’s not a bad player BUT he’s not suited to United.

It was therefore interesting to come across a unique method of identifying the “Player of the Season” in The Times which was impossible to resist writing about. Why? Because according to this method, Berbatov was ranked in an overall 8 position, one ahead of  Liverpools Fernando Torres and the second highest United player after Wayne Rooney.

The method emphasised the point that fans cannot possibly watch every player at the same time, compare them, and then produce a consistent ranking. Data and computer modeling were required to distinguish between the contributions players make on the pitch. The method was used by Dr Henry Stott, Dr Mark Latham, Dr Ian Graham and The Times author of the article Daniel Finkelstein.

This years Castrol’s commitment to football performance data has allowed for a big step forward in accurately assessing players. It provided a lot more data to base the measurement upon which to build a sophisticated model of the moves that players make on the pitch and how they build towards a goal. Basically a player is rewarded or penalised for his role in making a goal more or less likely.

The method divided the total contribution of each player by the number of minutes he played. If a player played fewer than 2,000 minutes however (a shade more than 22 matches), the total was still divided by the same 2,000 minutes. This awarded players who featured for more than half the season which was deemed to be a justifiable compromise.

The measure ends up giving high placings for Wayne Rooney, Marcus Hahnemann, Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda and Dimitar Berbatov but this method found that the player of the season for 2009-10 was Chelsea’s Didier Drogba. Now let the arguments begin.

Graphic taken from timesonline.co.uk

Is this a reasonable method of  rating players performances over the season?

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Frank Scicluna
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Avatar Written by Frank Scicluna