Premier League? A statistical study"/>
If you believe what you hear nowadays, football is now a non-contact sport and tackling is a dying art. Nevertheless there are still plenty of players who have mastered that art, even if it has adapted over recent years.
Conversely, there are many that are fair less convincing in the tackle, be that in terms of being beaten all too easily or bringing down their opponent due to poor timing. Paul Scholes was mesmeric on the ball but a player renowned for being rash in the challenge, and it's a reputation that Thiago is beginning to develop since a move to the Premier League with Liverpool.
There was understandable excitement around the Spaniard's arrival in England given his pedigree and unquestionable elegance in possession, but while his passing ability has been evident, it's his tackling that has stood out, and not for the right reasons. Thiago has been booked three times in eight league starts, with said cards coming in the 4th, 24th and 3rd minute of matches against Southampton, Tottenham and Manchester City respectively.
So how does Thiago's tackling stack up against the best and indeed worst in the league? In this study we've delved into two key facets of tackling. The first we've titled 'tackle timing' (X axis), which is calculated based on how often a player commits a foul when attempting a tackle. The second we've named 'tackle success' (Y axis), which has been calculated based on how often a player is dribbled past when attempting a tackle.
In order to ensure that only frequent tacklers are included, this study has been restricted to the 64 players to have made ten or more Premier League appearances this season and averaged at least two tackles per 90 minutes.
The following chart highlights the players that perform above the average of all 64 players for each statistic (top right) and indeed below the average for each statistic (bottom left). Said averages are 75.3 per cent for tackle timing and 66.1 per cent for tackle success.
As such you can see immediately that there are two players closest to that desirable top right corner of the chart. Said players are Aaron Wan-Bissaka of Manchester United and Tyrick Mitchell, of the former's old employers Crystal Palace. It was at Selhurst Park that Wan-Bissaka quickly earned a reputation of being among the top tacklers in the Premier League, and his fellow Eagles academy graduate is now doing the same.
Wan-Bissaka boasts the strongest tackle success of all players assessed (88 per cent) having been dribbled past just nine times and produced 66 tackles. The United right-back has also committed just ten fouls, resulting in a 'tackle timing' percentage of 86.4. Mitchell, meanwhile, has committed just five fouls and produced 42 tackles (90.5 per cent tackle timing), whilst being dribbled past 11 times.
The strongest tackle timing is actually that of Ben Osborn 90.9 per cent, but he is dribbled past relatively often, with a modest 60.6 per cent tackle success. As such, the Sheffield United utility player doesn't place in the top right portion of the chart, though as many as three clubmates (Chris Basham, Enda Stevens and Ethan Ampadu) do.
There's also space for both Aston Villa full-backs, with Matt Targett and Matty Cash somewhat unsung heroes in the substantial progression that Dean Smith's side have made. The majority of the 21 players that rank above average in both categories are indeed full-backs (14), with five centre-backs and just two central midfielders.
It's pertinent that playing positions are acknowledged as a factor here, particularly when it comes to tackle success, with opponents often having more options to beat their man, able to go either side and in general with more space to run into. With that in mind, Wilfred Ndidi and Rodri's presence among the strongest tacklers in this study is worth highlighting, while so too is the fact that those at the opposite end of the scale are generally central midfielders.
That said, there are again two players that really stand out as outliers to the rest of the pack in a negative way, ranking significantly below the average for both tackle success and timing. One is Everton's Andre Gomes, who is the only player to score below 60 per cent in both categories (58.4 per cent tackle timing and 54.5 per cent success).
The other is that man Thiago, whose tackle timing is the worst of the lot by a distance. The Spaniard has made a commendable 22 tackles in his limited playing time but also committed 19 fouls when attempting to tackle, resulting in a percentage of just 53.7 per cent. His tackle success is better, but not by much (61.1 per cent), so it's fair to say the 29-year-old is perhaps struggling to adapt to the pace of transition when out of possession.
The two ends of the scale are perhaps best emphasised by the fact that Thiago has committed almost twice as many fouls when attempting to tackle as Aaron Wan-Bissaka (19 to 10), despite producing a third of the tackles of the Manchester United man (22 to 66). While tackling is Wan-Bissaka's obvious strong suit, it's safe to say that early into his Premier League career it's been a real weakness of Thiago. The pass master can still learn a thing or two.
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