Today’s match against Juventus presents Roma with the unenviable task of trying to break down the stingiest defense in Serie A and perhaps all of Europe. Individual quality among their defenders and goalkeeper aside, Juventus’ stellar defensive record is largely attributable to their ability to seamlessly transition from counter-pressing to a 4-4-2 defensive block. Taking this as well as Edin Dzeko’s absence into consideration, Roma should not hesitate to launch quick counterattacks through their wide attacking players as often as possible. Nevertheless, I still expect there will be quite a few instances in which Juventus will be able to settle into their defensive block. Therefore, whether Diego Perotti or Stephan El Shaarawy make the starting eleven tomorrow should be determined by each players ability to dribble their opponents on counters and in narrow channels as well as the nature and quality of their link up play in the attacking third. In order to shed some light on this, I gathered statistical data from the last five games each player has started on the left-wing in the four following categories: 1. Take-ons. 2. Passes in the attacking third. 3. Total chances created from open play. 4. Direct contributions to goals (goals + assists from open play).
Take-ons: Advantage Perotti
The Argentine is simply a more effective and versatile dribbler. He succeeded in 60% of his attempted take-ons while El Shaarawy has only beaten his man 35% of the time. Moreover, Perotti is a capable dribbler regardless of where he receives the ball. Conversely, El Shaarawy’s effectiveness in this regard is limited to situations wherein he is able to run with the ball in space prior to being challenged by an opponent.
Passing in the attacking third: Advantage El Shaarawy
Interestingly each player managed to complete 76% of their passes in attacking areas in their last five starts, however, El Shaarawy’s style should cause Juventus more problems. For the most part Perotti’s combinations with teammates took place nearer to the touchline than to the opponent’s goal. Otherwise he tended to send balls over the defense hoping to pick out Dzeko or Salah. Due to El Shaarawy’s superior movement off the ball he was able to receive more passes just outside the 18-yard box, then find teammates in and around the penalty area. Given Dzeko’s absence and the aerial prowess of Juventus’ centerbacks, El Shaarawy receives the nod in this category.
Total chances created: Advantage El Shaarawy
Perotti has generated seven goal-scoring opportunities to El Shaarawy’s four. Yet, three chances produced by the latter transpired in the opposition’s box, whereas the former could only manufacture one chance inside the penalty area. Since shots taken inside the box are statistically more likely to result in goals, Il Faraone ought to be considered the more useful player in this aspect of the game as well.
Direct Contributions to goals: Advantage El Shaarawy
Diego Perotti has not scored nor assisted a goal in his last five starts while El Shaarawy found the back of the net once and provided three assists. Perotti’s failure to setup his teammates should come as a shock to no one bearing in mind chances created by him mainly consist of shots from distance.
In my view, Stephan El Shaarawy’s supremacy in three-out-of-four categories should make him the favorite to start on the left wing in tomorrow’s clash with Juventus. Do you guys agree? Disagree? Be sure to let me know in the comments below.
* Statistics courtesy of Opta.