Neat new stats tool: CIES profile comparator

I’m crunched for time this morning because I just spent the last 30 minutes looking at the new CIES profile comparator. I don’t have time right now for a good breakdown of this tool but as this site is known for the comments section I thought you all would offer some thoughtful responses. I will post some thoughts at lunch.

In the meantime, I took a few screens of some player comparisons that I did:

Cazorla v. Thiago. I admit that Thiago is my favorite player at the moment and that if I was rebuilding Arsenal, he would be the player I would build around. Note though, how close Cazorla is to Thiago. It’s uncanny really.

Here is Ramsey compared to Thiago: Ramsey plays a more forward role than the Spaniard and thus has poor defensive numbers for a “CM”.

Here is Xhaka and as you can see, Xhaka plays in an almost similar role to Thiago but Granit’s defending is atrocious. He’s also not anywhere near as mobile and can’t take on opponents like Thiago.

Of course I had to do Ozil: Ozil has almost literally zero defense, less than 10. Looking at the Arsenal midfielders (Ramsey, Xhaka, and Ozil) it;s no wonder the back three get exposed so often at Arsenal. It’s almost as if Arsene Wenger doesn’t get his midfielders to play defense.

And because I get asked this all the time, here is Ozil v. Eriksen. Note that neither player is scoring very high on the two defensive stats.

And here’s Alexis. Just showing how many Arsenal players are almost purely attacking.

Taken together, this shows the imbalance in this Arsenal team. Thiago Alcantara beats all of the Arsenal midfielders in his defensive robustness.

I wonder what happens if you look at the midfields for Arsenal’s top four rivals – Man U, Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool. My guess is that all but Liverpool show robust defending in midfield compared to Ramsey and Xhaka. Just a guess.

Oh and here’s Pogba, another player I like quite a bit.

Of course, I’m not allowed to say I like him because he was overpriced.. and plays for Man U.

Man, Pogba and Ozil are going to be some pair next season, eh?



  1. “Of course, I’m not allowed to say I like him because he was overpriced.. and plays for Man U.”

    Tongue in cheek probably but I never really understood people’s aversion to certain players just because what their transfer fee was.

    Pogba is actually on a pretty modest base salary of £170k per week( for what was a world transfer record then) before all the usual add ons like image rights, loyalty clause and performance related incentives.

    We can hardly blame players for the mess the transfer market has become and especially the role the super agents, who get abnormal cut of the transfer fee, have in it.

    I like Pogba too and if Ozil does go to Man U , it could be some partnership.

    As for the imbalance in Arsenal set up , this is probably one issue most Arsenal fan base actually agree on.

    Interesting chart btw.

    1. I wonder if the mental health folks have a name for the syndrome of hating or waiting for an expensive football player to fail, as if he is somehow responsible for the crazy economics that have enabled a football club to spend a small nation’s GDP simply for the right to have him sign a contract. I think most of all it just has to do with a rivalry mentality, like the way we all think Harry Kane looks ridiculous for always breathing through his mouth but we would all fall over ourselves in admiration if he was our own player. But Kane never cost a big transfer fee, so he had time to iron out a few quirks. Expectations get so twisted for a guy like Pogba, it takes a real strength of character to rise above that and just play naturally.

      I don’t hate Paul Pogba. He’s an incredibly talented footballer who is doing his best to get ahead in his own world, just like any of us would do if we were able. I do hate some of the things that his transfer to Manchester United meant: 1) That a PL club can spend that amount of money on a player 2) That that player wasn’t even a forward 3) That Manchester United have gotten better as a result 4) That this is normal now in world football because Yay Capitalism 5) That Arsenal have been left behind yet again. 6) And, most significantly: That Manchester United will most likely continue to beat Arsenal, more often than not, in part because of all of the reasons above.

  2. Can’t see Ozil to Manu U (despite actually calling it a year ago). They’re overstocked in the middle. Way overstocked. And as things stand, Jose can’t please all of them. He loves him some big, bad Fellaini, and he was not enamoured of Mesut’s defensive contribution at Real.

    I like Pogba too — he’s some midfielder, and when he REALLY fins his groove, he’s going to prove to be a steal. Basing like/dislike on a player’s price tag is silly.

    Anyway, excellent chart and very interesting and eye-opening comparisons. Shame we have no chance of attracting Thiago. Pep does, though. watch this space.

    Agree with Tom… even if we the fans disagree on players, we all agree that our midfield is unbalanced, and it needs significant change.

    1. I put his odds of going to Man U at 50/50…. it’s a free transfer for Man Utd to get a top creative midfielder. What they don’t have to pay in transfer fee they can use to pump up his wages. That said, United do not need Ozil. He might go there, but there’s absolutely no incentive for them to try and shoehorn him into the team. He’d be smarter to try and see if Bayern would have him.

      1. Mourinho likes nothing better than getting one over Wenger (honestly think that was part of why he went for Cesc–he obviously is that petty). Plus, he sets his teams up ultra hard-working and conservative as a whole, yes, but that platform is then ideal for 1 or at most 2 flair players (e.g. Deco, Sneijder, Cesc), and Ozil’s offensive efficiency–that he pretty much always makes the right pass and creates chances even with relatively little of the ball–is something he loves as well. By contrast–and quite ironically–Wenger’s tendency to want to stuff his starting lineup with attacking players can make it more difficult for someone like Ozil to fully flourish (the flip side is that skillful ball players like to play with other skillful ball players…).
        I’d expect Jose to be more than happy to ditch Mata–and maybe even Mikki too–in order to make space for Ozil. The one drawback–assuming they can’t get them in the middle of the season–is his age. Will they really want to put him on 3-4 year contract on huge wages at the age of almost 30?

        I think our only chance of keeping him now is if the new AOL trio up front hits it off brilliantly in the next few months and we play glorious, swashbuckling attacking football in that time. Maybe then, if we look like we’re going to qualify for the top 4, and everyone in the dressing room is more or less happy, he’ll sign for us by mid-season. Sanchez is going to City at the end of the season, I’m sure of it.

  3. Not sure how you ended up with such low res screenshots…? When I went to the site, the widget was bigger than your screenshots even.

    1. Weird. I think the site is doing some kind of dynamic resolution thing. They look great on the phone and they are uploaded at full size. Let me check what’s happening.

  4. Thiago’s recovery of 98 is pretty amazing. I’ve watched Bayern (my 2nd favorite team) a lot, and never thought of him as being exceptional in terms of stealing passes or 1 v 1 challenges. Will have to look closer (I have an admitted Thomas Mueller bias). I have seen Thiago disappear in big games, though, including Real last year. But, these numbers really are an indictment of The Gunners’ midfield, and you can see why we are so dreadful when we face a team that can possess the ball well, like Bayern last year. We have no one to recover it.

  5. Not an expert in this field but I prefer the squawka player comparison. A lot more data points and you can compare multiple players. This one looks cool but feels limited.

  6. Maybe a silly question from a non-stats guy. Is there a way to look at how consistent a player performs rather than the pure average, which could mask many games at the good and bad extremes?

    1. Spoken like a hardcore stats guy: “Show me the distribution of the data!”

      Haha, you’re not fooling us 😉

      1. Lol, I am really not a stats guy. But I do work on common sense. I would be keen to know whether an individual performs close to their average consistently or if they have many good/bad days that average out.

  7. Agree with nycgunner, and think these sorts of thing are of (real but) limited value anyway.

    But I LOVE Thiago. Barca letting him go for peanuts, essentially because they were far too slow to integrate him into their starting lineup, was disastrous for them (almost as bad as failing to hike up Neymar’s release clause). I think Spain might surprise some people at next summer’s World Cup, i.e. all those folks who declared their style past its sell by date. Their team, especially their midfield, is arguably as talented as the one that won a World Cup and two Euros–they just don’t have the experience of winning the big matches yet.

    I also love Cazorla, probably as much as I’ve ever loved another man I’ve never met. Still think Seri looked like a promising replacement for Santi last summer, though I’d like to see his stats from this site, as the one big question mark about him was whether his defensive contribution was sufficient for us.

    1. I did the Seri-Cazorla comparison as soon as I read the post, and they look very alike. Surprisingly, Santi a bit better defensively.

  8. Visual depiction of Arsenal’s broken midfield. Ugh. 🙁 Tim, no need to apologize, I actually agree with what you said about the team after Everton; I just prefer not to focus on that after a good win, for my own sanity. There are plenty enough times to be down on the team otherwise…

    I shouldn’t say the midfield is broken; rather, it’s weighted like an anchor to possession and incapable of playing any other way, and has a penchant for making suicidal mistakes in possession in our own half that our opponents can’t wait to exploit. At least we are trying to play through midfield again when we have the ball. It’s a small crumb of comfort.

    Sounds from Dave Hytner’s article that AGM was its usual farce.

    1. The thing I can’t get past is this: if a team is weighted like an anchor to possess (great simile), then how is it so vulnerable to losing possession when pressed? By its very nature, shouldn’t a team primed to keep the ball be able to keep the ball?


    This is a good, insightful article from Liam Rosenior (remember him?) about the process of becoming a coach and the hazards of being a coach in 2017. Football’s always been a bit brutal (more so in some ways) but the level of accessibility married with social media and internet journalism has spawned a whole new level of scrutiny that was previously unheard of, and, by the way, “fans” are still as brutal as ever. When weakness is perceived, blood is smelled, and no quarter is given. It’s the same here in Boston, by the way, so it’s not tied to football. Sure, fans have the right to say what they want. I’m not sitting here blaming fans for failures of their football clubs; it wasn’t the fans that told Bilic how to pick his team or who to buy in the summer. My point is that maybe, in this age of instant reactions, at-home video editing analysis and relentless blogging, there should be a little room for basic humanism too.

    That’s what Rosenior points out in this article: most of learning to coach today is really learning how to deal with humans. And, I like to think, in this age of social equality, when we expect people to be nice to each other (and loudly skewer those who are not), it’s not completely unfair to ask football fans to mind their manners beyond simply the most basic things, like trying not to run on to the pitch naked, not getting into a brawl with your neighbor or not being intolerant of others. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting this on a level with social justice issues, far from it. A little vitriol will always be part of the competitive nature of sports and coaches are compensated well enough and know well enough what they are getting into up front.

    But does that mean we should have license to speak about them in demeaning ways, chant about them losing their jobs, or publicly question their basic competence for the job? For me, no. For me, there should be reasonable limits on the impossible rigor these people are subjected to. In Boston, former long time mayor Tom Menino once memorably said he would not want to change jobs with then Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who had only gone and won Boston’s 1st and 2nd championships for almost 100 years, because the level of scrutiny in Francona’s job was far greater than in his own. And Francona’s reward? After the Sox form slipped, rumors were leaked about clubhouse issues and personal problems and he was run out of town. Yeah, it’s a business, but no, that ain’t right.

    Even if Bilic or Wenger or whomever is a poor manager, they still deserve basic human respect. At the end of the day, these people have worked hard towards shared goals that the fans also had; nobody wanted to see West Ham do so poorly these past two years, least of all Bilic, and presumably, despite some mistakes, he did his best for the team. That should matter more than the score, or the position in the table or anything else. And in my opinion he, just like any other manager who fully invests themselves in a football club and treats others well, deserves the same respect he has given to others in his time there.

    1. Tim, can you please allow this comment to show up? Put a lot of thought into it, would be curious of the responses.

  10. I have a question. What is Rigour and how is it measured?

    I totally understand that Ramsey and Xhaka score low on rigour but how is it actually measured? A casual look at Xhaka’s rigour could have highlighted to the Arsenal stats team that Ramsey and Xhaka in the middle would expose the team defensively.

  11. Cool. Looks like Football Manager 🙂

    On a more serious note, what do you think is going to fix the midfield issues this illustrates? Ramsey being forced to stay back? A better player (elegant beast) to replace Xhaka? Maybe forwards who actually press and win the ball back? Going back to 3 midfielders? What?

    Thiago’s stats are surprising. Like eye popping good. I guess I’ll have to watch more of Bayern Munich and look out for him.

    1. Ramsey being much more positionally disciplined, or 3 in midfield (with or without a new addition being bought).

      Claude’s going to take this as a dig at Ramsey, which is truly not my intention, but I think it really should be emphasized how amazing a player would have to be to partner Ramsey in a successful midfield two, especially for a passing oriented side. You basically would need to combine Xabi Alonso with Kante (and ideally mix some William Carvalho in there as well, for sheer size). And even then you wouldn’t have a dribbler. Note: I’m not saying you’d have to do all that to improve on Xhaka, only that that’s the ideal partner for Ramsey in a midfield two, if you want to avoid systemic weaknesses in that area of the pitch.

      1. I see nothing wrong with what you said there, PFO.

        I’ve said before that both Ramsey and Xhaka have shortcomings in their games, and what ARSENAL needs is a world class player who can slot in for them, alongside either of them. The elegant beast that Shard references.

        An Arturo Vidal/ Andrea Pirlo clone, preferably 🙂

        But seriously, a player who (as we say in cricket) can play on the front foot and the back foot. Both Ramsey and Xhaka are good players, but they’re not a perfect complement.

        The problem, as I said in the previous thread, is that Ramsey is playing on Wenger’s direction. And, with Ozil, Alexis and Laca, I generally agree with the consensus that that creates an overload of attack-minded players who are disinclined to defend as much as, say, Thiago, when we don’t have the ball.

        From Wenger’s recent comments, it looks at if he’s considering AMN, and he’s close to pushing for some big game starts. I sense that’s he’s not going to buy his way out of that one.

    2. What sticks out like a sore thumb in our midfield is that our mid-fielder don’t defend well. Sometimes Ramsey starts marching forward before we even have established control of the ball in midfield or still trying to build up our play from the back. Obviously that needs to change, especially against quality opposition. Second, we are not as good in possession. Wenger wants to play possession football but he hasn’t bought midfielders are who are good at beating the press either through dribbling or passing. I have lost count of the number of times that Ramsey has given the ball away cheaply in midfield. Now he spends more time roving up front so the baton has been passed to Xhaka. Third, and this is only a problem because of our first two problems, we don’t have a ball winner in midfield. People complain about Coquelin being a limited footballer. I’m sorry but so is Xhaka. He is just limited in a different way. It’s great to see him ping passes cross field but his tackling is poor and he gets turned way too easily. Ironically, our best all-rounded midfielder is Ramsey who is unfortunately still trying to channel his inner Pele. To PFO’s point, if we had more discipline from him and brought on another midfielder with similar traits then those two + Xhaka would make a good 3 man-midfield. If Wenger insists on playing with a 2 man midfield then one of Ramsey or Xhaka has to go and we need to find that mythical “elegant beast” that everyone keeps talking about.

  12. Cazorla is ‘similar’ to Thiago except that the latter outclasses him in every department, and Cazorla has barely played in two years. Cazorla is finished, forget about him.

    Fascinating tool, though. Arsenal still haven’t replaced Vieira LOL.

    1. The latter also plays in a much better team in a less competitive league. And their stats are relatively close. And I don’t think anyone here is pinning their hopes on Santi coming back and being amazing again.

  13. Excwllent point PFO. A better statistical tool would show how a defender affects the opposition then normalize the result for the league.

    So if teams in a given league normally average 20 forward passes in the middle with a 60% completion rate but against player X they only attempt 10 with a 60% completion rate that tells you more than if you just look at interceptions since that might change as teams avoid or target a given player.

    Obviously you could make this more elaborate, but it boils down to having the raw data and time/skill to analyze it

    I wonder how much opta charges for their full dataset.

  14. An observation that we see game in game out but now backed statistically.. ARSENAL DO NOT DEFEND.. at least not in the sense our title rivals do..

    Has there been a team like the present defensive model of Arsenal and Liverpool even won the EPL title in the last 20 years?
    If there is none, is AW trying to make us believe he can fit a triangle in a circle for the last decade (haha.. not a small triangle)???

  15. Does anybody have a good url for the game tomorrow? They aren’t showing the game in the US in the regular channels. Looks like you need a separate subscription to NBC Sports Gold.

  16. Cech makes a poor decision and it 1-0 Swansea. Another game and more bad judgement from Cech.
    Swansea parking the bus and allowing Arsenal to have a lot of sterile possession.
    Eddie vs Giroud in the second half?

  17. Another game another goal from an Arsenal FB, this time Kolasinac.
    Xhaka having trouble completing simple passes.

  18. I only saw snippets of the first half, but initial impressions from the second:

    The key to this performance being so much worse than against Everton, was not just Swansea being more defensive and organized per se, but in particular their choice to prioritize shutting down the half spaces that Ozil and Alexis love to operate in (the rectangular areas inside the fullbacks and between midfield and central defense).
    This meant Ozil and Sanchez had to operate a lot almost as traditional wingers, very wide, if they wanted to see the ball, with Lacazette then isolated against three CB’s. The promising understanding between Kolasinac and Alexis meant this worked well down our left, with several nice moments of overlapping and one-two combinations (credit due, too, for the much maligned and otherwise struggling Xhaka, who picked out Kola with a couple of great diagonal long passes).
    Down the right it was another story. I lost track of the number of times Ozil was hugging the touchline waiting for Hector to play it down the line to him (and then overlap inside or outside, presumably), only for Hector to choose to hold onto it and dribble inside, typically to nowhere. They just don’t seem to have any real understanding at all.
    And I thought Hector in general was poor: poor decision making in the final third, and really poor to be ball watching when the ball was slipped in behind him for the goal (yes, it was Kos missing the initial ball that caused the problem, but Bellerin HAS to be more aware of the player to his outside; he was sucked too far in, AND was then slow to react).
    In other news, our central midfield is still far too vacant in this formation–more so today with Swansea closing the half spaces–and we NEED to subtract a central defender and add another CM. But obviously it will take a couple of humiliating results against City and Spurs (something I’m fully expecting) before we see Wenger even contemplate a formation reshuffle.

    1. Nice analysis, PFO. I didn’t watch the 2nd half but just from the extended highlights I could see the themes you identified. Would only add that for the 2nd week running we’ve presented the opposition with huge opportunities by falling asleep in possession near our own D, this time by Mertesacker, and that was almost a fatal mistake. Cech deserved blame for mucking up Monreal’s backpass last week (though Nacho shouldn’t have played it in the first place) but Cech deserves equal credit this week for preventing what looked to be a nailed on goal after Mert was dispossessed.

      1. Agree. Tim is really, really being proved right about one thing: the switch to a back three has done approximately zilch to improve our team defending. We are an accident waiting to happen back there.

        1. Mind, I don’t think we have bad defenders. It’s mostly coming off of turnovers in our own half as we are trying to play out, which leaves our defenders in a really poor position. I wonder if there is a way to separate out those chances that we give up due to mistakes in possession in our own half versus those that are manufactured by the opposition after the defense is set. I’d wager Arsenal would perform better than average defending the latter but extremely poorly in the former. Throw in counter attacks as the third type of defending and that is another area where I believe Arsenal are probably bottom half of the league.

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