This series takes a look at the latest signings and statistically analyzes those individuals’ contributions and how they compare to the current squad.
Arturo Vidal has been a target for Antonio Conte since his appointment as coach last year. Due to the mutual termination of his contract with FC Barcelona, he has now joined Inter on a free transfer.
In Conte’s 3-5-2 system, the one of the three central midfield slots are his assumed destination. As such, his direct competition for those roles are as follows: Marcelo Brozovic, Nicolo Barella, and Roberto Gagliardini, but Stefano Sensi will also be included in these comparisons because he is a starter when he is fit.
WyScout and FBref.com are used to get these stats, and they will be given in order of Vidal, Brozovic, Barella, Gagliardini, and Sensi respectively.
Also, due to Sensi’s injuries causing a disparity in the number of games played, the statistics will be given in either ‘per game’ or percentages.
To start, goal involvements win games and Vidal overshadows the current starters in this regard, however, Sensi is even better (.44, .28, .29, .23, .54). Vidal, Barella, and Sensi are relatively equal when it comes to offensive duels (48.9%, 40.1%, 46.2%, 39.8%, 50%) while Vidal only places fourth for ‘shot creating actions per game’ (2.58, 2.92, 2.61, 2.35, 5.18).
It is a bit surprising is that Vidal places dead-last in dribble success, even behind Gagliardini (47.4%, 54.7%, 51.2%, 51.4%, 56.4%) as well as ‘successful attacking actions per game’ such as dribbles, crosses, and shots (1.46, 1.5, 2.27, 1.95, 4).
Sensi is the clear attacking force here and it makes sense why his contributions have been so highly regarded, when he’s fit enough to play.
Obviously, passing is a key attribute for midfielders. Brozovic is the best forward passer out of the group (81.5%, 83.4, 75.4%, 79%, 75.3%); the current starters are slightly better at progressive passing, those passes over 10 meters upfield (78.5%, 81%, 81.4%, 81.8, 76.8%).
However, Vidal is best at passes within the final third (86.5%, 83.4%, 72.2%, 78.4%, 74.1%); he is also shockingly poor at smart passes, like through balls (23.8%, 40%, 31.8%, 55%, 50%).
The takeaway is that, while Vidal is accurate in the final third and has the highest goal count of the group, he just isn’t impressive as a team contributor. Maybe his defensive numbers tell a better story?
A ‘defensive duel’ is performed when the defender attempts to stop an attacker’s progression; Vidal and Sensi perform the most of them per game (8.1, 7.3, 6.7, 6.7, 8.1) while Vidal is also the most successful at them (59%, 56.2%, 53%, 51.1%, 50.5%).
A ‘defensive action’ includes duels, but also interceptions and sliding tackles; the stats show Vidal as a clear defensive force alongside Brozovic (9.1, 9.5, 7.4, 8.7, 7.8).
In a direct defensive comparison, Vidal edges slightly over Brozovic and, therefore, is the best of the group.
So, it could be derived that Vidal is an upgrade to Gagliardini, the weakest link, since he is better in almost every aspect. If that is the case, in a flat-three midfield, one could then assume a pairing of Vidal, Sensi, and Brozovic to give the best blend: a strong defense to trust in while getting the highest amount of goal opportunities. Barella would, unfortunately, be relegated to a rotational role.
A more attack-focused lineup could see Vidal rotate with Brozovic as a Defensive Midfielder, in a 3-1-4-2 formation, with Barella and Sensi taking up the creation spots (since they are the best at doing so), but this plays Vidal out of his natural position.
Even though Tonali would’ve been a better long-term option; Vidal’s free acquisition could be seen as a good business move that fits Conte’s demands for hard-working, determined, engine-type players.
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