Now, by only using three distinct positions there are bound to be many cases where I have classified an attacking midfielder as a midfielder, and a winger as a midfielder. There's no real way around this issue without breaking the data down into exact field positions and thus reducing the sample size of each bucket.
As it stands we have three field positions and this is the count:
That's 427 players or an average of 21.3 per team. Goalkeepers are obviously omitted from this count as are some of the players who played inconsequential minutes or had incomplete data for certain categories. Those omitted players shouldn't make too much difference for the numbers I am about to show you.
Below is the 2013/14 player data broken down into the three field positions.
|Position||Age||Goals p/90||Assists p/90||Points p/90||Shots p/90||KP's P/90||Shot Cont p/90||SoT p/90||Sh%||SoT%||Sc%||Fouls p/90||Fouled p/90||Foul Volume p/90||ToP%|
Forwards are younger than midfielders who are younger than defenders, though the differences are pretty small.
Defenders don't score much, forwards score the most. All of this is boringly predictable.
The assist rate is fairly close between forwards and midfielders. Some of the closeness in this category is due to the creative attacking midfielders and wingers being lumped into the Midfielder bucket.
This is goals & assists added together. The average forward will produce half a point a game, more than double the average midfielder.
Midfielders create more shooting opportunities than forwards do. This is pretty intuitive, really. Attacking midfielders and wingers are creators first, shooters second in most cases and it shows in these numbers.
Shooting% = goals/total shots.
Again, this is intuitive stuff. Defenders are bad shooters. Why? Long range shots from poor locations or shot attempts from set-piece situations drive defenders shooting% lower.
Midfielders have a much lower shooting% than forwards do. This is likely due to location of shots (forwards are closer to goal) and a little to do with player skill. Why do some players play as forwards? Are they better shooters? In quite a few cases, yes. But forwards have other skills than midfielders do not have: ability to get in the best locations they can to shoot or receive a pass, movement, reading of passing lanes, and the ability to work a shooting opportunity and hopefully get that shot on goal. Getting a shot away close to goal, under defensive pressure, not having that shot blocked, and scoring with that shot is a difficult skill.
The very best forwards (Aguero, Suarez) have those skills in abundance.
Defenders foul the least and are fouled the least. The opposite is true for forwards, who likely get fouled a lot when dropping deep into midfield and attempting to start attacks. I think, and it is only my opinion, that defenders are now plenty good at staying on their feet and not over-committing.
Time On Pitch %
Minutes played/available minutes.
Although ToP% will be slightly affected by some of the brief player cameos that I omitted the overall percentage for each positional bucket still contains enough information for it to be interesting.
The defenders in this 13/14 sample played more than either of the other positions. This is likely due to managers preferring settled defensive units, less competition for places, fewer injuries and fewer substitutions.
Forwards in this sample played just ~31% of the available minutes: injury, rotation, substitutions, fatigue, tactical switches that mostly revolve around forward play, and greater competition for the one or two striking berths in the XI likely drive this percentage down.
***The numbers featured in this post are not definitive, they are merely a snapshot of a single season in a single league. The numbers too have issues in the way that players are classified by position. That said, the numbers in the table above make a whole lot of sense.