Ask Norman

Torres v the rest and Barca hat-tricks

April 25, 2013
By Norman Hubbard
(Archive)

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

I am having this debate with my friends (who are Manchester United supporters) that Fernando Torres has scored more goals than the likes of Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez and might end up scoring more than Robin van Persie. They point out that his contribution to Chelsea is not the same as other strikers' to their respective clubs. Could you help me out with stats and define contribution as you see it? (Anand Rahalkar asked).

Robin van Persie roaring solo celeb vs Villa
GettyImagesRobin van Persie's 24 goals have been vital in Man Utd regaining the Premier League title

Well, there are many ways of defining a contribution and plenty of ways of interpreting statistics. One is to say that only Van Persie has outscored Torres in club football this season although, as the table below shows, that is partly because, in Chelsea's marathon campaign, he has played more games than the others (all statistics, by the way, are prior to the Europa League semi-final first leg against Basel).

This table, detailing statistics in all competitions, shows that Torres is the second highest scorer behind Van Persie. However, his goals per game ratio is the second worst, ahead only of Dzeko. Yet the Bosnian is often a substitute, so recalibrating it to divide the number of starts by the number of goals means Dzeko jumps to second place, with Van Persie again a clear leader, and Torres drops to last place. Whichever way you analyse it, Aguero, Rooney and Tevez are grouped closely together. Indeed, in everything apart from assists (which are displayed below), there is remarkably little to separate Rooney and Aguero in every category.

But only just over a third of Torres' goals - seven - have come in the Premier League, whereas he has struck nine times in Europe. As none of the others have played in the Europa League, it is hard to compare records there. If we regard the Premier League as a level playing field, however, the figures change dramatically for the Spaniard.

This table makes grim reading for Torres. He has the fewest league goals, the worst ratio of goals per game and goals per start. Van Persie, again, tops virtually every category. The one exception is goals per start, which partly indicates how rarely Dzeko begins games but is also deceptive as he often scores as a substitute. The one consolation for Torres is that, with five assists, he has provided more for team-mates than either Aguero or Dzeko. However, he and Dzeko have much the worst pass completion rate of this sextet, so he also gives the ball away more than most.

The final table again examines Premier League statistics. Perhaps the key figure is the second one - the number of minutes per goal (MPG) on average. Again, Van Persie, who has spent more time on the pitch, is a comfortable winner, with Dzeko, on the pitch the least and providing a smaller sample size, in second. Torres, by contrast, takes almost twice as long to score as the next worst in this table, Tevez. He averages a goal every 362 minutes - or every four full games - whereas Van Persie's return is almost three times as good and Dzeko's, Rooney's and Aguero's are all at least twice as good.

The last two figures in the table, SPG and MST are shots per goal - whether on target, off target or blocked - and minutes per shot on target: in other words, how often a striker will trouble the opposing goalkeeper.

Van Persie, who scores a goal every 5.33 shots and has 24 goals from 57 efforts on target, is the most clinical, with Dzeko again second and Torres still last, suggesting he has been the most profligate in the Premier League. The last statistic, however, might stand out the most. There is comparatively little to separate the other five strikers, who average a shot on target between 52 and 65 minutes. For Torres, however, that figure leaps to 115 minutes per effort on target.

To return to your original point, a contribution can be assessed in a number of ways and sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story. If they do, however, they reflect badly on Torres.

Cesc Fabregas scored a hat-trick in Barcelona's 5-0 win over Mallorca recently. I understand he's the first Barca player apart from Lionel Messi to score a hat-trick for the blaugrana in three years! Who was the last Barca player to do so? Still on the subject of hat-tricks and more, no player has scored more than five goals in a single Premier League match. Has any player achieved this feat in the old Division 1? (Yemi from Nigeria asked).

Cesc Fabregas scored late for Barcelona to seal a Primera Division win against Levante
GettyImagesCesc Fabregas is the first Spaniard to hit a hat-trick for Barca in over a decade

Your information is correct. The previous hat-trick for Barcelona by anyone other than a certain diminutive Argentine came from an unlikely suspect, Seydou Keita, in a 6-1 win over Real Zaragoza in October 2009. Fabregas, incidentally, became the first Spaniard to score a La Liga hat-trick for Barcelona since Luis Enrique in 2001.

Four players – Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Jermain Defoe and Dimitar Berbatov – share the Premier League record for scoring five goals in a game. In the history of top-flight football in England, however, there is a man who scored seven times in a single match. That was Ted Drake, playing for Arsenal at Aston Villa in December 1935.

Drake was a prolific forward who, if World War II had not interrupted his career, might still be Arsenal's record goalscorer today. However, he may be best known for becoming the only Chelsea manager to win the league until, half a century after his triumph in 1955, Jose Mourinho emulated him.