La Liga: Clubs struggling under piles of debt; squads wrecked by the sale of their best and brightest; fans turning away from subscription channels like Canal+ and GolTV in their droves. It’s pretty bleak in Spain if you are a football fan.

Not all the news out of Spain is doom-laden, though: Bale’s signing broke  the world record for the highest transfer fee; Neymar was (I think) the second most expensive transfer in 2013/14; Atletico are mighty good; Simeone is God and Diego Costa is not only the most improved player, he may also be about to declare for the Spanish national team! There could also be a three-way battle for the title for the first time in years.

During the Summer I made some mental notes about which stats and leagues I was going to track this year apart from the PL. La Liga was due to be the second league tracked.

That tracking lasted all of 3 games before I realized that it was pretty pointless. La Liga is not a level playing field, the TV money is distributed in a cruel and damaging manner to any team not named Barca or Madrid and to put it bluntly: La Liga is dull and at times unwatchable from this writers perspective.

So why an article about la Liga if I have all this hate for the darn thing!? La Liga has some nice players, specifically forwards (non-attacking mids), and as part of my rebuilding of the Per90 database I decided to check in on some of the best forwards that la Liga has to offer.

Some of these players are pretty high in the scoring charts, others are established players and two (Neymar and Bale) are positionally fluid and could of been discarded from this list. But I create the list, so those players stay for now.


La Liga After 12 Games: Forward Per 90’s

*An extensive explanation of what these metrics mean can be found here. Penalties are stripped out.

Player Name Shots p90 SoT p90 Goals p90 Assists p90 Sc% SoT% Passes p90 Give- aways ToP%
Sanchez 3.04 1.6 1.12 0.32 70 52.6 43.8 1.9 57.9
Diego Costa 3.87 2.13 1.06 0.1 50 55 31.9 6.2 95.6
Messi 7.16 3.51 0.95 0.54 26.92 49.1 61.9 2.3 68.5
Bale 2.78 1.39 0.83 1.11 60 50 33.6 3 33.3
Ronaldo 8.43 2.59 0.83 0.19 32.14 30.8 37.8 3.3 100
Guerra 2.29 1.46 0.62 42.86 63.6 34.6 4.1 89.1
Dos Santos 3.68 1.59 0.61 0.37 38.46 43.3 29.9 3.1 75.6
Rodri 2.58 1.49 0.6 40 57.7 20.7 4.5 93.2
Benzema 3.49 1.4 0.58 0.47 41.67 40 30.8 2.4 79.5
Villa 3.3 1.82 0.57 0.23 31.25 55.2 22.6 4 81.3
Gamiero 2.27 1.2 0.53 0.13 44.44 52.9 24.1 2.4 69.3
Neymar 3.38 1.49 0.41 0.95 27.27 44 59.3 4 68.4
Seferovic 4.09 1.56 0.39 0.19 25 38.1 34.5 3.5 47.5

This table is set to Goals per90 but you guys can easily scrape it into a spreadsheet to make it sortable.

Diego Costa is the most interesting player for me. Costa is not a prolific shooter, but has a crazy good goals p90 due to what are likely unsustainable Scoring% and SoT% numbers. Worth looking at Costa’s giveaways, but I’ll have more on that shortly.

Shots & SoT Per 90



This is how some of the best forwards in la Liga are performing shots wise through the first 10 games.

Of the humans, Diego Costa and Villa are two of the more efficient players in the league (fits with Atletico’s system). Seferovic is just 21 years old and is a player is of interest for the rest of the season. Bale looks very un-Bale like so far. A bad back, muscle trouble and new systems may explain some of that performance. Bale’s last two games have been crazy good though.

There are two players in that chart that aren’t human in terms of shots performance. Messi is more efficient and manages to get 3.5 shots on target per 90 (it’s a crazy number, really), Ronaldo is the bigger volume shooter with just short of 8.5 shots per 90. Silly, stupid out of this world numbers.


Giveaways & Passes Per 90

Giveaways = intercepted+tackled

Now, I only posted the chart below as I wanted to see how readers felt about giveaways. When we look at this chart it’s obvious that Barcelona have a system that focuses on passing and not giving the ball away, but Barca are a rare beast and not too helpful for the giveaway question I want to ask.



Are giveaways a product of the team system or are they a product of where a player is located on the pitch? If Diego Costa is operating and passing in high risk areas of the pitch then surely his giveaways p90 will be high (see Suarez, Sturridge and Aguero who all post higher giveaway numbers than Costa). Or am I being too generous to Costa in speculating that his position on the pitch may be the cause of all those giveaways?

Maybe giveaways merely point to poor decision making and execution. I’m curious though so any ideas are welcome.

Further reading on weighted pass difficulty from the peerless Gabriel Desjardin at Arctic Ice Hockey & BTN


Anyhow, food for thought. I’ll probably look at another league in the next couple of weeks so if anybody has any specific request let me know.


  • Jonas

    Do you have any numbers seperating SiBoT from SoBoT. It seems like a very high percentage of Costa’s SoT come from inside of the box, which could help explain at least some of his conversion rate.

  • Chris Gluck

    Hi Ben, Intriguing topic on giveaways – not sure what the solution set or if these thoughts have value but perhaps these are some things to consider…
    One player may have less giveaways than another not because of their position but because of their pedigree in ball control – in other words as a manager I would want my players to ‘control a wider space’ around a player such as Costa but with other players who have less footskills I would want them to close that player down and apply pressure more; thereby probably increasing the opportunity for giveaways.

    It’s hard to pin down high areas of traffic versus low areas unless pehaps you split the relevant pitch into sections or quadrants routinely… in other words where are the areas that a player (on average) is unsuccessful in his passes versus the areas where he is successful in his passes?

    As for the level of competition – if the diversity in team skills varies as much as it does in La Liga then I’d be concerned about any individual data on goal scoring that is compared to players who score goals in other leagues.

    Goal scoring measurements in La Liga…
    Perhaps another approach is to use Real and Barca as a truthing-tool for other strikers/players in La Liga – in other words only use statistical data from other teams relative to the games played against those two teams –

    For example, players who do score against Barca and Real “show more” given the higher level of defensive competition than against other La Liga teams… so a goal scored against Real or Barca carries more ‘weight’ than a goal scored against another team… not sure if that makes sense or not? The same could be applied for keepers and their saves or other individual stats folks track in La Liga…

  • Thomas

    Does this mean that maybe it’s easier to score quite much if someone is #1 option for RM or Barca?

    Do you have such data also for EPL or BL?

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