DATA DEPENDENT: Mo Salah v Eden Hazard – Pick’m

Two players that have lit up the Premier League over the last few seasons have been Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah. Both are small, fast, have quick feet, and an eye for goal. Both can play off the wing and float infield with devastating effect or can play centrally. Both are talisman for their sides, being instrumental in the success of their sides in recent seasons.

Hazard was the centerpiece of Conte’s 2016/17 title winning side, at times carrying the team to victory after victory.

Salah was the driving force behind Liverpool reaching the Champions League final last season with decisive goals against Manchester City and Roma along the way. He went on to break the record for Premier League goals scored and sent Liverpool back into the Champions League for a second successive season.

Given the similarities between the two players, comparisons are inevitable. Below we take an objective view of who comes out on top.

Goals and Assists

Attacking players live and die by the measure of scoring and assisting goals. It’s what they are put on the field to do. Looking back on the past 5 seasons there is one clear winner. Since 2014/15, Mo Salah has registered a stonking 122 goals and assists, far from the one season wonder that many people believe. His Belgian rival has posted 95.

Player

Season

Goals

Assists

Total

Mo Salah

18/19

18

7

25

17/18

32

10

42

16/17

15

11

26

15/16

14

6

20

14/15

6

3

9

Player

Season

Goals

Assists

Total

Eden Hazard

18/19

16

12

28

17/18

12

4

16

16/17

16

5

21

15/16

4

3

7

14/15

14

9

25

While we can see the steady rise of Mo Salah’s stats, Hazard has been much more consistent, save for the 15/16 season. Hazard is also currently leading the Premier league so far this term with 28 goals and assists.

Finishing (XG) and Quality of Assists (XGA)

Expected goals determines the ability for a player to get in goal scoring positions and is also a measure of finishing. Salah has registered 71.05 XG meaning that he’s over performed against his XG by nearly 14. Hazard has only registered 45.17 but has overperformed by nearly 17 goals, meaning Salah is better at getting in goal scoring positions, but Hazard is the better finisher.

In terms of goal creation, Hazard leads the way with a total of 39 expected assists against Salah’s 36. This passes the eye test as the Belgian tends to play deeper in more of a ‘10’ role while Salah has shifted from playing as Liverpool’s main striker through the middle to his more preferred role of drifting in from the right.

Both players are also famed for their dribbling skills. Hazard wins hands down here with 3.41 dribbles per game against Salah’s 1.97. As demonstrated by his devastating goal against West Ham, where Hazard beat 3 men followed by burying the ball in the net, the Belgian is probably the best dribbler in the country. This season, Salah has often been left frustrated with his attempts, often running into brick walls, and has struggled to reach the heights of last season.

While Salah has been seen to be relatively unsuccessful compared to his record-breaking season, good things still seem to happen when he has the ball. According to Sam Mcguire, in his recent article for the International Champions Cup website, 9.52% of Salah’s dribbles end up in a shot with only 3.9% for Hazard. Salah loses the ball 16% of the time, Hazard 20.56% of the time. But only 7.14% of Salah’s dribbles end up in a foul, with 23.38% for Hazard. Overall, a whopping 30% of Salah’s dribbles result in either another dribble, a shot, or a pass into the area.

“It’s no coincidence that against Burnley, when Salah attempted six dribbles, and Watford when he attempted 16, the Reds score 9 goals.”  

Defending

Often overlooked as an attribute required from an attacking player in the modern game is his ability to stop attacks and win the ball back. However, in any Klopp side, its one of the key attributes that he most demands. This season, Salah has weighed in with 0.52 tackles per game, while Eden Hazard comes in below at 0.38. A key example was seen in the recent game against Porto in the Champions League. Porto launched a potentially devastating counter attack from a Liverpool corner, and it was the speedy Egyptian that sprinted back, tracking his man back to his own 18-yard box, winning the ball back, and launching another attack.

Attitude

Stats only tell you one part of the story. A player’s will to win and determination can make up for many shortfalls, and vice versa. Salah is well recognised for working hard, being humble, and giving 100% in every game. Eden Hazard’s reputation has been tarnished somewhat with the Belgian blamed as one of the central characters in the downfall of both Mourinho and Conte. His output from the 15/16 and 17/18 seasons are evidence of a significant drop off in output, when both managers were sacked.

Conclusion    

Who comes out on top? Its close! In terms of raw output, Salah is the clear winner with superior goals and assists, albeit bolstered by last season’s numbers and good finishing from his team mates. However, Hazard in the better creator and finisher, as demonstrated by his expected goals and assists numbers. Salah is the harder working, Hazard is the better dribbler. Ultimately, it comes down to what you want from your attacker, but given Hazard’s propensity to ‘down tools’, my money would be on Mohammed Salah.

WORDS: Anish Uppal (@anishuppal79)

SOURCE: Understat.com

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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