There has been a bit of divide recently regarding Leon Best. Some say his figures suggest he should be regarded as a constant first teamer, whilst others argue his recent form has dipped and he should be dropped.
I was curious about how well he actually stands up against the competition from his Premier League rivals, as some have suggested he is not Premier League standard. So I did a little league table. It is simple:
1 – You need to be playing for a Premiership team.
2 – You need to have played 600 minutes or more this season excluding Internationals or European football.
3 – You will be measured on direct involvement in goals (goals and assists basically) so far this season – from there your position will be calculated.
4 – As assists are just as important as goals, advanced midfielders are included in this too – i.e #10 types such as Benny, Cahill, Hoilett…
Now then, 61 players fit this mould, including three NUFC players. The Top five are predictable with Edin Dzeko 54 minutes per goal (54), Robin Van Persie (65), Sergio Aguero (78), our very own Demba Ba (84) then Wayne Rooney (87) surprisingly being joined by Craig Bellamy (87).
Now I don’t want to list every player, but I’ll highlight a few of the interesting ones. QPR’S Heidur Helguson actually takes 9th place due to his 7 goals and 2 assists in 815 minutes of football, equating to a goal every 91 minutes. Norwich’s Grant Holt scores a goal every 96 minutes, which leaves him 12th. Despite how good Luis Suarez is supposed to be, he sits at a lowly 17th with a goal every 120 minutes.
Some of the worst performers in the league include Emile Heskey (1 goal per 838 minutes) and alleged awesome £12m man Adel Taraabt with a goal every 843 minutes of play. They sit 58th and 59th respectively. Other shockers are Lievrpool’s Dirk Kuyt in 54th place with (1 per 349) and £35m man Andy Carroll (1 goal per 363 minutes of play) sat in 53rd place! Chelsea’s Didier Drogba is sat in 45th place with a goal every 287 minutes whilst Darren Bent is proving less than value for his £24m transfer with a goal every 216 minutes leaving him in 38th place. £50m man Fernando Torres is in 30th, with a goal every 184 minutes (not as bad as some of us might think though).
Some notable players that did not make the list due to lack of playing time include Dimitar Berbatov, Nicolas Anelka, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands as well as Carlos Tevez.
Best scores a goal every 335 minutes or 1 in every 3.5 games. Lovenkrands did not make the list, but he scored 1 in every 132 minutes, or 1 in every 1.5 games so far this season.
Best does his bit for assists too with three so far – this puts him in 27th place with a goal every 168 minutes, comfortably average for a Premier League player. This is still less on average than Loverman who gets less chances to put a run together. So in effect, Loverman should be in the team before Best according to the stats? Naturally there is more to a game than goals and assists, such as contribution, work rate, defensive work, aerial value and overall I can see why Best is regarded as better than our Danish option.
The fact is that Best has not scored since Aston Villa on September 17th and not been directly involved in a Toon goal since the win over Stoke on 31st October despite being in the starting line up four times since. His work rate has gone down hill, he does not seem to be concentrating as much and is definitely mistiming his runs too often.
He has the tools required to be be a hit, but he needs to buck up if he is going to keep the shirt, especially when Ben Arfa is banging on the door.
More stats – Benny has been involved in 507 minutes of football this season, producing 1 goal and 2 assists. That’s an average of being directly involved in a goal every 169 minutes. One minute behind Best, who has had a clear run in the starting line up all season. One minute behind him after coming back from a double leg break and making fleeting appearances from the bench. One minute behind him without having had a good run of starts.
One good reason why Best should be looking behind his shoulder at Benny knocking on the door – and pulling his socks up sharpish.
In summary I believe Best is more than capable of doing it in the Premier League and despite his current poor run of form he should be regarded as part of our match day squad no matter what happens with Ben Arfa. We know he can score, we know he can lay them on for team-mates so his value to our cause should not be questioned and he should not be sold. However with his performances going down hill and Benny’s on the up I am definitely of the opinion that he needs to find the early form that had most of us gushing about him, otherwise Benny can and should take his place.
What do you readers think on the subject and who would you go for in the starting line up against Liverpool – Leon Best or Hatem Ben Arfa? Over to you for your vote and comments.