By the Numbers: What to Make of Mattia Destro?

Updated: August 28, 2014

If you’re a Chelsea fan, chances are pretty decent that you’ve heard the name Mattia Destro more times in the past couple weeks than at all other times of your life combined. The Italian has featured for most of the Italian youth sides as well as the senior team, just missing the cut for the 2014 World Cup. At 23, he’s probably not a scintillating youth prospect anymore, but he is a very solid player with room for growth.

If you are like me, you haven’t seen much of Destro’s game unless you’re a regular Serie A viewer. He came through Inter’s youth academy before being included as part of the Ranocchia deal (this apparently took a year to fully complete because of co-ownership and weird Italian stuff). He moved to Siena on loan after a season with Genoa and was the newly promoted side’s leading scorer for the 2011-12 season.

Side note: Siena is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Anyways, the loan to Siena was weird because of co-ownership, and the upshot is that Roma purchased from Genoa (confusing, since he was at Siena on a co-ownership deal) after a season with the Sienese. 49 appearances (and 24 goals) later and he’s been linked with Chelsea as a replacement (?) for the rumored-to-be-outbound Fernando Torres. Obviously, Chelsea fans might not be able to get too excited about replacing Torres with Destro since the former seems unmovable, but here we are.

We keep hearing about Destro, so what do we know about him? As I mentioned before, the answer is probably something like “not much”. What do the stats say about him, though? Let’s delve in. (All data compiled from Squawka’s Comparison Matrix

specifically this link — with the exception of fouls per 90, found at Whoscored.)

The images above are comparisons in passing categories for Destro, Torres, Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I wanted to see how Destro compared to the man he could potentially replace (Torres), the man he’d sit behind (Costa), and two elites (Agüero and Zlatan). All numbers used are the per 90 2013-14 league values for each player.

These numbers seem to paint Destro as a sub-par link player for a striker. He has the lowest number of passes, key passes, and assists, and is fourth of the five in completion percentage, beating out only Torres.

If his link skills aren’t very impressive, does he have the requisite goalscoring ability to be considered an upgrade?

The first thing that jumps out here is Destro’s incredible goals per 90 rate. At .95 goals per 90 his goalscoring rate is more than three times that of Fernando Torres. He also has a higher goalscoring rate than both Diego Costa and Zlatan (both elite strikers). He trails Agüero slightly in this category, which is as much a comment on the incredible ability on the Argentinian as anything else. If one factors out set piece goals, Destro and Agüero isolate themselves even more from the other strikers in the group; Zlatan especially is reliant on set piece goals.

If you’re looking for worrying signs, notice the conversion rate: at 63% his shot accuracy is higher than any of the other strikers in this comparison. Further, his conversion rate is also considerably higher than that of the other strikers. Given that conversion rate tends to be largely random from year to year, this doesn’t bode well. His high goalscoring rate is likely due in large part to his anomalous conversion rate.

But, take a look at the shot bar lines in the gallery. Despite shooting the least of any striker on the list, Destro’s number of shots inside the area is nearly equal to that of Torres, Costa, and Zlatan (Agüero blows the field out of the water in this metric, because Agüero).

The easiest way to consider whether or not Destro’s goalscoring is anomalous or due to his shot selection would be with the use of Expected Goals (ExpG). This statistic is explained in detail at the excellent 11tegen11, and further discussion of ExpG can be found here. As a quick synopsis: Expected Goals is a metric that expresses what should happen by adjusting for the location and circumstances of each shot taken. For instance, a

penalty has a very high chance of being scored (this interview with Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry states that 81% of penalties attempted in World Cups since 1966 have been successful) and thus would carry a high ExpG, in this case something like .8. Obviously, shooting a goal from 30 yards out carries a lower ExpG because that shot is historically less likely to go in.

Without having the ExpG numbers available (and I do not as it is a proprietary metric calculated by individuals), it seems likely that Destro shoots only when he gets in good positions to shoot. If that is the case, his high accuracy and conversion numbers could be a function of his shot locations. I personally would assume that shot locations and ExpG are highly correlated, and a player who doesn’t shoot from outside the box with much regularity would be able to carry high ExpG numbers. All of the four other players on this list shoot more from outside the box. Smells like a poacher to me.

In support of the idea that Destro is a finisher and not much else, examine the take on chart below.


Destro: probably not a dribbler

Destro doesn’t complete a high number of take-ons, nor does he have a particularly high rate in doing so. Dribbling might not be his game. This suggests he’s the guy finishing the chances in the box, not dribbling into the box and making them (which falls in line nicely with his high percentage of shots in the box and low pass numbers).

The stats are creating a painting of Destro as a classic example of a poacher: hyper-efficient and high-scoring. Fortunately, it seems we can also add another descriptor to the mix: hard-working.


TFIB values containing tackles won and lost, fouls, interceptions, and blocks

The graph above shows tackles, interceptions, blocks, and fouls. These defensive stats aren’t particularly useful in predicting team defensive success, but they might be better suited to describing the willingness of an attacker to engage in defensive duties. Including tackles lost (which seemingly are considered to be negative by Squawka, but which at the very least indicate a willingness to challenge for the ball) Destro is pretty clearly the most defensively active of the strikers being compared. If one doesn’t include tackles lost, Destro is second in the group to Zlatan. This change could be a function of the addition of fouls as a proxy for defensive activity for forwards. While this could generally be true, it’s possible that some strikers get fouls for things like celebrating or talking back or diving, which obviously aren’t proxies for defensive performance; Zlatan’s incredibly high foul rate could be attributable to one of those reasons (though this is speculation).

Further: TFIB suggests that Costa is a perfect fit for a heavy pressing system, which makes sense given that he came out of one last season. Interestingly, Torres is fairly unimpressive in this metric, implying that he might not be as hard of a worker as some fans seem to suggest (or, at least, is not effective at working hard).

So in summary: it looks like we have a poacher that works hard in pressing, with an elite goalscoring rate comparable to the likes of Agüero. Sounds like the perfect option to come off the bench, and given the return on value he should be a considerably better option than Fernando Torres.


  1. chux

    August 28, 2014 at 10:03 PM

    Destro will definitely be a gud buy 4 chelsea.

  2. flash

    August 29, 2014 at 3:35 AM

    For sure,this guy Destro will be better than torres.he will be our super sub.up blues

  3. frank

    August 29, 2014 at 4:20 AM

    Instead we should sign BONY from swansea, hez a poached physically strong. Dribbles well, can score from head !! Most importantly hez a proven prem league striker !

  4. kabir arolahun

    August 29, 2014 at 5:56 AM

    mattia destro is good 4 chelsea toress pls change enviroment u can succed

  5. Cecil

    August 29, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Based on your analysis, Destro would suit us well as a back-up. He is in the mold of Chicharito (whom I respect a lot and I feel he hasn’t been really appreciated at Man Utd) and Sturridge (but Sturridge is a better dribbler). The fact that he is willing to work hard for the team and press makes him look even better suited to what we need at the club. Not a bad back-up option in my opinion. Still, I would like us to go for Remy.

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