Getting To Know Chelsea’s Latest Transfer Target – Juan Cuadrado

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Updated: January 21, 2015

In case you hadn’t heard, Chelsea have been linked with a guy named Juan Guillermo Cuadrado. From oh-that-makes-sense-I-guess rumors to a was-he-wasn’t-he Capital One Cup attendance storm (he probably wasn’t), the idea of Cuadrado becoming a Chelsea player went from about a Messi to a Robinho (he was coming, after all) in a matter of a day or so. And, with number bandied in the £27m region, we have to ask ourselves: what would we get in Cuadrado, and would it be worth the price?

As far as I can tell, Cuadrado played almost exclusively on the right flank for 2012/13 and 2013/14 before splitting time on the right and through the middle as a second striker/attacking midfielder this season. This seems to be a pretty good skill set to fill perhaps the greatest need left in this Chelsea squad: the right wing. Our current options, Schürrle and Willian, have been decent when playing there this year, but each leaves something to be desired. The pair are two halves of a great player that could lay waste to the league. But alas, we don’t get that player.

Cuadrado is a right footer winger who scores from his own wing, which is slightly unusual in the day of inverted wingers. I suppose that could lead to worries that we’d be as right-foot dominant as we are now (Willian, Oscar, Fabregas, Costa, Hazard, Schürrle, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, and Azpilicueta are all right-footed) and that we’d lack the goalscoring threat associated with an inverted winger. But the numbers bear Cuadrado out as a decent goalscorer, so it might not be too great an issue.

Cuadrado has spent the last few years in Italy (six to be precise) playing at Udinese, Lecce, and now Fiorentina. During that time, he’s amassed 161 appearances and 28 goals, which is not exactly the most phenomenal goalscoring record of all time. However, that rate has picked up the last two seasons (15 in 43 last season and 5 in 21 so far this season; total 20 in 64; .313 per game), and it’s considerably better than Willian’s rate with us (7 in 70 appearances; .1 per game) and slightly better than Schürrle’s (13 in 56; .232 per game). So off the bat, there’s something to like (note that I have per 90 data later in the post).

FIFA’s website for the World Cup opened up their description of Cuadrado with this:

A skilled dancer and acrobat, at least if his goal celebrations are anything to go by, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado is the man who brings a touch of magic to Colombia’s play.

which, I mean, sign him up now. On a serious note, the general profile seems to be a decent goalscoring winger (we need one of thems!) who matches the output of our current goalscoring winger, and who might provide more industry (giving him some of the attributes of that super winger we talked about) than our goalscoring threat..

Also, it’s gonna get a little uncanny with some of the stats with respect to Willian, so let’s get some of this out of the way. Cuadrado is about three months older than Willian, the same height, and about ten pounds lighter. So we’re basically looking at the same dude from an age/position/size/great hair perspective. And, look, I know that FIFA stats aren’t exactly a real barometer of quality or anything. That’s putting it lightly. But this is uncanny:

I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about Cuadrado. I haven’t seen much of his play, and when I have I wasn’t focusing on him specifically. So, this being Chelsea Index and all, why don’t we dive into the numbers, see if we can glean anything, and at the very least learn a little about ourselves and our squad.

Stats:

These stats were taken from WhoScored, which is powered by Opta. I combined European competition (CL and EL) with league competition for a given season (so Hazard’s 2012/13 contains league, CL, and EL numbers on a per 90 basis). The stats were mostly either per game as given by WhoScored or per 90 as calculated by me from the totals. The shot and goal data is per 90, while most of the other stats are per game. Onto the comparisons.

Miscellaneous stats collection.

Miscellaneous stats collection.

Cuadrado gets fouled more than Hazard which is both surprising and insane. He loses the ball more than Willian and Schürrle usually, but less than Hazard. That’s the peril of being a high-usage player who dominates the ball for his team. We would likely see all of those numbers go down in our setup as we would not rely as heavily upon him.

TFIB - Tackles + Fouls + Interceptions + Blocks

TFIB – Tackles + Fouls + Interceptions + Blocks

Uh. Hold on. Cuadrado seems to have Willian-esque TFIB (which is sort of a measure of defensive contribution for forwards). I’m not sure that I think individual stats are indicative of much in terms of work rate, but this is still very impressive. Unfortunately, a large bulk of his TFIB is in fouls. Maybe he’s a bad tackler.

passing

Passing numbers for the crew; apologies for the reading difficulty. The line graph is on the secondary axis and represents average passes played per game.

The passing percentage bar is difficult to get a handle on here (getting swamped out by long balls, so my apologies there), but Cuadrado and Willian (and basically every point in this dataset) have basically equally passing completion percentages. That’s a good thing, since Willian’s is actually good for an attacking midfielder. Schürrle’s, uh, not much of a passer.

goals

As promised, per 90 goal numbers.

Alright. Some separation! Schürrle is understandably great in non-penalty goals per 90 this season (partially a function of low playing time – but you do have to score to have a good scoring rate, even if you don’t play much – and partially a function of shooting like a ’30s bank robber). But, notice that, for the last two seasons, Cuadrado’s NPG is basically on par with Hazard and rivals Schürrle (better last season)? That’s good. Notice that in 2012/13 that was certainly not the case (and Willian had great numbers). This is where it’s important to remember that 1) Russia is bad and 2) Jovetic used to play at Fiorentina. That could explain Cuadrado’s low numbers that season in terms of goal output and his subsequent improvements (as Jovetic moved to Manchester City).

shots

Where do their shots come from?

Cuadrado takes a good amount of shots. More than Hazard, more than Willian, less than Schürrle. However, his advantage over Hazard mostly comes from those bad long range shots that players like to take, leaving his penalty area shots per 90 on par with Schürrle and Hazard. Maybe working with talented players and Cesc could change that.

And lastly, some dribbling numbers.

And lastly, some dribbling numbers.

YOWZA YOWZA YOWZA LOOK AT THEM DRIBBLES.

No seriously, look again. First off, Hazard’s having a ludicrous dribbling season. Not just that he’s attempting 8 per game, but that he’s succeeding on nearly 75% of them. Just insane. Cuadrado has similarly off the charts attempted dribble numbers (in fact, he nearly matched Hazard’s 8 dribbles per 90 last season, and had more than 7 two seasons ago) but with a lesser rate of success.

 

 

Ted Knutson from last season on Cuadrado. Not a world class player, but a very valuable contributor. You probably could have said that about di Maria a couple seasons ago. Factor in the distribution of skills and he seems like a good player to have.

So it looks like we’re looking at a poor man’s Hazard, or a zombie combination of Schürrle’s shooting and Willian workrate. He actually sorta has Schürrle’s goalscoring numbers and Willian’s defensive numbers. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be good at those things in a big team that has more moving parts, but it’s something to think about.

Is this a guy who’s worth £27m? That’s a hard question to answer. First, consider that Hazard went for £32m a mere three years ago when the league had less money. The days of measuring by the old transfer price sticks (~ Torres for £50m the absolute max price, expensive at £20m, elite at £30m) are pretty much gone unless you’re finding the best deals on the market (looking at you, Costa and Sanchez for £30m-ish and Fabregas for £28.5m-ish). Lukaku went for £28m, for instance, a sign of mid-table teams getting more money..

I’m pretty sure Cuadrado is worse than Hazard-Sanchez-Costa-Fabregas, so in that sense he’s a bit of an overpay (especially since he’s pretty old by our standards). But, he’s probably better than Willian/Schürrle/Salah. And if he can turn us into an elite team that competes on all fronts and fixing our biggest remaining weakness…

Well, then we’re talking. It’s hard to put a value on that. Oh, and I think he’s CL eligible.

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