West Ham United’s Fabian Balbuena put in arguably his best performance yet since a summer move from Corinthians in Saturday’s Premier League draw with Leicester City, scoring his first goal for the club and helping his team to hold onto a slim lead until the dying embers, with ten men.
Today, we are going to be carrying out a statistics-driven tactical analysis of the near match-winning display at the King Power Stadium during the 1-1 stalemate between Claude Puel’s and Manuel Pellegrini’s men to find out just how excellent it was, join us.
First and foremost, we are going to be analysing his strike, the central defender’s maiden goal in Claret & Blue and one that was mere minutes away from giving the Hammers their second away league win and only their third overall, of the season.
In the 30th-minute in the East Midlands, West Ham youngster Grady Diangana, making his full PL debut, drew a clever foul and free-kick in a dangerous position. It was laid off by Robert Snodgrass for Felipe Anderson to deliver with the game still goalless, we can see the No4 starting his run as the ball is crossed.
In the below image, provided by our good friends over at wyscout.com like every other image in this section, in what was clearly a pre-rehearsed routine, Declan Rice is heading the ball back across goal, in Balbuena’s direction, after Anderson clipped it to him.
The header from the Academy of Football product was perfect, picking out the Paraguayan International who was free and beyond England defender Harry Maguire. Below, the ball has been headed to the left side of the goal by Balbuena and is about to beat Kasper Schmeichel.
However, the ball didn’t find the back of the net, instead, it cannoned off the post and back across the face of goal, by this point, Balbuena had already got back up off his feet. As we can see, the alertness of ‘The General’ allowed him to get into position to tap the ball home at the second attempt, giving Pellegrini’s men a lead that would last until Wilfried Ndidi salvaged a point for the Foxes on 89 minutes.
Next, to delve more into Balbuena’s eye-catching display, we will be taking an in-depth look at the centre-back’s heatmap from the feisty encounter, provided to us, along with the key stats in the comparison section, by our good friends over at whoscored.com.
Before we get onto the heatmap, we can already see from the graphic that the Paraguay man enjoyed 64 touches, displaying just how much he was involved in the game, mainly in the second period where his defence withstood a huge amount of pressure. This was the joint-eighth most of any player on the pitch and joint-most for West Ham, alongside fellow defender Pablo Zabaleta.
From the heatmap, we can see that Balbuena spent the most time in two main areas of the KP Stadium pitch, on the right side of his own box in his traditional right centre-back role and high on the right side of his own half. This shows us that he commanded all of his space and then some, displaying great energy to cover and protect a vast amount of ground.
For the main part of this tactical analysis and to make a final point about the quality of the man who’s played every league minute for the Irons this campaign’s performance, we are going to compare his display to that of his opposite number.
To do this, we have adopted the use of WhoScored’s fantastic Match Centre feature and the basis on which we are going to compare Balbuena and Leicester right-sided centre-half is some key statistics from the draw, at the bottom of the graphic.
The man picked to partner Maguire by Puel was Balbuena’s fellow summer arrival to the Premier League Turkish International Caglar Soyuncu, making his first start in the world’s toughest league.
With his stats in orange and the Hammer’s in blue, the first statistic we are drawn to is WhoScored’s overall match rating, the 22-year-old managing 6.05 in a tricky introduction to the English Top-Flight and Balbuena convincingly beating him with 8.42 out of ten.
Balbuena also defeats the man five years his junior when it comes to share of the overall possession, not by too much on this occasion, though, with 4.2 per cent to his four.
The one area where the Paraguay defender didn’t have so much joy and wasn’t superior to his Turkish counterpart is percentage of passes completed, or pass completion as his 74% isn’t good enough to beat his 86%.
While neither player attempted a dribble, delivered a corner or dispossessed an opponent, they both won their fair share of aerial duels, coming out on top in three, more than most in the Midlands.
The final stat we are going to be analysing is tackles won, a crucial one if you’re a defender, Soyuncu not managing to register a single one over the course of the 90 minutes and Balbuena’s physicality seeing him come out on top in two. Despite being much less involved in proceedings than the man in Claret & Blue, the Turkey man also went into referee Michael Oliver’s book, whilst he didn’t.
Overall, when we total up the scores with one point being awarded to one of the players for getting the better of the other in a certain stat, there is only one clear winner, Balbuena. The South American earns four points to the European’s single point, further asserting the fact that he was outstanding in BT Sport’s live Saturday late kick-off.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that not only was Balbuena’s showing one of, if not the best of his short West Ham career so far, but it was also the best of any defender and any player for the Hammers or the Foxes, two days ago.
Offensively and defensively, the fan favourite’s was the complete performance and it was a great shame that the match ended on such a low note for the Paraguayan, as he accidentally deflected Ndidi’s long-range effort into his own top corner. The rise in quality of his displays in Claret & Blue is only accelerating and Hammers fans will be expecting nothing less from him in the coming weeks, starting with Wednesday’s Carabao Cup clash with Tottenham Hotspur.
On a final note, we at West Ham Matters, along with the rest of the football family, would like to send our heartfelt sympathy to all of those who have been affected by the tragic events that followed the match on Saturday. Football has no colours at a time like this.