Stats Don’t Lie- Khedira ft. Wyclef Dingo

Mr.Khedira is unfortunate because he picked up an ACL injury right before World Cup and he will most likely miss it. On the bright side he has the honor of being the first player to get a dedicated blog post using dingoR. So cheer up, Sami!

As I was looking for the first topic to use dingoR, Raphael Honigstein’s excellent article gave me an idea. How will Real Madrid and Germany replace Khedira?  Let’s start with RM, as their options are more limited and easier to analyze.

RM has four players that can be used in the holding midfield position. Khedira and Xabi have been the desired pairing during the reign of Mourinho, but partly due to Xabi’s injury, Ancelotti has been mixing and matching. Let’s have a look at dingoR’s for these four players. If you need a refresher on what these ratings mean please read the q&a.

80=stands ,90=bench, 100= average, 110=good, 120=star

Khedira 110.4
Xabi Alonso 106.6
Illarramendi 95.0
Modric 93.3

According to dingoR , Khedira’s loss is a blow for RM as neither Modric nor llarramendi are good enough to replace him. If we assume Xabi is healthy and starts every remaining game Khedira’s loss will cost RM 3-4 points going forward.(dingoR is not a linear rating but linear version is available and a bit messy) I have not done a full fledged age analysis yet I suspect Illaremendi(23) is at an age where he might still improve so there is some hope.

Next is Germany. dingoR or any other rating metric would not be enough to analyze how to replace a key player. The replacement players should also be similar to the injured player; otherwise we are just building a fantasy football (is it fantasy soccer?) team. I built a simple similarity model to compare the players Mr. Honigstein mentions.

DingoR SimS
Khedira 110.5
Schweinsteiger 121.3 Cousin
Gundogan 108.0 Brother
Kroos 128.1 DNA test?
Lars Bender 114.7 Cousin

As Mr.Honigstein suggests Schweinsteiger and Kroos would be a formidable pairing. Both of them perform at a star level. (I did not realize Kroos was this good until looking at these numbers, impressive). Yet the problem is obvious; what Kroos brings to the team is very dissimilar to Khedira’s. Kroos is basically playing like an attacking midfielder; if Low wants to use Schweinsteiger and Kroos he will also need to find some extra defensive help somewhere else and that might cause other problems. Gundogan is closest to Khedira but slightly worse(and been injured himself); perhaps L.Bender would be the best compromise between performance and similarity. (I did not analyze Lahm’s data as he has only been playing at DM for a very short time.) In case there are more injuries, Loew might also consider Gentner of Stuttgart who has a dingoR of 104.2 and very similar attributes to Khedira.

Losing a player like Khedira during the season is bound to hurt. For a big populous soccer country like Germany, we would expect the pain to be better absorbed as there is a large pool of players to select from (but not enough games to try all different options). For club teams, buying someone like Khedira costs a lot of money in case anyone is available. Ancelotti already ruled out a winter replacement transfer. Numbers suggest while RM might get disadvantaged by Khedira’s absence, Germany should be able to replace him without a problem. Time will tell.


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