Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teen millionaire comparison: Luke Shaw vs. Calum Chambers

The £12 million (rising to 16 million) paid for young Southampton right-back Calum Chambers might best exhibit the premium placed on potential in the English Premier League. The nineteen year-old joined the Gunners this week for a fee around half of that paid by Manchester United for line-mate Luke Shaw, who travelled north for a sum thought to be around £30 million.

There are a few subtle differences between the pair, however. Firstly, Chambers can’t possibly expect to earn the reputed £100,000 per week. This is probably in part because he hasn’t yet played for England, nor apparently interested the club he supported as a boy. And – perhaps – finally, while a quality player and precisely no grumbling has accompanied his transfer, Chambers’ performances for the Saints last year didn’t actually inspire a lot of success (he might be fitter, though).

Southampton boasted a goal difference of +8 in 2013-14. Calum Chambers played approximately half of Southampton’s total minutes in a back four that usually featured Shaw, Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren. During the time he was on the pitch, the Saints had a goal difference of -9, the worst total of any player who managed over 1000 minutes for the season. Whilst Chambers was on the pitch, his team scored slightly under 1.1 goals and conceded 1.59 per ninety minutes.

For comparative purposes, Shaw was Soton’s third-most valuable player in terms of cumulative (and per-game) plus/minus with the team scoring 10 goals more than their opposition for the season while he was on the park (or, scoring 1.47 and conceding 1.17 per 90). In fact, of all the left-backs in the sample last year (1/4 of the EPL), only Spurs’ Danny Rose had a better comparative Plus/Minus-per 90 than Shaw.

Chambers can hardly be blamed for Southampton’s performance during his time on the field and he fell victim to almost all of the Saints’ few drubbings last year, so luck plays a role. But it should be noted that the sample size is large enough to begin to draw some conclusions – the numbers say the Saints simply weren’t as good in 2013-14 when Chambers played at right-back. That this transaction seems likely to lose the Gunners the eminently serviceable Carl Jenkinson makes it – hopefully – more about “fit” and less a function of past performance.

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