At quick glance, Arsenal's brilliant Santi Cazorla's dominance in the most important statistic in soccer suggests he is having the superior Premier League season when compared to Manchester City's smooth David Silva. The former has 8 goals and the latter 3.
Using advanced statistics powered by OPTA and editorialized by websites, Squawka and Whoscored, a deeper look at multiple metrics affirms Cazorla's superior domestic campaign, if only by a scant margin.
Cazorla's 25 (all but one start) appearances have provided more opportunities for production than Silva's 22 (20 starts), but this discrepancy is not significant enough to warrant concern about a skewed analysis. Both Spaniards are mainstays in midfield for their respective clubs.
Defending is not a major responsibility for these attack-first players so there is no pressing need to put much stock into clearances, blocks or interceptions. Although Cazorla's 45 interceptions more than doubles Silva's 19, a figure worth noting.
A deeper look into offensive categories, specifically passing and shooting, is the best way to determine who is having a better club season in England.
The passing numbers are eerily similar. Cazorla's notched six assists while Silva has five. Manchester City's man holds a slight advantage in chances created (a pass leading directly to a shot), offering 65 (three per match) to the Gunners' 61 (2.4 per match).
Passing accuracy is also a dead heat, Cazorla finds a teammate on 87 percent of his attempted passes; Silva's 85 percent is not far behind. They are almost equally as adventurous with where they direct their passes, as Cazorla looks forward on 63 percent of occasions to Silva's 61 percent.
Passing volume presents the first noticeable difference in distribution habits. Silva has attempted 316 fewer passes (1,304) than Cazorla (1,620). Cazorla's successful through balls also help his case, as he's threaded 17 to Silva's eight.
Cazorla's three shots per game with a total of 76 shots definitely trumps Silva's 1.9 on 41 shots. Silva's average shot accuracy, (shots on target divided by total shots, excluding blocked shots) 67 percent, is better than Cazorla's 54 percent, but accuracy alone is not the entire story.
Silva's three goals gives him a conversation rate (goals scored divided by shots attempted, excluding blocked shots) of 11.1 percent while Cazorla converts on 16 percent of strikes. Silva might force goalkeepers to make saves more often following attempts, but it is Cazorla who leaves them fishing the ball from the back of their own net.
There are enough matches left in the Premier League for Silva and his dexterous left foot to overtake Cazorla's slight statistical advantage. Perhaps, more than anything, this data indicates that these footballers are simply world class.
Particularly impressive is the willingness both share to try and generate chances going forward so frequently with the ball at their feet. As playmakers, they do not settle for square or backwards balls. Instead, they look to spray dangerous passes with artistry and vision.