Saturday, August 10, 2013

Super Eagles: Making Sense of Player Debuts........

Most Nigerian national team coaches begin their tenure by speaking on the need to rebuild the national team and they speak glowingly about the abundance of Nigerian talent. One way of rebuilding a team is debuting new talent and determining those good enough to be part of strong team going forward. However, while it appears clear that there are several talented Nigerian players available for selection into the national team, some coaches often rely on established players. Our report here is not on  reliance on established players but on discovery of new talent.

Thus, what we do in this report is to compare eight  coaches –Shuaibu Amodu,  Johaness Bonfrere, Christian Chukwu, Augustine Eguavoen, Stephen Keshi, Adegboye Onigbinde, Berti Vogts, and Clemens Westerhoff – on how each has debuted new internationals during their tenure as national team coach.  We have selected the eight coaches deliberately, for this report, based on presiding over a significant number of games in the last two decades. Please note that all the records of each coach is included even if they may have been accomplished in an earlier decade.

We have not included games for which foreign-based players were ineligible. Thus, records associated with the African Championship are not included. Our review includes four test cases: Number of players debuted per games coached, number of players debuted in competitive games, number of players debuted and used as a significant contributor,  and positions at which debuted players became significant contributors. We now take a look at data.

Number of Players Debuted Per Games Coached
Chukwu and Eguavoen debuted more players per game than any other coach with almost a rate of two players in each game compared to the low rates of debut provided by Vogts, Amodu, and Westerhoff. While debuting more players may give you a better chance of discovering a diamond in the rough, it does not guarantee it as we will find out with data in this report. Furthermore, it is also important to note that because coaches tend to use friendly internationals for debuting players, the rate of debut per game may in fact point to availability of such internationals under a coach's tenure. However, this is not always the case as Bonfrere's all 17 games were competitive (not a single friendly under his tenure) but yet he ranks at the midpoint in the rate of debuting players.

                                          Gms       Debuted                   Rate
Amodu                                 52           52                           1.0
Bonfrere                               17           23                           1.4
Chukwu                                35           67                           1.9
Eguavoen                              17           33                           1.9
Keshi                                    28           40                           1.4
Onigbinde                             37           48                           1.3
Vogts                                    14           12                           0.9
Westerhoff                            58           60                           1.0

Number Players Debuted in Competitive Games
One would think that coaches would rarely debut a player in a competitive situation and would more likely use international friendlies for giving a player a first game. We already alluded o this in the previous section. However, the data shows otherwise. Johaness Bonfrere, for instance, debuted players in several competitive situations but it must be noted that during his time Nigeria hardly played international friendlies and Bonfrere, at the time, despised this situation and was perhaps forced to debut players in critical games. At the other end, Vogts did not debut a player in any competitive game and strictly used friendlies for debuts.  Other coaches who have used this strategy include Keshi and Amodu who rarely debut players in a competitive game.

                                           Gms       Debuted                 Rate
Amodu                                 36           14                           0.4
Bonfrere                               17           23                           1.4
Chukwu                               18           11                           0.6
Eguavoen                             13           13                           1.0
Keshi                                   18            4                             0.2
Onigbinde                            18           20                           1.1
Vogts                                    8              0                           0.0
Westerhoff                           43           28                           0.7

Number Players Debuted/Significant Contributors
We also investigated the efficiency associated with debuting players. We measured this by calculating how many players debuted during a coach’s tenure and then went on to appear in at least 10 internationals for Nigeria. While this rubric is not errorless, it provides an estimate of how efficient a coach’s debut decision can be. The result demonstrates significant disparity among coaches. While the likes of Bonfrere and Onigbinde were efficient (high percentage of return on ebuts), we note the low efficiency produced by Chukwu, Berti Vogts, and Keshi. These may be attributed to effectiveness of the technical crew’s scouting of players and ability to project player usefulness to the national team in the future. However, it is difficult to close the chapter on Keshi since this method hurts him the most because he is currently on the job and some of his starters have barely played the requisite 10 games meaning that we may be judging his debuts too early. Some of them, for instance John Ogu, may surely make the 10 game threshold in the near future.

                                         Debuted              # Signif. Contribs              % Signif. Contribs
Amodu                                 52                           14                                           30
Bonfrere                               23                           11                                           48
Chukwu                                67                           10                                           15
Eguavoen                              33                           11                                           33
Keshi                                    40                           7                                             18
Onigbinde                             48                           22                                           46
Vogts                                    12                           2                                             17
Westerhoff                            60                           21                                           35

Positions in which Debuted Players became Significant Contributors
Next, we took a look at those significant contributors to determine at which position they predominantly appeared for Nigeria. This was far more complex than we anticipated because players feature in multiple positions. In any case, we used the position that they often appeared. The descriptive data is provided below.

                                        # Signif. Contribs                       Positions
Amodu                                 14                                           MF, F
Bonfrere                               11                                           CD, F
Chukwu                               10                                           MF, F
Eguavoen                             11                                           MF, WF
Keshi                                     7                                           CD, MF
Onigbinde                             22                                          GK, CD, WF
Vogts                                    2                                            D, MF
Westerhoff                           21                                           WF, F

**To learn more about Nigerian soccer statistics checkout CHUKASTATS at books.