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Mirko Vucinic: NOT Just A Bad Case of PMS

This post was guest-blogged by Devin Kalinin. Follow him on Twitter (@KalininDevin)
Contributions (tables, graphical data, editing) by Marco Pantanella.


 

Every man in the world has been in a relationship with an annoying girl in a phase of their life (if not, then as 9gag.com would say, you are a forever-alone guy). When her mood is at its best, she’ll be the best company in the world. But sure enough like digital clockwork, when her PMS mood swings strike she’ll turn into the hardest person you’ll ever have to deal with!

For many Juventini, those are the feelings we harbor towards Mirko Vucinic this season. When he’s not in the mood (for no particular reason… like PMS, see?), he shall never pass nor find the frame of the goal. But when Mirko’s in his best temper (usually against big teams) he will teach Football 101 to the other 21 players on the pitch. Annoying isn’t it?

Vucinic is of course a unique player in modern football. His imagination towards scoring fantastic goals is beyond limit. But as much as the man is called ‘Big Game Mirko’ for his well-known ability to explode against big teams, the other side of that coin is ‘Lazy/Selfish Vucinic’, especially when it comes to playing against smaller sides.

The question then becomes: is it worth keeping Dr. Mirko & Mr. Vucinic on Juve’s payroll? Has this girlfriend gone through one PMS crisis too many, or are there enough redeeming qualities there to cancel any thoughts of a potential break-up?

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When he signed for Juventus, opinions on Vucinic were pretty much divided. Mirko is quite well-known for his dribbling, and even the most critical of fans will admit to his skills in that department. However, he also gives the impression to often be very self-involved with the ball (‘HE SHALL NOT PASS!’, as Gandalf would say) and this is exemplified by the number of balls he usually gives away.

The following three graphs look at Vucinic’s offensive statistics for the last three seasons (player data is courtesy of WhoScored.com).

Dispossessed = losing control of the ball by being tackled by an opponent
Turnover = loss of possession due to a mistake/poor control

 

In the first graph, note that the difference between Dispossessed & Turnover is that the former is caused by ‘opponent merit’ and the latter by a mistake from the player himself.

As we can see, the last three years show an increase in instances where Vucinic was well in-control of the ball and saw it stolen away, either due to the skill of the opposing defenders or – as often occurred this season – because of his decision to hold onto it too long.

Indeed, Mirko often gets confused between the right time to dribble and the right time to assist a teammate, and many Juventini feel he needs to do a lot more of the latter rather than create scoring opportunities all for himself. Given the period this season when Juventus failed to open up opposing defenses or create clear-cut chances on goal, this is certainly a valid point.

However over the last three years, Vucinic also shows quite a significant improvement in other areas. This probably doesn’t mean much for the Mirko haters, but then again it might just make a reason worth keeping him at the club.

In 2009-10, Vucinic made 34 appearances in Serie A with a total of 817 passes throughout the season. Out of that lot, he completed 72.5%. That campaign was pretty much Vucinic’s best with the Giallorossi, as the player also scored 14 goals, made 6 assists, and had average of 1.9 key passes per game. Roma finished 2nd in the league standings only two points behind champions Internazionale.

The following year Roma only finished 6th and had a rather terrible season. Vucinic’s goals, assists, and match appearances all suffered a dip, but the player’s pass completion was 1% higher (73.6%). An almost insignificant rise you might say, but for a guy known as an on-pitch soloist (not a good term for a footballer) it is rather symbolic, especially tied to the positive trend in successful long balls & through balls per game – more on that later.

In 20011-12 Vucinic moved to Juventus, and despite all the criticisms surrounding him continued to progress. To date and with two games left in the season, the forward has made 976 passes with 76.2% completion rate. Though his key passes per game (1.6) are not as good as in 2009-10, the Montenegrin’s assist tally has never fared better: 8 so far, with Mirko solidly in the Top 10 of the Serie A assist charts.

There are another two interesting areas of analysis which highlight Vucinic’s improvement over the last three years: long balls and through balls.

In his 34 appearances in 2009-10, Vucinic made 36 long-ball attempts with a 69% accuracy, equating to 0.7 successful long balls per game. His through balls were no better, as the player successfully completed only 10 out of 27 for a 37% accuracy and 0.3 per-game statistic.

The following year marked an improvement however. In the 2010-11 season, Vucinic made 31 out of 47 accurate long-ball attempts in 29 appearances, aka a 66% and 1.1 long balls-per-game accuracy. He was slightly better in delivering through balls with 11 successful attempts out of 26 (42%, 0.4 per game).

Vucinic’s personal best however comes from this season with Juve, where the player has already completed 45 long balls out 51 (88%, 1.5 per game) in 31 appearances, as well as 23 through balls out of 53 with a 43% and 0.7 per-game accuracy!

MIRKO
VUCINIC
ROMA
2009-10
ROMA
2010-11
JUVE
2011-12
Appearances 34 28 31
Goals 14 10 8
Assists 6 2 8
Shots/game 2.9 3.4 3.2
Pass accuracy (%) 72.5% 73.6% 76.2%
Successful Passes/game 17.4 19.7 24.0
Key passes/game 1.9 1.4 1.6
Aerial Battles Won/game 0.6 0.6 0.5
Dribbles/game 1.8 1.7 1.6
Fouls Drawn/game 1.9 1.8 1.5
Offsides/game 1.1 0.7 0.4
Dispossessed/game 3.1 2.9 3.8
Turnovers/game 3.4 2.1 2.5
Crossing Accuracy % 29.8% 27.9% 30.0%
Successful Crosses/game 0.4 0.4 0.4
Long Ball Accuracy % 69.4% 66.0% 88.2%
Successful Long Balls/game 0.7 1.1 1.5
Through Ball Accuracy % 37.0% 42.3% 42.6%
Successful Through Balls/game 0.3 0.4 0.7

In other words, as can be seen from the graphs & table above, Vucinic’s long & through ball per-game output has more than doubled over the past three years! While these numbers are probably still far from ideal, looking at the improvement overall bodes well for the future. Despite he’s often tagged with the ‘lazy’ adjective, there seems to be an invisible spirit inside Mirko that makes him willing to work harder every season. He has certainly shown as much this year, where he is running considerably more (and enjoys doing so, as he admitted in the press) than in the past.

Do you see now, Mirko haters? Your annoying girlfriend has the potential to improve for a better future. As for me, I will definitely want to keep Vucinic for some time. Not only do his records show he’s progressing, but with Juve’s challenging environment and a little bit more depth to the squad, it is just a matter of time before we further unlock Mirko’s fantasia for the benefit of the team as a whole. In the meantime let’s leave him to work in peace, at least we all know that he is going one way: UP!

P.S. To all the girls in the universe, apologies for the tongue-in-cheek poke at PMS. I am not stereotyping your gender here, you are still the most beautiful thing on Earth. :)

 


In addition to Twitter, you may follow Devin on his blog Banana Kick, dedicated to all things Calcio & Juventus.
 

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