Monday, 27 January 2014

New Signings: Antonio Nocerino & Marco Borriello

Antonio Nocerino
DOB: 09/04/1985
Age: 28
Position: Midfield

Previous Club: AC Milan
Previous Division: Serie A

Transfer Date: 25/01/2014
Reported Fee: Season Loan

Marco Borriello
DOB: 18/06/1982
Age: 31
Position: Striker

Previous Club: AS Roma
Previous Division: Serie A

Transfer Date: 25/01/2014
Reported Fee: Season Loan


So it turns out that Italian internationals are rather a lot like buses.

The double signing of Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello on Saturday afternoon came as a little bit of a surprise, given the nature of West Ham’s transfer window so far. But unlike the rest of the window, these deals were seen through to completion, no teams came in to hijack the deals, and (oddly) we’ve signed two players of quality.

I’m sure many West Ham fans will have already seen the Bleacher Report’s rather uncomplimentary article about Nocerino’s season for Milan so far. And yes, it is true that the midfielder suffered a disappointing end to 2013. However, when we look back to his qualities last season, it is quickly apparent that Nocerino can bring a high level of quality to West Ham until the end of the season.

Last season, the bearded midfielder created a chance for his teammates once every 85 minutes, and put in two tackles a per game – winning 70%, demonstrating the two sides of his game. Nocerino is comfortable as both the creative force from central midfield, or as the enforcer.

But what he will surely bring to West Ham is a sense of calm and composure on the ball. Last season, Nocerino completed 85% of his passes, playing an average of 30 passes per game. And this has continued this season, despite his comparatively poor form. His pass completion rate remains at a respectable 82% (bettered only by Ravel Morrison and Mark Noble at West Ham), and he has been attempting an average of 22 passes per game.

And what is sure to please West Ham fans, is that Nocerino plays on the floor. 87% of his passes last season were short or through balls, rising to 88% this season. The graphic below shows the breakdown of his pass types, short, long or headed.

Joining Nocerino is his Italian international colleague Marco Borriello. Borriello is an experienced goalscorer in Serie A, taking in spells at clubs such as Genoa, Juventus, AC Milan and most recently AS Roma.

The forward isn’t what are told is a ‘typical Sam Allardyce striker’, standing at just 5ft10. But Borriello has a much improved aerial duel success rate this season to last, winning 49% of his 37 duels this season compared to 37% of his 241 last year. And he is accustomed to an aerial battle too. Last season with Genoa, Borriello was involved in a headed duel once every 9.7 minutes.

And he works rather hard for a striker too. Last season he attempted a tackle once every 78 minutes, winning 70%, and this season he has attempted a tackle once every 57 minutes – though his success rate has fallen to 44%.

Like Nocerino, Borriello is also adept on the ball. His pass completion this season has been an impressive 80%, and last season he posted 74% success, a good return for a forward. This quality on the ball can be typified by his chance creation rate of one every 80 minutes last season.

But, let’s be honest, all we really care about with Borriello is his ability to stick the ball in the net. Can he score goals? Well, yes, simply. Given time on the pitch, Marco will score goals for his team.

Although Borriello has only one goal this season, this has been severely affected by the lack of time he’s had on the pitch. Again, looking back to the 2012/13 season, we can see that Borriello is a dangerous finisher.

In his loan spell with Genoa, Borriello had an impressive shot accuracy rate of 65% (66 shots, 43 on target). And his chance conversion rate was up at 18% (12 goals from 66 shots). So, give Borriello chances, and he will score goals.

This has been the case throughout his career. It is easy to look at his goals to games ratio and be rather underwhelmed with the strike rate. However, when we take a closer look at his minutes per goals record, we can see a clear pattern emerging.

The image below shows Borriello’s minutes per goals rate since 2007/08. Over the past 6.5 years, he has averaged a goal every 192 minutes. What is clear though, are a few spikes above the average. In 2008/09 it was up at 270 minutes per goal, and in both 2011/12 and 2013/14 it stood at 515 minutes per goal.

What is noticeable about these season though, is that they are the years in which Borriello failed to get game time. In 2007/08, he had scored 19 goals in 2,932 minutes. In 2009/10, 15 in 2,579 minutes. 2010/11, 17 in 3,148. 2012/13, 12 in 2,329.

Every year that Borriello has been given time on the pitch, he has had both an impressive goals return, and an impressive strike rate.

On paper, these are two very good signings for West Ham. As with any signing they could go either way, but it certain that the quality of the squad has been improved by these deals.

Should they have the desired effect, we could have a couple of top quality players on our hands, and our chances of staying in this division would be boosted considerably.

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