Senderos v Hughes – it’s the passing


You can deride stats all you like but sometimes they tell you things your eyes missed.

Take the following, for example:

Aerial duels won per game:

Hangeland 2.7
Hughes 2.1
Senderos 0.4

Weird. This isn’t headers per game, merely what happens when two players contest a ball in the air.  Strange that Senderos essentially hasn’t been going up for the high balls.  I hadn’t noticed that but will keep an eye on it in the future.

Clearances per game
Hangeland 7
Hughes 5.5
Senderos 5.3

They’re all mucking in here. Hangeland stands tall again.

Blocked shots per game
Senderos 1.3
Hughes 1.1
Hangeland 0.8

I’d have assumed this’d go the other way – Hangeland always seems to be blocking something. All vital stuff, though, and for every block there are several ‘near blocks’ where shooters are hurried.

Passes per game
Senderos 46
Hangeland 45
Hughes 34

Ah, okay. This is why we’re seeing the selection we’re seeing, I suspect.

Passing accuracy
Senderos 84%
Hangeland 82%
Hughes 70%


Accurate long passes per game
Senderos 3.6
Hangeland 3.4
Hughes 1.4


Data from

16 thoughts on “Senderos v Hughes – it’s the passing

  1. I don’t know what the spread of your data is but could Senderos ‘not going up for the high balls’ so often be something to do with him not playing – whilst the other two did – against Stoke?

    Had thought that Phil was better with the ball at his feet than Hughes. He’s also a bit more imposing, and has caused a nusance up front on a couple of occasions (goal involvement vs. Arsenal and Chelsea). He’s committed to cause. There’s a bit of comedy value in there. I like him as a player.

    Not to say it didn’t feel immediately comforting seeing H&H back together on Saturday…

  2. Great stats. The ‘going up for high balls’ seems like an outlier. I think its great we have the choice between two good centre backs. I like them both, especially if Aaron plays like he did v Stoke.

  3. According to the site Senderos passes more per game (46.4 passes per game) than everyone bar Murphy (65.4 passes per game). Of the top 11 most frequent outfield starters (Sidwell and Duff are tied with 12 starts a piece) only Dembele (85.7%) and Duff (84.3%) have better passing completion stats than Senderos (84.1%). In addition, only Murphy (5.5) has more accurate long passes per game than Senderos (3.6).

    Interestingly, his aerial duels won per game stat is only in the summary chart and is not in either the offensive or defensive categories, so its hard to tell what exactly it measures. If you leave the cursor of the actual numbers, the players total splits are revealed. That says he’s only been in 12 aerial duals in his 16 starts. That is curious. No outfield player has so few per start from what I can see, and the differences are striking when you look at his fellow defenders Hangeland (93 duals in 25 starts) and Hughes (30 duals in 7 starts), and some more attacking players, such as Dempsey (88 in 25). I suspect that there is a mistake in the data there.

    1. One thing to add, assuming that the aerial battles number is correct, Senderos actually has a better success rate than Hughes. Hughes has won only 57% of his aerial battles (17/30), while Senderos has won 58% (7/12).

      1. I had the same thought, although it must be said that we get a lot of goal-kicks dropping in the right-back area or in the midfield. I suspect that Senderos is effectively ‘sweeping’ these duels. That or the data’s wrong.

  4. I was really pleased to see Hughes in the starting line-up against Stoke and felt he put in a terrific performance. This was, I thought at the time, a sign that Aaron would now reclaim his place.

    This proves what I see does not always translate into what is true.

    Perhaps the things Aaron does well, such as winning balls in the air, are the sort of things that make me feel good about a center back. A bit like the journey man midfielder who wins the crowd over because he runs around a lot and chases down lost causes. Whereas Phillipe fails to win me over because he doesn’t do the things I like to see center backs doing, but is probably more valuable to the team due to his ability to help retain the ball.

    This is a jumble of words but what I’m trying to say is this has opened my eyes a little … but I’d still rather see Hughes play alongside Hangeland.

  5. I have always thought that Senderos was going to be a good capture for Fulham, but was not sure how he was going to fit in with Hughes and Hangeland who have always been an excellent pairing. Senderos getting injured sorted out the problem last season.

    This year, he has come in and really won me over to thinking that he is the future. Hughes and Hangeland will forever remain the defensive colossus that made watching Fulham a relatively relaxing endeavour but with a new coach and a more intricate pass and move style, Senderos is becoming key.

    Senderos has a job to convince people that he is good though – not only has he split up potentially the best centre back partnership in Fulham’s history, he also has the whiff of ‘Bambi on ice’ which most spectators hate to see. I find it rather endearing, along with his commitment this season. Ultimately he is the best fit for a more passing based system but I am unsure if he will ever be universally accepted because of the act he has to follow.

  6. My perception is that Hughes struggles to win 1 v 1 aerial duels with big strikers. He usually does enough to make life difficult for them, but doesn’t actually win the header as Hangeland or Senderos will. His positioning, pace and know how in timing a challenge go a long way to make up for this – a similar story to Chris Baird when he plays CB.

    As a distibutor he is more likely to play the ball straight up to the front men, which worked OK when Zamora was on the receiving end.

  7. Interesting.

    I like stats, but I always get concerned when conclusions are draw from different (and small) samples sizes. PS (16) has played more than twice as many games as AH (7). The difference between their passing could have resulted from only a couple of poor games. For example, Two poor games is nearly 30% of the total for AH, which will swing the data considerably, but represents only 12% for PS. This is particularly the case if these games were played out of position at right back for Hughes.

    For the aerial duels won, does this mean “got head to the ball first”, or header “actually went to someone on the same team”. Hope it’s the latter otherwise this stat is pretty irrelevant. It seems to have been calculated in a peculiar way too, as a function of attempts per game or something (???). Anyway, it’s very different from the method used for pass completion. For example Gecov plays 2 games and hits 11 passes out of 11 to get 100% for passing. Moussa and Duffer both have 50% for aerial duels won, but their score is very different, presumably because of Duffers lack of effort in this department. Anyway, as rjbiii points out, PS and AH are actually very similar when you remove this weighting, so for some reason PS is just not getting stuck in. Am I right about this, or am I on crack?

    Any way, after all is said and done, for me the biggest difference between PS and AH is that AH tends to spend less time falling on his arse, which I tend to regard as a big deal for a defender.

  8. I forwarded this to a friend who’s vehemently anti-Senderos and he responded:

    A little surprising that they left out the stats for “fouls right outside the box when no foul is required” or “heart-stoppingly frightening back-passes to the keeper in traffic.”

    I know that one of Hughes’s strengths is that he plays such a clean game (per the Premier League website, last season, when he was playing regularly, he committed 0.67 fouls per match; for comparison, Senderos has committed 0.95 fouls per match this season), but I don’t really know that I can definitively say whether his reluctance to, as Brits say, “get stuck in” might also potentially cause some problems of its own.

    1. well Senderos concedes one foul a game; Hughes 0.1. So there’s that. But Hughes gives the ball away several times a game more, so there’s that, too. ?

    2. I dont think anyone can argue that Senderos is the more aggressive defender, but with our new style, is that what we need now?

      Hughes was great under Hodgson when he could sit back with the midfield in front of him and sweep things up. Now, with only Danny ever really covering in midfield, more decisive action is needed and letting players run at you with no cover is suicidal.

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