The Career Trajectory Of Micah Richards

A short post on the direction of Micah Richards' career.

Remember the good old days? A young center-half blessed with incredible pace and athleticism. Micah was excellent in the air and had amazing recovery ability, which at times hid a naivety in his reading of the game.

It's easy to forget just how bright a prospect Richards was in the early days of his career:

  • City's youngest ever captain at age 21.
  • Capped for England after just 28 senior club appearances.
  • England's youngest ever capped defender at age 18.
The future seemed bright and limitless. But that potential has given way to talent unfulfilled amid injury and rumours of lack of application on the training field, an unsuitable lifestyle and, perhaps most damaging of all, a lack of football intelligence.

Quantifying the career progression of any player is mightily difficult. But quantifying the career of a defender is virtually impossible. Defensive stats are thin on the ground, the history of those stats goes back for just 4 years and, in my opinion, the analytics community is not yet at a place to accurately analyse an individual defenders impact on the defensive setup of his team.

So what shall we use? I am going to look at average minutes played per game. Why? A player in form, a player who is good enough and a player who is healthy will likely play a lot of minutes in a high number of games. Also, I am only going to use minutes played in the Premier League. No cup games, for obvious reasons.

Lots of minutes in lots of games would likely point to a player who is good enough, and in Man City's unique case, a player who has kept pace with the ever improving talent level at the club. It's not a perfect measure but it will have to do. For now at least.

Does Micah pass these tests?


Career Numbers

Rich_1_medium

Micah has spent 10 years in the show. And he is still just 25 years old. Still young enough to bounce back from what looks like a distinct and very real downward trend.

Years 2-5 of Micah's career were gold. He was a very young player logging heavy minutes in one of the best league's in the world. All the while playing a position (defense) which tends to be seen as extremely challenging for young players to play let alone excel at.

Average Minutes Per Game

If we forget about the boundaries of each season and simple line up all 320 Premier league games that Micah could have featured in and work out what his rolling average of minutes played in each of those games was we get a chart like this:

Rich_4_medium

Again, that is real decline.

Rolling 10 Game Average Minutes Played

If use a rolling 10 game average, which captures 10 game spans, instead of single game spans we produce a chart like this:

Rich_2_medium

That black line is a linear trend line. That line is heading in the wrong direction.

There simply is not enough blue(average minutes played per game) in the last 5 years of Micah's career. Micah Richards is simply not playing enough.

Potential Reasons For The Decline In Minutes Played

  • Injury
  • Poor Form
  • Lack of ability
  • Unable to keep up with the improving standard of the first XI
  • Increased competition for places
  • Zabaletta's form
Any reasons I may have missed?

Where Does Micah's City Career Go From Here?

This article isn't a pronouncement of the death of Micah's career but it certainly is a very loud and clear warning klaxon.

Micah Richards reportedly earns £65k per week at Manchester City and that contract expires at the end of the 2014/15 season.

Place yourself in Txiki Begiristain's shoes, what do you do with the following information?

  • A 25 year old full-back with incredible but still slightly rough skills, who is now 2nd choice right-back. The player is trending in the wrong direction in terms of minutes played (just 16% in the last season and a half) and has an increasingly worrying injury record to his name. The player also has just one year remaining on his contract .
You decide........

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