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Where oh where is Giovani dos Santos?

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Has the Galaxy striker lived up to expectations in LA thus far?

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Last Wednesday, the Galaxy extended their scoreless streak to 302 minutes after getting shut out at home by the Rapids, and while the Galaxy have certainly been hurt by the international break, losing the likes of Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes, there was one star who stayed behind and was largely invisible throughout the game:  Giovanni dos Santos.

And while it should be noted that Gio was returning from an injury and very well could have been showing signs of rust, it' impossible to deny that Gio disappearing from games is a part of a larger trend.

When the LA Galaxy signed the Mexican superstar, many pundits, including myself, projected him as the heir apparent to Landon Donovan. Obviously we weren't expecting anyone to be able to replace everything that Donovan brings, but the idea was that he would at least fill the role as the Galaxy's primary chance creator. A number 10, if you will, which happens to be the number chosen by Dos Santos.

Things have not worked out that way.

A great way to measure a player's level of involvement in a game (not to be confused with impact) is to measure what percentage of the team's total touches that player receives when he is on the field. Touch percentage is also a great way to clearly separate player roles on the team. Here is how Dos Santos compares to a few notable attacking midfielders in the league.

Player

Touch %

Kljestan

10.5

Nguyen

10.4

Piatti

9.8

Kaka

9.8

Dos Santos

4.7


As you can see, the first four on the list, Kjestan, Nguyen, Piatti and Kaka, represent the 10's  of the league. Their touch rates hover in the 10% range. The only players in the league who get more touches than these type of players are the deeper lying center mids such as your Nigel De Jongs an Wil Trapps. Of course, these players also see fewer shots, key passes and assists, as their job in terms of passing is mainly one of circulation. In contrast, the 10's demand the ball in dangerous areas in order to drive the attack and look for such chances.

This is essentially the type of player that we all want dos Santos to be, however, as you can see by his touch rate, he couldn't be farther from it. This is because Gio spends most of his time in forward positions and rarely drops back for the ball.

But this brings us to our next group of players, which Gio also doesn't fit into.

Player

Touch %

Giovinco

7.4

Villa

7.2

Dos Santos

4.7

You see, forwards can be playmakers, too, and in modern soccer, hybrid chance creator forwards are more and more common. If we look at the touch rate of David Villa and Giovinco who are both sitting around 7%, we see that these type of forwards hover neatly between more traditional forwards and central attacking midfielders, and they are able to do this by dropping back a lot in demand of the ball. These guys are just as impactful as the more traditional number 10's, and possibly more so as they tend to be bigger goal threats.

In the abstract, this is a role that we would expect Gio to excel at given his creative abilities and his pension for scoring. On the field, however, Gio has not fallen into such a role at all.

Next we can isolate a similar but slightly different group of forwards.

Player

Touch %

Drogba

7

Wondo

6.6

Dos Santos

4.7

These guys aren't as creative as your Villa's or Giovinco's, but they tend to demand the ball in the final third regardless, given their goal scoring threat. We can see this in Drogba and Wondolowski, and, again, we see that Gio falls short of this mark.

Another forward type which is easy to isolate are the "box forwards." These guys like to plant themselves in the box, and while they do their fair share of hold up play, their lack of general movement contributes to their touch rates being so low. This is not a role that Gio would fit into at all, but, as you can see, even these guys get on the ball more.

Player

Touch %

Sapong

5.8

Adi

5.6

Dos Santos

4.7

So what exactly is Gio for the Galaxy?  He is essentially a low usage channel running forward which probably explains why his touch % is on par with Octavio Rivero. It should probably be noted that Robbie Keane also finds himself in this pack (way down from last 2 years), so Gio is hardly the only Galaxy player struggling in the current system to find a role, but that's a topic for another article.

Here is the full list of the examples I have chosen. If you want a complete list for all MLS players who have played this year, you can find that here.

Player

Touch %

Kljestan

10.5

Nguyen

10.4

Piatti

9.8

Kaka

9.8

Giovinco

7.4

Villa

7.2

Drogba

7

Wondo

6.6

Sapong

5.8

Adi

5.6

BwP

5.2

Rivero '

4.9

Keane

4.8

Dos Santos

4.7

Of course, as I stated earlier, involvement and impact are two separate things, and many will point to the forward's 6 goals as evidence for his large impact on this team and thus the irrelevance of his lack of involvement. A closer look at the underlying numbers, however, suggest that, despite his 6 goals, he hasn't actually been involved in that many high leverage chances this year,  with a 0.33xG+xA per 96 minutes (average MLS game length).

First

Touch%

Shtp96

UnAst%

xGp96

KPp96

xAp96

xG+xAp96

Giovani

4.70%

1.77

25.00%

0.23

0.89

0.1

0.33

Gio has been outperforming the model, and it's not necessarily something that can be counted on to be sustained at his current underlying numbers. Of course, the model can often be thrown off by players who get more counter attacking goals, so the models is quite possibly undervaluing his offensive output a bit, but the numbers still aren't great even if we allow for this.

Another point worth making is that it's not hard to see that Gio has excelled most in games where Gerrard was able to be a primary driver in the midfield. In games where he has been injured or simply pinned back, Gio has struggled to find the game, starved of service.

Another stat that jumps out to me from this chart is that 25% unassisted shot rate. It's a fairly high rate relative to most forwards in the league and shows that Gio is a forward that excels at creating shots for himself when on the ball, (much like Giovinco, Villa and Keane), which further supports the argument he should be seeing more of the ball as more final third touches would result in more final third shots and more goals for Gio.

In the end, when everyone is healthy and Gerrard is getting forward as he did against Houston and RSL, Dos Santos can play his role as a limited utility forward  quite well and manage to make a huge impact doing so. When this doesn't happen, however, and given Gerrard's age and the general fact that tactically, soccer games can change in an instant, this will happen quite a bit, Gio can't play such a passive role, sitting up high and hoping for the midfield to reward his runs.

When the situation demands it, Gio has to seek the ball and become a focal point for this attack.  It doesn't matter if it's from a forward position dropping back or a midfield position pushing forward— all that matters is that Gio has the recognition and willingness to get on the ball and drive the attack.

Because we all know that he has the talent. That part is undeniable. What seems to be missing now is the willingness. The willingness to be the Galaxy's 10.