One of the big stories today in England was Rio Ferdinand saying “Arsenal or Liverpool Should Have Bought Ashley Williams”. I’ve never thought of Ashley Williams as a top level defender like that, but I was running an analysis of Chelsea’s defending options for one of my followers and he showed up at the top of the list of potential John Terry replacements and as the absolute top Gary Cahill replacement. So I wanted to test Rio’s assertion, and he was right.
Using the method outlined in this post, I substituted Ashley Williams for both central defenders in each of the big 5 EPL teams. And as the graph above shows, he’s a net increase for all of them. Liverpool would hugely benefit from Ashley Williams, while the Manchester teams would get a mild boost over their current options. Chelsea was surprisingly high, Arsenal less so.
You can argue whether a 31 year old central defender is worth the money, but he’d be a significant enough upgrade for Liverpool in the short-term that it would be tough to argue against. Chelsea has some good, younger options with Kurt Zouma and (if they eventually sign him) John Stones, who can only improve over time, but Rio appears to be right when he said Williams is “probably the most underrated defender in the Premier League [over the] last couple of years”.
I’ve been posting a lot of graphs like these on Twitter lately, so follow me @Soccermetric