How do midfielder score points in the Castrol Performance Index?

To play in midfield requires a combination of defensive and attacking skill – and for those wanting to make an impact in the CPI, the ability to score or assist is paramount!

The boundaries of success for midfielders are more obscured than, say, a goalkeeper or striker. England’s defensive midfielder Owen Hargreaves, for example, recently stated that he feels he is judged on whether his team wins or loses – but pointed out that midfielders don’t necessarily have to play well for their team to win.

Such an explanation goes some way to identifying why midfielders often trail other players in the Castrol Performance Index. It’s all about risk and reward. Midfielders may well make more tackles than defenders, or hit more passes than anyone else on the pitch, but it’s the outcome of those contributions that is crucial.

A midfielder who makes five tackles in the middle of the pitch won’t earn as many points as a defender who makes a last-ditch tackle in his own area to prevent the opposition from scoring. It’s all about the risk to a player’s goal. Should, however, a midfielder track a player back and then make a last-ditch tackle in his own area, he’ll be rewarded highly.

Similarly, a successful long pass is worth more than a successful short pass as the former assumes the ball is closer to the opponents’ goal, thus influencing the game.

Look at Claude Makelele, for example: France’s defensive midfield player is considered the best in the business in his position, but because he doesn’t get forward and because most of his passes are short and in the middle of the pitch, he won’t ever top the rankings. In contrast a ‘box-to-box midfielder’, who might influence the play at both ends, is likely to glean more points.

Spanish schemer Xavi is a different kind of midfielder, whose focus is very much on attack. He often supports the front one or two in a four or five-man midfield and provides more assists, thus directly influencing the game. And his ability to get into more attacking positions means that he has the potential to inflict more influence on the score.

That doesn’t make Xavi a ‘better’ player, necessarily; when comparing midfielders it’s important to compare like-for-like. Yet when it comes to the accumulation of points, passes and tackles in key areas are both invaluable.

Midfielders have the benefit of being able to get themselves in goalscoring positions – or what the CPI considers key areas of the pitch. Goals from long range are obviously more profitable than tap-ins (because the probability of scoring is much lower), so free-kicks are a good way to build a score. Greece’s Giorgios Karagounis scored two last week and subsequently amassed 190 points.