When Lewis Holtby transferred from Schalke to Tottenham for a transfer fee of just £1.5 million in January, the move was immediately lauded as a steal for the North London club.
After all, the German was just 22 years old and had been showing signs of potentially transforming into a superstar. Further, Spurs were in desperate need of an attacking threat, making chairman Daniel Levy's ability to make the deal happen so cheaply even more impressive.
A few months on from this bargain coming to fruition, Holtby has still not cracked the starting XI despite a few bright performances and good signs.
For Tottenham supporters, the quality of Holtby's performances has been clear. However, it is tough to nail down just what it is that the German brings to Spurs' side when he comes onto the pitch. Yes, he has tenacity and an incredible work rate, but it feels like Holtby contributes even more to his side's cause.
In an attempt to quantify his effect, let's analyze Lewis' statistical output through his first several Premier League matches at White Hart Lane (with the help of WhoScored.com).
For a point of reference, the statistics of Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson, two attacking midfielders for Tottenham that Holtby comes on for, will be included.
While these two have played many more Premier League matches than the German this season and thus accrued a much larger sample, their similar role in the team allows their numbers to provide a good baseline.
To start with, let's look at some passing numbers.
As Holtby sits in the center of the midfield, his role as a link from the back to the front is an integral part of Spurs' play when he's on the pitch. Therefore, his passing must be sound and his possession solid.
In order to quantify such value, three statistics seem to provide a good start: Key passes per 90 minutes, passing rate and turnovers per 90 minutes.
|Key Passes||Passing Rate||Turnovers|
From these numbers, one can see that Holtby has the advantage over both the other two in both key passes and passing rate while committing more turnovers.
Now, there are obviously some possible lurking variables associated with these numbers. For instance, the fact that Holtby has spent a considerable portion of his time coming off the bench late could contribute to any differences seen, as heavier legs could make the passing easier and dire situations could call for a bit more reckless play and subsequent turnovers.
However, Holtby's ability to create openings and effectively distribute the ball has been able to shine through in his brief performances.
Next, here is a look at how much the German pressures the ball and gets back in defense.
To study this, two statistics that are worth looking at are the average amount of tackles and fouls over a 90-minute period.
Clearly, Lewis is well ahead of each of the other two in both of these categories.
Again, there are some possible explanations for why there is such a gap in these areas, such as Holtby's fresh legs when he comes off the bench.
Still, these numbers show how high the German's general work rate is as he pressures up the pitch and drops back into defense as needed.
As a final point of analysis, let's look at how much of an individual threat Holtby is through the average number of shots he takes per 90-minute period.
Obviously, Holtby falls right between the other two attacking midfielders in this category, taking more shots than Dempsey but fewer than Sigurdsson.
Of course, this is not to say that Dempsey is not creating chances on his own. In fact, Dempsey has five goals to Sigurdsson's one (and Holtby's zero, though that is a bit unfair given his low playing time).
Rather, the point of this stat is to show that Holtby is doing a good job getting involved in the very front end of the attack and getting shots in on goal.
So what can one learn about Lewis Holtby from these numbers?
The German is a hard worker off the bench who has the ability to come on, pressure the ball and provide some help to the defense. Further, he does a good job linking with the attack and providing for the front line, but has the ability to create for himself as well.
For Spurs supporters, these numbers should come as no surprise, as they speak toward Holtby's strengths and general style.
However, for those who do not know much about the German, these numbers should help in acquainting yourself with the 22-year-old who could be a big part of the future at White Hart Lane.