Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said “One man can be a key ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team”. Collis and Montgomery (1995) note that a firm’s competitive advantage derives ultimately from the ownership of a valuable resource. Superior performance derives from developing a ‘competitively distinct’ set of resources and deploying them in a well conceived strategy. In terms of football clubs, one of the most significant resources a club possesses are its players. While analysts would argue that football is a team sport and there is no ‘one man team’, it is evident that most clubs do possess a star player, or key resource, that is fundamental to their success. Given the chances of injury, suspension, fatigue and loss of form over the course of the season, the over reliance by a club on the contribution of one player can significantly impact their competitiveness over the course of a season.
Table 1 highlights the contribution of each Premier League clubs ‘star’ player during the current season. The players selected have made the highest contribution to teams goals (goals + assists) and analysis looks at the percentage of teams goals in which the player contributed, the points lost in the absence of this contribution and a teams win/loss percentage with and without their star player.
Harry Kane has been a revelation for Tottenham Hotspurs this season, particularly since the turn of the year. Kane has contributed scored 16 goals and provided 6 assists which accounts for 48% of all Spurs’ goals. The loss of Kane’s contribution would see Spurs drop 19 points, the highest points contribution by any one player. Also, Tottenham have failed to win any of the four games which Kane has not featured, highlighting his importance to Spurs competitiveness. Alexis Sanchez highlighted his importance to Arsenal’s quest for Champion League football with 13 goals and 7 assists which resulted in winning 19 points for the Gunners so far this season.
The over reliance of clubs on one key player can seriously undermine a club’s ‘long term’ competitiveness over the course of the season. Sergio Aguero has scored in just 2 out of Manchester City’s last 9 games which has seen the club drop 15 points and lose serious ground in the title race. Man. City’s only marginal hope of a title challenge is a result of Chelsea dropping six points on the back of Diego Costa’s return of 1 goal in last 6 games. Down the other end, Aston Villa’s survival chances have been boosted by the form of their star man Gabby Agbonlahor (3 goals in 2 games) which has resulted in 6 points while the fate of Burnley, Leicester and QPR looks grim on the back of their star player’s recent form (Austin 2 goals in 8, Ings 3 goals in 8 and Ulloa 0 goals in 10).
Stephan Brosnan is a research assistant working in the Department of Economics at University College Cork.