Archive | December, 2011

Premier League Round 18

29 Dec

One game before the halfway point in the season, and the scorers table has started to take a more expected look. The big name players are mainly present, with the exception of the wantaway Tevez and the lack of central Chelsea strikers. The big surprises are Demba Ba (although 7 in 12 with West Ham hinted at good things), and players who all finished last season in the Championship – Holt, Helguson and Yakubu. But this site isn’t just about the top scorers, it’s about proving who are the big game players.

After 18 League Games – All Players:

Robin van Persie continues to lead the way with the number of goals and goals against Top 6 opposition. He is joined by Holt, Adebayor and Big Game Balotelli on 4 goals vs the Top 6 opponents. An honourable mention must go to Steven Fletcher of Wolves fame – so far this season he’s scored away at Old Trafford, Anfield and most recently The Emirates Stadium. Liverpool were ranked 8th at the time, so don’t fall into the Top 6 bracket (though most likely will come the final positions). There can’t be many players in the history of the Premier League who have scored away at Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal in the same season, especially whilst playing for a team scrapping in the relegation battle. His Average Opposition of 9.43 (11.10 in 2010/11) is a testament to his big game mentality. The other Top 6 team he notched against was Newcastle.

Mad Mario continues to lead the Average Opposition charts, though hasn’t scored a league goal since finding the net away at Chelsea in round 15. Yakubu also holds onto his position at the bottom after a goal against bottom placed Bolton, but as discussed previously, most of his goals are against higher opposition than his own team.

Frank Lampard leads the way from midfield with goals, but as per the below table, he now has some serious competition after recent goals by Bale and Dempsey:

After 18 League Games – Midfielders:

Silva has the best average, although this is slightly exaggerated by his goal against a then high flying Bolton at the start of the season. To have 5 goals before the half way point is a big improvement on his total of 4 league goals last season. Scoring midfielders are essential to any top team, and it’s no surprise to see Spurs and Man City both have two midfielders in the list. Gareth Bale is also on course to better last season’s total of seven after his double at Norwich took him up to six. His average opposition per goal has remained consistent year on year from 12.14 in 2010/11 to 12.00 this year. He’s yet to do it against Top 6 opponents yet, nor has Adam Johnson.

John Terry currently leads the way for Defenders with 4 goals (ave: 12.50), with Vermaelen (ave: 16.00) and Baines (ave: 12.00) just behind.

One player who has enjoyed a turn around in fortunes recently is Dimitar Berbatov who isn’t in the Top Scorer’s list at the moment, but after 4 goals in his last two starts, there are signs that he may have rediscovered last season’s golden touch. From the start of the 2010/11 season, Berba has scored 4 hat tricks:

Berbatov Hat Tricks 2010-12:

3 vs Liverpool (ranked 13th)

5 vs Blackburn (ranked 11th)

3 vs Birmingham (ranked 16th)

3 vs Wigan (ranked 19th)

The opponents by rank aren’t particularly impressive, but scoring a treble for United vs Liverpool will long be remembered.

And to finish this week’s Premier League Round Up, here’s the Average Opponent played for all teams:

Liverpool continue to have reason to bemoan the fixture list as they seem to be playing teams in form, whilst Sunderland should worry about their lowly position, on the basis that they’ve had the easiest run in so far. Though most of those defeats were under Steve Bruce.

I’ll be adding Serie A and La Liga shortly.

Cheers,

Liam

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Player Comparison: Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo 2009-11

16 Dec

Inspired by the recent el Clasico, I thought now would be a good time to have the first Average Opposition Index player comparison. And who better to start with than the undoubted best players in the world. I’ll leave out Carlton Cole for the time being as he’s not playing in the same league (yet).

Contenders:

Barcelona and Argentina’s Leo Messi, the current World Player of the year vs former World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal. Both play as Forwards – whether that be down the middle or from wide, both are generally part of a front 3.

Rules:

As usual, I won’t be including European Champions League Average Opposition as these are not ranked in the same competition, instead I’ll include La Liga games only from the last two completed seasons – 2009-10 and 2010-11. I’ll also compare their international goal record from an Average Opposition Index perspective.

La Liga:

From when Cristiano Ronaldo finally made his long anticipated move to Real Madrid in 2009, all eyes were on the show down between him and the existing king of La Liga – Leo Messi. By way of comparison, in the two seasons in question, Messi made 68 appearances in the league compared to Ronaldo’s 63. In those appearances, Messi scored a mind boggling 65 league goals compared to the even more impressive 66 by Ronaldo.  In terms of scoring alone, Ronaldo has a strike rate of 1.05 goals per game, compared to Messi’s 0.96.

La Liga 2009-2010:

Surprisingly, Ronaldo wasn’t even Real Madrid’s top league scorer in the 2009-10 season, with Gonzalo Higuain scoring 27 to his 26 goals. However, due to an injury ravaged season last year, Higuain’s record doesn’t stand up to comparison. And so on to the Stats:

The 2009-10 season was Ronaldo’s first in a new league. With that in mind, his record of 26 goals from 29 appearances is phenomenal. Unfortunately for him, this is a comparison against Leo Messi. Messi’s 34 goals in just 35 appearances is even more impressive. Based on the Average Opponent per Goal at the time, Messi’s 10.50 is exactly where you’d expect a player to be and shows his high performance against all opposition. This is emphasised by the ranges of opposition he has scored against. 10 goals against the other 5 teams in the Top 6 excluding his own is a great achievement and inline with the other stats above. This includes a hat trick against 3rd placed Valencia and a double vs Sevilla (5th).

Ronaldo by comparison had an Average Opponent per Goal of 12.38 based on their position at the start of each round. Looking at his ranges, again, there is a good split between Top/Bottom 6 and also the majority in the Middle 8 is where we’d expect to see this. Where Ronaldo falls behind is that he’s 3 goals behind Messi vs Top 6 opposition, and 4 of his 26 goals were from the spot, compared to just one of Messi’s. Both scored in a similar number of games where comparing the Average Opposition Index for the final league positions, although Ronaldo’s increases to 11.85, Messi’s is still better despite it decreasing to 11.18. At the time of play and at the end of the season Messi did it against harder opposition, and more often.

Winner: Leo Messi

Unsurprisingly, Messi who had been playing in La Liga for 5 previous seasons won this fight on all fronts.

La Liga 2010-2011:

So with a season of La Liga experience behind him, Ronaldo and his team mates targeted Messi and the Barca boys, and this time they had Jose Mourinho calling the shots. Despite his reputation for defensive football, Mourinho’s teams have often been record breakers in goals scored and points collected. Ronaldo especially thrived under his stewardship, along with two important other factors – he was now the main man at the Bernebeu after Raul’s exit, and he was also being supplied by Di Maria and Ozil. For Messi, he also had a change in his forward partners with Ibrahimovic and Henry leaving, replaced by Villa and youth product Pedro. And so onto the stats once more:

First and foremost, in a similar number of appearances, Ronaldo outscored Messi by a whopping 9 goals – take out each players penalties and there’s still 5 goals in it. In terms of the Average Opposition both were close enough to the expected 10.5 mark. However, where Ronaldo really shines is in the Top 6 goals. Of his 40 league goals (41 if you read Marca – the Madrid based and in no way biased sports paper), a massive 16 were against other members of the Top 6 including a four away at Sevilla, and a hat trick at home against Villarreal – one of 6 hat tricks scored in the season. It was against other members of the Top 6 that splits the two players – although Messi does come out on top in the number of games scored in.

However, what the stats don’t tell is that 3rd-6th were a long way behind the big two. Valencia, who finished in 3rd were 21 points behind 2nd placed Madrid, whilst 4th placed Villarreal were 30 points behind. Towards the end of the season when it was clear that Barca were going to win the league, the Madrid players were going out of their way to provide for Ronaldo – he scored 11 in his last 4 games. In that same period, Barcelona had one eye on the Champions League final and Messi didn’t score one goal. Upto that point in the season, Messi was actually ahead of Ronaldo in the scoring charts.

Though we should give credit where it’s due – 11 goals in 4 games in itself is an incredible achievement. Boosted by his late flourish, Ronaldo beats Messi in all but the number of games scored in.

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

La Liga 2009-2011:

So looking at their league performances in the two full seasons they’ve played in the same competition:

There’s one goal in it in Ronaldo’s favour, though he has scored 7 penalties more than his rival. Messi is ahead in games scored in and has an Average Opposition per goal of 10.63 compared to Ronaldo’s 11.38. Ronaldo is ahead on goals against the Top 6 whereas Messi trumps him in the other ranges. With the closeness in the goal scoring stakes, when looking for a winner and without wanting to sit on the fence it’s worth looking at some further factors.

With the rest of the opposition so far behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, a better indicator than just looking at the Top 6 goals is the goals in the head to head games. In the four league games played, Messi has two goals compared to Ronaldo’s one. Something that continues to be levelled at Ronaldo is that he rarely performs well in the el Clasico’s. Even in last week’s game, he missed two good chances, and also neglected to pass to team mates in better positions. In the games last season, both scored a penalty in a 1-1 draw in Madrid, whilst in the first game in Barcelona, Messi was outstanding, laying on rather than scoring goals for his team mates in a 5-0 win. And it’s Messi’s ability to create that gives him the edge. Last season saw Messi top the assist league table with 18 compared to Ronaldo’s 10. Going back to 2009-10 season and it was a similar story – Messi leading Ronaldo.

So with that in mind, the Winner is Leo Messi.

Internationals:

For their countries, it’s a similar story – albeit the gaps are wider. Whilst Ronaldo has scored 32 goals in 87 appearances for Portugal (0.37 goals per game), Messi has scored 19 in 66 (0.29 goals per game). However, when comparing the Average Opposition per goal there’s little room for debate. Messi has scored on two occasions against #1 Spain, and also against Argentina’s fierce rivals Brazil. The worst opposition he’s scored against as per the FIFA Rankings at the time of play is Algeria #67. Interestingly, when the two nations faced each other in February of this year, both scored in a 2-1 win for Argentina but crucially, Messi also got an assist.

Both failed to impose themselves on the 2010 World Cup – one of the few criticisms that can be levelled at them. Messi’s solitary World Cup goal being in the 6-0 win over Serbia & Montenegro in a game famous for Cambiasso’s team goal back in 2006. Ronaldo scored in 2010, but it was against North Korea – ranked 105th in the World. This was in addition to his 2006 World Cup goal against Iran. For Ronaldo’s 2 goals in the European Championships (2004) see Messi’s 2 goals for Argentina in the 2007 Copa America.

In Conclusion:

Looking at just the stats, it’s difficult to separate the two players in the comparisons available. What can be agreed is that both players still need to do more at International level – especially in a World Cup, but as both are in their Mid-20s and with a World Cup less than 3 years away, they should both have the chance to do so.

Taking into account the goals against each other and the assists that Messi provides, the argument up until now falls in Messi’s favour. Both are outstanding players, but you can use the recent Real Madrid v Barcelona game as a microcosm of their rivalry. Take away Ronaldo’s goals and there’s not much else on offer, whereas Messi created the first goal after picking up the ball from his Centre Back, beating 4 men, and playing a perfect pass through for Sanchez to score. It was a similar story in the 5-0 win last season – Messi didn’t score but was man of the match.

Ronaldo is a modern great – a former World Player of the year, a scorer in a Champions League final, and the winner of the Golden boot in two strong leagues and in the Champions League.

But he’s not Messi.

Both have 17 league goals this season, as this intriguing head to head continues. Both can count themselves unlucky that they’re playing at the same time as another 50+ goal a season forward (in all competitions), but it’s great for the neutral. Messi is ahead due to his all round game, but it’s far from over.

I’ll revisit this at the end of the season. I came into this expecting a clear win for Messi, but the fact that it was assists that separates them says a lot for the rivalry.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 15

12 Dec

Round 15 in the Premier League saw some big changes in the scorers lists. Robin van Persie continued his goal a game average, whilst Rooney’s goal drought was broken with a brace against Wolves taking him up to 11 for the season, whilst seeing his average opponent per goal dropping to 12.18. Also on 11 goals after the weekend is Newcastle’s Demba Ba after his double against 11th placed Norwich – meaning that his average stays at a consistent 10.64.

Two significant movers on the Average Opposition Index were both playing in the same game at Stamford Bridge. Mario Balotelli’s opener meant that he moved level with Robin van Persie in goals against Top 6 opposition with 4. This also means that he retains the best average (for those with 6 goals or more). The other scorer to benefit in that game was Frank Lampard, who through his winning penalty, lost the lowest average per opponent for each goal. This was also Lampard’s first goal against Top 6 opposition, leaving Yakubu as the only player without a Top 6 goal. Unsurprisingly, this leaves him with the worst average, although as mentioned previously, he is generally always playing against a better team than his own.

Honourable mentions to Steve Fletcher and Norwich duo Holt and Morison who all scored against Top 6 opponents at the weekend, and remaining in the top scorers list.

Lampard and Rafael van der Vaart continue to be the only midfielders in the list.

With regards to Average Opposition for each team, the below table shows this per team:

Surprisingly, Sunderland have had the easiest run of fixtures in the opening 15 fixtures this season. This perhaps helps to understand why Steve Bruce was sacked. Despite having the easiest set of fixtures (based on their opponents at the start of the round), they were still in a lowly 16th position. Sunderland fans will hope Martin O’Neill can build on his winning start. Similarly to struggling Sunderland, Wigan, West Brom and Blackburn have also had easier run ins than most.

Man City, Swansea, Fulham and Bolton are close to the average 10.5 opposition that you’d expect to see over the course of a season – although this changes slightly depending on each team’s ranking.

At the other end of the scale, Liverpool can count themselves quite unlucky with their start. Only once have they played opposition below 12th – in a 4-0 defeat to a then lowly Spurs. They’ve also played Arsenal, Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea – and were unbeaten in those games. Man Utd can also point to a similarly difficult start to the season – despite this, they are sitting in 4th, just 2 points behind their Manchester rivals.

I’ll be looking at clean sheets by ranges in the next round of fixtures.

Cheers,

Liam

Awesome Foursomes

8 Dec

After Yakubu scored 4 goals in Round 14 I thought i’d have a look at the impressive achievement. Surprisingly, it’s actually the 27th time that it’s happened. I expected a lot less. Of the 27 occasions, only 7 have been away from home (highlighted on the bottom table) and six other players alongside Yakubu have repeated it a second time.

But what of the opposition that concede the goals? The average opposition that 4 goal hauls are scored against is 13.70th at the time of play. The final position is unsurprisingly lower at 15.64th in the table.

Repeat Achievers:

Of the seven players that have repeated the acheivement, Dimitar Berbatov and Yakubu are the only players to have done it for two different clubs – Spurs & Man Utd, and Portsmouth & Blackburn respectively. Although the averages of 11.5 and 12.5 are quite close (when allowing for a 2 unit average), you have to appreciate the team that each were playing for at the time – in that sense, hats off again to Yakubu.

Robbie Fowler has the highest average opposition per 4 goal salvo, though the average of their final positions are a lowly 16th. Frank Lampard is one of only two Midfield Players who have scored 4 goals in a game (the other being Arshavin though it could be argued he is a forward), and the only to repeat the achievement. Andy Cole actually scored his first batch against a team in 21st place when there were still 22 teams in the league. He’s the flat track bully in this scenario, although it’s still a very impressive feat.

Toughest Opponents:

All Data:

It doesn’t take much analysis to see who the stand out performer of the 4 goal scorers is. Despite Cole, Shearer and Defoe each scoring 5 in one game, the most impressive performance was Andre Arshavin. Not only was it away from home, it was at Anfield and this was a very good Liverpool team that went on to finish 2nd after pushing Man United all the way. Liverpool only conceded 27 goals the whole season, so for Arshavin to score 4 of them in one game, away from home is surely one of, if not the best scoring achievement in the history of the Premier League. To put it in further context, Arshavin only scored 6 league goals that season. He has never been prolific, despite his obvious talent. Unfortunately for Arsenal fans and the neutrals, he’s never lived up to the massive expectations brought about by that 4-4 draw.

A further nod must also go to Mark Viduka who also put 4 past Liverpool. Unlike Arshavin’s, his total was the difference in a 4-3 win for Leeds at Elland Road.

For details of all 27 occasions, click on the bottom table.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League – Round 14

6 Dec

Bit of a shorter one today as there’s only one round of games to update. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, read the About section and for a few more details, have a look at the Rules and Workings section.

Click on the table if it doesn’t appear properly

With the formalities out of the way, let’s get into the movers and shakers. In terms of goals, there’s one outstanding contributor from the weekend – Feed the Yak and he will score is the saying. They must have prepared a feast because a) he still looks a little “strong” and b) he just scored 4 goals in one game – catapulting him up the table into 4th place in the goalscoring charts. There was a lefty, a righty and a header(y?) included meaning that he scored a perfect hat trick as well. No mean feat.

Yakubu is doing his best to save Steve Kean’s job but will surely need to keep up his impressive strike rate to do so. Getty Images

Although his opposition average per goal is a lowly 14.22, it’s worth remembering that with the exception of his brace against bottom placed Wigan, all of his goals have been scored against teams above Blackburn. This is the second time Yakubu has scored 4 goals in one Premier League game – the first time being for Pompey back in 2004 against future employers Middlesbrough.

Everton, the team Yakubu left in search of first team football have a total of 15 goals (average opposition per goal is 12.27). Their top league scorer is Greek youngster Vellios with three (ave opp of 10.0). To be fair to Everton, Yakubu scored just one goal for them last season, so his change of diet at Blackburn seems to be suiting him.

Robin van Persie’s one man attack on the rest of the Premier League sees him add another to his impressive tally. As Wigan were in 19th place, his average has gone down to 10.69, but he still leads the way in goals against the top 6 – with four. His closest challenger for the golden boot is Aguero who also scored at the weekend in Man City’s demolition of Norwich (ranked 9th). The big game player for the season so far, Balotelli also scored in this game. Given the nature of the Average Opposition Index, although team mates, Aguero’s average went up to 11.91 from 12.5, whereas Balotelli’s went down from 6.5 to 6.86.

Stuck at the bottom of average opposition index is another player who has sometimes been described as “strong” in the Yakubu sense, Frank Lampard. Lampard had the opportunity to improve his average from 15.83 to 14.1 if he’d managed to convert from the spot against Newcastle (#4). Tim Krul had other ideas and he remains on the worst average (for players with 6 goals or more).

Best Average after 14 games: Mario Balotelli

Worst Average after 14 games: Frank Lampard

I’ll be posting a feature on the players who have scored four goals or more in a Premier League game in the next few days.

I’m still working out how to format the tables, so please click on them to view a little easier.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 13

4 Dec

Okay, let’s get things up and running. This round up might be a little longer than usual as I’ve got to catch up on 13 games:

At the moment, as it’s the early stages of the season, I’ve only included players with 5 goals or more, excluding O. Goal, who’s toe to toe with RVP with an impressive 13 goals. Liverpool are the biggest beneficiaries of O. Goal’s scoring touch with 3 (ave 6.67).

As the season progresses, i’ll update accordingly – more likely going to 10+ goals by Christmas.

So what does this table tell us so far? Well aside from van Persie leading the goalscoring charts, he’s also leading the way in the goals against the top 6 after scoring one at Old Trafford in a game he’d probably rather forget, and the rather more memorable hat trick against Chelsea who were then in 3rd. He’s in the form of his life and not only is he doing it in the big games, he’s generally doing it in all games – his split being pretty well rounded with 4 also scored against the bottom 6, and 5 against the mid table clubs.

Robin van Persie is the standout player in the Premier League this season – despite the mullet.

Aguero (1 goal) and Dzeko (4 goals) can count themselves a little unlucky with their average opponent per goal rating. Both players scored against Spurs when they were bottom of the league. If they were scored now then Dzeko would have an average of 6.5 which is incredible given than he’s scored 10 goals. However, one of the reasons that I’m looking at the opposition ranking at the start of the round of fixtures is because it gives a snapshot of that moment in time. No one can argue that Spurs have since strengthened considerably since then – Parker and Adebayor joined (they’re unbeaten since), and Modric seems to have got his game head back on after batting his eyelashes in Chelsea’s direction. Chances are that the score would be very different now if that game was played at White Hart Lane today.

Another man who can feel a bit hard done by with his rating is Wayne Rooney. He started this season like it was Euro 2004, though has since been on World Cup 2006/2010 form in terms of scoring (unfair? Maybe, but it’s true). In his blistering start, he scored a hat trick against Arsenal who were then ranked 14th. Like their North London rivals, Arsenal had a pretty miserable start to the season and have since recovered well. Mertesacker, Arteta, Andre Santos et al have now all settled in and helped turn things around – as well as the returning Vermaelen. It’s very debatable that Man Utd would score 8 against them now. Rooney also scored against Spurs who were then 16th. If we applied their current positions to Rooney’s stats, then he’d have a much more impressive average opponent ranked 7.55 per goal.

I’ve been asked about how to deal with these anomalies but I think that they paint the picture at the time of play. As mentioned above, Spurs and Arsenal are now much better teams than they were at the start of the season. I’ll be doing a retrospective look back at the end of the season based on the final positions – so fear not fans of the Manchester Clubs.

So who are the big game players so far? Apart from RvP, the player with the goals against the highest ranked opposition after round 13 is Mental Super Mario. He’s got an average of 6.50 which is the highest of those players with 5 goals or more. This is mainly due to the double against Man Utd on their own turf, and also a goal in round 12 versus high flying Newcastle.

Flat Track Bully? Well at the moment the stats point to Frank Lampard who has an average opponent per goal (i’ll probably need an abbreviation for this soon) of 15.83. Lampard has been under a bit of pressure this season, with some suggesting that his age is starting to show. He hit back with a hat trick against Bolton – unfortunately for his average, Bolton were ranked 20th at the time, after a shockingly bad start to the season. He also scored against then 18th place Blackburn, and his goal against Arsenal was when they were in 7th – so he didn’t get the goal in the top 6 bracket (the Yak and Bent are the only other players in the above list without a goal vs top 6 opposition).

However, one other point of note on the above is that Lampard and van der Vaart are the only midfielders in the list. So although Lampard could be tagged a bully (probably ganging up on the weedy kids with John Terry), it should be pointed out that he’s the joint highest scoring midfielder – so fair play. You can argue that van der Vaart should be down as a forward but I consider him a very far advanced attacking midfielder, or for fans of the old Championship Manager series – AM RLC. When he plays instead of Defoe, it’s generally in a 5 man midfield.

Honourable mentions to Adebayor and Javier “The Little Vegetable” Hernandez who have averages in the 8s and specialise in the big games, with no goals vs bottom 6 oppositions.

So that’s the first attempt of the bread and butter top scorer blog – i’ll be looking to update with round 14 once the fixtures have been completed.

Any feedback is welcome. I’ll probably piss about with the format between now and then as I’m new to this, so patience please!

Cheers,

Liam

Intro

3 Dec

Hello and welcome to the Average Opposition blog.

What’s this all about then?

It’s a site looking at the average opposition that teams beat/lose to/draw with, keep a clean sheet against, score against etc… However, the main focus will be on the average opposition that the players score against.

Who does it apply to?

Well as it’s just a hobby at the moment, i’ve decided to begin with the English (and currently Welsh) Premier League and am currently working on La Liga. The aim is to finish building the data base to include the top 5 European Leagues – England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France. There will also be the odd piece here and there about selected topics outside of these leagues, some international comparisons and also some retro reviews. If I can get that going, then hopefully i’ll be able to apply it to other sports.

How does it work?

Pretty simple really, I look at all the players and weight their goals based on the opposition at the time of playing (or more specifically at the start of that round of fixtures). So you’d expect the average to be 10.5 (20 teams). Anything significantly higher than this would suggest the player thrives or delivers in the big games and in theory could be described as a “big game player”. Anything lower would suggest that maybe they flatter to deceive, or are simply a bit unlucky in the big games. If significantly lower, then the old “flat track bully” line can be rolled out.

If we take the start of the 2011/12 season as an example, Robin van Persie is flying in terms of goals scored, but also with a very high average opposition (9.69 as at December 1st 2011). Goals against Man Utd (ranked 2nd at the time), and a hat trick against a then 3rd placed Chelsea have helped push him near the top of the table. On the other hand, Edin Dzeko can count himself quite unlucky. He scored a whopping 4 goals vs Spurs, but due to the postponement of their opening game and their second game being a 3-0 defeat at Man Utd, it meant that Spurs were bottom of the league at time – compared to the 3rd place they’re in at the moment – thus resulting in a lower average opponent per goal. With that in mind, there’ll be a retrospective look at the end of the season based on final positions.

So not an exact science?

In so far as presenting the averages, it’s bulletproof. All of the data is formula driven to take into account all angles (Nationality, Home/Away, Position and Age). However, there are caveats. As like the Dzeko example, it’s also slightly unfairly weighted to players playing for teams ranked above 10.5. They have less opportunities against better teams, as their own team is taken out of the equation. I’ll chuck the stats up, and on occasion will add my interpretation or notes on them. That last bit is definitely not an exact science!

Hasn’t this been done?

I’ve searched far and wide, and as of yet I can’t find anything that seems to measure the same average opposition data on a consistent basis. The aim of this blog is to show something new. With that in mind, i’ll try to avoid adding stats that’ve been done before.

How did it come about?

I happened to be looking at top international goal scorers and noticed that Pele (77) and Puskas (84) had a similar number of international goals. They were both rated as amongst the best in the world and played in a similar era (for national teams – Puskas 1945-56 and Pele 1957-71). It got me wondering if there was a weighting to their goals to see who scored against the better opposition at the time (not taking into account Competitive/Non Competitive games). I wrote into the excellent The Knowledge column on the Guardian football site, but unfortunately all the compilers seemed to be out of the office at the time so the question never got published. Either that or they just didn’t like the question….

When looking at just goals per game it can be misleading. Take Australia’s Archie Thompson for example, his international strike rate is an impressive 21 goals in 33 games. That strike rate of 0.64 goals per game is better than:

  • Marco van Basten – 0.41 (goals per game)
  • Ruud Gullit – 0.26
  • Alan Shearer – 0.48
  • Raul – 0.43
  • Jurgen Klinsmann – 0.44

The difference being that whilst the legends above have done it on the biggest stages against good opposition, Archie Thompson scored 13 of his goals in one game (vs American Samoa #203). Take that game out and it’s a less impressive 8 goals in 32 games (0.25). And if you dig a little deeper, the list of opponents scored against and their FIFA World Ranking at the time is:

  • Tonga #178 – 1 goal
  • Samoa #174 – 2 goals
  • Solomon Islands #125 – 1 goal
  • Solomon Islands #136 – 2 goals
  • Jamaica #40 – 1 goal
  • Bahrain #52 – 1 goal

Including the 13 goals against American Samoa, then his average opponent per goal is ranked 174th. Better than my record but significantly lower than the more celebrated players mentioned above.

Now this isn’t a witch hunt against Archie Thompson. His club strike rate is also very good, it’s just his example is the best to illustrate the point about goals per game, and also the 13 goals in one match is an eye catching world record. I’m sure you could do the same with the top international goal scorer of all time – Iran’s Ali Daei who has 109 goals in 149 games. Some of the opponents he scored against include Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei, Guam, Nepal, Maldives and several others of similar rankings. Again, this isn’t a dig at the player – anyone who earns a move to Bayern Munich is no cart horse, i’m just highlighting that although he has the most international goals of all time – it’s a slightly misleading stat.

Sadly, the Pele/Puskas debate is destined to live on, as I can only find monthly FIFA rankings back to 1997. Anyone that’s able to help on that, please feel free to let me know. You’re also more than welcome to write a guest article!

What do you expect to find?

I’m going in without any preconceptions and will rely on the data from the database (the Average Opposition Index). You’d expect even the big game players to have an average of around 10.5 as they’re likely to score against all opposition, but it’ll be interesting to see if that’s the case or not. I’ll also measure the big game players based on ranges – Top 6/Middle 8/Bottom 6. I’ve got a good few ideas for articles so far, but welcome any suggestions – whether it’s to settle an pub argument (Ronaldo v Messi), or you’re trying to back up some universally accepted themes – like Everton being slow starters to the season.

Just a hobby? Doesn’t that make you a bit of a nerd?

Firstly, shut up. Secondly, I find it interesting. And Thirdly, who knows where it might lead! Probably nowhere, but one can dream – just look at Ali Daei, the all time Top Scorer in International football. He probably didn’t think he’d reach that milestone when as a lanky 24 year old and still waiting for his first international goal, he lined up against the might of Chinese Taipei….

Who do you support?

I’m going to keep that one to myself initially, in case of accusations of bias! I will say that at the time of writing, they’re not in the Premier League though!

What next then?

I should probably finish the databases and stop making promises. I have enough to begin though, so better post something up pretty shortly. I started this on Saturday morning – van Persie has since scored against bottom placed Wigan to lower his average to 10.69 – making the above a little redundant, but that’s the facts for you!

I hope you enjoy it or at least find it interesting enough to waste a few minutes at lunchtimes. To be perfectly honest, i’ll be happy as long as you visit regardless of your enjoyment as it’ll put my visitors number up – and I love stats.

Cheers,

Liam