Archive | January, 2012

La Liga Round 20

31 Jan

Quick update on the rest of the leagues outside of the England, and first up is Spain’s La Liga. Madrid continued their impressive form, and bouyed by the Copa del Rey draw in the Nou Camp, they extended their lead at the top to 7 points with a win over Real Zaragoza (20th) who had the cheek to take the lead. Villarreal (17th) held  Barcelona to a 0-0 draw. This was Madrid’s 5th consecutive league win whilst Barca have dropped 4 points in the same period. Elsewhere Valencia stayed 3rd after they drew 2-2 against 16th placed Racing. Levante are still clinging onto 4th spot despite losing 2-1 to Getafe.

In terms of Average Opposition Index, it’s still Cesc Fabregas leading the way, with a European high of 4.78. Needless to say, as Atletico Madrid were playing against 6th placed Osasuna, Falcao didn’t score. He continues to carry the Flat Track Bully tag with an average opponent per goal of 14.93. His Top 6 goals column continues to be empty.

Elsewhere, Ronaldo helped his quest for the Golden boot with another against bottom played Zaragoza. In third, Valencia were held to a 2-2 draw by 16th placed Racing.

Fernando Llorente was the big mover with a hat trick against 13th placed Rayo Vallecano. This damaged his average, but it’s still a respectable 9.80.


Player Comparison: Thierry Henry vs Ruud van Nistelrooy

27 Jan

Hot on the heels of the Lampard vs Gerrard comparison, the third in the series is another of the Premier League’s most discussed duos – Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy. For the 5 years, that they both played in the Premier League they dominated the goalscoring charts with five winners, three runners up and one 3rd place in the race for the golden boot. But who was the bigger game player?

Henry getting away with another blatant handball

The Contenders:

France and Arsenal’s all time leading scorer, the man who brought va va voom to the Premier League and who is one of the most unpopular players in Ireland, Thierry Henry. Signed from Juventus after a less than convincing spell, Henry won 2 league titles and 3 FA Cups with the Gunners before moving on to Barcelona. On the Oranje side is Holland and Man United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy. Ruud has top scored in the Champions League 3 times, as well as golden boots in the Dutch, English and Spanish league. He moved on to Real Madrid in 2006 after winning 1 Premier League title, an FA Cup and a League Cup.

The Background:

Henry at Monaco

Henry began his football career at Monaco under the tutelage of his future Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Initially played on the wing, he was eventually moved up front. He made his professional debut in August 1994 – going on to make 141 appearances for Monaco and scoring 28 goals in all competitions. He made his France debut in 1998 and went on to win the World Cup that same year, and earning a big move to Juventus. Henry struggled to make an impact with the Old Lady (I wonder would Wayne Rooney thrive there?) and found himself back out on the wing. After 3 goals in 19 appearances, Henry was reunited with his first manager  in North London. It’s fair to say his strike rate improved with 46 goals in his first 100 games for the Gunners – taking us up to the summer of 2001.

Ruud van Nistelrooy had to overcome several hurdles at PSV

Ruud van Nistelrooy’s early career wasn’t quite as glamorous. He started his professional career with Dutch minnows Den Bosch. Like his French rival, he also started out as a midfielder but was moved to centre forward early on. He made his debut in 1993 and went on to score 20 goals in 71 appearances for them. His form in 1996-97 caught the eye of Heerenveen who shelled out €360k on the Dutch thoroughbred. His stay with them was a short one – his goalscoring record secured a move to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven (for €6.3m – a tidy profit). It was here that his career really took off, scoring an impressive 71 goals in 95 games for the Eindhoven club. A move to Manchester United was all but tied up in 2000, but a serious knee ligament injury delayed it for a year.

The Rules:

As per usual, it’s primarily a comparison of their Premier Leauge goals rather than all goals. Why? Because they played against the same opposition over the same time period – and these opponents are ranked, meaning that we can calculate an average. International goals will also be taken into account. The time scale is the 5 year period from 2001-2006, from when van Nistelrooy joined, to when he left.

Premier League:


And so on to the stats, their first season head to head was Henry’s 3rd in the league, and van Nistelrooy’s first. With that in mind, it’s particularly impressive the impact that the Dutchman had, and just how close he ran Henry for the Golden Boot. Henry played one game more and scored 24 goals to van Nistelrooy’s 23. Their goals per games tally were virtually identical – 0.73 vs 0.72. Who did it in the big games?

Well once again it was very close. Henry scored 4 against Top 6 opponents on his way to winning the league title with Arsenal. Chelsea (6th), Man Utd (3rd, two goals) and Liverpool (2nd) were all victims to his goalscoring touch. On the other side, van Nistelrooy scored in both games against 4th placed Newcastle, and once against Chelsea. From an average opposition point of view, the Dutchman edges it with an average opponent per goal of 12th place compared to Henry’s 12.25.

Winner: A Draw

Too tight to call this one, so a draw. An incredible debut season for Ruud, whilst Thierry stepped up to score over 20 league goals for the first time in his career. Henry had 4 against the Top 6 (one pen), whilst van Nistelrooy had a better average. This is just based on goals scored – Henry provided more assists by far, but this comparison is just on the goals….for now.


van Nistelrooy’s only title came in 2003


Round 2, and after Arsenal won the title in 2001-02, Man Utd were out for revenge. And revenge they found. Powered by van Nistelrooy’s goals, United won the Championship, in what would be the Dutchman’s only Premier League title.Once again, they were pretty much neck and neck in terms of goals scored, this time van Nistelrooy winning the Golden Boot by one goal. He did it in 3 games less, taking his goals per game to an impressive 0.74 to Henry’s 0.65.

And they’re not the only stats that he wins on. His Average Opposition Index (AOI) was a very impressive 9.28, compared to the French hitman’s 12.25. The driver behind the AOI was a whopping 8 goals vs Top 6 opposition. On their way to the title, van Nistelrooy scored against 3rd placed Newcastle (4 goals including a hat trick in a 5-3 win),  Blackburn Rovers (6th), Liverpool (2 goals) and most importantly, against title rivals Arsenal. In comparison, Henry scored 5 goals against the Top 6 teams, including both goals against United in a 2-2 draw.

Winner: Ruud van Nistelrooy

Although the number of goals were once again similar, the AOI and goals against Top 6 were heavily weighted in his favour.

RVN showing customary calm under pressure. From a nutter.


In what was an historic season, Arsenal would once again take the crown of Premier League Champions from United but this time would go the whole season unbeaten. Not only was this Arsenal’s greatest season, it was also Henry’s best in the League with 30 in 37 (0.81 goals per game). Ruud van Nistelrooy hit 20 league goals for the 3rd season running, but was way behind his rival.

Once again, it was the Dutchman who had the best AOI rating with 10.6 compared to Henry’s  11.93 but that was the only area he bettered Henry who smashed in 10 goals against the Top 6 (in a maximum of 10 games). Once again for the 3rd season running, he scored against United, this time in a 1-1 draw, whilst the highlight was a Hat trick against Liverpool in a game where his team was behind twice.

Winner: Thierry Henry

Ahead in goals and against Top 6 opponents. Inspired his team to go the season unbeaten on the way to winning the league. Sadly for Arsenal fans, their last at the time of writing. Ironically, van Nistelrooy could have ended the unbeaten streak, but missed a penalty in a 0-0 draw – much to Martin Keown’s delight.

Henry carried Arsenal to the title in 2003-04


And so after 7 years of what seemed like Man Utd vs Arsenal for the title, Chelsea and Mourinho took over. In terms of the Player Comparison, this season was a write off for van Nistelrooy, with injury and form going against him. Just 6 goals, 3 of which were penalties, were scored in his 17 League appearances. On the other hand, Henry continued his impressive form with a 4th straight season of 20+ goals – hitting 25 in 32.

Not really much in way of comparison here, although interestingly, despite playing almost double the games, Henry only scored 1 more against the Top 6. Two of the three goals were against the Champions Chelsea in a 2-2 draw. Undeniably a big game.

Winner: Thierry Henry

For the first time, Henry’s AOI rating was better than the Dutchman’s, along with every other stat. No comparison. If the Dutchman were a horse, he’d have been put down.


And so onto the final season in the comparison, and van Nistelrooy’s final in England. Chelsea once again went on to claim the title, but Henry won the Golden Boot for the 3rd season running. But what of the comparison, and the big game scoring?

It was certainly a return to form for van Nistelrooy after a poor 2004-05. However, once again he was just no match for his French rival. Henry outscored in both goals and goals per game, had a better AOI rating (although still below the 10.5 aim), and did it more often in the big games vs the Top 6. In this season, he scored against 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th, whereas van Nistelrooy only scored against 6th placed Blackburn Rovers.

Winner: Thierry Henry

The stats do tell the full story on this occasion.

Premier League Conclusion:

Just looking at the Premier League goals, it’s a 3-1 win to Henry in the 5 seasons.

He’s done it against Top 6 opposition on more occasions, with 28 goals to 21 and has 0.76 goals per game vs 0.63. However, food for thought is that van Nistelrooy’s split is as you’d expect – 23-51-21 which converts to 24% of his goals were against Bottom 6, 54% vs Middle 8 Opponents and 22% vs the Top 6 teams. Henry’s split isn’t as consistent at 34%-44%-22%.

International Goals:

From the off, you look at Henry’s International career and see a World Cup medal, a European Championships medal and a Confederations cup medal. In terms of strike rate, he has 51 goals in 123 games (0.41 goals per game) and is France’s record scorer – over taking Platini’s haul. By comparison, van Nistelrooy has a better strike rate with 35 goals in 70 games (0.5 goals per game).

Of those goals, Henry has 6 World Cup goals and 6 European Championship goals. For Holland, Ruud has 1 World Cup goal, but matches the tally of 6 in the European Championships. And so once again onto the stats:

Once again, it’s a win for Thierry – he has more goals, a better AOI of 50.98 vs van Nistelrooy’s 61.11 and is ahead on Top 10 opposition goals. Whilst he didn’t score in the two biggest international games of his career – World Cup final 2006 and European Champonships Final 2004, he has done it against big teams. Goals against Portugal, Germany, Brazil, Italy and Holland points to the fact that he can do it against the best, indeed the winner vs Brazil in the 2006 quarter finals is undoubtedly a big game goal. For Holland, van Nistelrooy has a disappointing 3 goals versus the upper echelons of Footballing nations. His best moments for Holland came in Euro 2004 when he scored 4 goals – against Germany, Czech Republic and a brace against Latvia.

Both have a good International record and Henry’s medals would point to a great record. However, neither have really done it in the biggest games, something that separates the likes of Henry and van Nistelrooy to Brazil’s Ronaldo. Not many strikers have really done it in World Cup finals of late – Iniesta settled 2010, Materazzi and Zidane scored in 2006, and it was Zidane again with fellow midfielder Petit that settled the 1998 World Cup. Before that it was penalties in 1994 and a penalty by defender Brehme in 1990.

For Further Consideration

When looking at their big game credentials, it’s worth taking into account a few more details that aren’t easily comparable as the opponents aren’t ranked, and differ. In the Champions League, Henry has a medal with Barcelona, but again, failed to score in both the 2009 final, and the defeat for Arsenal in 2006. Ruud van Nistelrooy has 3 top scorer awards in the competition, and is second only to Raul in the all time European Cup scorers list. Guess who’s in 3rd? Thierry Henry of course.

In terms of cup finals as a measure of big games, van Nistelrooy scored twice in the 2004 FA Cup final – although as a caveat, this was against Championship side Millwall. He also played in the 2005 final versus an Henry-less Arsenal, the game finished 0-0. He also failed to score in the 2004 League Cup final defeat to Liverpool.

In terms of importance to their teams and value added to them, the below once again has Henry on top. Even taking into account van Nistelrooy’s poor 2004-05, Henry still wins in points gained and percentage of team points earned. 

In Conclusion:

The whole point of these player comparison’s is to find who was the better player from a big game perspective by looking at the opposition. In that sense, Thierry Henry wins. He does it more often against the Top 6, which is the measure to track by. Ruud van Nistelrooy edges it on the Average Opponent per goal rating, but that’s because Henry also heavily punished the Bottom 6. He has more tournament goals than his Dutch rival as well – another measure of a big game player.

Ruud van Nistelrooy has undoubtedly been a great goalscorer, and perhaps to say he isn’t a big game player is harsh as he hasn’t had as many final appearances as Henry. He still had 21 goals versus Top 6 opponents – which is still one of the best records of recent years. To van Nistelrooy’s credit, there wasn’t much in it against a player twice in the Top 3 for the World’s best.

So well done Thierry, he proved that beautiful football could win over a ruthless finisher. Although comparing the two, they are different types of players, and it’s worth remembering that in those 5 seasons, Henry also provided 59 Premier League assists.


He may rate as a big game player in the Premier League, and indeed he had his moments in Europe – a hat trick at Roma, a brace in the San Siro and the winner against Real Madrid showed this, however, no goals from the below games unfortunately excludes him from joining the greats:

  • 2001 FA Cup Final
  • 2002 FA Cup Final
  • 2003 FA Cup Final
  • 2000 UEFA Cup Final
  • 2006 Champions League Final
  • 2009 Champions League Final
  • 2000 European Championships Final
  • 2006 World Cup Final.

Personally, I think he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen, it’s just a shame he never did it on the biggest stages.

Thanks for reading, it’s a bit of a long one, but when looking at two such decorated players, it was hard to cut it down. You’ve seen the stats and facts, make up your own mind.

If you’ve any ideas for the next Player Comparison, leave a comment or send me a mail.



La Liga Round 19

26 Jan

Whilst all eyes were on the 127th el Clasico(s) of the last 12 months, there have also been some league games since the last La Liga update. After the crushing defeat at home to Barca before Christmas, Real have put together a fantastic run of victories – winning the last 4 league games, and scoring 17 goals in the process. They say a measure of a team is how they react to set backs. Mourinho’s men have certainly reacted well to the Barca defeat, and now hold a 5 point lead at the top after Barcelona dropped points to neighbours Espanyol. However, they’ll have to react well again after another defeat in the Copa del Rey to their bitter rivals, and talk of dressing room unrest between the Spanish players and the Portuguese speakers (which was also leaked to the press).

Jose is currently in the middle of a dressing room war, and looks very sad about it, though that could be because someone stole his glove puppet.

Valencia are sitting pretty in 3rd without having to do much, whilst Levante’s early season run is a thing of the past. No wins in 4 games, and only 1 goal. They’re still clinging onto 4th spot, but Espanyol have closed the gap to 3 points. I think most neutrals would be happy for either to finish in the last Champions League spot.

Onto the players and the Average Opposition Index. It’s no surprise to see Cristiano and Leo at the top. Ronaldo banged in 2 more goals at the weekend (both penalties) whilst Messi scored his 4th hat trick of another mediocre season. Like his boss, Ronaldo has also been under fire in the Madrid press, though he has since gone on to score in both legs of Madrid’s cup defeat to Barca. That should shut a few people up – and would suggest I wrote him off too soon myself in the Player Comparison.

Ronaldo’s 2 against Bilbao improved both his AOI and also increased his goals against Top 6 opposition to 9 – impressive stuff. Similarly, Messi’s hat trick against 8th placed Malaga also helped his average increase to 9.59. Prodigal son, Cesc Fabregas is still leading the way from an AOI ranking with a frankly ridiculous 4.78 ranked opponent per goal. He is the stand out big game player, and seems to be refusing to score against the bottom 6 teams.  Team mate Alexis Sanchez also deserves a nod for his impressive 6.73, and has scored 6 league goals in the last 6 games. The two major signings have certainly hit the ground running for Barca this year. The whole team seem to be able to do it regardless of the opposition (unless it’s Getafe).

Roberto Soldado continued his good season with his 12th of the season against 5th placed Osasuna. He’s currently many people’s choice for Fernando Torres’ international place – although with Villa out, he may get a stay of execution. Another rival for that place is Bilbao’s Llorente, who scored his team’s only goal in a 4-1 defeat at the Bernebeu. Nonetheless, it gave him his second goal vs the elite, and also improved his average to a decent 8.43.

 Falcao celebrating after scoring another goal against the local Blind School’s Under 12’s mixed XI

At the other end of the Index, despite what appears to be a cracking start to his career in Spain, Falcao continues to bully the smaller clubs. His hat trick at the weekend (his 2nd of the season) was against 14th placed Sociedad. Now, I’m not saying he’s a poor player, far from it, it’s just the facts would suggest he flatters to deceive. His 14 league goals have come in 8 games. The highest ranking opponent that he’s hit the net against was 10th placed Vallecano. He’s scored 3 of his goals against then 20th placed teams, whilst his hat trick at the weekend actually improved his AOI rating. He’s undoubtedly a good player, he just has to prove it againt someone half decent.

What will the second half of the season bring? Real to hold onto their lead and win the title ahead of the best team ever? Maybe. Messi and Ronaldo to score 100 goals between them in all competitions again? Probably. Fabregas to keep up his average opponent per goal rate? Unlikely.

It’ll be an interesting second half in Spain, personally, i’d love to see Levante hold on to 4th (if not, then Espanyol), Valencia to put a bit more pressure on the top 2, and Falcao to score against one of the Top 9.



Premier League Round 22

23 Jan

Today’s games not only had a big impact on the Premier League table, but also on the Average Opposition Index. The last update we saw showed us that Mario Balotelli was the best big game player with an average opponent per goal of 6.50, and along with Robin van Persie and Clint Dempsey, has done it most against Top 6 Opposition.

Balotelli kept up his big game record, but should he have been on the pitch?

Well after the second half classic in the Man City vs Spurs game, Balotelli has done it again – his goal against 3rd placed Spurs not only opened up an 8 point gap over their title rivals, but also increased his AOI from 6.50 to 6.11. Spurs can feel rightly aggrieved that they lost this one. Not only did Defoe’s Gazza impression prevent them from going 3-2 up in the last minute, the winner for City was scored by a man who should have been sent off earlier, after a stamp on Scott Parker. Nonetheless, this site is about tracking who the big game players are. I jokingly sent a message to a Spurs supporting friend that they should be wary of Big Game Mario – and I now wish I’d put a bet on it. Stats are often criticised for not showing the full picture, but in this case, Balotelli’s big game performances have become a trend. Sure it was penalty, but he won it, and had a pretty good chance of scoring had Ledley King not fouled him.

In the other big game of the day, Man Utd continued their hoodoo over Arsenal, and in doing so also kept the pressure up on Man City. For Arsenal it was once again their main man Robin van Persie who scored their goal. On this occasion it was an equaliser, though ultimately didn’t lead to any points. Nonetheless, he’s now joint top of goals vs Top 6 opposition, with his 5th goal against the Premier League’s best. This also helped his AOI ranking to 10.37 – above the magical 10.5 mark.

Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale also scored in today’s big game, and in doing so have bettered their averages to 8.88 and 10.43 respectively. Defoe can now rightly be regarded as a big game player – he has 4 goals against Top 6 opponents, despite limited game time due to Adebayor’s lone/loan striker role.

Aside from the two showcase games on Sunday, there’s also been some other movement on the list in recent weeks. Wolves and Scotland striker Steve Fletcher continued his impressive goal scoring record with another against Top 6 opponents – this time away at Spurs (Round 21). Add to this the goals at away at Arsenal, away at United and away at Liverpool, and there’s once again a trend here. Fletcher is a big game player. Take into account his team ranking, and it’s an even more impressive season (AOI 9.89).

So the big game player continues to be Balotelli, but what of the flat track bully? That title is now held by his City team mate Edin Dzeko. He started the game today but did very little. Against Wigan (20th) last time out though, he scored the winner. That was a very important a strike as it was worth 3 points, but it’s lowered his AOI to 13.91 – saving the blushes of midfielders Lampard (13.56) and van der Vaart (13.86). Lampard’s goal against 10th ranked Sunderland won the 3 points and also improved his average.

The AOI leader from midfield

The other big winner in the list is Fulham’s Clint Dempsey who is now matching Lampard as the top scoring midfielder after his hat trick against 6th placed Newcastle. His average has now shot up to 9.33 and as mentioned above, he’s also sharing the top spot for goals versus Top 6 Opponents. Well played Clint. Apparently he’s also now the top scoring American in Premier League history, ahead of Brian McBride, and John Harkes….probably.

And so to close off this week’s update, a quick look at the points as goals table:

As per the last time out, RVP is the main man for points, whilst Yakubu is the most important to his team. That being said, Blackburn’s unlikely revival under managerial genius Steve Kean (I doubt he would have put on Arshavin for the Ox), has continued afoot without the suspended Yak. After his sending off last week, they went on to beat Fulham 3-1, and followed up with a well earned 1-1 draw at Everton. As a result, whilst he is still the leader on the importance measure, it’s fallen from over 75% to 61%. Surprisingly, Mario Balotelli’s winner today was his first goal that was decisive in terms of points this season.

Rest of the leagues to be updated this week, and I hope to have the Henry vs van Nistelrooy Player Comparison up within the next week.



Premier League Season Review: 2010-11 – Team Stats

22 Jan

Following on from the Goal Scorer stats for last season’s Premier League, this post is all about the Team stats.

Top Banana – Kompany and his City Team mates dominated the Clean Sheet League, but also were amongst the worst going forward.

Clean Sheets:

First and foremost, the Yin to the goalscorers Yang, it’s the defenders and keepers time to shine. In terms of the overall number of clean sheets, Man City with their ultra defensive approach were the run away leaders. It’s a far cry from their attacking play this season, but last year was all about qualifying for the Champions League. Unsurpringly, they kept the most clean sheets vs fellow Top 6 opponents, with shut outs against Spurs (twice), Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea. The anomoly here is that they actually kept more clean sheets against the top tier of Opposition than the bottom 6. There’s no real mystery behind this though, anyone who watched City against Top 4 rivals last season would know that against the best, they defended first and foremost, with De Jong and Barry acting as a shield in front of the back 4. Indeed the 0-0 game vs Man Utd was useful only for insomnia sufferers. Thankfully this season, they’ve been great going forward, and would be worthy champions if they do win the league.

So City have the crown for most clean sheets, and most against the Top 6, they also have the best average opposition per clean sheet with 9.94. Second place fell to to Sunderland (of all the teams with 10 clean sheets of more – highlighted in grey). They also kept clean sheets against Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City. It’s a far cry from the start that Steve Bruce’s side made to the start of the season, though the defence has improved considerably under new boss Martin O’Neill.

At the other end of the Clean Sheet table, it’s not surprising to see relegated West Ham (5) and Blackpool (6) struggled to keep clean sheets – especially against fellow strugglers. Chelsea had the second most clean sheets, but the lowest average opposition, with the joint most shut outs against the Bottom 6 teams. Whilst Fulham were the surprise package with 14 cleans sheets – behind only City, United and Chelsea. It’ll be interesting to see if Mark Hughes can recreate this at QPR.

Failure to Score:

Offsetting the Clean Sheet league, there’s also the Failure to Score table – recording efficiency at the other end of the pitch. Once again, the top teams shine through – Man Utd lead the way, scoring in all but 5 games (Average Opposition 6.20) followed closely by Arsenal who failed to score in 6 (5.67). Perhaps more surprisingly although it’s the other two Champions League qualifiers Man City and Chelsea, failed to score in 9 league games – more than Blackpool and level with West Brom.

Further evidence of Man City’s defensive priorities last season can also be seen the FTS table – City failed to score against other Top 6 teams a massive 6 times, a record only worse than West Ham and Wigan. At the other end of that scale, Everton were the surprise big game players – they failed to score against Top 6 opposition on just one occasion – a 1-0 defeat away to Champions Manchester United, no disgrace there. Chelsea also matched this achievement with only Man City (no surprises there) keeping them out.

Worst teams to watch in terms of scoring? Relegated West Ham, almost relegated Wigan, and anti possestion team Stoke – all failing to score on 13 occasion, or a third of their matches. In fact, the average ranked team that Stoke failed to score against was 10.31, including games against Birmingham, West Ham, Blackpool and Wigan.

Arsenal had the highest average of opponents that kept them out with 5.67 – mainly due to Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City keeping them out.

Further Stats:

Team Goals:






Premier League Season Review: 2010-11

18 Jan

We’ve recently passed the halfway point in the Premier League season, and so far there’s been a few surprises in terms of the Average Opposition stats – Mario Balotelli is the best when it comes to scoring against decent opposition, but his goals are worth nothing if taken away from Man City; Robin van Persie’s goals are worth 17 points to Arsenal, whilst Yakubu’s goals have been worth 65% of Blackburn’s points.

So with that in mind, I thought it’d be interesting to look at the Full Season stats for last season. First and foremost, as the bread and butter of this site let’s start with the glamorous goal scorers:

Golden Boot

The first thing to address is the outright top scorer. Berbatov and Tevez (BerbaTev? No? Ok) shared the golden boot with 20 league goals each. Neither had a great average opposition rating with Tevez leading Berbatov with 12.20 vs 13.05. Round one to the Argie. Secondly and perhaps the most telling statistic is that none of Berbatov’s goals were against Top 6 opposition at the time of playing – when he scored his hat trick against Liverpool they were ranked 13th. Based on final positions, he has 3. Tevez also didn’t fare that well, with just two against Top 6 Opposition – Chelsea (then 1st) and a high flying Bolton. Looking again at the final placings, leaves him with just one goal against the cream of the crop. I’d call that 1-1. The decider is down to how many points their goals were worth. In the blue corner, Carlos Tevez’s goals were worth 15 points to Man City’s total of 71 points (21.6%). In the red corner, Dimitar Berbatov’s were worth only 10 points to United – 12.5% of their total.

If it wasn’t for the 5 penalties that Tevez scored, he’d be more deserving of the Golden Boot.

Honourable mentions to van Persie who did scored 18 goals in just 25 games, Peter Odemwingie who was experiencing his first season in England (and with a slightly unfashionable club), and Blackpool’s DJ Campbell. From a midfielder point of view, Malouda, Nolan, Adam, Nasri and Dempsey all performed well in terms of goalscoring.

Average Opposition Index Awards: The Goal Scorers

Big Game Player Award 2010-11: Rafael van der Vaart – 7.46

What a fantastic debut season it was for the Dutch schemer. Although Spurs ultimately failed to get that Top 4 spot, he made a massive impact and perhaps has helped change the mentality at Spurs from almosts, to big club. As if to perfectly illustrate his big game status, none of his goals were against Bottom 6 opponents, whilst a massive 8 were against Top 6 clubs (at the time), including 3 against North London rivals, Arsenal. His overall average opponent per goal was a very high 7.46 – beating fellow Ducthy Dirk Kuyt (8.08) to the title. And all this as a midfielder. What is interesting, is that this season, he has one of the worst averages in the league. In the words of another Spurs goalscorer, it’s a funny old game.

It’s been pointed out many times before, but he cost around the same amount Man Utd paid for Bebe.

Honourable mentions to Kuyt, Odemwingie, Carroll and Charlie Adam. Kuyt aside, all playing their first full seasons in the Premier League

A clearly delighted van der Vaart after hearing about his Average Opposition Index Award

Most Goals vs Top 6 Opposition 2010-11: Andy Carroll – 9 goals

Andy Carroll? The same Andy Carroll that is left on the bench in favour of no goals in 19 games Dirk Kuyt? Yes, that Andy Carroll. In the first half of the season with Newcastle, he banged in a Hat Trick against Aston Villa (then 3rd), followed by strikes against Arsenal, Chelsea and more tellingly Liverpool. It may have been his performance against his future club that fooled persuaded Dalglish to part with £35m (or 5 van der Vaart’s) for his services, and the early signs were promising – he scored a brace against high flying Man City. No one is really sure what happened over the Summer, maybe it was that his landlord Kevin Nolan moved South, no one really knows. Credit where it’s due though, 9 goals against Top 6 opposition does offer some hope for Liverpool fans.

Andy Carroll in happier times

Honourable mentions to Kuyt, Odemwingie, van der Vaart and Javier Hernandez.

From the big game players onto the Flat Track Bullies. This is only looking at players with 10 goals or more.

Flat Track Bully Award 2010-11: Florent Malouda – 14.38

It’s perhaps a little harsh giving this to Malouda as he is a midfielder, and the fact that he has scored 13 goals, including 3 against Top 6 opposition, should be applauded. Where he fell down was the 9 goals vs the Bottom 6 team, including 4 against teams ranked in 19th, and one against the team then at the bottom. Even his Top 6 goals were against Blackpool (after their great start) and Bolton. Those teams went on to finish 19th and 14th. The big bully. This season, he has one goal which was against then 18th placed West Brom.

Unhonourable mentions to Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. Interesting that they’re all big name players.


Goals win Points Award 2010-11 – Peter Odemwingie – 17 Points

It just goes to show the importance of a goal scorer. That Odemwingie scored so many goals in his debut season is to be applauded, that they were so vital to West Brom’s final points tally is more than impressive, it’s the difference between staying up and going down. As per above, his 15 goals won 17 points – which was 36% of West Brom’s points.

Interestingly, at round 21 in the 2011-12 season, Robin van Persie’s goals have already matched the 17 point high from last season.

Honourable Mentions to – Carlos Tevez, Javier Hernandez, van der Vaart and Hugo Rodellega (more important than Nzogbia to Wigan last season) were all worth more than 10 points to their team. DJ Campbell, Rodellega and Odemwingie were the only players worth more than 25% of their teams points. Not many English players in these awards…..

Peter points to the above table to prove a point

Pointless goalscorers of the season – Solomon Kalou – 10 goals=3 points

This is for player scoring 10 goals or more. Kalou has been a consistently useful player for Chelsea over the years, but last season, his goals meant very little in the end. This is mainly because they’ve been scored when he comes of the bench and the game is won. His first 4 goals were against Wigan x2 (6-0), West Ham (3-1)  and Blackpool (4-0).

Unhonourable Mentions to – Asamoah Gyan (10 goals=5 points), Maxi Rodriguez (10 goal=4 points), Kevin Nolan and Didier Drogba (both 12 goals=4 points). Good seasons – but not particularly important.

Defensive Awards to follow…..

Player Comparison: Frank Lampard v Steven Gerrard

15 Jan

Post and open comments now appearing here:

2011-12 Stats:

This Season:


After starting the Player Comparison series with the two best players in the world, how do you follow that? In terms of quality of player, you can’t (unless I had the Pele/Maradonna stats handy). But the idea behind this series was to not only look at two comparable players based on stats, but also to help settle pub debates. And so with that in mind, and from a Premier League starting point the contenders choose themselves. Fewer players have been at the heart of debates and comparisons, both for rival club fans, but also for England fans.

Piggy back football never really took off

The Contenders:

In the Red corner, we have Liverpool’s home grown King of the Kop, Stevie G (whilst Luis Suarez is the heir apparent to the throne, I’m certainly not going to make a cheap joke about the court jester and Andy Carroll). Gerrard has been strutting his stuff at Anfield since 1998, and for the national team since 2000. In the Blue corner, we have his Southern counterpart, JT’s BFF, Frank Lampard. Whilst Gerrard has only known life at a big club, Lampard began his football education at West Ham’s prolific youth academy. Under the tutelage of Tony Carr and then Uncle Harry, young Frank made his debut in the 1995-96 season (first on loan at Swansea) before eventually moving on to current club Chelsea in the summer of 2001 for what at the time seemed an excessive £11m but in hindsight, was something of a bargain. He made his England debut in 1999.

The Background:

Lampard is 2 years older than his Mersey rival and has been on fans radars that bit longer. Having always been an attacking central midfielder, he perhaps had a head start on Gerrard in terms of goals scoring. Those of you who can remember far enough, will recall that Gerrard initially broke into the England team as the deeper lying defensive midfielder next to the attacking Paul Scholes. It appeared as though Lampard was being groomed to play the attacking role from the middle, whilst Scholes was pushed out left. However, by this point Gerrard had started to display his attacking instincts, rather than being the holding player he first appeared. The result being a headache for their national coach for the best part of a decade. Gerrard’s been pushed forward, Lampard back, Gerrard wide, and Lampard as part of a diamond. Yet still, England have never really performed with the two players in tandem.
National team aside, there’s also been their club form, with both known throughout the World as two of the best goal scoring midfielders in football. Add to that a bit of bad blood between the clubs and Gerrard’s aborted move to Chelsea, and you have a debate on your hands. Who is or was better?


As with the Messi vs Ronaldo comparison, I’ll be comparing their league form as there are no rankings applied to the Champions League. The comparison will begin from the 2001-02 season when Lampard began his Chelsea career. I’ll also review their international goals as well. Unlike the Ronaldo v Messi comparison, this will be based on final league positions.

Premier League:

And so onto the Stats. At first glance, and much to my surprise, there’s actually no comparison at all. In the ten and a half seasons since Lampard joined Chelsea, he’s scored 123 league goals in 362 games to Gerrard’s 78 in 320. That’s a rate of 0.34 per game compared to 0.24 or on the other hand, a goal every 3 games for Lampard aginst one every 4 games for Gerrard. Case closed.

All Hail Frank Lampard – king of the goalscoring midfielders. He’s got more goals, more assists, and more against the Top 6 with a very impressive 24 goals compared to Gerrard’s 14. And he can be relied on to play more games each season. Gerrard only comes out on top in terms of Average Opposition. On average, across the 10 and a half season, his goals are against 11.82 ranked opponents, compared to Lampards 12.39.

Well, that didn’t take long at all, I should probably start on the Henry vs van Nistelrooy comparison.

But wait. Scratch a little under the surface and things are indeed a little closer, and worth a comparison. Since Zola left Chelsea at the end of the 2002-03 season, Lampard has been taking his teams penalties, and he’s scored 33 of them. Take the penalties out and he’s on 90 goals. In that same time, Gerrard has scored 12 penalties, taking his goal tally down to 66. Now 90 vs 66 is still a decent gap, but if we took Gerrard’s goalscoring rate and applied it to 362 appearances, he’d be on for 75 goals.

Lampard is still on top, but once you take away the penalties, the goals per game is now just 0.25 to 0.21. Gerrard is still doing it against better opposition as well – his Average Opposition Index is 12.29 compared to Lampard’s 12.80. The most telling numbers though are in the goals against Top 6 Opposition. With penalties removed, Lampard loses almost half of his goals against the top ranked opponents. It’s now only 11 goals vs Gerrard’s 10 goals – and this is essentially in a season more of appearances – 42 extra.

So from a big game player point of view, the stats are now leaning towards Gerrard. What must also be taken into account is the teams that they play in. Since 2001, Chelsea have won the title 3 times and finished 2nd a further 4 times. Their average position over the 10 full seasons is 2nd. In the same period, Liverpool have finished 2nd twice, but more tellingly, have finished outside the Champions League Top 4 spots in four seasons. Their average position is 4th. Even the most die hard Liverpool fan would have to admit that Chelsea have consistently had better players. Goal scoring opportunities, and indeed assists are largely dependent on team mates.

Looking at the above graph, both players best goalscoring seasons have coincided with the team’s highest finish. In 2008-09, Gerrard scored 16 league goals (12 after penalties) in the season that they’ve come closest to winning the Premier League, finishing the season on 86 points. Lampard meanwhile scored an incredible 22 goals in 2009-10 (13 after penalties) to end Manchester United’s 3 year spell of dominance. This would suggest each player’s goals were significant to the club’s final positions.

It’s not an exact science, but if you take out the goals scored by each player, Chelsea would be worse of by an average of 3.5 points per season, whereas Gerrard’s equivalent contribution is 3.6. Nothing in it. But what about the percentage of the overall team points – to allow for the quality of the teams. Well once again, it’s very close. Lampard’s goals are directly responsible for 4.33% per season of Chelsea’s points over the last 10 seasons. Gerrard’s goals are worth 5.33% of Liverpool’s total points per season. On this measure, Gerrard is more important to his team. For the record, with penalties, Lampard’s percentage increases to 7.33% compared to Gerrard’s 6.02%.

What this parameter doesn’t take into account is the order of the goal. As mentioned in the last Premier League update, “you could for example take Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Norwich earlier in the season. As Chelsea won by two goals and had three different goal scorers, take one of Bosingwa’s, Lampard’s or Mata’s goals away and the result would still be 2-1 to Chelsea – meaning that there is no direct impact to the result and number of points. In reality – the opening goal of a game is always important (Bosingwa), and Frank Lampard’s goal in that match was in the 84th minute, which put Chelsea back ahead. Both were important goals, but due to Mata’s injury time goal – the importance in this formula lessens.”

With this in mind, what’s the average order of their goals? We know that the first goal is always the most important for a team, whilst the second can often prove decisive. For Chelsea, for both his 123 league goals, and the 90 from open play, Lampard on average, scores Chelsea’s 2.1 goal. In the same period, Gerrard’s 78 league goals have come as Liverpool’s 1.9 goal, compared to 1.8 after penalties are removed.

So all in all, looking at all of the stats based on their goalscoring, the average and range of the opponent, and the importance to their teams, there’s very little to choose between them. Lampard has more goals, Gerrard has a better opponent per goal. Lampard has more assists, but Gerrard is more important to his team. I hate to sit on the fence, and generally dislike to do so, but there’s nothing in it.


The lads enjoying another high point with England

But what of their contributions to the national team. After all, the biggest talking point around the players is why can’t they play together? Well as we’ve seen above, they’re just too similar. Sir Alf Ramsey famously didn’t choose the best players in every position to win the World Cup back in 66. He played the players that gave the best balance – a balance that’s missing when they’ve played together in the middle. We know that Gerrard is likely to be pushed further forward or even out wide if both players make the starting line up in the upcoming European Championships, but who deserves the attacking central midfield slot?

I’m afraid it’s not much clearer at International level either. They’ve both played pretty much the same amount of games for England, and in that time, Lampard leads the goal count with 23 to 19. However, once penalties are removed, Gerrard has actually scored 19 to Lampard’s 16.

Both have scored against good opposition – Gerrard’s first goal was in the 5-1 win away at Germany in the 2002 World Cup qualifying game. Lampard can count goals against number 1 ranked France (Euro 2004) and Spain in his tally. Of their goals, 7 of Lampard’s have been in friendlies, compared to Gerrard’s 5. The average opposition index leans in Lampard’s favour by 14 places, which would suggest he is the bigger game player for England. Indeed, he was voted England’s player of the year after his 3 goal haul in Euro 2004. The Elephant in the room though is the World Cup. Gerrard has scored 3 goals in the two World Cup’s he’s played in whereas Lampard has received criticism (particularly in 2006) for failing to do so, despite many many shots. He can count himself unlucky that his excellent chip against Germany in the last World Cup was incorrectly disallowed.

So looking at the Internationl records, we’re still in the dark. Lampard has the better Average Opposition, but more goals are in Friendlies, and he takes the penalties. He did have a great European Championships, but Gerrard has scored in 2 World Cups, and has more goals in open play – despite starting off in the holding role.

In Conclusion:

In terms of who’s the better player for the big games, I’m afraid it’s just too close to call. Both players have scored in Champions League finals. Both have scored decisive goals in FA Cup finals. Gerrard has also scored in the League Final and the UEFA Cup Final, whilst Lampard has scored the goals to win Chelsea the title. Both have scored 4 league goals vs perennial title winners Manchester United. Both are big game players. Lampard has 22 European Goals in 89 games (including 4 with West Ham), Gerrard has 38 in 116. Gerrard is more important to his team, whereas Lampard does it more consistantly, albeit against slightly lower opposition.

Looking strictly at the stats, it’s impossible to call this one, and despite hating sitting on the fence, this one will have to be left up to each reader’s interpretation. What can be agreed on by all, is that they are both outstanding players, and will go down as two of the Premier League and indeed European Football’s best goalscoring midfielders.

Any comparisons you’d like to see, please let me know.



Note: Stats were correct up to January 13th. Typically, Lampard has just scored again today.

Bundesliga Round 17

11 Jan

Halfway point in the German top division has left the table looking very familiar – Bayern Munich are 3 points clear at the top, ahead of 2011 Champions Borussia Dortmund. However, the teams in 3rd (Schalke 04) and 4th (Borussia Mönchengladbach), finished last season in 14th and 16th respectively.

Schalke is less of a surprise after finishing 2nd in the 2009-10 season and a good run to the Champions League Semi-Final’s last season. Despite losing Manuel Neuer to Bayern Munich, they’ve performed well this season – with Huntelaar and the ever young Raul scoring 24 goals between them. Mönchengladbach on the other hand only stayed up in the relegation play off last season with a late goal in the second leg away at Bochum.

But what of the top scorers and their performances against decent/poor opposition? Read on….

2011’s remake of Twins wasn’t the same without Arnie and De Vito

Top Scorers:

Continuing his 28 goal top scoring season last year (and remember it’s a 34 game season), Mario Gomez (pictured above with evil Gary Neville Lookalike Frank Ribery) is leading the race for goals once again this season. However, there is a twist. His average opponent per goal is not only a lowly 12.5 – a whole 2 places lower than the expected average, he has also failed to notch against any team ranked in the Top 6 at the start of each round.

At the start of the season, some commentators were suggesting that this Bayern Munich side was one of the best in the club’s history. This seemed to be a pretty bold claim given the history of the 4 time European Cup winners. After a surprise defeat in the opening round against Monchengladbach, they then went on to win 7 of the next 8, drawing the other game – whilst also embarrasing Manchester City in the Champions League. However, since then, they’ve lost a further 3 games in the league, and hold only a 3 point lead in the Bundesliga. Maybe not their best ever team….

Some familiar names on the above list for those not upto speed with the German top division will be former Real Madrid and Ajax forward, Klaas Jan Huntelaar. His 15 goals actually have a worse average rating than Gomez’ at 13.2, though he does at least have some form against Top 6 teams with a goal against Werder Bremen in round 17 and one against an early season high flying Mainz. His former Real Madrid team mate Raul has also followed up his promising first season outside of Spain with 9 goals this time around. He has less goals than his partner but has done it against better opponents – with 4 against other Top 6 teams and an average of 9.67 per opponent per goal. Not unexpected for someone who’s scored in Champions League finals and has 44 goals for Spain.

For the fans of the Premier League, many (Chelsea fans) may be surprised to see how many goals Claudio Pizarro has. This isn’t a one off season either – his record in Germany is very good. Arsenal target Lukas Podolski is also enjoying a fruitful season in front of goal. After his big move to Bayern Munich didn’t work out, he moved back to his hometown club – and this season has the best record against Top 6 opponents, with 8 goals registered against then Top 6 opposition.

But the big game player average leader is Norway and Hannover’s Mohammed Abdellaoue (of Moroccan parentage for those wondering). He scored 10 in 26 last season, but looks set to top that this season with 9 goals in 14 games so far. And it’s not just his ability to perform against big teams that makes him stand out this season…….

Points per Player:

He’s also leading the way in both points gained and the importance to his team. If you remove his goals from the final score, Hannover would be 12 points worse off – 52% down.

Gomez and Huntelaar lead the way in goals only, but players like Mandzukic at Wolfsburg (40%), Raffael (35% of Hertha Berlin’s points) and the aforementioned Pizarro are proving to be more important to their teams. It’s a slightly unfair statistic – players that are in better teams will look worse because their teams win by bigger margins, therefore making individual goals less important. There’s no measurement at the moment on the order of the goal – for example, your team’s first goal is always important, even in a 6-0 win.

Clean Sheets:

And just to show that this site isn’t just about the glory boys putting the ball in the onion bag, he’s the Bundesliga Average Opposition Index clean sheet stats. Bayern once again are leading the way here with 10 clean sheets. After their opening day defeat, they only conceded in one match of the next 10 – including 8 straight shut outs. Since then though, they’ve let in a sloppy 7 goals in 6 games. Okay, not really that sloppy, but normal.

Aside from the actual number of clean sheets, they also have a decent Average Opponent for each one. With 3 clean sheets against fellow Top 6ers. Equalling that achievement, and also bettering the Average is Hoffenheim (Demba Ba’s club before he moved moved to England). Although only ranked 9th in an 18 team league, they’ve managed 6 clean sheets in their first 17 games, and have done so against decent opposition – Monchengladbach, Munich and Dortmund have all failed to find a way through, resulting in a well deserved place at the top of the averages.

It’s just the French League left of the the big 5 European Leagues. I’m hoping to get that one up in the next week, along with the second in the Player Comparison series – Lampard vs Gerrard. They’re both big name players, but are they big game players? And who comes out on top in the Average Opposition Index?



Premier League – Round 20

7 Jan

And so another round of Premier League games have come and gone, and we’re now past the half way mark and into the Business Half of the season. Round 20 saw some significant movement at both ends of the table, Man City managed to put their recent poor form behind them and moved 3 points clear of their (equally noisy?) neighbours after dispatching 6th placed Liverpool at home with a comfortable 3-0 win. Man Utd continued to falter with a second consecutive defeat, this time to Newcastle, and as with the Blackburn defeat, they conceded 3 goals again. Spurs continued their impressive form with a hard fought victory against West Brom – courtesy of Jermain Defoe and his odd hair.

Defoe praying that he doesn’t pick up the wrong bottle again

At the other end of the table, Fulham moved out of the Bottom 6 after the late late show against Arsenal. The other winners in the relegation scrap were Bolton, who despite conceding to a Goalkeeper (and a modest one at that – well played Tim Howard), went on to a surprise victory away at Goodison Park. Everton’s goalscoring has been a problem this season and it was good of Howard to contribute, but they need their strikers and the likes of Cahill to take the pressure off of their free scoring keeper. Blackburn, Wigan, Wolves and QPR all lost. Hats of to Sunderland, who followed their win against Man City with a massive 4-1 win away at Wigan.

So how does this affect the AOI for goalscorers?Robin van Persie continues to lead, but Demba Ba has closed the gap to just two goals. Newcastle will be hoping he doesn’t perform similarly in the African Cup of Nations, or else they could be without him longer than they can afford. His Average has jumped from 11.57 per opponent per goal, to a much more balanced 10.93. Remember that the all round regular scorer should be around 10.5 across a season. How West Ham must be cursing their luck that they didn’t recoup any transfer fee for the prolific marksman. Sergio Aguero also increased his tally and indeed his average with a Pepe Reina assisted strike against Liverpool. Not only does this increase his average opponent per goal to 10.93 (the same as Demba Ba), but it also increases his number of strikes against Top 6 opposition. He’s now scored against Man Utd, Liverpool, Newcastle and Spurs in this impressive debut season.

Mario Balotelli continues to hold the Big Game Player tag, though hasn’t moved for a while due to injuries. The worst average per goal belongs to midfielder Rafael van der Vaart of Tottenham. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp certainly won’t mind this, as they’ve now matched Man City as the only teams with 3 players in the Top Scorers lists.

New Stat Alert – Goals as Points!

After adding some Average Opposition stats on the Nationalities and Clean Sheets last time 0ut, I’ve been looking into  another barometer for the importance of goals. This isn’t necessarily linked to their average opponent, but it is a measure of importance to the result – albeit heavily weighted towards Forwards/Goalscorers. The below table is a formula driven stat which is far from an exact science, but is interesting none the less. The below stats shows the number of points that the team would lose if you took out the players goals.

It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t strictly the importance of goals – you could for example Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Norwich earlier in the season. As Chelsea won by two goals and had three different goal scorers, you could take one of Bosingwa’s, Lampard’s or Mata’s goals away and the result would still be 2-1 to Chelsea – meaning that there is no direct impact to the result and number of points. In reality – the opening goal of a game is always important (Bosingwa), and Frank Lampard’s goal in that match was in the 84th minute, which put Chelsea back ahead. Both were important goals, but due to Mata’s injury time goal – the importance in this formula lessens.

So with that in mind – what of the above table? Well it’s no surprise that Robin van Persie is responsible for the most points for his team – with massive 17 (47.22% of Arsenal’s total points). If you took van Persie’s goals away, then Arsenal would be in 15th Place – though of course the player replacing him may well have scored elsewhere.

But van Persie is not the most important player for his team – that honour falls to the Yak, who’s goals equate to a massive 78.57% of Blackburn’s points. Admittedly, they are bottom of the table, but it still shows a) what a great signing he’s been and b) they rely far too much on him. Without him, they’d be even further adrift instead of the 3 points off 17th they are. The syrup loving Demba Ba is the second top scorer in the league, and is 3rd in points gained – however, when taking into account the team’s position and points, his 15 goals at 30.3% are worth less to his team than Jordi Gomez’s 4 goals for Wigan – which are worth 40% of the team’s points.

The current Big Game Player holder is Man City’s Balotelli, but based on the above calculation, his 8 goals, against good teams have resulted in no points. How so? Well every game he’s scored in which has resulted in points for his team (all aside from the defeat to Chelsea), has been won by more than one goal. Even when he scored a brace against Man Utd, the team won by 5 goals – meaning his goals did not directly contribute to the final result.

Does this statistic prove anything? Not definitively – but it does show the importance of certain players to their teams.



Serie A Round 18 – Pre Winter Break

5 Jan

And so the quest to complete the Average Opposition Index for Europe’s top leagues continues. Hot on the heels of the more glamorous La Liga is Italy’s Serie A – traditionally known as a more defensive league (and still by those who haven’t followed the Italian League since the glory days of James Richardson’s Gazzetta Football Italia).

On reality it still has slightly less goals per game to the Premier League and La Liga but the gap isn’t as wide as commonly thought.

In terms of AOI (Average Opposition Index – hoping it catches on) for the Top Scorers, there’s some familiar names below; perrenial league winner Ibrahimovic (10.55) is flying high, perrenial top scorer Di Natale (11.90) and perrenial big game player Miroslav Klose (10.63), who seems to be enjoying his his first season in Serie A (and first outside of Germany). However, it’s the relatively unknown German Denis on loan to newly promoted Atalanta (from Udinese), that leads the way in goals. Last season, the Argentinian notched just 4 times in 25 Serie A appearances compared to the 12 goals in 16 league games this season.

There’s also a whole host of rising stars in the list as well – Edison Cavani (12.00) of Napoli is one of the most wanted players in World Football at the moment, Jovetic is continuing to impress at Fiorentina, Matri is surprising the haters/doubters at Juventus, and former Juve player Sebastian Giovinco is reaping the benefits of regular first team football at Parma.

And it’s Giovinco that’s leading from an AOI point of view with an impressive 5.14 (second only to Cesc Fabregas in the top leagues). So far this season he’s managed to score away at former club Juventus, away at AC Milan and home to Udinese to prove he doesn’t go missing in the big games. His 3 goals against Top 6 opponents is second only to Lazio’s Klose.

As shown by his record of 14 World Cup goals, Polish born Klose has long been a player that delivers in important games. And despite playing abroad for the first time at the ripe old age of 33, he’s continued to score against the big teams. With 4 goals, he is the outright leader in the Top 6 range and his AOI is only as low as 10.63 due to a recent brace against bottom place Lecce. AC Milan, AS Roma and Fiorentina have already been on the end of his scoring touch in what has been a great start to his Serie A career.

A couple of the AC Milan Players react well to Zlatan’s pony tail

The current holder of the wooden spoon for the worst AOI rating (for those with 5 goals and above) is Emanuele Calaio. Each of his 5 goals have been on average against 15th place. The highest opponent he has scored against was 12th placed Lecce, who are now in 20th place.

In terms of the Average Opposition at the time of playing, Lazio have had the toughest run in terms of playing teams in good form. Their average opponent so far this season is ranked at 9.188. The fact that they’re in 4th place in the table is surely a good sign for the second half of the season. At the other of the table, the team that’s had the worst average opponent is 10th placed Genoa. The average opponent they’ve faced so far this season is 11.875. They finished last season in their current position, which would suggest progress could be greater.

League leaders AC Milan are doing well based on the 5th hardest run, whilst a revitalised Juventus have perhaps been bolstered by the timing of playing out of form teams. AC Milan and Inter Milan were both defeated earlier in the season, whilst ranked 12th and 16th at the start of the round of fixtures. Those teams are now in 1st and 5th after a turn around in form. Whilst Juventus have performed heroics to remain unbeaten in the league, the timing of the fixtures should be considered.

And so that’s the first update for Serie A for this season. I’ll be adding the Budesliga and Ligue Un in the hopefully near future.

Any feedback or comments are always welcome.