Archive | February, 2012

La Liga Round 24

29 Feb

Some strange strange goings on this weekend in La Liga. Firstly, after going 8 games without a win, and finally giving up that last Champions League place, Levante finally got their act together and won. Not only that, but they have somehow gone back up to 4th place with just one win in nine games – the dream is alive!

Secondly, Falcao has finally done it. He’s finally scored against a Top 6 team. And not just any Top 6 team. He scored the equaliser for Atleti against the Barcelona. Ultimately it wasn’t enough though because (thirdly) Lionel Messi decided this weekend would be a good time to show he can bang in a free kick from 25 yards out.

Ronaldo did his best to top Messi’s effort by back heeling in the winner for Real Madrid away at Rayo Vallecano. Those goals mean that Madrid stay 10 points clear and Cristiano Ronaldo stays a goal ahead in the race for the golden boot.

Falcao now has a big proud “1” in the goals against Top 6 opponents column. Sure, it’s only 1 out of 15, and sure he’s still got the worst Average Opposition ranking, but the man now has momentum. In all seriousness, it is his first season in a new country and to be third in the goal scoring charts is a good achievement. Atletico Madrid have games against other Top 6 teams Real Madrid (1st), Levante (4th), Bilbao (5th) and Malaga (6th) before the end of the season, with Falcao having the opportunity to build on his goal against Barcelona.

Levante’s win was against 5th placed Espanyol with a long overdue winning goal coming in the last minute from Ruben Suarez. This was also his first goal against the top ranked bucket of opponents. His average is 10.75 which is close to where you’d expect a consistent goal scorer to be (10.5).

Osasuna’s Dejan Lekic is one of the form players of the league at the moment. He has 4 goals in his last 4 games, including a brace to beat Barcelona 3-2. And not just that, his 4 goals have been worth 6 points to his team – propelling them up to 7th place. His 29th minute goal proved to be the difference as Granada (17th) were beaten.

Cesc Fabregas’s goals have certainly dried up of late, but his assists haven’t. His assist for Dani Alves’ opener was his 7th of his La Liga career. His lack of goals since Round 17 have meant that his average hasn’t been affected. As a result, he’s still the leader in the AOI rankings with 4.78. Barca team mate Alexis Sanchez is the nearest challenger with 6.88. Ronaldo continues to lead the way against Top 6 opponents with 12.

Next week there’ll be a development on the stats. Yes, I finally have assists by game – meaning we can look at big game performance on more than just goals.

Cheers,

Liam

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Player Comparison: Romario vs Ronaldo vs Rivaldo vs Ronaldinho vs Messi

27 Feb

From the early 90’s to the current team, Barcelona have relied heavily on the magic of their South American superstars. One club, two nationalities and five of the best players of all time. All won the World Player of the Year Award in their time with the Catalan club. But who performed most in the big games? And who was most important to the team? The fourth feature in the Player Comparison series compares those brilliant Barcelona boys – Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Messi.

The Contenders:

First up is Romario, the Brazilian marksman was a ruthless finisher, and one of only two players to have scored 1,000 career goals – depending on what you class as official (more on that one here). He played in 6 different countries for 10 different teams, including footballing giants Adelaide United, Miami FC and Al-Sadd. For Brazil, he scored an incredible 55 goals in 70 games, winning the World Cup and the Copa America (twice). Described by Johan Cruyff as a “genius of the goal area”, he won La Liga and the Spanish Super Copa during his time his short stay at Barcelona.

Ronaldo came next. And it was an even shorter stay. For the single season that he represented Barcelona, there were absolutely no doubts who the best player in the World was. Although he didn’t win the League title with the Spanish Club, he did win the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and despite later going on to play for bitter rivals Madrid, he is still considered one of the Barca greats. Like his predecessor, he also won the Two Copa Americas and a World Cup with Brazil – and is the tournaments all time top scorer with 15 goals. In total he scored 62 goals in 98 appearances for Brazil. He suffered three career threatening injuries, with many suggesting that without them, he could have been the best of all time. Despite this, he still managed to win the World Player of Year award on three occasions.

After Ronaldo’s sale to Inter Milan, Rivaldo was identified as the player to fill the “Brilliant Brazilian” hole that had been left behind. More of a playmaker than the two before him, he was still a prolific scorer, particularly in his 5 years with Barcelona. Deadly from set pieces, he also had the eye for the spectacular – none more so than his hat trick to beat Valencia on the final day of the season to pip them to the last Champions League spot in 2001. The third goal was an over head kick from outside of the area in the last minute (as seen here), and possibly better than Pele’s in escape to Victory. He had a left foot like a magic wand/traction engine, and like Ronaldo, he enjoyed his greatest moment in the 2002 World Cup, as part of the 3 R’s attack. As appears to be the pre requisite, he also won the Copa America, and scored 34 goals in 74 appearances. He’s had even more clubs than Romario, and at 39, is still playing.

Fourth in the list, was cheeky schemer Ronaldinho. As with Rivaldo, he was also more of a playmaker, one blessed with incredible dribbling skills. He is one of the few Barcelona players to have received a standing ovation from fans of Real Madrid in the Bernebeu. Although mainly deployed from wide positions, he has close to 300 career goals (stop laughing Romario) including the 33 for his country (from 93 caps). At 31, he is still strutting his stuff in the Brazilian league with Flamengo. He’s regarded by some as a wasted talent, but during his time with Barcelona he won two World Player of the Year awards. Not bad for an International Playboy (I met him once in Las Vegas – the reputation is justified). Ronaldinho’s partying and the emergence of another skillful playmaker resulted in a somewhat premature exit from the Nou Camp, after he signed for AC Milan (like Rivaldo and Ronaldo before him). As with the players above, he also has World Cup and Copa America medals.

And so on to the last and current Barca player in our list – Lionel Messi. He has the vision of Rivaldo, the dribbling of Ronaldinho, and the finishing and pace of Romario and Ronaldo. He, like Ronaldo has 3 World Player of the Year titles. Where he differs from his Brazilian predecessors (apart from his nationality) is that he’s been a one club man. He had to overcome similar physical challenges as Rivaldo before making it as a top class player. The undoubted best player in the World at the moment, he just has to do it on the International stage to truly cement his place as one of the best, if not the very best of all time. He currently has 222 goals in 309 games for his club (as at the time of writing), and a rather more modest 19 in 66 for Argentina.

“No hard feelings, I just want your Number 10”

Rules:

As per usual, it’s primarily a comparison of their Leauge goals rather than all goals. Why? Because it’s similar opposition (give or take for relegation) – and these opponents are ranked, meaning that we can calculate an average. As they played for different amounts of time for Barcelona, it’ll be a look at their most prolific season in the league. This is calculated on final league positions, rather than at the time of playing.

Of course these players aren’t just about goals, but I don’t have the assists available for Ronaldo and Romario, so will leave them out for this comparison.

Background:

Romario, then 27, signed in the summer of 1993 after 129 goals in just 5 seasons with PSV Eindhoven. Under the stewardship of Johan Cruyff, he had just one full season with the Spanish Giants, so we’ll be looking at the 1993-94 season.

Like Romario before him, Ronaldo made his European club bow with PSV, though only stayed for 2 seasons – his 54 goals in 57 games were enough to persuade Barca to part with $17m for a teenager. Under Bobby Robson, Ronaldo played just the one season with Barcelona – 1996-97.

Rivaldo joined aged 25, from La Liga rivals Deportivo La Coruna for a fee of $26m. Though he played for Barca for 5 seasons, it’s his most prolific that we’ll look at – 24 league goals in 1998-99. Free from the shackles placed upon him by Louis van Gaal in previous years, he thrived under Ferrer.

Ronaldinho’s most prolific season was actually after his two World Player of the Year awards. 2006-07 saw him bang in a decent 21 in the league in Frank Rijkaard’s penultimate season with the club.

And lastly, Messi’s best haul in La Liga was as a 22 year old. He looks set to have his best season in goal scoring terms this season, but for the purpose of this piece, we’ll use his prolific season under Pep Guardiola (Romario and Ronaldo’s team mate) in 2009-10.

This was initially going to be about the 4 Brazilian’s, but you can’t leave Messi out of this. He fits the South American World Player of the Year criteria, and plays up top, so we’ll leave him in. Even though his name doesn’t begin with R and end with O.

Statistics:

Apologies for the long build up, but we can now move onto the stats. I’ve decided to look at it based on three criteria – goal scoring out right, big game players, and importance to the team.

Goalscoring:

First up is the the goal scoring records of each player – based on goals per game and goals per minute:

Firstly, Ronaldinho’s 21 goals in 32 games would be an incredible season in most players careers, and a rate of 0.66 goals per game is an awesome strike rate. When you add to that the fact that he played wide of a front three, then it’s even more impressive. However, this comparison is against some of the greatest and most prolific forwards of all time. Whilst Ronaldinho is perhaps only second to Messi in the dribbling stakes, he’s last in the goals table. Similarly, Rivaldo was more than just a goal scorer, so 24 league goals is a great season. To put it into perspective, it would have won the golden boot 4 of the seasons from 1997-2004.

And so onto the super strikers. In all honesty, there’s not much in it. Ronaldo and Messi lead the way in terms of goals scored with 34 (Messi in two games less). Romario wasn’t too far behind with 30 league goals from just 33 games. They all have close to a goal a game strike rate with 0.91, 0.92 and 0.97 goals per game for Romario, Ronaldo and Messi respectively. To add some perspective, in the last 20 years only 3 other players have broken the 30 goal mark in a season – Cristiano Ronaldo last season, Diego Forlan the year before that, and Pizzi for Tenerife back in 1996. Pizzi did so in a 42 game season (he played 41 games), and whilst Ronaldo also did so in a 42 game season, he only played 37 games – within the confines of a normal season now. It’s interesting to see that the 30 goal mark has been broken in the last 3 (soon to be 4) seasons. Is La Liga getting easier?

When looking at the goals per minute, it’s Messi once again that does this business with a goal every 83.53 minutes. That works out better than a goal a game, and when allowing for injury time at the end of both halves of football – Ronaldo and Romario pretty much equal that with goals every 94 and 91.9 minutes. In terms of games scored in, Ronaldo walks this one, with a massive 23. It’s up to you the reader to decide if it’s better to score in more games, or to score multiple times in fewer games. Ronaldo can certainly say his goals influenced more games than the other players.

Winner: It’s a joint win for Ronaldo and Messi on this one. Messi equalled Ronaldo’s 34 in less games/minutes, but Ronaldo did it in more games. It’s also easy to argue that Messi’s team mates were better than Ronaldo’s. Honourable mention to Romario.

Big Game Players:

And so on to round 2, and the lifeblood of this site – who was most effective in the big games? Once again, unfortunately I don’t have the assists available for each player – so whilst they may have dominated the game without scoring (see Messi vs Real Madrid in 2010/11), we’re solely looking at goals.

Well well well. I didn’t just put it together like this so that Ronaldinho and Rivaldo could prevent it from turning into a 2 horse race. It’s certainly interesting that the two Playmakers have the best average ranked opposition per goal. Even though they scored the least amount of goals, they had the mentality to perform in the big games – more so than the small games. They’re the only two on the list that have more goals against the Top 6 than the Bottom 6. It was certainly levelled at Ronaldinho that he didn’t always turn up for the small games (mentally not physically) – and this goes some way to proving it.

Big game? That’ll be Real Madrid. Interestingly, all 5 players scored against arch rivals Real Madrid in their Barca careers, though Ronaldinho didn’t manage it in his most prolific season (a young Messi did though). Romario banged in a hat trick in a 5-0 whitewash, Ronaldo scored the winner in a 1-0 win whilst chasing the Madrid club for the title, Rivaldo scored in a 3-0 win, and Messi scored in a 2-0 win at the Berbebeu.

Although Ronaldinho didn’t have the goal against Madrid, he did score against the teams in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th. And this was a league table where 3rd placed Sevilla were only 5 points off the title, rather than the 24 points that Valencia are behind in today’s table.

Messi has the most goals against Top 6 opposition with 10, but this was in a league where 3rd placed Valencia finished 28 points behind the Champions, and 6th placed Getafe were 41 points off Top spot – whilst only 22 off relegation. The gap between 1st and 6th was only 16 points in Ronaldinho’s 2006-07 season – the lowest by someway – adding to the importance of Top 6 goals.

Ronaldo and Romario fall victim to being consistent with an expected split weighted towards the middle range, and it’s worth noting that Ronaldo’s goals against the Top 6 opposition were worth more points (6) than any of the others.

Winner:Although his star had started to fade, it was Ronaldinho’s big game mentality that shone through. He scored twice the amount of goals against Top 6 as he did against Bottom 6, had the best Average ranked opposition for each goal, and the league he played in was still very very competitive. The only he didn’t notch against Real, he did against all the other challengers.

Importance to team – goals as points:

The last measure is based on the importance of the goals. It’s not an exact science but it does give a basis to measure the importance of a goal. For the mathematics behind it, click on the Rules and Workings page. So if we take Romario’s hat trick against Real Madrid as an example, he’d receive zero points for his treble as the team won 5-0. If you take his goals away, then they’d still win 2-0. Similarly, Rivaldo’s hat trick against Valencia in 2001 was worth all 3 points as they were the only Barca goals in a 3-2 win. Take them out and the team lose 0-2. So with that in mind:

Despite scoring less goals than Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, it’s Rivaldo who’s goals were most important to his team. His 24 goals were woth a massive 20 points to Barcelona’s final tally of 79. This means that he also leads the way in the percentage of team points he was responsible for, with a mightily impressive 25.32. Barcelona went on to win the title that year and usually you’d expect the Champions points spread quite wide across a team. It’s not unusual to see a struggling team have a stand out player for points, as the team points is that much lower, so to score goals worth a quarter of the final tally is very impressive.

Ronaldo once again is there are there abouts. His 34 league goals were worth 17 points as Bobby Robson’s team just missed out on the title by 2 points to Real Madrid. If he’d played all the games, it’s likely that he would have made the difference. He edges out his predecessor Romario who had a credible 16 points. Surprisingly enough, Messi and Ronaldinho’s goals were only worth 13 points – 13.13% and 16.67% of the the over all points tally.

Although they were less important that the other players, Messi is ahead on the percentage of the team goals scored with 34.69% – narrowly ahead of Ronaldo and Romario.

Winner:This one has to go to Rivaldo. Whilst he scored less goals than than 3 of the other contendors, the goals he did score were worth more to his team. Honourable mention to Ronaldo who won 17 points, and scored a third of his teams goals.

Overall Winner:

With wins for each player (aside from Romario) across the three categories, it’s incredibly hard to call this one. Each reader will have their own opinion as to which parameter is most important. Some may well argue that stats don’t tell the whole story – and i’d agree to an extent, as there is no measurement on assists, on brilliance, beauty, style etc…..Personally, Ronaldo is my favourite footballer of all time, regardless of the stats, but regular readers will no that I don’t like to sit on the fence, nor let my preconceptions shape the outcome.

As a result, I decided to rank the players on each measurement and work out the average position. And so, without further ado, I give you:

Overall Winner:

Well it looks like Messi has done it again. Taking into account every single parameter, he just edges out Ronaldo with a average rank of 2.4 across the 10 measurements, with Ronaldo averaging 2.5. It’s no surprise that the order is the same as the number of goals scored.

Whilst he appears set to be crowned Barcelona’s all time greatest player – and 3 Champions League titles of their 4 would suggest it’s justified, it’s worth noting that Ronaldo’s 34 league goals (and 47 overall) came when he was just 19 years old. Messi’s season at 19 read played 26, scored 14 (17 in 36 overall). So whilst Messi is the winner here, i’d stick my neck out and say that had Ronaldo stayed at Barcelona, and avoided injuries, then he would have won.

Interestingly, if you remove the percentage of team goals statistic, then Messi and Ronaldo are level.

In Conclusion:

All five players were among the best of their generation, and arguably of all time. It’s a shame that Romario and Ronaldo’s stay was so short as they both had their best seasons with the club, and it meant that the comparison was restricted to just one season per player.

Whilst Messi tops the league in this comparison, he still falls short on the international stage. The four Brazilians have World Cup and Copa America glory, and until Messi wins big and performs well on the biggest stage, there will still be some doubting his place on the football pantheon, alongside Pele, Maradona and Zidane. I would also put Ronaldo on that list. He’s the all time top scorer in the World Cup, he’s the three time World Player of the year, and he had to overcome three career threatening injuries resulting in having to change his game. A good piece of trivia is that he is the only player to have scored on both sides of the Clasico and the Milan derbies. Ronaldo aged 17-21 is one of the greatest players of all time, and better than Messi at the same age.

Luckily for Messi, there were no measurements based on partying.

Further Viewing:

Enjoy:

Romario 1993/94

Ronaldo 1996/97 Top 10 (The top 3 are ridiculous)

Ronaldo 1996/97 All Goals

Rivaldo 1998/99

Ronaldinho 2006/07

Messi 2009/10

Apologies for the length of this one, but with five players (and five of the all time best), it’s hard to keep the word count down. Make up your own mind who you think was best for Barca. The stats say Messi, my own personal choice is Ronaldo, but it differs for everyone. I hope you enjoyed the latest Player Comparison, and as always, all suggestions are welcome. Whether you want an in depth anaysis, or are just wondering about the stats of a few players to settle a pub argument.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 26

26 Feb

Blimey, that was quite the match. I’m sure no one in the crowd could complain they didn’t get their money’s worth from that one. But that’s enough about Wigan 0-0 Villa (too obvious? It’s a numbers game i’m afraid).

He knew

Many had been writing off Arsenal’s season, and some crazy fools were even calling for Wenger’s resignation. What were they thinking? Well football certainly is a fickle game. The North London derby has certainly pulled up some classics in recent years and today’s was no different. Not only was it the show piece game of the round (in the league) but it was also what must be described as a big game. Spurs in 3rd, Arsenal in 4th. It gave all the players on show the chance to prove their big game mentality.

And how. Despite being on the losing side, Emmanuel Adebayor now has the Big Game Player crown after notching against his old club. After going batshit mental whilst scoring for Man City against the Gunners a few years back, this time the big fella showed a bit more stability. His goal against 4th placed Arsenal coupled with Mario’s goal vs 17th placed Blackburn has meant that we have our first change at the top since the creation of this site in round 13. I’m sure this won’t console him at losing though.

The derby also saw some movement in the Arsenal team. As expected, when Arsenal do well, it generally means van Persie has done well. His goal today took him clear in the race for goals against the Top 6. Today’s goal was in addition to strikes against Man Utd (2) and Chelsea (3). And he wasn’t the only Arsenal player carrying on the trend of performing in the big games. Although you won’t see it above, Theo Walcott scored his 4th and 5th league goals of the season with an average ranked opponent of………4.60! Despite getting a fair bit of stick this year, young Theo (and remember, he’s still only 22) has scored against Man Utd (then 1st), Chelsea (4th) and now two against 3rd placed Spurs. The only blot on his copy book is a goal vs 12th placed Swansea in round 21. Well played Theo.

Theo can’t hide his delight at hearing his Average Opposition rating

Elsewhere, it was very much a case of the old timers proving their worth. Andre Villas Boas may not like using the older fellas but he could learn from Fergie. Man Utd’s win against 8th placed Norwich was courtesy of goals from 37 year old Paul Scholes and Ryan “Giggsy” Giggs, at a spritely 38. After being dropped for the Champions League game, Frank Lampard came back into the starting line up and showed AVB that experience does count for something. It was his 150th league goal, and the first player to score 10 league goals in 9 consecutive seasons. Yesterday’s goal put him back at the top of the goal scoring midfielders list alongside Clint Dempsey:

Round 26 also saw Grant Holt’s fairytale season continue. This time he scored against 2nd placed Manchester United. Although the goal ultimately resulted in nothing, it was an equaliser at the time, and it was a hell of a finish. This goal helped increase his average opposition to 8.90 and it was his 3rd goal vs Top 6 opposition. Not bad for someone that was playing for Shrewsbury Town just two and a half seasons back.

And just to conclude, a quick look at the League Cup final. Although not a league game, and therefore out of the remit for my stats, it’s without doubt a big game. And although it was close in the end, the result went as expected with Gerrard lifting the cup. It continued a couple of trends we’ve seen. Firstly, Dalglish is the man for the big occasion. In the cups this season they’ve knocked out Man Utd (2nd), Chelsea (5th), and Man City (1st), whilst also clocking up league wins over Arsenal (4th), Chelsea (5th) and Newcastle (6th). Add to this the league wins last season against Man Utd and Man City, and in just over a year back in charge, Dalglish has taken some noticeable scalps. The League Cup is another big game tick, and they’re still in the hunt for the FA Cup.

Another trend continued in this match was that of Dirk Kuyt’s big game player tag. Although he’s played less than he would have liked this year, he’s scored a winner against Man Utd, and a League Cup Final goal. Looking back at last season, he had an average of 8.08 and looking back a little further, he also has a Champions League final goal to his name against AC Milan. Taking into account a decent record in the Merseyside Derby, and you start to see a pattern. The part time model may not be as prolific as was hoped upon signing (71 league goals in 101 games for Feyenoord), but he certainly has a big game mentality.

I’ll be publishing the next Player Comparison this week. As a hint, it involves 5 players with 9 World Player of the Year Titles between them.

Cheers,

Liam

Serie A Round 24

22 Feb

They say there’s no easy games in top class football these days. I would suggest there is – Inter Milan. After their well documented 7 match winning run under new manager Tinkerman Ranieri, they’ve been terrible. In the last 5 games, they’ve picked up just one point. Without wanting to sound like a broken record, I’m afraid it was another very bad weekend for Inter Milan. After losing at home to bottom placed Novaro last week, they’ve gone and done it again with another home defeat, this time to 16th place Bologna, 3-0. They’ve now conceded 12 goals in their last 4 games. This is a team with Zanetti, Lucio, Samuel, Stankovic, Maicon, Cambiasso, Sneijder, and Forlan. They’ve already lost 10 league games this season, and there’s already talk of Ranieri losing his job.

“Bugger”

It’s not quite the doom and gloom I’ve made out to be though. They are in 7th place. It’s just a club the size of Inter (2010 Champions League winners) shouldn’t be 6 points off the Champions League places. Serie A only get 3 places in Europe’s premier club competition, so it’s looking like a tough task to qualify. Though I for one don’t feel too sorry for this cheeky young scamp.

Of course it doesn’t help that your biggest and nearest rivals are currently top of the table. Yep, even without Zlatan, the suspended self crowned King of Football (and possibly the Universe), they managed to sweep 19th placed Cesena aside 3-1 away. What was interesting about this game were the scorers. After his goal against Arsenal, Robinho concluded his good week with another goal, but it was the names of Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari (on loan from Inter), that caught my attention as both scored their first goals for AC Milan. This means that the club have now had 18 different goal scorers in the league this season. That’s 4 more than any other team.

At the other end of the scale, Bologna have only had 7 different scorers, which perhaps explains their lowly position of 14th – although things are looking up with back to back victories against Fiorentina and Inter. Fairing a little better in 10th are Chievo who have also only had 7 different scorers.

And so on to the usual stats:

Fabrizio Miccoli’s fantastic season continued at the weekend. Faced with 4th placed Lazio, he scored the 5th goal in a cracking 5-1 win for Palermo. This both increased his AOI to 6.27 meaning he retains his Big Game Player title, and also meant that he went further ahead in the goals vs Top 6 Opposition, with 8. From 11 goals, that’s certainly an impressive return.

There’s also no change at the bottom end, with Marchisio keeping the Flat Track Bully tag. His average ranked opponent per goal is 13.33, though he hasn’t scored since round 13, which means he’ll probably fall off the top scorers list shortly. Osvaldo and Di Natale are most at risk. Something that I haven’t really noticed is that Edinson Cavani is currently without a goal vs Top 6 Opposition – which is odd considering he just scored against Chelsea in the Champions League. Although……

Elsewhere Andrea Pirlo scored his first goal for Juventus as they aim to win their first title since 2006, or 2003 depending your views on Calciopoli, as they beat 16th placed Catania 3-1 at home. An interesting scorer for Bologna (against Fiorentina in a catch up match) was one time West Ham forward Alessandro Diamanti. I say one time forward, because it turns out that West Ham were never paid by Brescia for the inconsistent playmaker. Strangely, he’s now co-owned by Bologna.

Bundesliga update is up next, and hopefully a feature this weekend.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 23

21 Feb

There were a few shocks this weekend in La Liga – firstly, one of Messi’s goals was a scrappy tap in. Secondly, Falcao didn’t score against poor opposition, but perhaps the biggest shock is that Levante are no longer in 4th place!

Yes, it finally happened. The favourite early season team of every neutral have lost one game too many (at home to 12th placed Rayo Vallecano 5-3). After just 3 points from 8 games, and no wins in the same period, the chasing pack decided to wake up, and Bilbao, Espanyol, and even Atletico Crazy Madrid have all moved above them. In fact, the win took Vallecano to within one point of them. It’s a shame they couldn’t keep up their early season form, but the way it’s going, they’ll be lucky to stay up. They have a 9 point buffer, but they’re in terrible form, and have let in 9 goals in the last two games. I’ll have a look at the end of season table to compare the first half of the season to the second – I certainly can’t recall of a collapse like it, with maybe the exception of Norwich City in 1994-95 who had one win from their last 20 games.

More of the same at the top as Real Madrid continued their Championship Manager form, racking up their 18th win in 19 league games. And as long as they keep it up then it doesn’t matter what Barcelona do. And that includes Lionel Messi. It seems odd that he’s still doing things for the first time, but Sunday saw him score 4 league goals in one match for the first time – and impressively it was against 3rd placed Valencia. Whilst it doesn’t help him close the gap on Real Madrid, it does improve his average opposition ranking to 8.85 per goal – lower than Ronaldo, and also increases his tally vs Top 6 teams to an impressive 7.

Fabregas continues to have the best average opposition ranking, though as pointed out previously, his goals have dried up. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to lead the way against the Top 6 with a massive 12 goals. Messi’s 4 goals have closed the gap though, and also in the number of total league goals. They’re scoring stats over the past 2 and a half seasons really are amzingly similar.

Falcao, as mentioned above, didn’t actually score against 19th placed Sporting Gijon, as Atletico dropped 2 points. Regardless of that, he still retains the worst average opposition index, which means he’s still the league’ flat track bully.

Last week’s predictions:

“1. Falcao to score against 19th place Gijon – his AOI is the worst in the Top Scorers list, and he has 3 against 20th placed teams, and 2 against 18th placed.

2.  Llorente to score against Malaga – he has a decent average of 9.36, and has 3 against Top 6 teams, so a team in 7th should be within range.

3. Messi to score against Valencia – to increase his record vs Top 6, and because he’s the best player in the World. Can you bet on assists?

4. It’s tempting to go for a Levante win – their average opponent per win is 7.88 or 8th. They’re well overdue a win, and are at home against a consistently inconsistent Vallecano (LLWWLLWW). Though confidence is very low – so check the odds and it might be worth a fiver.

I’ve not included Ronaldo to score against Racing as they have a Champions League game in the mid week after. If he plays though, it’s probably gonna result in a hat trick.”

Well I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t quite nail this one. Yes, both Messi and Ronaldo scored, but it hardly takes a sophisticated system to work out that the two best players in the world will score. In my defence, Llorente didn’t play in Bilbao’s 3-0 win over Malaga.

I’ll have another go at a different league before the weekend’s fixtures.

Cheers,

Liam

Serie A Round 23

17 Feb

And last but not least, on to Serie A. There hasn’t been a great amount of changes since the Round 22 update but one thing that did catch my eye is the different approach to the loan system in Italy. You can probably guess what’s coming – yep, an on loan player scored against their parent club, and it proved decisive.

Chile’s Mauricio Pinilla (see striker, journeyman) is now onto his 13th professional club in his 7th different country. Hearts fans may remember him from a brief spell in Edinburgh in 2007, but it’s in Italy where he’s currently plying his trade. After 10 goals in 35 Serie A games for Palermo, he was deemed surplus to requirements and shipped off to Sardinian club Cagliari. Last weekend, Pinilla scored the first goal in a 2-1 win against his owners, a win that takes Cagliari within a point of Palermo. He also has goals against Inter Milan (Palermo) and AS Roma (Cagliari) this season, which suggest that he perhaps has the mentality for the big occasion.

However, with just 4 league goals (worth a decent 4 points), he doesn’t register on the Average Oppostion Index scorers table.

After 23 games it’s a striker that Palermo did decide to keep that’s proving to be the Big Game Player. As per last week, Fabrizio Miccoli continues to lead the way with an average ranked opponent per goal of 6.50. He also leads the way with goals against the Top 6 teams, with an impressive 7 goals.

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio remains the Flat Track Bully, with an AOI score of 13.33, and no goals against the Top 6 teams. It’s perhaps telling that Juventus only have 2 players with 6 goals or more as they’ve lost top spot in the league. Despite being unbeaten all season, they’re trailing AC Milan who have already lost 4 games. Juventus have drawn 10 games, and it’s the lack of goals that’s costing them dear – they have 33 goals, which is only 7th best. AC Milan have 45.

It’ll be interesting to see how the season finishes. There’s certainly a lot of good will towards Juventus after the Calciopoli scandal, but AC Milan are the reigning champions, and certainly the best attacking team.

Bundesliga Round 21

15 Feb

With the Premier League and La Liga upto date, it’s time for a catch up with our German friends. And there’s a new superstar on the block.

Rolls Reus – remember that pun, you’ll see a lot more of it

Step forward Marco Reus. Those who follow German football will need no introduction to the Monchengladbach youngster, but i’ll go on the assumption that many of you will not know much about him. In the January transfer window, he agreed to sign for reigning champions Borussia Dortmund for 17.1m Euros. That’s the 3rd biggest transfer for a German player in Budesliga history – and the 13th highest of all nationalities. A big signing for Dortmund, although you can’t blame them for feeling a bit hard done by at the price, after all, he played for their youth team up until 2008. Ouch.

They won’t feel too hard done by though, if he can match his current form. At just 22 years of age, he’s scored 13 goals in 17 games, and chipped in with 4 assists for good measure. But that doesn’t tell the full story. He’s the epitome of a big game player. Of his 13 goals, a massive 10 have come against Top 6 opponents, with none against the bottom 6. His average ranked opponent per goal is a mightily impressive 5.38 – easily the highest in Germany. And he’s already helping out his future team with goals against Bayern Munich (then 1st), Schalke (3rd), and a hat trick against Werder Bremen (3rd) amoung others. He may not be the biggest name internationally, but he will be.

So apart from Reus, who else is performing well? Mario Gomez has continued to bang the goals in, albeit at a slower rate than at the start of the season, although of his 18 goals, only 1 has been against Top 6 opposition, with his AOI of 12.50 reflecting this. He’s like the Bundesliga’s Falcao. Podolski has continued his good season with 15 goals, but like his German team mate, they’ve come at a slower rate – with just one in the last 5 games (against 3rd place Schalke). That goal increased his goals against the Top Ranked opponents to a very impressive 8.

Elsewhere Stuttgart’s Austrian Striker Martin Harnik is the flat track bull with an average opposition per goal ranked at 14.70. He does have one goal against Top 6 opposition, but that’s one of ten, compared to the 6 against the bottom teams. Huntelaar who’s second in the goal scoring charts has 11 against the bottom teams, with only 2 against the Top teams.

Goals win points

In terms of the importance of their goals, it’s Mohammed Abdellaoue that remains top of both the points won league and also of the importance to their team. The 16 points that his goals have earned Hannover have been worth over half of their total points. A point per goal is impressive, and 1.45 points per goal is phenomenal. He has scored the decisive goal in 6 games.

Aside from Norwegian Mo, Claudio Pizarro has been responsible for 11 points for Werder Bremen in what has been another good season. In fact, he’s the Bundesliga’s all time top scoring foreigner with 157 goals, and 15 of them have come this season. On top of that he’s also created 7 for his team mates (Ribery leads the assist charts with 10). Not too bad for a player that looked very poor for Chelsea. Although underperforming up front for Chelsea isn’t that unusual.

Serie A to follow.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 22

14 Feb

And then there was one. Well played Jose, it looks like you’ll leave Spain with your head held high. A 10 point lead over the greatest team in the world is a pretty large gap, and one that you don’t expect a Jose Mourinho team to lose. If Barca beat Madrid again in the league, and go on to win the Champions League (possibly beating Madrid again) – it’ll be a bittersweet success for the fans and the boss. But that’s a lot of ifs. After losing away to Osasuna, Barcelona left themselves with a Bernebeu shamped mountain to climb, and Real Madrid have won 17 of their last 18 games. Good luck with that. As mentioned by La Liga expert Sid Lowe in the excellent Football Weekly, this could well be the weekend that decided the Spanish Title. Madrid can lose 3 games of the last 16 and still win the league.

Busquets after hearing about the 10 point gap

So with that decided, we can look at the rest of the league. Apart from Madrid’s ridiculous winning run, there’s been some other notable trends, that i’ve touched on before. For the seventh game running, Levante failed to pick up a win. For the seventh game running, they managed to stay in the last Champions League spot. But Seville can top that – they’ve picked up just 2 points from the last 8 games as they’ve plummeted to 13th. Unlucky for some. But wait, there’s more! And this is quite the shock – and no, it’s not Falcao scoring against anyone good. Bottom side Real Zaragoza, ended Round 22 with a win, their first in 14 (fourteen) games. And more surprising than that is that it was against 5th placed Espanyol (see Levante, Lucky). And it was away!

And so onto the Average Opposition Index for La Liga’s goalscorers:

Ronaldo scored his 6th hat trick of the season (there was another penalty involved for those wondering). This takes him up to 27 league goals this season, and more importantly for his AOI rating, this latest treble was against 4th placed Levante (seriously, how are they still in 4th!?). Not only does that increase his average opponent per goal to 8.59th place, it also takes his goals against Top 6 opponents to a massive 12. Add that to the recent goals against Barca (albeit in the cup), and you get the feeling that Cris, as some people probably call him, has silenced a few critics. I’d like to claim an assist here, as it seems to have happened since the Messi vs Ronaldo comparison. You’re welcome Cristiano.

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid played 3rd placed Valencia in Round 21 which meant that Falcao had a chance to prove us wrong and deliver in a big game. It finished 0-0. He retains the Flat Track Bully Tag for this season.

Cesc Fabregas keeps hold of the Big Game Player title, though hasn’t scored since Round 17. Real Betis’ Castro Martin has a very respectable 7.29 which is largely down to a brace against Valencia, and one against Barcelona, whilst Higuain is in 4th place in the AOI ranking behind his team mate Ronaldo in 3rd.

After the success of my Premier League Predictions for Round 24, I thought it’d be interesting to try and apply it to another league. So, with nothing to gain (I don’t generally bet), but plenty to lose (any credibility) here are the fixtures for this weekend, and my predictions:

1. Falcao to score against 19th place Gijon – his AOI is the worst in the Top Scorers list, and he has 3 against 20th placed teams, and 2 against 18th placed.

2.  Llorente to score against Malaga – he has a decent average of 9.36, and has 3 against Top 6 teams, so a team in 7th should be within range.

3. Messi to score against Valencia – to increase his record vs Top 6, and because he’s the best player in the World. Can you bet on assists?

4. It’s tempting to go for a Levante win – their average opponent per win is 7.88 or 8th. They’re well overdue a win, and are at home against a consistently inconsistent Vallecano (LLWWLLWW). Though confidence is very low – so check the odds and it might be worth a fiver.

I’ve not included Ronaldo to score against Racing as they have a Champions League game in the mid week after. If he plays though, it’s probably gonna result in a hat trick.

Good Luck.

Bundesliga and Serie A to follow this week.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 25

12 Feb

Well that was a quite the drama. Everyone has their own opinion on the handshake, or rather the lack of handshake, but that’s not what this site is about. More importantly, there was a pretty big match on, between the two most successful teams in English football’s history.

Suarez didn’t think much of Evra’s Flying Crucifix trick

Predicatably enough, the man in the spotlight scored, and although Suarez only has 6 league goals this season (from 20 appearances), goals against Man Utd, Arsenal, and Everton suggest he does have a big game mentality – as shown in the Copa America Final. His goals are also important, the 6 goals have been worth 5 points to Liverpool.

And what a time for Wayne Rooney to wake from his mid season slumber. From open play, these were his first goals in 8 games, and what a time to do it. As mentioned in Sky’s coverage of the match, before the game, Rooney had only scored twice against Liverpool in his career. Although Liverpool were outside of the Top 6 range, this was undoubtedly a big game, and he now adds Liverpool to Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal in his list of victims. His Average Opponent per goal is 12.82 based on standings at the time of playing. However, when looking at the AOI based on the current positions, his average increases to 10.53 – pretty much the exact average of teams ranks 1-20. His goals come in batches, but he’s doing it against all opposition.

AOI ranking based on current league positions

Interestingly enough, the big game player and flat track bully remain unchanged – whether we’re looking at the opponent’s ranking at the time of play, or based on the current table. When looking at the Average Opposition ratings based on the current Premier League table, Edin Dzeko and indeed Rooney benefit. For those that have read this blog from the start will know, Dzeko can count himself quite unlucky at his low AOI score, and number of goals versus the Top 6. Based on the current table, Spurs are of course in 3rd place, and as you’re all aware, the big Bosnian scored 4 away at White Hart Lane when Spurs were 20th. Similarly, Rooney’s Top 6 goals increases based on current position due to the North London clubs poor start to the season. Both are now in the Top 4 now, so Rooney’s goal against Spurs, and Hat Trick against Arsenal make him the leading scorer against the best teams in the league with 7 goals, one ahead of Dzeko.

But Arsenal and Spurs were both very different teams back then, and were very poor – so it’s fair to say that the games weren’t as big as they would be now (as proved recently at the Etihad stadium).

So back to the usual system of Average Opposition based on the time of play:

Robin van Persie continues to lead the way vs Top 6 opponents (along with Dempsey, Fletcher and Balotelli). Whilst we know that Gareth Bale is down as the Flat Track Bully (harsh as he’s a midfielder – but those are the stats), we can also see that Yakubu is in 3rd place in that list, with an average opponent per goal ranked 13.92 place. And Blackburn will not care a bit. His return this weekend after suspension, saw an important opening goal against fellow strugglers QPR. If Blackburn stay up, none of the fans will care that the majority of his goals have been against fellow struggler, a whopping 10.

And in terms of the importance of goals as points, none have been more important to their team. The Yak’s 13 goals have won Blackburn 13 points – with 2 of them coming from this weekend’s 3-2 win.

Robin van Persie still leads the way with out right points with 17, whilst is the most important to his team with 61.90% of Blackburn’s points being won by Yakubu goals. Big Grant Holt (TM) scored a brace away at fellow promotees Swansea in a 3-2 away win – goals worth 3 points to his team. Take them out and they lose 2-1 – granted, it’s not an exact science (Swansea’s 2nd was scored at 3-1), but it’s still a good indicator.

Elsewhere, Steven Fletcher’s fine season continued with a goal in a big game of sorts (a derby). Unfortunately for him, Peter Odemwingie and his team mates scored 5, to ruin Fletch and Mick McCarthy’s day. Adebayor increased his record vs Top 6 opponents with a goal against Newcastle (as well as 4 assists – sort of), and Anthony Pikington notched his 7th of the season from midfield in his debut Premier League season. Though that wasn’t good enough for Trappatoni, nor was McClean’s recent good form. Strangely.

I’ll be writing another player comparison piece shortly, so any ideas are welcome.

Cheers,

Liam

Capello Out – Big Game Managers?

8 Feb

Fabio waves goodbye to the FA

After hearing the surprising news of Fabio Capello’s decision to resign from England, the common theme is that the next manager should be English first and foremost. Harry Redknapp is rightly considered the bookies favourite for his good work with Spurs. England games and especially in a major tournament are all big games. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to look at the English managers in the Premier League and their record in the big games.

It shouldn’t take long, I was incredibly surprised to see that there were only three English Managers in the Premier League – down from five after Steve Bruce and Neil Warnock were sacked.

I will break from the norm, and look at the records versus the current Top teams, rather than at the time of playing. I’ve included the Top 7 teams, partly because Spurs and Newcastle are in the Top 6, and partly because there’s so little difference between 4th ad 7th:

Harry’s record could have looked quite different but for a couple of crazy minutes in the recent 3-2 defeat to Man City. If Defoe had gambled at the far post instead of drifting into the centre, Harry’s record against the Top teams would be 3/3/2 and 12 points from 24. It’s also worth noting that Spurs defeats to Manchesters United and City at the start of the season were without Parker, Adebayor, and a focused Modric. Take those games out, and the goals against column drops to 6 in 6 games. Of the wins, they beat Liverpool 4-0 and Arsenal 2-1.

At the start of the season, if someone were to suggest Alan Pardew would be a credible option for the England Manager’s job in February, then they would have been mocked. However, they’ve had a great season and Pardew appears to be delivering on the potential he showed at Reading and West Ham. His record against the Top teams this season however hasn’t been great. The one win was a great 3-0 victory over Champions Man Utd. He’s been sometimes described as a cheerleading figure, and in tournament football for your country, that’s perhaps what England have been missing in recent years. Credible draws against Spurs (2-2), Man Utd (1-1) and Arsenal (0-0) suggests his teams can perform in the big games, although conceding 3 goals in each of the defeats against Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool, also point to weaknesses.

Roy Hodgson is at a bit of disadvantage in the sense that his West Brom team was built on a much tighter budget. Their sole win against the big boys was a 3-2 away win at Pardew’s Newcastle, whilst they also managed to keep Man City to a goal less draw. Back to back 2-1 defeats to Man Utd and Chelsea at the start of the season were widely regarded as unlucky.

Notable Big Games:

Harry Redknapp:

FA Cup Final 2008 – winning as favourites with Portsmouth against Cardiff, whilst beating Man Utd along the way.

League Cup Final 2009 – Losing on penalties with Spurs against Man Utd.

Champions League 2009-10 – Wins against both Milan Clubs

Alan Pardew:

Play Off Finals 2004 and 2005 – Often described as the biggest game in football, Pardew Managed West Ham in back to back finals, losing to Palace 1-0 in 2004, before redemption the following year after beating Preston North End by the same score.

FA Cup Final 2006 – Pardew’s 3rd successive trip to Cardiff was a bitter sweet affair. As underdogs West Ham were seconds away after leading 2-0 and then 3-2, before Steven Gerrard broke the Hammers Hearts. Defeat on penalties followed.

Roy Hodgson:

UEFA Cup Final 1997 – Hodgson took Inter to the two legged final against Schalke which finished 1-1 on aggregate. Penalties went the Germans way. Unsurprisingly.

Europa League Final 2010 – If getting to the final with Inter was expected, getting there with Fulham was not. Memorable wins over Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg on the way to the final raised hope, but a Diego Forlan inspired Atletico Madrid were just a step too far.

All three have the main characteristic of being England Manager – they’ve all lost penalty shoot outs in big games.

Working with English Players:

Harry Redknapp:

Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Glen Johnson, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and Joe Cole (who is enjoying a good season with Lille) were all given starts in football under Harry at West Ham. Fast forward to the current Spurs team, and players that could play in Euro 2012 include Ledley King, Michael Dawson, Kyle Walker, Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone and Defoe. At Portsmouth, Peter Crouch was joined by Harry favourites Glen Johnson and Defoe.

Alan Pardew:

Pardew’s West Ham was largely built around an English core – although most of those players eligible for Euro 2012 are mainly retired or on their way down, England Internationals Sherringham, Konchesky, and sadly Dean Ashton. Still playing and with an outside chance are Rob Green, Bobby Zamora, Carlton Cole, Anton Ferdinand, and Matthew Etherington. At Newcastle, he doesn’t have many real contenders for this summer’s showpiece.

Roy Hodgson:

At Liverpool, he worked with Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly. At Fulham he worked with Zamora and got his best form out of him. And at West Brom, goalkeeper Ben Foster has a chance of getting into the squad (since Capello has left). Danny Murphy anyone? Probably too old now.

Just don’t call him a wheeler dealer

Harry is the odds on favourite for a reason. He’s currently managing a top 3 team with an English core and playing attacking attractive football. He’s known as a great man manager, and it would be interesting to see how he’d perform in the fish bowl environment of an Internation tournament. He knows most of the players, can handle the media, and most importantly, he’s not going to be in prison – something that could have somewhat scuppered his Management.

If Pardew carries on as he is, his name will continue to be mentioned with the England job in years to come, but still has some way to go to match Redknapp. His style of counter attacking high energy football may well be well suited to the International arena, but it’s unlikely to be this summer. Roy Hodgson has the international experience with Switzerland, Finland and UAE. However, his relative failure at Liverpool paired with West Brom’s struggles this season would perhaps take him out of the running.

For the record, and based on the normal Average Opposition stats with positions at the time of playing, here’s how the teams all shape up:

Shame Mancini isn’t English. Along with David Silva, Aguero, Ya Ya Toure and Vincent Kompany.