Premier League Round 37

9 May

Winning goal in the FA Cup Semi Final against best team in the country last year? Check.

Winning goal in the FA Cup Final after 35 years without a trophy? Check.

A brace to put your team top of the table going into the final day? Check.

Yep, it’s fair to say that Yaya Toure is a big game player. Although I don’t want to say that his goals against Newcastle (5th) have decided the whereabouts of this years Premier League, they’ve certainly been very important, and that was certainly in the high prerssure environment of a big game. I’ll admit that I had him down as a midfielder that scored a lot of goals (after his more defensive role in Barcelona), so it was surprising to see that his double at Newcastle were only his 5th and 6th (8.33) league goals of the season (matching last years 6). Either way, when the pressure was on, it was Toure Junior that stepped up. Though a nod must go to the defence who kept Cisse out, who had done this in last week’s game against Chelsea:

I know that was last week, but it was just awesome! And it’s worth noting that after 11 goals against average opposition (11.91), he’s now scored against a Top 6 team in Chelsea, taking his average up to 11.00. Add in his 9 goals (10.78) for Freiburg, and you have a very decent season.

But I digress (it was a good goal though). Man Utd made sure that the title goes down to the final day with their 2-0 win over Swansea, but it would take a brave man to bet a significant amount of money on them to win the title, given Man City’s home record, and QPR’s away form. But, QPR still aren’t mathematically safe, and Mark Hughes has the double aim of getting revenge on City for sacking him, and helping out his old team. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he really has exceeded expectations at QPR. With the worst of the run ins, Hughes has managed to pick up 5 wins in the last nine games – with an average opponent per win of 8.40. Impressive stuff. Wigan’s six wins in the same period have been slightly better at 7.66. Both have proved a lot of people wrong, and that’s understandable given the previous average ranked opponent per win – Wigan had 4 wins at 15.25 and QPR had 5 wins against an average ranked opponent of 12.8. There were absolutely no indicators for the massive turn around in form.

Wigan’s latest win was not against good opposition. It was against fellow Bottom 6 teams Blackburn. And it was enought to gain survival whilst relegating Rovers. I bet those people calling for Steve Kean to be named manager of the year feel a little foolish now (one example here). So with Blackburn joining Wolves (Terry Connor for best new manager?) in the Championship next season, it comes down to the final day for one of Bolton and QPR. Aston Villa will be safe on goal difference, barring a massive swing.

With games in hand all being played now, there’s a been a good bit of movement on the Top Scorers list. Robin van Persie’s double against Norwich in the 3-3 draw sees him reach the magical 30 goal mark. It’s only the third time since 2000 that a player has reached this mark (Henry and Ronaldo), so it’s a great achievement. Before last season’s 18 goals, his highest league tally in his career was a paltry (for his talent) 11 goals. The last season and a half has crucially seen him stay fit, and it’s resulted in 48 strikes in 62 appearances in the Premier League. Quality. And although he has 10 goals against Bottom 6 opponents, he’s the leading scorer versus the Top 6 with 7 goals, meaning he’s a big game player.

However, the owner of that title based on the average opponent per goal is neither van Persie or last week’s leader Adebayor. He’s shown a complete lack of respect for my average opposition leader board by hitting 2 versus Bolton (18th) last week, and another against Villa (15th) this weekend. Manu you fool. That means, that despite all the flack he’s taken (some of it deservedly), Mario Balotelli looks set to win the Big Game Player tag for this year’s Premier League with an average ranked opponent per goal of 8.77. Think goals against Man Utd, Chelsea, Newcastle and Spurs, and he’s only missing Arsenal out of the other Top 6 teams. Not bad for someone who had supposedly ruined Man City’s season.

Strangely, Rafael van der Vaart looks like going from 2010-11’s big game player, to this years flat track bully. His latest strike (also in the win over Bolton) was his 11th of a disrupted season, taking his league tally to a very decent 24 in 60 games over two seasons as an advanced midfield role.

Just looking at the Bottom 6 and Top 6 goals season on season, it’s a quite stark difference, and begs an interesting question. What makes a big game player? Looking at van der Vaart as an example it’s pretty hard to tell why. Immediately I would have pointed to injuries but he’s actually played more games this season. Team mates? Well Spurs are looking likely to finish higher this season in 4th compared to last year’s 5th. There has been a change in personnel with Adebayor taking the lone striker role, but that doesn’t explain the disappearance in the big games? At 29, he’s in his prime, so it’s not age. You’d think that I’m building to a big conclusion now after ruling out other factors, but in all honesty, I don’t know what’s brought the change. Some may point to the difficult second season syndrome (dsss), but it’s spurious. Answers on a post card please.

Big weekend ahead, with several different outcomes. However, with Bolton on a run of 5 games without a win (after 4 wins in a row), it’s unlikely that they’ll win at Stoke (14th), although they have picked up 19 points away from home – albeit at an average of 17.83 ranked opposition. In terms of the race for 3rd (in case Chelsea win the Champions League),  Arsenal (3rd), Spurs (4th) and Newcastle (5th) are facing West Brom away (10th), Fulham at home (9th) and Everton away (7th) respectively. Due to the home venue, I’d say Spurs have the easiest game (just), but Arsenal have the points on the board.

Elsewhere, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Ramires backed up their big game player status’ with the goals in the FA Cup Final win over Liverpool. Both scored over the two legs against Barcelona in the Champions League Semi Final, and Drogba has now become the first player to score in a whopping four different finals. Andy Carroll has shown glimpses of hope for Liverpool fans, and his goal (almost a brace) in the final wasn’t completely unexpected. Like van der Vaart, Carroll had a Big Game Player tag from last season as he led the scoring against Top 6 teams with a decent 6 strikes (9 based on the time of playing). Last night, Liverpool got bittersweet revenge on Chelsea with a 4-1 home win – just their second win against Top 6 Opponents this season:

Wigan lead the way with the best teams beaten (on average), whilst Man City are deservedly top of the league and set to win it when you look at their 27 wins against United’s. There’s something of a big game team performance with 7 win against Top 6 opposition, and a Flat Track Bully air to United’s 13 wins against bottom 6 teams. This is all based on positions at the time of playing, i’ll be reviewing all the stats again based on final league rank at the end of the season. Aside from the teams at the top, Aston Villa fan will be glad to see the end of the season after just 7 league wins, against an average opponent of 13.57. Exciting.

Cheers,

Liam

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: