Premier League Round 38

13 May

Well that was a bit nuts wasn’t it? League leaders, battle for 3rd and the last relegation spot all changed hands on more than one occasion. So let’s start off in Manchester:

Manchester City became only the fifth different team to win the Premier League, in it’s 20 year history. For those that didn’t follow the final day and just saw the results, then there wasn’t really any big surprise. Man City with the best home record in the league beat QPR with the worst away record – they were always going to. But, what a way to do it.

Up to the 90th minute, it looked that for all of City’s millions and new players, their old characteristic of making a balls of promising situations, would shine through (much like Idiot Joey Barton’s inherent anger issues despite his reading of philosophy). In the end though, iIt’s fair to say that City’s two injury time goals to win 3-2 was very very Manchester United in nature. Think back to the game against Sheffield Wednesday back in the early days of the Premier League, and the 2-1 Champions League Final win over Munich in ’99. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

In terms of big game performances, Pablo Zabaleta picked a great game to score his first of the season, whilst Aguero (12.22) deserves the biggest credit after scoring his 23rd league goal in the dying seconds to bring City their first league title since 1968. Last minute of the final game of the season, about to lose the league – that’s big game temprement. Similarly, although I’ve criticised him for being a Flat Track Bully, Edin Dzeko (14.71) delivered when needed most. The reason I call him a flat track bully is that his average ranked opponent per goal of 14.71 is the lowest of any player with 10 goals or more. A player that cost over £30 million should be scoring more than 14 league goals in the best team, and 9 of those have been against teams in the Bottom 6 positions. All of that matters not a jot now though as he gave City hope.

One player who has also been criticised (albeit for different reasons) is Mario Balotelli. The complete opposite of Dzeko in terms of the opponents he’s scored against, Balotelli finished with the highest average opposition with 8.77. He usually delivers in the big games and normally against highly ranked opposition, but given the nature of this game, it was the biggest game of the season, especially at 2-1 down. Mad Mario got the assist for Aguero’s winner, and gained redemption at the same time.

It was City’s performances against the other Top 6 teams that effectively won them the title. Balotelli scored 5 of the 20 goals they hit against the best teams. Seven wins, just two defeats and one draw gave them 22 points from the 30 available against the elite, which not only helped their points haul, but also took the points from their opponents – with every win effectively being a 6 point swing in City’s favour.

Of course it’s easy to forget just how close United were to winning it – seconds. All of the plaudits to City are well deserved, but the same should be offered to United – to an extent. Whilst they matched City for wins and points, the way they earned the points was very different:

No clean sheets against Top 6 opponents, three wins against Top 6 opponents compared to 13 wins against Bottom 6 opponents. This is based on the league position at the time (meaning that due to timing and form, they played Bottom 6 teams on 15 occasions, rather than 12). Their haul of 11 points against Top 6 teams compared to City’s 22 would point to a deserved title for City. Wayne Rooney scored a career best 27th league goal against Sunderland (12.04), but on another day could have claimed the golden boot with an effort against the bar, one against the post and he also missed a sitter.

I’ll be putting together a season review in the coming weeks of each league, looking at the stats based on final position.

Arsenal managed to put behind them some recent shaky form (3 points from the last 12 available), to clinch 3rd spot, just ahead of North London Rivals Tottenham. Beating West Brom 3-2 away, they had to rely on goals from Benayoun, Santos and Koscielny to cement the win, as well as a helping hand (literally) from West Brom keeper Martin Fulop. And it’s a good thing, as Golden Boot winner Robin van Persie has only scored in 3 of their last 10 league games. Those who wrote off Arsene Wenger early on in the season will probably deny doing so, but the Frenchman has now taken Arsenal to Champions League qualification every single season he’s been in charge. He knows.

And in terms of relegation, despite losing to Man City, QPR managed to stay up due to Bolton’s failure to beat Stoke. The Trotters end an 11 year stay in the Premier League after going seven wins without a win. Strangely, their best run of the season was in the midst of their worst crisis – with Muamba’s collapse coinciding with a four game winning run. Unfortunately for Bolton fans, it wasn’t enough as both QPR and Wigan defied the odds to stay up.

In terms of the final Average Opposition scoring table (based on the time of play), Robin van Persie finished the season with most goals against the Top 6 teams with a decent 7 strikes. Mario Balotelli shares the Big Game Player tag with him with an average of 8.77, after Adebayor’s recent flirtation with mid to lower table teams. Nikica Jelavic deserves an honourable mention as his 9 goals have been against an average ranked opponent of 6.67 – by far the best of those players with 5 goals or more. Today’s strike against Newcastle was his fourth against Top 6 teams (two versus United and one versus Spurs), and he had none against Bottom 6 teams. Another player who can lay claim to being a big game player is West Brom’s Shane Long (8 goals – 9.12). His goal against Arsenal sits alongside strikes against Man Utd, Chelsea and Newcastle, not bad for a debut season in the Premier League.

The Flat Track Bully as mentioned earlier was Edin Dzeko. His goal against 17th placed QPR pushed him ahead of Rafael van der Vaart at the death. His average of 14.71 is considerably better when looking at the average based on Final League positions though. Yakubu (12.41), Grant Holt (10.33) and Danny Graham (12.42) all scored on the final day to cap impressive seasons – certainly against what was expected of them.

I’m hoping to get season review up in the next week or two (still getting to grips with fatherhood – even after 2 weeks of practice), and over the summer i’ll be comparing Tevez (2009-10) vs Aguero (2011-12) and Arsenal’s invincibles of 2003-04 versus Juventus 2011-12.

Cheers,

Liam

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