Archive | June, 2012

Serie A Season Review: 2011-12 Part 2

27 Jun

Part 2 of the Serie A Season Review focuses more on the team stats, Part 1 can be found here with the individual player stats.

With Juventus winning the Title in such commanding fashion, it’s to be expected that they will dominate the Team Statistics. They didn’t rely on one outstanding performer, but rather it was a team effort, illustrated best by the fact that their top scorer only hit 10 league goals.

Clean Sheets:

Since the first part of the Serie A review focused on the glory boys knocking the ball into the net, it’s only fair that we start with the defences. And it’s no surprise that Juventus come out on top. Not only did they keep the most clean sheets with 21, they also had the most against the Top 6 teams with a very decent five shut outs in ten games (along with Napoli). They say that a title is built on the defence, so to go a whole season unbeaten, means it must be pretty tight and that’s certainly illustrated below. Every team from 2nd Placed Milan to 6th placed Inter were kept out on one occasion. In fact, Bologna and Catania were the only teams not to be kept out by the Juventus defence.

As well as keeping the most against the top teams, they also had the highest (along with AC Milan) number against the struggling teams, recording 9 clean sheets in 12 games.

And speaking of AC Milan, they also had the highest number of clean sheets against the mid table teams, with 8 (along with Inter Milan and Cagliari). Ominously for them though, they only kept one clean sheet against the Top 6 teams in ten attempts. In what appears to be a similar scenario with Ibrahimovic’s scoring for them, they’re not so much flat track bullies, more big game bottlers.

Elsewhere, Cagliari had the worst ranked opponent per clean sheet with 14.40, meaning their defence was poor against decent opponents, their only one clean sheet against the Top 6 was against Udinese early on in the season in a 0-0 draw. Inter Milan continued to defy logic by keeping 8 clean sheets against the Middle 8 teams, yet somehow could only keep two clean sheets against the struggling teams.

Goals Scored:

An area where Juventus didn’t excel was in attack. Whilst it’s well documented that they didn’t rely on one player for goals, they had the weakest attack of all the Champions of the major European leagues:

  • Real Madrid – 121 Goals
  • Manchester City – 93 goals
  • Ajax – 93 goals (34 game season)
  • Borussia Dortmund – 80 goals (34 game season)
  • FC Porto – 69 goals (30 game season)
  • Montpellier – 68 goals

You get the idea. To be fair though, I should point out that AC Milan won the league with 65 goals in 2010-11, whilst Inter won it with 75 and 70 goals for the 2009-10 and 2008-09 seasons respectively. It’s not a high scoring league, though it’s far from the defensive based football that the stereotype suggests.

Despite only scoring 68 goals, Juve did make them count when it mattered. Along with Roma and Genoa, they scored the most goals against the Top 6 teams with 18. Once again, AC Milan’s inability to do it against the big teams is highlighted in this measurement. Whilst they scored 2.5 goals per game against the Bottom 6, and 2.2 goals per game against the Middle 8 teams, they scored a very poor 0.9 goals per game against the top teams. To put it into perspective, relegate Novara managed as many goals as AC Milan against the decent sides (albeit with 2 games more).

That’s bad, but not as bad as Chievo, who managed just three goals in the twelve games that they faced the best. Not that it will particularly worry them, as they finished in a respectable 10th place. If you were a Chievo fan though, you’d turn up to the big games knowing that it’s unlikely to end well for you.

And worse still is Cesena’s over recored of just 24 goals. Ouch.

Goals Conceded:

As you can see from the green below, this one (much like the losses one) is a pretty straight forward homage to Juventus again. Now I hate to concetrate so much on one team, but they are champions after going unbeaten, so fair’s fair. Least goals conceded, and the lowest against all ranges of opposition. The amazing thing about the Juve defence is that it is mainly the same players that played in 2010-11 when they let in a rather less impressive 47 goals on the way to finishing 7th. Praise must go to Antonio Conte, and it must also beg a question of why attacking players make such good defensive coaches (I’m thinking George Graham, and there’s probably more but the mind has gone blank).

Juventus aside, just look at Inter Milan’s record against the bottom 6 again. Shambolic springs to mind. Four of those were in a crazy 4-4 draw with Palermo and another four were in a crazy 4-3 defeat to Palermo.

Lazio had the worst average ranked opponent per goal conceded, with their defence actually performing better against the stronger teams. At the other end of the scale, Lecce conceded a lot of goals (56) but at least it was mainly to teams that finished above them. Their average of 8.13 was the highest.

Games Lost:

This is perhaps the most telling measurement when looking at AC Milan’s season. None were lost against the bottom teams, only one was lost against the mid table teams, but a massive 5 were lost against their Top 6 rivals. This is illustrated by their average ranked conqueror’s of 5.83, an average only bettered by Heerenveen’s 2.67 in the Eredivisie.

Cesena lost the most games against both the Top and Mid teams with 11 (out of 12) and 10 respectively. Not a surprise that they finished bottom of the league then. Whilst strangely, Bologna finished 9th despite being terrible against the Bottom 6 teams – losing five times.

Juventus. That’s a pret-ty good record. And i’ll give it a bit more praise when I compare them to the Arsenal invincibles of 2003-04.

Kudos to Chievo who despite being pretty rotten against the good teams, achieved their mid table respectibility by refusing to lose to the stragglers at the bottom of the table.

Failure to Score:

A new measure, and a new reason to slate AC Milan and their big game bottler status. As you can see, they had no trouble whatsoever against anyone outside the Top 6, but as well as losing five games to the big boys, they also failed to even score on four occasions.

Cesena managed to only score in 17 of their 38 games which you don’t need me to tell you is bad. Chievo’s inability to give their fans anything to cheer about when facing any one good is confirmed here, with a failure to score on 9 occasions against the Top 6 teams. Catania finished below them but still only failed to score against the Top 6 teams on two occasions – a total only bettered by the Champions.

And just to confirm why Juventus were deserved winners, and to highlight the importance of doing well against the teams around you, here’s a couple of mini leagues for your viewing pleasure:

Top 6 Mini League:

Bottom 6 Mini League:

That’s all I’ve got for the Serie A review for 2011-12 season. If you have any questions then please e-mail me or write in the comments box below.




Eredivisie Season Review: 2011-2012

20 Jun

Although we haven’t tracked it throughout the year, I’ve been asked a few questions on the Dutch League, so figured it’d be interesting to have a look at it now that the season is over. I’ll admit to not watching a great deal of this league, so with that in mind, i’ll present the stats in a slightly lighter (or is that Liter?) version of the season review

The 2011-12 season saw a familiar look at the top of the table -Ajax won (for the 31st time), Feyenoord finished 2nd and PSV finished 3rd. Big deal, what’s new I hear you say. Well it’s actually the first time that the big three have finished in the Top 3 in seven seasons (Feyenoord finished 10th last year and lost 10-0 to PSV along the way) after AZ, Twente and even NAC gatecrashed the party. Ajax were the deserved champions with the most wins, least defeats, most goals and one of the best defences (behind AZ), so can we expect to see the Average Opposition stats to weigh favourably in their favour? Well no, not necessarily.

First up is the player stats – who were the big game players, and most important to their team?


Goals versus Top 5

The first measure to determine who the big game players were is to see how they did against the top opponents in the league. Unlike the elite leagues in England, Spain and Italy, there’s only 18 teams in the Dutch top flight, as a result, I’ve changed the range from Top 6-Mid 8-Bottom 6 to 5-8-5.

And there’s only one place to start, or more specifically, one family – the de Jong family. As if to try and prove that the big game mentality is something to do with upbringing and surroundings, the two brothers have each been very impressive against the Top 5 teams. Luuk de Jong, 21 (the younger of the two brothers), scored a very decent 25 goals last season for Steve McClaren’s free scoring FC Twente and as you can see above, seven of them were against the big teams. And taking into account Twente’s 6th placed finish, this meant that he did so in a maximum of 10 games. Bearing in mind his age, he’s surely one to look out for in the future.


Interestingly, his older brother Siem (23) also excelled against the other Top 5 teams. Playing for Champions Ajax in a slightly deeper attacking role, the Swiss born youngster (they moved to Holland aged 4 and 6 respectively) scored four of his 13 league goals against the best teams with one against title rivals PSV and a hat trick away at 5th placed Heerenveen. It certainly does raise an interesting point in what makes a player cope better in a big game – they had the same upbringing, and despite being at different clubs, they both thrive in the big games.

Roda’s Malki also hit 25 goals last season, six of which were against the Top 5 teams. What’s impressive about his performance is that his team finished in the bottom half of the table (10th). The league’s top scorer was Heerenveen’s Bas Dost with a whopping 32 goals. There’s hope in Holland that he could become the next great goal scorer, and Wolfsburg have moved quickly to sign the big front man (6ft 5 apparently). He’s only 23 so the signs look promising, but in terms of prolific strikers in the Eredivisie, for every van Nistelrooy, Makaay and Kluivert, there’s an Alfonso Alves, Dirk Kuyt (did well for Liverpool but was in no way prolific) and Mateja Kezman. It’ll be interesting to follow his progress next season. His 32 goals contained 5 against the four teams above.

Honourable Mention to – Utrecht’s French forward Edouard Duplan. The fans player of the year has never been prolific but steps up for the big games. Five of his seven goals were against the Top 5 teams, and just to illustrate his dislike of playing the dross at the bottom, he didn’t score one goal against the Bottom 5 teams.

Highest Average Opposition – Jozy Altidore, 8.60

I’ll be completely honest, based my memory of Jozy Altidore’s time at Hull City, I’m left with one of two conclusions. Either the Dutch Top Flight has got a lot weaker, or that the USA International has got a lot better. A quick check of the official stats backs up what I recall from memory – he scored just one league goal all season, back in 2009-10. Since then, he three league games for Villarreal and 12 for Bursaspor, managing one league goal. So it’s with some surprise that I saw his name next to 15 goals, and that he’s the big game player from an Average Opposition perspective.

Looking at all of the players with 10 goals or more, it’s the big American that leads the way quite comfortably. A third of his goals have come against the Top 5, including goals both home and away against PSV Eindhoven, whilst of the mid table opponents he scored against, there was a brace against 6th placed Twente. The worst team he scored against was 16th placed VVV. So whether it’s the fact that he’s improved (possible given he was only 21 in his debut season in England) or that the Dutch league has got a little weaker, one thing is for sure, he’s enjoyed the best season of his career.

The next name on the list will interest Man City fans. John Guidetti is on loan from the Premier League champions to Feyenoord, and despite an injury ravaged season, the 20 year old Swede scored an incredible 20 league goals in just 23 appearances. And included in that run was a four match spell that saw three hat tricks, including a decisive one in a 4-2 win over eventual Champions, Ajax. Whilst they were the only goals against the Top 5 teams, he regularly scored against the higher ended mid table clubs, with another hat trick against Twente (6th), and also goals against 7th placed Vitesse (5 in two game), to help push his average up.

Flat Track Bullies?

At the other end of the scale, the player with the worst average ranked opponent per goal was NEC’s Lasse Schone with 13.55. Of his 11 goals, none of them were against the Top 5 teams as he specialised in scoring against teams in the bottom half of the table. To be fair to the Danish international, he was playing in midfield so 11 goals is a good achievement. It doesn’t appear to have put of Ajax either as the Amsterdam club have allowed him a chance to emulate his hero Michael Laudrup.

Schone was the only player not to bother the Top teams in terms of scoring for those with 10 goals and more. That’s not to say that he was the only Flat Track Bully. Whilst Bas Dost had a great season, he scored 14 of his goals against the Bottom 5 teams, leading to his low average of 12.13, which is far and away the highest number in the league.

Bremen Bound – Bas Dost

Most Valuable Goals – Bas Dost, 20 points

No great surprise that the player who scored the most goals won the most points, but it’s not always the case – Zlatan Ibrahimovic top scored in Serie A but only won 9 points. Bas Dosts’ 32 goals were worth a very decent 20 points as Heerenveen jumped from 12th in 2010-11 to 5th and a Europa League spot.

Whilst Dost won the most outright points, it was Sanharib Malki who was most important to his team. His 25 goals won Roda 14 points which was 31.82% of their total 44. The Syrian International is another who really made the step up in quality this season, with very little of note beforehand.

Elsehwere, Guidetti’s goals were worth 13 points, whilst Everton and Texeira both won more points than goals scored, for Heracles and Groningen respectively.

Pointless goals? Ajax wonderkid Christian Eriksen hit 7 goals, none of which were decisive for the Amsterdam giants. After a lightly disappointing European Championships, he’ll be looking to make more of an impact in the coming season.

Team Stats

So after seeing impressive performances from the De Jong’s, Bas Dost and Jozy Altidore here’s the team stats for your viewing pleasure:

Clean Sheets:

  • Eight teams failed to keep a clean sheet against the Top 5 teams
  • AZ kept the most clean sheets (15), whilst Utrecht had the best average opposition per shut out with 7.83
  • FC Groningen kept the most clean sheets against the Top 5 teams with three

Goals Scored:

  • Ajax top scored with 93 goals, against an average ranked opponent of 10.41
  • FC Twente scored the most goals against the Top 5 teams with 24 strikes
  • PSV were the flat track bullies with the most goals against the Bottom 5 teams (29)

Goals Conceded:

  • AZ Alkmaar not only had the most clean sheets, but the least goals conceded (35)
  • Champions Ajax conceded the fewest against fellow Top 5 teams with just 11
  • AZ and NEC only conceded 2 goals each against the bottom teams, whilst FC Utrecht and De Graafschap each conceded 14.

Games Won:

  • Ajax unsurprisingly won the most games with 23, whilst relegated Excelsior won just 4 games
  • Four teams failed to beat a Top 5 opponent
  • Feyenoord and PSV had the most wins against the Top 5

Games Lost:

  • Heerenveen had a quite remarkable average opposition of 2.67 for each of their 6 league defeats. They lost twice to Ajax (1st), once to Feyenoord (2nd), twice to PSV (3rd) and once to Twente (6th).
  • Ajax had the least defeats with just 4, and only one against the Top 5 teams (4-2 to Feyenoord)
  • Heracles, Roda and VVV all lost three games to the Bottom 5 teams

Failure to Score:

  • Ajax (along with Heerenveen and Twente) only failed to score in two games, but those opponents were Groningen (14th) and Utrecht (11th), meaning they had the worst ranked opponent in terms of failure to score against
  • Excelsior failed to score in 50% of their games and were one of four teams to fail against the Top 5, on five occasions
  • FC Twente had the highest ranked opponent per shut out, with 4.50


In Conclusion:

So there you have it, Ajax were deserved Champions this season, whilst Twente were the best team to watch, and Heerenveen only struggled against good opposition. In terms of players, Heerenveen are going to greatly miss Bas Dost (who we’ll be tracking in the weekly Bundesliga update), whilst surprisingly Jozy Altidore is a man for the big occasions, along with Luuk De Jong.

If you have any questions or queries on any of the above, please post a comment or e-mail me.



Serie A Season Review: 2011-12 Part 1

17 Jun

Hot on the heels of the Premier League review, the Italian equivalent gets the treatment next. Throughout the season I’ve been looking at the opponents at the time of play, now that the season is over it’s a chance to look at the opponents based on their final rankings. Part one, is based on the goalscorers

Most of you know the drill now, this is a site looking to prove who the big game players are based on how they do against a range of opponents – we have the average ranked team scored against, we have the ranges (Top 6-Middle 8-Bottom 6), and we also have importance of goals in terms of points won. Chuck in the assists and we’ll have a good idea of how the attacking players have stood up to be counted in the big games. Similarly, we also have the numbers that are damning for the Flat Track Bullies. To see the big game players based on the ranking at the time of play, click here to read the Round 38 review.

Goals versus Top 6 Teams – Fabrizio Miccoli, 8 goals

Although it was a pretty shocking season for Palermo, there was one shining light. Dropping from 8th in 2010-11 to 16th this season is not what the fans had in mind at the start of the season, but whilst they can point fingers at the crazy chairman, the three different managers or the second worst defence in Serie A, they certainly couldn’t accuse Fabrizio Miccoli of under performing.

Well, if you’re gonna be picky you could accuse him of not turning up against the shit teams in the bottom 6, but where’s the glory in that? For Miccoli is the outstanding big game player in Serie A this season. Hitting 16 goals in just 28 league games, the 32 year old enjoyed a great season with the Sicilian club. As seen above, 50% of his goals came against the Top 6 teams in the country, with a team that finished just two places above the relegation zone. His victims included Inter Milan (a whopping 5 goals in the two meetings), Udinese, Lazio and Napoli. This left him comfortably above any other player in terms of goals against the Top 6 teams this season. He’s at his seventh professional club, but it’s very much been his home after spending the longest period of his career there (5 years after spells at Juventus, Fiorentina and Benfica).

He’s got heart…..providing he’s playing against someone decent

Behind Miccoli (who only scored 9 goals in 2010-11) were a couple of Argentine strikers. Diego Milito rediscovered the devastating form that saw Inter win the Treble in 2010, but this years Inter is nowhere near as good as that team, despite containing a large number of the same players. Like Palermo, Inter also had three managers in what was a very turbulent season for the Milan giants, but this didn’t seem to bother the big striker as he stepped up in the biggest occasion for any Inter Milan player – the Milan derby. Scoring the winner whilst beating AC Milan 1-0 in the middle of the season was one thing, but to beat them 4-2 to hand the title to Juventus was another, and to score a hat trick smacks of a player with a big game temperament. He also hit goals in both games against 4th placed Lazio to cement his claim to be a big game player. The other Argy was the slightly less known Rodrigo Palacio of Genoa who will be lining up for Inter Milan next season, and it’s easy to see why. The former Boca Juniors forward had his best scoring season with 19 league goals in 32 Serie A appearances, and like Miccoli, he preferred to play against the best teams. His six goals against the Top 6 teams were against Inter Milan, Lazio (home and away), Napoli (2), and Udinese. At the age of 30, this move could be his last chance to make it at an established European Super Power.

Further down the list are a few of the Italian Euro 2012 squad members, Di Natale, Giovinco and Diamanti all grabbed 4 goals against the big guns, whilst Edinson Cavani hit 5 against the other Top 6 teams. Joining Cavani on 5 goals is a relative new comer to Italian football Mattia Destro is only 21 but the young Siena striker certainly had an eye for the big occasion. Despite having only score 14 career league goals (12 this season), 5 of them came against this years Top 6 with goals against Napoli, Udinese and Lazio (3). He’s already getting attention from the bigger clubs, after a brief stint at Inter.

Honourable Mentions to – Jovetic in a struggling Fiorentina team still managed to perform in the big games with 4 goals against the top teams – Scoring against both 1st placed Juventus, 2nd placed AC Milan and a brace against 3rd placed Udinese. Not just that, but he also scored home and away against 7th placed Roma, who were in the Top 6 at the time of play. All in all, a big game player, and he’s certainly earned his £20m price tag.

Highest Average Opposition per goal – Marco Di Vaio, 8.40

It turned out to be a good final season in Serie A for the veteran Bologna Striker. The former Italy international recently announced a move to footballing giants Montreal Impact after ending a four year stay with Bologna. And he will be missed with 65 goals in 135 Serie A appearances for the Northern Italy team. And as you’ll see above, he was the man with the highest ranked opponent per goal (with those players with 10 goals or more), with his 10 goals being against an average of 8.40.

Di Vaio just leads the way ahead of Miccoli’s 8.75, as he scored just once against the Bottom 6 teams, resulting in his low average (the league average is 10.5, though this varies depending on what position each team finished). Like Jovetic, Di Vaio notched against both AC Milan and Juventus, whilst a brace against 6th placed Inter and another agaisnt 7th placed Roma saw him grab the coveted Average Opposition Award (I may even e-mail him to tell him about the non-existant award).

Aside from the top two, Destro and Jovetic rear their heads with decent averages, whilst the likes of Milito (11 goals vs Bottom 6) and Giovinco (33% of his goals were against Bottom 6 teams) have lower than expected numbers.

Honourable Mention to – Although he scored less than 10 goals, Lazio’s Stefano Amauri’s 4 goals were on average against 4.75 ranked teams, with goals against Inter, Juventus, Napoli and Roma – a big game player. Inter Milan’s Maicon only scored two goals this season – though the opponents were Champions Juventus, and Milan Rivals and 2nd placed, AC Milan.

Flat Track Bullies

With every Miccoli or Di Vaio, there’s someone that finishes at the other end of the scale, with the lowest Average Opposition per goal, or the most goals against the Bottom 6/least against the Top 6. And there’s a couple of surprising names on the list. Below are the players with the lowest rank opposition for each of their goals (10 goals or more):

Marco Rigoni isn’t exactly a household name, and perhaps this is why. He specialises in the games against lower to mid table opponents. Of his 11 goals, almost half of them were against the strugglers at the bottom. He only scored in two games against Top Half teams, and a hat trick against bottom placed Cesena added largely to his lowly 13.82 average opposition. But he isn’t the surprise name – Udinese and Italy striker Antonio Di Natale scored a massive 9 goals against the bottom teams which has pushed his average down to 12.26, whilst Milan duo Nocerino (11.90) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11.69) were regular scorers against the teams fighting relegation. Cavani, Klose, and Milito are all big names that scored significantly more against the Bottom 6 than the Top 6 – although that is to be expected as the defences aren’t as strong.

And there’s some similar names when looking at the most goals scored against the Bottom 6 teams:

Milito leads the way with 11, but at least has the decency to score 6 against Top 6 teams. Behind him is Ibrahimovic with 9 goals. He’s often been described as a flat track bully, and to a certain extent it’s justifiable. But it’s probably fair to say that he excels against average opposition – with 16 goals coming against the teams ranked 7th to 14th.

And with just three against the Top 6 teams (one of which was a penalty), there is a case to be made for Ibrahimovic bottling it in the big games. He scored in just two of the games against the best teams (Lazio and a double against Inter). So whilst he’s not an out and out Flat Track Bully, there is evidence that he’s a big game bottler.

Honourable Mentions to –Kevin Prince Boateng scored just 5 league goals, 3 against 18th placed Lecce, one against 12th placed Atalanta and one against 17th placed Genoa. Strangely though, he scored against Barcelona in the Champions League, and Inter Milan in the Super Cup. And Chievo’s Pellisier scored the most goals without bothering the Top 6 teams.

Palacio Good Player, crap hair

Valuable Goals – Diego Milito 16 points from 24 goals, whilst Rodrigo Palacio’s goals won 33% of Genoa’s points

To soften the blow for Milito, who was said to be visually shaken when he found out he had the most goals against the Bottom 6, he can be rightly satisfied that his goals have been so important, worth 16 points for Inter Milan. At times, he was a one man team as Inter went through a comedy run of terrible results – scoring 9 goals in a 6 game run, including all 4 in a 4-4 draw with Parma. He scored the winner in a 1-0 win against AC Milan (2 points) and then scored a hat trick in the return game in the 4-2 win (3 points). Decisive goals against Lazio, Genoa and Siena (8 points) amongst others saw him cement his place at the top of the points won table.

In terms of efficiency, Lazio striker Miroslav Klose has more than a point per goal before injury cut his season short but that’s nothing compared to Chievo’s catpain Sergio Pellisier. Whilst he specialised in bulying the weaker opponents, at least he can say that it was worth while. Each of his goals were worth on average 1.5 points, as every goal he scored directly impacted the final score. Five of his goals were in one goal wins for Chievo, whilst a further three were in draws (2 in a 4-4 draw with Palermo).

As mentioned above, Rodrigo Palacio was the most important to his team as his 19 goals resulted in 14 points for Genoa, which was equivalent to 33% of their overall points.

At the other end of the scale, Juventus’ Vidal Prado scored 7 goals in his debut season with the Turin club and whilst that’s a pretty good return from midfield, none of them were decisive – all came in games where Juve beat their opponents comfortably. Similarly, Lazio’s Rocchi did the same with his 5 goals.

Of the big scorers (those with 15 goals or over), Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 28 goals were only worth 9 points:

So although he had the best goals scoring season of his career, he wasn’t quite the one man team that some commentators would suggest. Di Natale and Cavani both had 23 goals that were worth 12 points although this measure doesn’t pick up the other measurement of goal importance – when they were scored. So whilst a Cavani scored the opener against Palermo in a 2-0, as Hamsik scored the other goal, it meant that if Cavani’s goal was removed, Napoli would still have 3 points as they’d win 1-0. Not an exact science, but a good indicator of the importance to the team.


And just to conclude the goalscoring look at the 2011-12 Serie A season, a quick nod to the men that have created the goals, and none have created more than Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo. Eyebrows were raised when the Italy international was allowed to leave AC Milan for the Turin giants and with good reason, as he rolled back the years to become one of the Champions most important players.

But he’s not the big game player in terms of assists – that is Parma playmaker Sebastian Giovinco. The former Juventus man joined Parma on a full time basis last summer and it’s worked out well with the diminutive (another word for small – think Zola) front man not only scored 15 goals, but he also got 11 assists, five of which were against the Top 6 teams (Inter, Lazio twice, Udinese and Napoli).

Fabrizio Miccoli also chipped in with 4 assists against the big teams to add to his eight goals. That’s a combined 12 goals or assists in a maximum 12 games – impressive stuff, and undoubtedly a big game player. Antonio Cassano deserves a mention as well, as he hit 10 assists and 3 goals in just 16 games – with a stroke sandwiched in between. It’s certainly been a great relief for all football fans seeing him lining up for Italy in Euro 2012.

That’s it for the goalscoring look back on Serie A. The team stats will be in part 2.



Premier League Review:2011-2012 Part 2

11 Jun

The second part of the Premier League Season Review will focus mainly on the team stats, as well as defences. Part 1 can be found here.

Premier League Season Review 2011-12 Part 1: Team Stats

The importance of beating those around you –

In what was a famous season for Manchester City, it’s no surprise to see them feature prominently in the team stats, and the way they won the title was by being the best of the best. Looking at the Top 6 mini league table, they were deserved champions:

City had the most wins, least defeats, most goals (along with United), best goal difference, joint most clean sheets, and only failed to score in one game – the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal that appeared to have ended their Title Challenge. To highlight the importance of beating those around you, the top three places in the Top 6 mini table is the same as the full table. What is surprising is just how many goals there were – Man City put 6 past United, who in turn put 8 past Arsenal, who in turn put 5 past Spurs, who in turn put 5 past Newcastle……you get the idea. Chuck in Arsenal’s 5-3 against Chelsea, and Newcastle’s 3-0 over United, and this season saw unprecedented 105 goals in the 30 games between them – at a rate of 3.5 goals per game.

Similarly, the relegation places were also largely dependent on how teams did against their Bottom 6 rivals:

Both Wolves and Blackburn stuttered against the Bottom 6 teams, with just 2 wins each – this contributed largely to their relegation, indeed Blackburn can point to defeats to Wigan and Bolton in the final run in that led to their demise. The odd one out is Bolton. They actually topped the Bottom 6 mini league with a decent 21 points – however, they lost out largely due to Wigan and QPR’s amazing run against the Top 6 teams.

Big Game Winners – Manchester City with 8 wins against Top 6 and QPR who beat an average ranked opponent of 10.20

Not a massive surprise after the tables above, but just to confirm that Man City were the best against the Top 6 teams, or more specifically – 2nd to 6th. Man Utd clocked up 5 wins, whilst 3rd placed Arsenal managed four, with defeats of Man City, Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle). The two Merseyside teams also both clocked up 4 wins against the Top 6, whilst Wigan and QPR punched above their weight with three wins each.

QPR had the highest ranked team per win with 10.20. Whilst three of these were against the Top 6 (Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea in a London treble), they also beat teams in the upper end of the Mid 8 with a 1-0 win against 7th placed Everton and a 3-2 home win over Liverpool. Mark Hughes may not be the most popular manager to the neutrals (ideas above his station perhaps?), but he certainly knows how to inspire his players. I for one gave them next to know chance of survival with 10 games to go but with 5 wins in that run, all against teams above them in the table, saw them stay up, and they very nearly showed their mentality for the big occasion on the final day of the season – 2-1 up at Man City with just minutes to go. We all know what happened then.

Bolton on the other hand were the Flat Track Bullies with an average ranked opponent of 15.10 for each of their 10 wins. In fact, they only won 3 games against teams outside of the Bottom 6 (Stoke, Liverpool and Everton). To confirm their status, they were one of only two teams not to record a win against the Top 6, along with Wolves who were also relegated. Man City won the most games against the Bottom 6 – winning all 12, but they certainly can’t be accused of being Bullies.

Big Game Scorers – Man City and Man Utd with 24 goals against Top 6 teams, Blackburn Rovers with an average opposition of 10.28 per goal.

Once again, it’ the big two that dominate the team stats in terms of totals – both hit 24 goals against the Top 6, with the famous 8-2 and 6-1 scorelines. Elsewhere, no surprise that Arsenal and Spurs are 3rd and 4th respectively, despite all of these teams having two less games against the Top 6 teams. Surprising a few teams were newly promoted Norwich with a decent 14 goals against the elite – as many as Chelsea and more than Newcastle.

Blackburn however, are a surprise. Despite getting relegated their 48 goals were on average against an opponent of 10.94. A lot of that is thanks to the 4-3 win over Arsenal and 3-2 win at Old Trafford. Their struggle to score against the Bottom 6 (14 was the joint lowest) meant that they suffered relegation, but at least they gave it a go in terms of attacking – unlike Aston Villa and Stoke, who both scored less than a goal a game.

In terms of Flat Track Bullies, West Brom had the lowest ranked opponent per goal of 13.44, just below Bolton. Whilst the Baggies scored 10 goals against the big teams, they scored almost half of their 45 against the strugglers in the Bottom 6. Man Utd had the most goals against the bottom teams, whilst Chelsea’s weighting of goals, leans very much to the poorer opponents.

Big Game Defences – City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Newcastle, QPR with 3 clean sheets vs Top 6, QPR with 9.57 Average Opponent per Clean Sheet

As seen earlier, there have been six teams to have kept three clean sheets against the Top 6. Surprisingly, one of them is not Man Utd who only managed one shut out against their rivals – the 3-0 win over an early season and weaker Spurs. Also surprisingly (If I hadn’t documented it above) is that QPR are one of the teams with three clean sheets against the Top teams – Chelsea, Newcastle and Spurs.

And those clean sheets for QPR helped give them the highest average of 9.57. Aside from the Top 6 teams, they also kept clean sheets against Everton (7th), Stoke (14th), Swansea (11th) and Wolves (20th). They actually had a worse defensive record under Mark Hughes, but he did keep them up to be fair to the former Welsh Wizard.

The teams with 10 clean sheets or more were led by surprise package Swansea who had an average ranked opponent of 11.29 for their 14 clean sheets. They were behind only Top 6 teams Man Utd, Man City and Newcastle in the number of clean sheets, and they managed shut outs against Liverpool (twice), Newcastle and Man City.

At the other end of the scale, Blackburn only kept three clean sheets (as did Bolton) but they had the lowest ranked opponent per clean sheet – with 15.00. Man Utd’s defence did have the markings of Big Game Bottlers – although they had the most clean sheets, they had the same number against the Top 6 as Bolton and Stoke. They had the most against the Bottom 6 with nine.

How about the goals conceded table I hear you ask. See below:

Man Utd had the best average ranked opponent per goal conceded – though that’s largely down to the seven they conceded against their beloved city rivals. City had the best defence in terms of goals conceded, and also the least against the Top 6 with just 9. Stoke had the worst record against the Bottom 6 with 20 conceded – to add to the worst attack – Go Stoke! The bottom three had the worst defences, with Bolton suffering particularly against the big boys.

Failure to Score – Man City only failed to score once against the Top 6, whilst Man Utd only failed to score in three games.

The barrel of laughs at Aston Villa is perhaps best illustrated by the number of times they failed to hit the back of the net – a whopping 15 times, even Wolves only failed to score on 11 occasions. Swansea matched Villa’s 15 but at least played some good football – much to Liverpool’s liking.

Not only did Bolton concede the most goals against the Top 6, they also failed to score the most times against them as well. Not gonna be a problem next season for them as they’ll undoubtedly be one of the big teams in the Championship.

And that’s just about that for the Team Stats and Premier League review. It’s fair to say that Man City were deserved winners based on how they performed against their rivals, whilst Man Utd showed that you can win it by beating the teams you’re supposed to beat – after all, they were only seconds away from lifting their 20th league title.

I’ll be adding the same reviews for the other league’s in the coming weeks.



Coming Soon

8 Jun

Due to a full time job, and getting used to becoming a new Dad, time is a little on the short side for all things Average Oppostion. With that in mind, I thought I’d just update any regular readers of what to expect over the Summer months.

  • End of Season Review for Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga
  • End of Season Review – Lite for Ligue Un and the Eredivisie
  • Team Comparison – Arsenal Invincibles 2003-04 vs Juventus’ Unbeatables 2011-12
  • Player Comparison – Carlos Tevez 2009-10 vs Sergio Aguero 2011-12 for Man City
  • Player Comparison – Thierry Henry vs Robin van Persie for Arsenal
  • Review of Euro 2012

Plus any requests that get sent in (within reason).




Premier League Review: 2011-2012 Part 1

4 Jun

Well that was quite the season. Regarded by many as the best in the Premier League’s 20 year history, we were treated to goals galore, last day drama, and a few surprise packages (Swansea, Norwich, Newcastle), whilst there was still plenty of familiarity with Scholes, and Henry’s names returning to the scoresheet, and Joey Barton acting like a prat.

Throughout the season I’ve been attempting to identify who are the big game players and flat track bullies based on the opponent that they’ve scored against, provided an assist against, or kept a clean sheet against. Whilst the season has been in play, I’ve based the stats on the position of the opponent at the time of play. So for example, when Edin Dzeko scored 4 goals away at Spurs, it was against a Bottom 6 team as they had a poor start to the season. Now that the season is over,  we can now look at the performances based on both the final league positions and the time of play. Edin will be pleased about that.

For queries on calculations, please see the “Rules and Workings” section at the top menu. This explains the averages, the ranges and points per goal workings. It’s not rocket science, but should answer any questions.

Premier League Season Review 2011-12 Part 1: Goalscoring

Goals versus Top 6 TeamsWayne Rooney 8 goals based on final rankings. Robin van Persie with 7 goals based on positions at the time of play.

Robin van Persie won the golden boot with an impressive 30 league goals, and based on the opposition at the time of play, he also had the most goals versus Top 6 teams – big game mentality from a player in an often struggling team. However, based on the Final League Standings, it’s England’s very own Wayne Rooney that scored the most against the Premier League’s elite.

He started the season in blistering form as Man United won their first five games. In that five match run were big games against Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea, and Rooney thrived. A hat trick in the famous 8-2 win over The Gunners, and a goal against both Spurs (3-0 at home) and Chelsea (3-1 at Old Trafford) meant that he’d already passed last season’s total of just three goals against the Top 6 teams. And it was still September. As with his team, his form dipped in the mid season, though a couple in the 3-3 draw at Chelsea (pens) kept up his goal record against the best teams. The last of his goals came in the 3-1 win at 4th placed Spurs. Well played Rooney.

But, it could be argued that van Persie performed to a higher level against the top teams. Whilst he got one less than Rooney, he scored all of his goals for a weaker team (19 points weaker). The hat trick away at Chelsea in the 5-3 win was when Arsenal were in 7th. He also scored home and away against Man Utd, as well as goals against Spurs and Newcastle. At the time of play, all of these goals were against Top 6 teams, whilst the early season Arsenal and Spurs that Rooney scored against were very weakened versions of the teams that finished 3rd and 4th. On top of that, two of Rooney’s eight were from the penalty spot, whilst van Persie’s were all from open play. Both players also scored a brace against Liverpool (van Persie away).

Elsewhere, Dzeko’s four at White Hart Lane gives his number a kinder gloss. Spurs were bottom at the time of play. As a player, he swang from one extreme to the other – hitting two at Old Trafford in the 6-1 win, and then failing to bother any other Top 6 team from that point on – preferring the Bottom 6 opponents (although the goal against QPR did have a big game feel to it).

Nikica Jelavic proved to be a great January signing for Everton with 4 goals against the Top 6 teams, including a brace at Old Trafford that had a massive impact on the whereabouts of the title. In fact, he’s such a big game player, that the worst team he scored against was 12th. Similarly, Ashley Young just couldn’t be bothered against the smaller teams, with 4 of his 6 goals, coming against the Top 6.

Honourable Mentions to –Yakubu, who almost punched above his weight, Clint Dempsey with 6 from midfield, and Grant Holt with 5 against the best in his debut Premier League season. Even if he has turned into a bit of a diva since. And Steven Fletcher managed to notch away at Spurs, Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool, whilst also scoring against 5th placed Newcastle – despite being in the worst team in the league.

Highest Average Opponent per Goal Jermain Defoe 9.27 (Final Positions), and Mario Balotelli 8.77 at the time of play

Last year’s winner was Rafael van der Vaart with a very impressive average ranked opponent of 7.46 for each of his 13 league goals. All of this in a debut season as well. This year, for those players with 10 goals of more (Jelavic had 7.33 on 9 goals). This year, there was nothing even close to that this year. But there has to be a winner, and despite not playing as many games as he would have liked, once again, it’s an England striker who has the big game player tag, with the highest rank opponent per goal – Jermain Defoe with 9.27.

Although he only scored three against the Top 6 teams, only two were against the stragglers at the bottom (Wolves and Bolton), whilst the majority of his goals against Middle 8 teams were in the top half of the table – Liverpool (8th), Fulham (9th). The goals that pushed his average up though were against 1st place Man City (3-2 defeat) and 2nd placed Man Utd – Peter Crouch is the only other player in the league to have managed that this season.

The only other player in double figures with an average under 10 was the Yak. Blackburn must have fed the Yak a lot (Chicken?) becuase he scored 17 goals for them this season, despite being relegated. The big striker scored twice in the unlikely wins against 2nd placed Man Utd, and 3rd placed Arsenal, as well as scoring against eventual Champions League winners Chelsea on the final day.

Mad Mario Balotelli had the highest ranked opponent per goal at the time of play, and with goals against Man Utd (2), Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle, the only team he failed to score against in the Top 6 was Arsenal. His goals in the second half of the season slowed down (8/5 split) but he showed his big game temperement in the title decider against QPR, with an assist for Aguero. He’s been troublesome, audacious, hilarious and brilliant at times this season.

Honourable Mentions to – Jelavic just missed the cut with 9 goals, but his 7.33 was a great effort. That rating was matched by Ashley Young as well. Steven Gerrard only scored 5 league goals, but they were against an average of 6.80. Less goals but a better ranking were another Everton window signing – Steven Pienaar (6.50 – 4 Goals) and Wigan’s Shaun Maloney (5.0 – 3 goals) who specialised in the big games in that amazing escape from relegation.

Value of Goals – Robin van Persie, 30 goals – 24 Points

Last season saw West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie pick up this award with 17 points worth of goals. I can reveal that this season has seen a higher number of points won from a single player. And it’s really no surprise who.

Yep, van Persie wins another award, to go with the golden boot and the joint Top 6 Top Scorers. His 30 goals were worth a massive 24 points to Arsenal – 34.29% of their 70 points. That’s huge for a team in the Top 4 as you’d expect goals throughout the side as with United and City. It will be a real shame for the Premier League if he leaves England this summer, and it’ll be a complete kick in the nuts to Arsenal, for who he’s become so important. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they’re a one man team, but it’s hard to see anyone else in the four leagues I’ve covered this season get anywhere near that amount. 


He’s not the most important player to team, as far as percentages anyway. Blackburn’s Yakubu’s 17 goals were worth a very decent 13 points, which was worth almost 42% of Blackburn’s points. They were relegated in the end, but he can lay claim to being more of a one man team than van Persie – albeit a far less successful team.

Honourable Mentions to – Grant Holt again, with a point per goal for his 15, in a debut top flight season. Papiss Cisse also won a point per goal, and his tally of 13 only began in January. Big things are expected of him next season. And once again, Steven Fletcher’s name pops up – his goals won almost 35% of Wolves points.

We’ve seen big game performances from Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Mario Balotelli and Jermain Defoe, but for every big game player, there’s a flat Track Bully or Big Game Bottler.

Premier League Bullies

Normally I’d only look at the players with a poor average opponent with 10 goals or more, and that’s to come shortly, but below is a list of players with 5+ goals, all of which have been against the lower tier of opponents:

Berbatov finished his Manchester United career with 7 league goals – only one of them was against a top half team (Fulham, won 5-0). This continues his knack of scoring against the lesser teams in the Premier League. Last year he was the joint top scorer, but the hat trick against Liverpool aside (they were outside the Top 6 at the time), he never bothered the Top 6. A hat trick against Wigan (15th), and further goals against Blackburn (2 goals – 19th) as well as a goal against Stoke (14th) meant that his average was also a very poor 15.14. Pavel Pogrebnyak somehow managed to get an even lower average with 17.33. Seen as being a good signing, his goals perhaps covered up that he only did it against poor teams. Sessegnon is the same, as is Adam Johnson – though at least he scored some goals (I’m looking at you Downing).

And so onto the Average Opposition Flat Track Bully award for 2011-12. Based on those players who broke into double figures:

What a difference a year makes. Rafael van der Vaart was last year’s big game player with an average opposition ranking of 7.46 and 8 goals against the Top 6 teams. Fast forward 12 months and he has the second worst average with 13.73, and just two goals against Top 6 opponents – Arsenal and Newcastle. Why? Well it was his second season in England, so his game and positioning was well known by opponents, he also played a few more games out wide, and perhaps most importantly, he lost Peter Crouch as a strike partner – several of his goals last year were from Crouch knock downs. Adebayor has replaced him as the lone striker in Spurs formation, and has undoubtedly had a better season, but it’s affected van der Vaart’s effectiveness. Still, hitting double figures in the league for a second successive season is not to be sniffed at.

And the same applies to our man with the lowest ranked opposition per goal – West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie. Last year, his 15 goals last year were against an average ranked team of 9.67, and also worth a league high 17 points. This year, like van der Vaart, he’s a known player for defences to watch out for. His one goal against Top 6 teams was against Newcastle (5th) in a 3-2 win. His average of 15.00 is predominantly down to the 4 goals he scored against bottom placed Wolves.

Pointless Goals

And as with every big game player, there’s flat track bully, the same can be said of the importance of goals – whilst van Persie’s goals have been worth 24 points to Arsenal, who’s goals have meant sod all, or very little?

Whilst Walcott had a pretty good season in front of goal with 8 from out wide, none of them mattered a great deal come the final scorelines of Arsenal matches. That is perhaps a little unfair on Theo as his goal against Chelsea was to put Arsenal ahead, whilst his brace against Spurs in the 5-2 win gave the Gunners a bit more breathing space, although it was already 3-2 by the time he scored. Berbatov’s inclusion is no real surprise – he tended to score in big wins, aside from the brace against Blackburn in a surprise defeat at Old Trafford.

Another big name is that of Fernando Torres, half of his goals came in 6-1 win over QPR, whilst he also got the consolation at 3-0 down against Man Utd (not gonna mention that miss). Even his goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semi final wasn’t really needed, they were already through on away goals – though it did give them breathing space.

And lastly in the goal scoring section, the men who make the goals.


David Silva was unsurprisingly the player with the most assists this season, creating a very impressive 15 goals. His split wasn’t too bad either, with three against the Top teams, and most importantly, assists in the crucials games – QPR and Man Utd, two games that decided the destination of the title.

Equally unsurprising were the players in second and third – Valencia and Mata. However, despite being regarded as one of the best right wingers in the league last season, Valencia was something of a Flat Track Bully with his assists. Of the 13, 10 of them were against the Bottom 6 teams, leading to a very high average ranked opponent of 15.85.  Also creating for Man Utd was Nani, with 10 assists. Despite spending far more minutes than he’d care for on the bench, he still managed a decent 10, but like Valencia, he only had one against Top 6 opponents.

Emmanuel Adebayor was the surprise big game creator, with 7 of his 11 assists coming against the best teams in the league. This is inflated by the 4 assists he was awarded against Newcastle in a 5-0 win, but he also created in both games against Arsenal. Elsewhere, despite being somewhat of a flat track bully with his goals, Stephane Sessengnon was happy to create against any team – and his three assists against Top 6 teams were all against Man City, as Sunderland took 4 points from the eventual champions.

That’s all for part 1, part 2 will contain the team stats, including defensive stats.