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Europe’s Best Goalscoring Partnerships

13 Mar

After writing about the Premier League’s best goal scoring partnerships a while back, I was inundated (one comment) with requests for something similar for other leagues. So, instead of signing up to do some accountancy exams that I’ve been putting off for 13 years, I decided the best way to spend some spare time would be to put together another list for absolutely no reward. I hope somebody somewhere enjoys reads this.

With the return to favour of partnerships such as Suarez and Sturridge, (#dare to) Zlatan and Cavani, and Negredo and Aguero, what better time to have a look back at some of the best partnerships before them. Having searched a whole two pages of Google without finding something exactly the same as this, I thought it was time to put together a combined list.

Rules and Workings

I’ve decided to go back 25 years to cover the 1988-89 to the 2012-13 seasons. Why 25 years? Well that just about covers my football watching memory and it’s a nice round number. I’ve decided to include just the Top four Leagues in Europe – the top divisions in England, Germany, Italy and Spain (based on European Trophies won).

A partnership is only considered so if both players (regardless of position)have scored at least 10 goals each. For this list, I’ve only combined those pairs with 30 goals or more, so sadly that would exclude van Wolfswinkel and Elmander’s herculean haul of 2 goals from this season. Tough break fellas.

A further blow to the Norwich duo’s chances are that this season’s partnerships are not included as they’ll instantly make this post out of date. Expect to see Suarez and Sturridge included in the next update in space year 2038.

Joking aside, as I type, Suarez and Sturridge have just hit their combined 44th, 45th, 46th and 47th goals of the season against Cardiff, so they definitely make it into the Top Partnerships list, but as the season hasn’t ended yet, their number is likely to change.

It’s worth noting that the German League has fewer games, and the other leagues have varied in number of teams.

And lastly, it’s league goals only.

The Stats

In all, there’s a whopping 221 instances of 30 goal partnerships in the Top Four European leagues over the last 25 completed seasons – actually a lot higher than I’d expected. Spain lead the way with 70, followed by England (61), Italy (49) and Germany (41). No real shock there as Germany has fewer games, as did Italy for a good chunk of the 25 seasons in question. In terms of clubs represented, there are a decent 61 (Spain 17, England 16, Italy 15 and Germany 13).

At the top end of the food chain are the mighty Real Madrid with a 30 goal partnership in 19 of the 25 seasons recorded. No wonder they win quite a lot. As you’d expect, anything they can do, Barcelona can almost do (that would make a catchy song), and the Catalans are second on the list with a healthy 17 partnerships represented. Aside from Spain, England have Man Utd and Liverpool in double figures (13 + 10), whilst somewhat surprisingly, it’s Bayer Leverkusen who lead the way in Germany with 10 partnerships making the 30 goal mark. For Italy, AC Milan are the team with the most deadly duos, featuring 8 times.

At the bottom end, there are 25 clubs with just one 30 goal partnership, sadly, my team don’t even have that. The likes of Coventry’s Dublin and Huckerby, are joined for their day in the sun by Villarreal’s Forlan and Riquelme (2004-05). And who could forget Bochum’s world famous Thomas Christiansen and Vahid Hashemian with their 31 goal haul in 2002-03. I know I certainly won’t.

The 50 goal club

As mentioned above, there’s a great deal of 30 goal partnerships, so many in fact, that I wonder why I used that number. So to get things going, here’s a list of those partnerships that scored at least 50 league goals in a season. Just to manage expectations – it’s a bit heavy with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Best Strike Partnerships (50 goals +)

In fact it’s basically La Liga’s greatest partnerships plus three others.

As its illegal not to mention both Ronaldo and Messi when speaking about the Spanish league, it’s worth having a quick look at their record in this list. Interestingly, both players have been part of a successful partnership as the second scorer – which is really what you’d have expected a few years back, with both players featuring out wide early on. Ronaldo’s first season in Madrid saw him form one of the most balanced partnerships on this list, with Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine banging in a decent 27 goals to the shy Portuguese’s 26. A pretty good debut season before the championship manager stats started kicking in. Messi’s season as the second scorer was in the 2008-09 season that saw Samuel Eto’o hitting 30 to Messi’s 23.

Man City fans may be surprised to see Edin Dzeko in 6th place with the wall decorating Brazilian Grafite (I’m sorry) making up the pair – the highest Bundeliga entry with 54 goals. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard have combined for 30+ goals on two occasions, with the 2009-10 season seeing a combined 51 league goals for the Chelsea legends – albeit not a typical strike partnership. However, in first place for England are Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley with a whopping 55 – all for a promoted club too. Impressive stuff. Must have been before Cole needed five chances to score (Glenn Hoddle’s words, not mine).

Fans of 90s football will be disappointed not to see any Italian partnerships breaking the 50 goal mark but heartened to see the Original Ronaldo and (possibly the original) Luis Enrique with 51 goals in the 1996-97 season. Ronaldo who started the season aged just 19 would score 47 goals (all tournaments) in his only season with the Catalan giants. Damn you Gods of injury.

What is also interesting (depending on your definition), is that 11 of the 50 goal partnerships have been in the last five years – at a time when 4-5-1’s have become the norm. Although a lot of them are rather dependent on Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo being involved.

The number one partnership sees Ronaldo paired up with Higuain for the 3rd time to make a 50 goal mark. The winning season being 2011-12 when Mourinho’s men managed to break Barca’s dominance of La Liga. A phenomenal 68 league goals from just two players is quite frankly bonkers. Both Ronaldo and Messi feature in four 50 goal partnerships – Messi with 4 different partners, the big flirt.

Top 20 Partnerships By Country

I planned to show a top ten by country, but La Liga’s are already on show, and it would also mean leaving out the likes of Batistuta and Oliveira who thrived on Rui Costa’s assists in 1997-98. And because we haven’t featured much from Serie A just yet, now seems as good a time as any. So without further ado:

Serie A Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Serie A Top Scoring Partnerships

Premier League/Division One Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Premier League Top Scoring Partnerships

La Liga Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

La Liga Top Scoring Partnerships

Bundesliga Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Bundesliga Top Scoring Partnerships v2

I know what you’re thinking – where’s Vialli and Mancini? They were undoubtedly a great strike partnership, but they were also playing in the most defensive era of a league known for being defensive. They’re best season together came in 1990-91 when they combined to score 31 league goals (ranked 35th in the Serie A charts).

There’s three entries from before the Premier League began in England, with Barnes and Rush scoring a decent 39 combined goals in the triumphant 1989-90 season for Liverpool.

Spain’s list sees the crowd pleasing entry of Romario and Stoichkov, who notched 46 goals in 1993-94 whilst the Bundesliga entry reminds us of just how good Roy Makaay was. In fact the Dutchman is one of a number of players who feature across multiple leagues, with the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldo (not a typo), Ibrahimovic, Eto’o, Raul and Berbatov (along with others).

 

Other Notes of Interest

Top 10 Teams are:

Real Madrid 19
Barcelona 17
Man Utd 13
Liverpool 10
Bayer Leverkusen 10
Arsenal 9
Bayern Munich 9
AC Milan 8
Valencia 7
Juventus 7

Most Featured Players:

Only 8 players have featured in five or more 30 goal partnerships and top spot doesn’t go to Messi or Ronaldo, but rather Raul who has been involved in 10 great partnerships. Across two countries, he scored goals with Morientes, Zamorano, van Nistelrooy (2), Ronaldo (2), Guti, Huntelaar, Higuain, and Suker. That’s impressive.

The other compatibles are Cristiano Ronaldo (7), Messi, Del Piero, Makaay, Eto’o, Berbatov, and Rooney (all five).

 

So there you have it, it’s not just the big man-little man partnership (Quinn-Phillips), or the classic goalpoaching number 9 and playmaking number 10 (Romario and Stoichkov) that make great partnerships. It can be wide men with false number 9s, a lone striker with an advanced midfielder (Torres and Gerrard/Drogba and Lampard) or if you’re lucky, it may even be Toni Polster and Bruno Labbadia (FC Koln 1994-95).

This season will see entries from Suarez and Sturridge, Ronaldo and Benzema, and Messi and Sanchez. Tevez and Llorente also stand a good chance of joining the elite club along with a few others

I’ll chuck the full list up in the coming days.

Cheers,

Liam

;

Notable ommissions – maybe other countries/world cups

Near miss

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Top 50 Big Game Scorers: 5-1

24 Sep

Here it is, the Top 5 Big Game Scorers in the history of Football. All are well known superstars, and after taking thousands of goals and matches into account, the top player is revealed. To see numbers 10-6, click here

5. Zinedine Zidane (France) 1988-2006 / 33 points – 10 goals

In at number 5 is the man that many believe was able to break the Maradona/Pele stranglehold on the best player of all time title. And part of that can be attributed to his performance in big games. Although an attacking midfielder, he wasn’t in the Maradona, Platini and Lampard gang of prolific scorers. In an 18 year professional career, he got double figures on just six occasions, with his highest season total being 12. However, as you probably know, he stepped up on the biggest stages. The most recent player to score in two World Cup Finals, Zizou scored a headed double in 1998 and then a pretty much perfect penalty in the 2006 Final against Buffon, which also had added pressure as he’d announced it would be his last game as a professional. What a great way to bow out….

And it wasn’t just the World Cup that he excelled in. The successful Euro 2000 campaign for France saw Zidane put his country through in the Semi Final against Portugal (who must have a deep dislike of him after he repeated the trick in the 2006 World Cup semi final). In club football, he was equally adept at stepping up in the biggest games, most notably in the 2002 Champions League Final where he did this:


A perfect volley into the top corner from a looping cross on his weaker foot? Not a problem. That goal also won the trophy for the Madrid. And whilst that was his most notable goal in a great club career, he also scored plenty of other significant goals. Many forget the semi final goal against bitter rivals Barcelona at the Nou Camp (seen here), whilst his time at Juventus was also memorable, if a touch unlucky as he lost two finals with the Turin giants. In the 1997 Champions League Semi Final, Zidane scored against Ajax, before scoring against Monaco at the same stage a year later, before going on to lose the finals to Dortmund and Real Madrid respectively. In fact, his Champions League campaigns involving Juventus generally didn’t end too well, with his former club knocking out Real Madrid at the same stage in 2003, despite Zidane’s goal in a 4-3 aggregate loss.

He was of course much much more than about goals, but the fact that he stepped up with so many high pressure big game goals, only added to the high regard he was held in. There’s a great article that makes a pretty good case for comparing Rivaldo to Zidane, and rightly so, however, doesn’t quite match Zidane’s achievements and ability to impact the very biggest games so consistently – surely something that warrants the Frenchman’s placing in the history of football.

Cesare Maldini when manager of the 1998 Italy World Cup squad said that he’d give up five of his players for one Zidane, but perhaps Franz Beckenbauer sums up Zidane the best:

Beckenbauer on Zidane “Zidane is one of the greatest players in history, a truly magnificent player…….Zidane is unique, The ball flows with him. He’s more like a dancer than a footballer

4. Ferenc Puskas (Hungary) 1943-1966 / 40 points – 15 goals

Yet another one of the dominant Real Madrid team of the 50s and 60s, Ferenc Puskas holds the distinction of scoring two hat tricks in the finals of the European Cup, in fact one of them was actually a four goal haul. He also had the distinction of playing for different countries at the World Cup – firstly Hungary and later on Spain. But more on that later.

A dominant part of three great teams, Puskas first came to prominence playing for the Hungarian military team Honved where he earned the nickname “the Galloping Major”, whilst playing alongside fellow Hungarian legends Czibor and Kocsis. He won five titles in his time with them and the golden boot in four seasons – including a 50 goal season in 1947-48, which was the highest in Europe. But it wasn’t with Honved that Puskas became known and feared around Europe, it was with his national team – the Mighty Magyars. He would eventually go on to score a massive 84 goals in 85 appearances for his (first country) and in that time they beat England 6-3 at Wembley and 7-1 away (unheard of then) as well as going on a 32 game unbeaten run that saw them win the 1952 Olympics (with Puskas scoring in the Final) that ended at the worst possible time – the 1954 World Cup Final. In the Final, Puskas showed his big game temperament once again as he put the favourites 1-0 up after just six minutes. That lead became 2-0 before West Germany managed to turn the game around and win 3-2 in a match that came to be known as the Miracle of Bern.

After leaving Hungary in 1956 on a tour around Europe, Puskas was one of many who refused to return to Hungary. As a result he received a 2 year ban from FIFA. Once the ban had ended, he was turend down by clubs in Italy and was denied a move to Manchester United before Real Madrid took a gamble on the overweight 31 year old. And it didn’t end too badly for him. In his first season, he scored two goals in the European Cup semi final against neighbours Atletico as Real went on to retain the trophy. The following year he really made his mark. In a semi final against rivals Barcelona, Puskas scored three goals over the two legs to put Real in their fifth straight Final – and it was in this Final that his legendary status at Madrid would be cemented. Facing Eintracht Frankfurt, Puskas scored four goals in a 7-3 win:.


And of course, he wasn’t done there. After a year off, Madrid were back in the final in 1962, and juts to prove it wasn’t a fluke before, Puskas scored another hat trick in the final – although unfortunately for him, he was facing a Eusebio inspired Benfica who scored five to his three. Not to worry though, him and Real Madrid won the trophy again in 1966 with the big 39 year old striker scoring four goals in one game against Feyenoord along the way.

So a World Cup Final goal, an Olympic Final goal, and two European Cup Final hat tricks. That pretty much settles any debate (if there was any). He went on to manage several teams, most notably taking Panathinaikos to the European Cup Final in 1971 (the only time a Greek club has ever reached that stage) and in 2002, the Hungarian national team stadium was renamed in his honour.

3. Pele (Brazil) 1956-1977 / 40.5 points – 13 goals

Where to start with Pele? How about some modest words from the man himself: “Every kid around the world who plays soccer wants to be Pele”. Well he is the only man to have won three World Cups, but personally, I wanted to be Tony Cottee. Even still, he is generally considered to be one of the holy trilogy of the greatest of all time. Scorer of over 1,000 goals, Pele will be judged by some due to never playing in European leagues – though this wasn’t necessarrily his fault, like Eusebio, Pele was banned from leaving Brazil – certainly in his prime anyway. As you’d expect, 3 World Cups + Brazil’s all time top scorer (77) = some big game goals.

A truly innovative player who’s near misses are almost as famous as his goals (this is the best one, but there’s also the halfway line shot and the Banks save), Pele burst onto the global scene during the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Aged just 17, Pele scored six times, all in the knock out stages. First up was the winner as Wales were defeated 1-0 in the Quarters. From then, things really took off. Facing Just Fontaine’s France (the only player to outscore him at that tournament), Pele scored a hat trick in a 5-2 win – proving to be the difference on the day. And the momentum kept going as in the Final the teenager did this:

One of two days that day, Brazil won their first World Cup and a legend was born. He played and scored at both the 1962 and 1966 World Cup’s but injuries (fouls) robbed him of playing the full tournament. In fact the “attention” he was receiving from opposition defenders in 1966 led him to declare that he’d never play in the World Cup again. Luckily for us, Brazil and the 1970 World Cup, he changed his mind – spearheading the Brazil team considered to be the best in history. Scoring four goals along the way, including the opener in the Final, Pele also racked up five assists, including two in the 4-1 win over Italy to win their third title and the Jules Rimet trophy for keeps. It was his crowning performance in what was a glittering career:


He also did pretty well for his club team Santos as well. Although not quite as prolifc as Alberto Spencer, Pele did end Penarol’s dominance in the tournament as Santos became just the second team to win the tournament in 1962. With the two legged final ending level on aggregate, Santos had the returning Pele for the Play Off, and he didn’t disappoint with two goals in a 3-0 win for the Brazilians. A year later he was even more deadly, scoring a four goals in the two legged semi against Jairzinho’s Botafogo (including a hat trick in the away leg), before scoring again in the second leg of the final against Argentina’s Boca Juniors to claim his and Santos’ second title. In what was a good tournament for Pele, he also won the golden boot in the 1965 season.

Since retiring from football, he’s made a good career in comedy by getting into very public arguments with Maradona (who doesn’t?), saying that Nicky Butt was the player of the 2002 World Cup and doing adverts for viagra even though he made it very clear that he never need to use one. As entertaining as that’s all been, very few have or will ever be able to entertain on the pitch the way Pele did. A complete original, a genius, prolific in front of goal, provider of great goals, and inventor of iconic moments. He’s best summed up by Italy’s defender in the 1970 Final, Tarcisio Burgnich:

I told myself before the game, ‘he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else’ — but I was wrong

2. Alfredo Di Stefano (Argentina) 1945-1966/ 45 points – 19 goals

Much of what was said for Puskas can be repeated for his strike partner Di Stefano – apart from serving for the Hungarian Army that is. It’s more the games scored in then, and the fact that like Puskas, Di Stefano wasn’t particularly bothered about his nationality – also appearing for Spain as well as his native of Argentina, and also for one time home, Colombia. He also qualified for Italy.

Di Stefano spent 11 seasons with Real Madrid after playing for River Plate of Argentina and Millonarios of Colombia, despite not signing until he was 27. But it could have been very different – Di Stefano was destined for Madrid’s great rivals Barcelona until complications allowed Real to nip in at the last minute to at first share him with the Catalan club before eventually owning him outright. At one point there was a scenario where he’d play alternate seasons for each club – it’s hard to imagine that’d work out too well today. And Barcelona’s loss was certainly Real Madrid’s gain as the capital club went on to win the first five European Cups in a row, and whilst Puskas’ input was instrumental, no one had a bigger hand in the era of dominance than Di Stefano. Of the five European Cup wins from 1956 to 1960, Di Stefano scored in every single Final – including a hat trick in the 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

And it wasn’t just the Finals that he excelled in. Starting with inaugural tournament in 1955-56, where there were just 16 teams competing, Di Stefano scored in the semi final win over AC Milan (5-4 agg) before going on to score Madrid’s first goal in the final against Stade Reims as they won 4-3 against Hibernian’s conquerors. A year later he repeated thhe trick with a semi final strike against Matt Busby’s youngsters before going on to score the first goal in the Final win against Fiorentina. And his knack of scoring important goals would continue into the next season. After a hat trick against Hungarian’s Vasas in the semi final, Di Stefano scored Madrid’s first goal for the third conscutive Final – this time an equaliser against AC Milan, in a 3-2 win. The 1959 Final saw him score against Stade Reims who would no doubt be sick of the sight of him, this time in a 2-0 after he scored both home and away in the semi final win against city rivals Atletico Madrid. And the fifth and final consecutive European Cup win was arguably the best, with a famous 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Di Stefano once again scored Madrid’s opener and in fact their second as well, on the way to a hat trick in a match considered by many to be one of the greatest of all time. Perhaps just as importantly, he scored a brace in the semi final win over Barcelona. In what was a recurring pattern, not only would he score important goals, but he’d also step up in the games against rivals – with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on the end of his goals.

So there you have it, the Alberto Spencer of the European Cup and undobtedly a big game player. The only disappointment was that he only did it in one competition. Everyone else in the Top 10 scored in multiple competitions, with most impacting the World Cup. Unfortunately for Di Stefano, Argentina refused to participate at the 1954 tournament, Spain failed to qualify in 1958 and he was injured for the 1962 edition – meaning Di Stefano would join a list of greats never to play on the biggest stage with the likes of George Best, George Weah, Ryan Giggs and Julian Dicks.

And it wasn’t just his playing career that was eventful, moving into management, he memorably led both Boca Juniors and River Plate to national league titles, whilst in Spain he won the League, the cup and European Cup Winners Cup with Valencia. However, he couldn’t quite replicate that success with his beloved Real – finishing second in the league, the Copa del Rey, the Cup Winners Cup, Supercopa de Espana and the Copa de la Liga – five runners up medals!

Eusebio described the Blonde Arrow as “the most complete footballer in the history of the game”. Not a bad way to be described if you’re a footballer.

1. Gerd Muller (Germany) 1963-1981 / 51 points – 16 goals

And at number one is a player that scored 68 goals in 62 Internationals for his country, and who scored in the Final and Semi Finals of the three biggest tournaments possible. Gerd Muller, known as ‘Der Bomber’ was a prolific striker for every team he played for and in every competition. In total, he scored 655 goals in just 709 games – and these don’t include the types of goals that Romario counted, these were real goals. He was top scorer in the European Cup, The World Cup, the European Championships, the Bundesliga, and probably in training too, yet he’s never seriously considered when talking about the second tier of greats – after Pele, Maradona and Zidane, people tend to discuss Cruyff, Best, Charlton, Di Stefano and plenty of others, but never Muller (certainly not in England anyway). Yet he was the most reliable and devastating player of his generation.

He won the Bundesliga four times, the German Cup four times and the European Cup three times (in a row), among other trophies. You could point out that he was playing for Bayern Munich but when he joined them (in 1964), they were still in the second division having won a single title in the 1930s. It’s fair to say that he played a massive part in the history of Germany’s super club.

So on to the goals, the first of his big game strikes was in 1970 World Cup. Aged 25, Muller scored a double in “The Game of the Century” – not a bad way to introduce yourself to a global audience. Unfortunately for Gerd, it was in a 4-3 defeat to Italy. He scored two goals in extra time which in any normal circumstances should have been enough to win a game, not in that game though, as Italy scored three. He did at least finish the tournament as the Top Scorer with 10 goals, including the winner in an epic quarter final against 1966 conquerors, England. Regarded as a better team than the 1966 champions, Muller capped off a comeback from 2-0 down to put West Germany through. He wasn’t to be denied though, and four years later, on home soil he would have his moment of glory. After scoring in the Final Group stage games against Yugoslavia and then the winner against Poland in what was effectively a semi final, this happened:

Although he didn’t quite get the golden boot, he did score the winning goal in the final against Johan Cruyff’s much fancied Holland, and in scoring his 14th World Cup goal, he became the top scorer in World Cup history – a record that stood for 32 years until Ronaldo took the crown (it took him an extra World Cup). That made it an impressive double as Muller also top scored as West Germany won Euro ’72, including two goals in the Final against Russia. Before that he’d scored a double against Belgium to put his country through.

For his club team, Bayern won three consecutive European Cups from 1974-1976 and Muller was once again instrumental in all three wins. The 1974 tournament saw him score in the semi final against Dozsa of Hungary before they faced Atletico Madrid. After the Final ended 1-1, Bayern won the replay 4-0 with a brace from our man Muller. And to prove that he wasn’t just the poacher he was made out to be, he scored two brilliant goals, one from a van Basten-esque angle after a great first touch, and the second a classy lob that he really should have taken more time on:

A year later, he and they faced Don Revie’s Leeds team led by Billy Bremner in France. Despite only finishing the German league in 10th positon, Muller and his team mates managed to shake off their poor domestic form to win 2-0 – Muller scoring the second. It was a game remembered for some unusual refereeing decisions, but Muller didn’t care as he and his team mates won their second successive European Cup. And a year later, they were celebrating again – this time beating Saint Etienne. This time Muller didn’t score in the final, instead saving his impact for the semi finals against Real Madrid – scoring once away and twice at home as Bayern knocked out the one time dominant force in the competition.

He was also known mistakenly as “Short Fat Muller” after a hilarious lost in translation moment, but what was never in doubt was his ability to influence the biggest games in football. Pressure was not an issue for him.

He was quite simply the most prolific big game scorer that’s ever played football.

Cheers,

Liam

Euro 2012 – Golden Boot Contenders

30 May

Regular readers will know that I’ve been tracking the big game players across the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga, and with Euro 2012 just around the corner, I thought I’d post up the goalscoring stats of 50 players heading to Poland and the Ukraine based on the four leagues this season. Tournaments are made up of several high pressure big games, so who steps up and who bottles it?

First and foremost, the race for the golden boot, and who you should put your well earned money behind. These are the list of the players heading to the Euros with 20+ league goals behind them:

 1. Cristiano Ronaldo – If it wasn’t for Leo Messi, he’d be untouchable as the World’s best player at the moment. As it is, he’s still one of the top two. In a phrase normally reserved for the original Ronaldo, he’s been a phenomenom. Scoring 40+ goals is an amazing achievement, and he deserves the comparison with Clive Allen. Not that anyone has made that comparison. Anyway, Portugal have a toughest group with Germany, Holland and Denmark but Ronaldo’s 13 goals against Top 6 opponent’s including the winner away at Barcelona, proves that he can do it against the very best. He also has the small matter of proving to the World he can do it in a big tournament after just 3 goals in the last two Euros, and just one in the World Cup.

Best Odds: 14-1 Stan James and Bet Victor

2. Robin van Persie – There was always the question mark around Robin van Persie, what could he do if he was fit? Well this season finally saw this season answered at the age of 28. The first player to hit 30 Premier League goals in 4 years, he counted goals against Man Utd, Spurs, Chelsea and Barcelona this season to prove he has the mentality for the big games. Like Ronaldo, he has something to prove on a tournament stage with just one goal in the 2010 World Cup as Holland got to the final, and in prior European Championships, he scored twice in 2008 from a wider position. This time he’ll most likely be playing down the middle. If not, he’ll be deployed behind Huntelaar, but still able to score. As with Ronaldo, he is also operating in the toughest group, which means the odds are that bit more generous.

Best Odds: 12-1 Paddy Power

3. Klaas Jan Huntelaar – Much like the two names above him, he has pretty generous odds dspite scoring a very impressive 29 league goals in a 34 game Bundesliga. However, looking at his goalscoring a little deeper, and you’ll see that he scored just twice against Top 6 teams, with a massive 12 goals coming against the bottom 4 teams (18 team league), which lends a Flat Track Bully tone to his impressive goalscoring. Being in the group if death, there’s not really any poor opposition for him to Bully. Another reason for the generous odds is that it’s still not decided who will play the central striking role for Holland. If it’s van Persie then Huntelaar will be on the bench, if it’s Huntelaar then van Persie will be moved either deeper of wider.

Best Odds: 18-1 Paddy Power

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Everyone’s favourite pantomime villain had a bittersweet season. He has his most prolific league season with 28 league goals, but it’s the first time that he hasn’t won the league in 8 years. As with Huntelaar, there’s an element of the Flat Track Bully about his goals. You can probably expect him to score a hat trick against Ukraine and then do sod all against France and England – that’s if England can still be classed as a big team. As with all of those above him, he still has to prove himself on the biggest stages, and at 30, he’s running out of time. Why the long odds? Despite being one of the best players in Europe (and of all time in his head), Sweden aren’t expected to progress past the group stage. Based on prior tournaments, 5 goals could be enough, so a hat full against Ukraine and there’s a chance.

Best Odds: 50-1 Paddy Power, William Hill, Bet365, Bet Victor and Coral

5. Wayne Rooney – England’s main hope but suspended for the games against France and Sweden. He’ll be hoping that England are still in with a chance of qualifying come the final game against Ukraine. That may end up being a must win game, bringing with it big pressure. And that’s where Rooney comes good. This season’s 27 league goals saw 8 against Top 6 opposition, including a hat trick against Arsenal (finished 3rd) and a brace away at European Champions Chelsea. To get the golden boot is a big ask, but if he can notch a few against the co-hosts, momentum could see him carry on his scoring form into the rest of the tournament. He’s had two poor to average World Cups but his finest performances in an England shirt came in Euro 2004, so there is some hope.

Best Odds: 40-1 BetFred, Bet365, Bet Victor, Coral

6. Mario Gomez – See the below article for my thoughts on Mario Gomez. In short, he’s the biggest Flat Track Bully/Big Game Bottler of the lot. His tally of 26 goals was undoubtedly a good season, however, only 3 came against Top 6 opposition (only one based on positions at the time of play), and in both games against Dortmund in the league, and then in the cup final, he went missing. He has lots of shots and has little composure in the big games. There is some hope for those that have already bet on him – he scored a hat trick against Napoli and a double against Man City in the group stages of the Champions League. Maybe, just maybe he might grab a few against Portugal and Denmark in the group stages. A lot also depends on the fitness of Miroslav Klose. If he’s fit then Mario is on the bench, but it’s a big if. Amazingly he’s the favourite for the Golden Boot.

Best Odds: 8-1 Paddy Power, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Bet Victor

7. Antonio Di Natale – Despite being the ripe old age of 34, the Udinese striker has scored 80 goals in the last three Serie A seasons. This season saw him bang in 23 of those, 4 of which were scored against Top 6 Opposition. No one (Prandelli aside), is really sure who is going to start up front for the Italians, and so he’s a bit of a risk. And despite being prolific at club level, he has a rather more modest 10 goals in 36 appearances for his country. He has hinted that he may be retiring after (winning) the Euro’s so this could be his swansong, but he has a tough group and Balotelli in front of him.

Best Odds: 33-1 William Hill

8. Robert Lewandowski – A lot of people have him as the dark horse for the Golden Boot, and not without reason. The Borussia Dortmund striker is in fine form after notching 22 league goals last season as he picked up the double. He also scored a hat trick in the German Cup Final against Bayern Munich – big game mentality it seems, though he only had 3 goals against the remaining Top 5 teams in Germany. Poland have the added advantage of being hosts, and their group of Greece, Czech Republic and Russia, should see them qualify, and give Lewandowski the chance to score a few.

Best Odds: 25-1 Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, BetFred

9.Karim Benzema -2011-12 became the season that Benzema finally delivered on his promise with Real Madrid. Despite only being the 3rd Top Scorer at his club (Behind Ronaldo and Higuain), he still hit a decent 21 league goals for the Spanish Champions. Only three of these were against Top 6 teams though, and in the Champions League semi final, it was Ronaldo and Ozil that scored over the two legs as the Madrid giants went out, so there is the question mark over his contribution in the biggest games, although he can point to a goal against Barcelona earlier in the season. Another question mark is whether he’ll be a starter for France, with rumours of Olivier Giroud (21 goals in Ligue Un – 50-1) being favourite. A group containing England, Sweden and the Ukraine is tough-ish, but not without it’s opportunities.

Best Odds: 16-1 Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, Betfair, Bet365, BetFred, Bet Victor, Coral

The Others:

The one that really stands out for me is Miroslav Klose – he has a history of delivering in the big tournaments (14 World Cup goals, and Quarter and Semi final goals in Euro 2008) and whilst fit with Lazio for the first half of the season, he certainly delivered – scoring 13 goals in just 25 games in a new country. Add to that his Polish background and it all looks promising for the big striker. The only downside is his injury. He missed the latter parts of the season for Lazio, and whilst he did play for Germany at the weekend, he’s still short on match fitness. Germany will certainly be better with him in the team over Gomez. His odds are 16-1 with Paddy Power.

German team mate Lukas Podolski should be pretty much guaranteed his starting place in the team, and despite relegation, he scored a decent 18 goals for Cologne. And what’s more, not one was against the lower ranked opponents, with the Polish born forward hitting 6 aganist the Top teams. Add to that his prior performances in tournament football and like Klose, his affinity with Poland, and all of a sudden he looks pretty good at 25-1. Although he does play more from wide for the German national team.

Spain is an interesting one, with David Villa out through injury, and the decision to leave Roberto Soldado at home, it looks like a choice between a re-energised Torres (20-1) or Bilbao’s Llorente (16-1). It’s hard to call who will start, but del Bosque is a loyal coach, and with Torres’ high profile goal against Barcelona fresh in the mind, he may well get the nod. Llorente’s club season only finished on Friday due to the lateness of the Copa del Rey.

Aside from that, Mario Balotelli at 25-1 isn’t a bad shout. His goals dried up in the second half of the season, but he was undoubtedly a big game performer – at home with pressure. Think to the two goals away at Old Trafford and the coolness of the last minute penalty to win the game against a title chasing Spurs. The downside is that he’s mental and could easily get sent off as score a goal. Group games against Croatia and the Republic of Ireland will allow him ample opportunity to influence the tournament.

The Midfielders (and John Terry):

For slightly more generous odds, there’s plenty of goalscoring talent from deep:

Bayern Munich duo Robben and Ribery can be found at 40-1 and 66-1 respectively. Both had fine goalscoring seasons as Munich challenged (though failed) on three fronts – though neither really did it on the big occasion, with Robben in particular missing important chances (including penalties) to add to the idea that he bottles it on the biggest occasion – think of his chances in the World Cup Final. Elsewhere, Gerrard didn’t score many this year, but the 5 league goals came against Man Utd (2nd), Newcastle (5th) and local rivals Everton (7th) – all big games. He has the added responsibility of captaining the team, and it would appear as though he’s playing a more disciplined Central Midfield role. At 80-1, BetFred are offering the best odds.

Thomas Mueller got the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup with 5 goals. He hasn’t had a vintage season with Munich with just 7 goals, but 3 were against Top 6 opponents, and most recently, he scored in the Champions League Final to put the Germans ahead. At 25-1, he’s not a bad bet.

Not on the list but featuring heavily for Irish betting is Robbie Keane. He’s played mainly in North America this season, though his 3 goal cameo for Aston Villa on loan showed that he was still Premier League class – though fans of West Ham would question that based on 2010-11 performances. He’s the all time Ireland leading scorer with a decent 53 goals, and in the last tournament he played (World Cup 2002), he scored a decent 3 goals, including a last minute equaliser against eventual finalists Germany. He can be found at 150-1 on Coral.

For those patriotic and slightly foolish England fans who have more money than sense, John Terry (6 goals last season) can be backed at 250-1!

The full odds used in the above article can be found here.

Cheers,

Liam

Player Comparison – Didier Drogba vs Mario Gomez

24 May

Granted, they’re not in the same league (in every sense), but with the recent Champions League Final in mind, I thought it was interesting to note that the whereabouts of the Trophy could have been very different if the strikers had swapped teams. This is less a comparison of two equal competitors, more a study into a Big Game Player versus a Big Game Bottler or Flat Track Bully (to keep in theme with the rest of the site). The fifth entry into the Player Comparison Series looks at Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez

The Contenders:

Going into the Champions League Final, Didier Drogba of Chelsea and the Ivory Coast had recently turned 34. It was his final game for the club after eight successful seasons which saw him pick up three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and finally, a Champions League medal. In 338 games for the Blues, he scored 157 goals, at a rate of a goal every 2.1 games. Before the final, the two time African Player of the Year had just 12 goals for Chelsea this season, 5 of which were in the Champions League.

Mario Gomez on the other hand is in his striking prime. Aged just 26, he could lay claim to being the most prolific Champions League striker in the history of the competition, with a goal every 96.8 minutes (24 goals in total) as seen here. The Germany International has league titles with both Stuttgart and Bayern Munich, as well as cup success domestically. Since joining Bayern Munich in the summer of 2009, he’s scored 94 goals in 142 games for the club. This season, he was going into the final with a whopping 41 goals, 13 of which were in the Champions League.

Looking at the scoring stats, if there was a player to bet on, it was surely Gomez.

Champions League:

Not only had Gomez scored 13 in this season’s European Cup, he also hit 4 in one game – against Basel in the second round. In the earlier group stage, he hit a hat trick against Napoli, a brace against Manchester City, and in the Semi Final first leg at home to the mighty Real Madrid, he scored the winner as Bayern beat Mourinho’s men 2-1. I know what you’re thinking, Big Game Player? Well not really. The four goals against Basel was undoubtedly a great achievement, and I’d be a fool to suggest otherwise. Whilst Basel aren’t exactly giants of the European game, they had knocked out Manchester United in the group stages. This however, was not the same Basel. Gomez’s four goals came in a 7-1 victory for Munich. The hat trick against Napoli and brace against City were also good scoring feats, but these were in the lower pressure environment of the group stage. The pressure was certainly on in the Semi Final against Real Madrid, and whilst you can point to his winning goal, i’ll point to the fact that he missed several good chances before scoring from 4 yards, off his manhood after missing the ball with his feet. Every dog has his day.

Drogba on the other hand was a lot more selective with his goals. He scored 2 in the group stage against Valencia – a game that would see the winners go through, adding the extra pressure of a knockout environment. He scored one against Napoli in the 4-1 second leg win, after losing the first Quarter Final 3-1. Once again, pressure of the knockout, and at the time he scored, Chelsea were losing on aggregate. The Semi Final goal against Barcelona had the pressure of a Champions League semi final, added presure of playing the best team in the world, and also scoring with just about Chelsea’s only shot. The big man delivered once again. And then onto the final – 88th minute, losing the biggest game in club football – up steps the man for the big occasion for the equaliser, and later, the winning penalty.

Finals:

The thing is, it should have been no surprise. Drogba is a Big Game Player. Looking at the Finals he’s played in, and the contribution he’s made:

Nine Major Finals appearances have seen 9 Final goals. That’s quite simply unbelievable. Add in five more scoring Semi Finals and you have the picture of a Big Game Player. And what’s more, every goal has been decisive – not one of the Finals was a walkover. Not only that, look at the opponents – Man Utd, Liverpool (twice), Arsenal, Bayern Munich – none too shabby. He doesn’t have a goal in the Champions League Final of 2008, though that’s partly due to being sent off. If he’d still been on the pitch then it’s likely that he’d have taken the final penalty instead of John Terry.

And whilst Gomez hasn’t played in the number of Finals that the Drog has, he has still had the chance to make an impact on the biggest stages:

Granted, some of the appearances were as a substitue, but it’s fair to say – there’s still a trend. In fact, the only real big game with real pressure that he’s bothered the scoresheet in, was the aforementioned Champions League Semi Final against Real Madrid. He’s still young, and plays in a team that creates a lot of chances, but for one of the most prolific strikers playing in Europe today, he’d be expected to do better than one goal in all of the Finals and Semi Finals he’s played in. Flat Track Bully? I would suggest so.

League Form:

And as if further proof were needed, here’s some stats from my last Bundesliga Updates:

It was only his last goal of the 26 that saw him finally score against Top 6 opposition as Bayern beat 6th placed Stuttgart 2-0 at home in a game that neither side had anything to play for. He had 10 games agaisnt Top 6 opponents, and scored in just one of them. In my eyes, this pretty much confirms the Flat Track Bully status. When Bayern needed him most this season – in the title decider against Dortmund, he went missing, posting just one shot.

Drogba? Well it’s fair to say that it wasn’t a vintage season in the Premier League for the big Ivorian, scoring just 5 goals

The goal return, whilst poor for his standards, still has a pretty even split throughout the level of opposition. What this does illustrate though, is just how much Drogba rises to the big occasion. Five league goals? So what, I’m gonna score decisive goals in two big knock out competitions. Looking back through Drogba’s more recent past, he scored the winning goal away at Old Trafford in 2009-10 to put Chelsea Top of the league with just a handful of games remaining. In terms of Big Games in the league, to score the winner away at the team challenging you for the title, in a game that would ultimately decide who wins the league, there aren’t any bigger. You could argue, that he could do it on the final day of the season – like Alan Smith for Arsenal against Liverpool, but that would be splitting hairs. In fact, all throughout his Chelsea career, he’s tormented Arsenal (13 goals), Liverpool (7 goals), Spurs (5 goals), Man City (5 goals) and Manchester United (3 goals). He is a man for the big games.

International Goals:

Lastly, whilst at Club Level, Drogba is pretty much untouchable in the big games, I thought i’d give Gomez the chance to tap in a consolation goal by looking at their International Records. From memory, I know that Drogba has missed decisive spot kicks in the final of the African Cup of Nations (2006 and 2012) to cost the Ivory Coast a deserved title. However, when looking at his international goals, whilst there are many against the likes of Benin and Equatorial Guinea, I was somewhat surprised to see goals against Argentina and Brazil. And not just friendly goals either – these were in World Cups. He has 7 goals in the African Cup of Nations, and 8 in qualifiers. Add to that 15 goals in World Cup qualifiers, and all of a sudden, his international career is pretty good with 32 competitive goals. In all, he has an impressive 54 goals in 84 caps for his country (0.64 goals per game).

Gomez also has a decent strike rate at international level – with 21 in 51 (0.41 goals per game). Being in Europe, he has the opportunity to play against higher ranked teams in qualifiers than Drogba would, and also by playing in a better team, he will have more opportunities. However, a closer look at his 21 goals, and all of a sudden the Flat Track Bully tag raises it’s head. Four goals in a friendly against the UAE (then ranked 122nd) stand out. Okay, well there’s still 17 other goals. How about two against San Marino, and one against Kazakhstan? I am painting a slightly negative picture here – to be fair, he’s also got 3 against Austria (currently 73rd), 3 against Switzerland (then 40th), and strikes against Australia, Uruguay, Turkey and Belgium. However, it’s when looking in the games he hasn’t scored in that illustrates him going missing – Brazil (won 3-2, no goals), Argentina, England, Spain, Sweden – decent opposition = no goals.

In Conclusion:

It’s not really much of a debate. For all the plaudits that Gomez has received for admittedly impressive goals scoring feats, he’s not the man to rely on for the big occasion. It’s not that he doesn’t get chances, he does. He has plenty of shots, even in most of the big games, it’s just that he has very little composure – more power than poise. In the Champions League final, he managed a decent five shots, the Germany Cup Final saw him have four shots without scoring, whilst the second leg 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid, saw a whopping 8 shots! Of course, there was no goal. That’s three big games, all high pressure, and his 17 shots yielded zero goals. I am of course being a little harsh and overlooking the goal in the first leg against Real Madrid – so if we were to include that then it’s a whopping one goal from 23 shots.

Drogba on the other hand is lethal, and actually thrives under the pressure of a big game. His three goals in the Champions League Final, FA Cup Final and Semi Final win over Barcelona came from just 9 shots. You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

In all honesty, I could have just showed the tables of Final appearances and goals and left it at that. But I’m nothing if not thorough. Whilst Drogba is coming to the end of his career as he jets off to China, Gomez is still very much in his prime. Someone as prolific as him will no doubt effect a big game eventually, but I think the evidence suggests that as of now, he’s very much a Flat Track Bully, and doesn’t justify the price tag being thrown around next to his name. He doesn’t appear to have the right mentality to take the good chances that are fewer in Bigger Games. He takes plenty of shots – some ridiculous – but the nerve and confidence seems to dessert him when it really matters. Anyone who watched the Champions League Final and Semi Finals will have noticed how often he skied the ball, or just shot straight at the keeper.

Going into the European Championships, I’d back him to get a few goals in the lower pressure environment of the group stages against Portugal and Denmark, but do very little against the Dutch in game two, and sod all if they get into the knock out stages. Of course, if I’ve called this wrong, this article will magically disappear and a tribute to Super Mario will be quickly thrown together.

Farewell Didier, you’ve been immense – the epitome of a big game player.

Mario – you must do better (1 min 15 secs is my favourite miss)

Bundesliga Round 32

25 Apr

Dortmund officially won the league at the weekend with a 2-0 win over 4th places Borussia Monchengladbach. Nothing remarkable there I hear you say. But it was. In the last three weeks, they’ve faced and beaten 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Absolutely no one can doubt who the big game team are in Germany then. They have taken 68 points from the last 78 available, and after a dodgy start with 3 defeats in 6, they’ve gone 26 unbeaten (average ranked opponent beaten is 8.91). Shinji Kagawa was once again amongst the scorers with his 13th goal of the league season (9.67). The Japanese midfielder has really thrived since moving to Germany. They’ve now reached the 75 points that they managed last season – but still have two games left. Worthy champions.

Bayern warmed up for their Champions League semi final with a 2-1 win away at 8th placed Werder Bremen. Ribery is just behind Kagawa in the goal scoring midfielders list after hitting the winner for the Bavarian Giants, whilst Naldo scored for and against them (average opposition zero?). Monchengladbach’s defeat to Dortmund paired with Schalke’s 1-1 draw against 15th placed Augsburg means that third is still up for grabs with two games remaining – but the Top 4 teams are all but secure after fifth placed Stuttgart could only draw to relegation threatened Cologne.

No surprise that Huntelaar scored against Augsburg – it’s what he does. His 25th goal of the season takes him level with Gomez and amazingly they have the exact same average ranked opponent per goal. That’s so surprising that I’m going to double check the database…….yep, it’s solid. Anyway the point was that he’s scored almost half of his goals against teams in the Bottom 6. And whilst I’m being honest about things, as the German league is only 18 teams, there’s no 19th or 20th position, meaning that it’s actually 12 goals against just the bottom 4 teams. If that’s not a flat track bully, then I don’t know what is. Saying that, he has scored 4 against the Top 6 teams, unlike Mario Gomez who’s got a big fat zero. Granted, in the Champions League, he scored in the big game environment of a Semi Final against Real Madrid. Impressive, if it wasn’t a mis hit off his nuts after he missed with his feet – and from 4 yards out. The Bundesliga updates will be split by Top 5/Mid 8/Bottom 5 next season.

Despite Huntelaar and Gomez being bullies, they’re not the worst culprits. That’s still Martin Harnik of Stuttgart with 13.47 and just the one goal against the Top 6. It looks pretty much guaranteed that Marco Reus is going to win the Big Game Player tag with his average of 6.44 and the 10 goals against the Top 6. The only real threat (from the average opposition perspective) is Hannover’s Abdellaoue, currently on 7.00. If he can grab a couple against 6th placed Leverkusen and Reus decides to continue his recent form against Bottom 6 teams (one goal, last week) then maybe. Also in the top scorers list is Raul, who surprised many with the announcement that he won’t be staying at Schalke next season. His move to Germany has been a big success with 27 league goals in 65 games for the veteran Spaniard.

Falling a couple goals short of the Top Scorers list is FC Nurenburg’s in form midfielder Daniel Didavi. The 22 year old is on loan from Stuttgart in order to get some first team experience, and it seems to be beneficial for all. He scored his 8th league goal of the season in the 1-1 draw with 14th placed Hamburg, giving him an averge of 9.875. He’s done this in just 21 games having never previously scored a Bundesliga goal. Two goals recently against 3rd placed Schalke means he doesn’t go missing against the big boys, and he currently has 5 goals in his last 4 games. So he is definitely one to watch for the future, following in the footsteps of recent talented German Youngsters.

That’s all for now on this quick Bundesliga round up, but with the League due to finish on 5th of May, we’ll soon have up an in depth look back at the season from the average opposition rankings at the time of playing, and also the final positions.

Cheers,

Liam

Bundesliga Round 31

15 Apr

In the Round 28 update, I wrote the following: “From the Bundesliga Round 24 update, I confidently predicted “The lead at the top is now a  surely uncatchable 7 points“. I’d like to take this opportunity to completely back track and suggest that there’s still life in the title race after all. I apologise to everyone involved, and it won’t happen again. Probably.”. I’d now like to retract that retraction, and state that I was completely confident in my belief that Dortmund would win the league, and withdraw my apology. I’m glad that’s all cleared up.

Soon to be repeated scenes

After Dortmund’s massive win last week against Bayern Munich, they faced a potential banana skin this week with a game away at local rivals Schalke 04 in the Revierderby – facing the league’s most deadly partnership, Raul and Huntelaar. With 38 goals between them, and with Bayern a nailed on home win against 11th placed Mainz, there was a chance that the gap could drop back to 3 points, meaning game on. That was the threory anyway. The reality was quite different. With three games left, Dortmund proved why they’re likely to retain their league title with a 2-1 win courtesy of goals from Piszczek (8.5) and Kehl (8.67). In what was an ill tempered game, Dortmund had to come from behind after Jefferson Farfan’s (8.3) 9th minute opener. In the space of 4 days, they’ve beaten 2nd place and 3rd place to leave no doubt they are the best team in the league. They’ll need just 2 points to confirm the league  as Bayern were held to a surprise 0-0 draw. Despite keeping their 17th clean sheet of the season (average opp: 10.47), they failed to bother the score sheet. Ribery, Kroos, Lahm and Flat Track Bully, Mario Gomez were all left out of the starting line up as Bayern had one eye on the Champions League semi final versus Real Madrid. A game that although is cross countries, does have a decent rivalry, as explained by Sid Lowe here.

Schalke’s dropped points has opened the door for Monchengladbach to fight for 3rd place. After going four games without a win, they walked to a 3-0 win over 16th placed Cologne, which left them just one point behind Schalke. Both are safe in the top 4, but 3rd place won’t have to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. In what was the biggest surprise of the match, Marco Reus gave up his vow not to score against scrappers at the bottom, with the team’s final goal. That’s his 16th league goal of the season, and the worst opponent he’s scored against after he got his hands/feet dirty against 12th placed Hoffenheim in round 27. I’m sure he feels bad about it. Another noticeable scorer was Tony Jantschke, who scored his first goal of the season. The fact that it was him wasn’t really noticeable, the fact that it was his first goal was though. It’s just Monchengladbach’s 9th different scorer this season – the lowest in the whole league. It doesn’t seem to have harmed them too much though, FC Augsburg (15th) have the second most scorers with 15. Reus still holds the title of Big Game Player with 10 goals against the Top 6, but his average ranked opponent per goal has dropped from 5.80 to 6.44:

Elsewhere, in what appears to be a parallel universe or some kind of whacky body swap with Reus, Flat Track Bully Martin Harnik scored a couple of goals against half decent opposition. Stuttgart beat 7th place Werder Bremen (not quite Top 6 – unlucky), 4-1 to take their recent points tally to a mightily impressive 23 from the 27 available. They’re top of the form table, and will be cursing the first half of the season which saw them pick up just 22 points from 17 games, but it’s still a big improvement from last season’s 12th, as they’re close to Europa League qualification in 5th. Harnik now has a respectable 17 goals for the season, almost doubling last season’s tally of 9. The young Austrian will surely be courting interest from some bigger clubs in the near future. Unless they read this site – because he’s still the Flat Track Bully with an average of 13.47 (up from 14.33 to be fair).

That Huntelaar failed to score in Schalke’s biggest league game of the season is no surprise. His 24 goals have only contained 4 against the league’s top teams, and massive 11 against the dross at the bottom. His average of 12.04 meant that Dortmund were unlikely to be bothered by him, and 5 shots all off target would back that up.. You’d expect slightly better than one shot from Raul – a player with big game pedigree (two Champions League Final goals).

At the bottom, FC Augsburg moved 4 points clear of Cologne who fill the last relegation place, with a surprise 2-1 win away at Wolfsburg. It was surprising in that Wolfsburg were 9th and Augsburg had only won one previous away game all season. However, that’s now 3 defeats in a row for Wolfsburg. As it stands, with just three games to go, it looks as if Kaiserslautern, Hertha Berlin and Cologne will be the teams to go down.

Premier League and La Liga updates to come later this week once the fixtures have been completed. Sadly, there’ll be no Serie A update as the games were all cancelled due to the tragic death of Piermario Morosini.

Thanks,

Liam

Bundesliga Round 30

11 Apr

Only one place to start this week. Borussia Dortmund hosted Bayern Munich in a first versus second clash with just 4 games after. Going into the game there was just 3 points between the two teams, with Bayern enjoying a better goal difference. The gap was previously 7 points, but Bayern have been relentless in their pursuit, winning 5 games in a row, including round 29’s 2-1 against FC Augsburg – courtesy of league top scorer Mario Gomez (12.16). Dortmund kept their lead with an impressive 3-1 win away at in form Wolfsburg – with Poland striker Robert Lewandowski hitting his 18th and 19th league goals of the season (11.21). All eyes were on the Signal Iduna Park for the clash of the big two. The Winner would surely go on to win the title. As it was a big game – the biggest of the season, we could rely on Mario Gomez to misfire, and this was once again the case. The German bully has not scored one goal against the Top 6 teams this season. With their main source of goals out of the picture, it was Dortmund’s Lewandowski that took centre stage to score the winning goal in the 77th minute, before later hitting the wood work. That’s now 20 league goals for the season, and coming into the European Championships as the joint host’s main striker, things are looking good for him.

In round 29, Schalke duo Raul and Huntelaar combined to score all the goals in a 3-0 win at home to 8th placed Hannover to secure 3rd place. Their combined total for the season as partnership is now an impressive 38 league goals, with Hunterlaar scoring 24 (12.04) and Raul scoring 14 (10.64), despite being around since time began. Not so clever was Schalke’s performance in Round 30. Away at 12th Place Nurenburg, they took a bit of a hammering, going down 4-1 with Divadi scoring a brace to take his recent form to 5 goals in 6 games. That left space for Monchengladbach to take advantage which of course they didn’t because they’re in rotten form. Four games without a win have left them 4 points off third, though they’re still in a Champions League position, thanks to stealing Italy’s last place. Golden boy Marco Reus’s goals have dried up of late, though he did provide his 7th assist of the season in a 2-2 draw away at 7th placed Werder Bremen. They have a 7 point lead over 5th, so should be in the Champions League qualifiers at least next season, but will do so without Reus, who’s moving to Champions elect, Dortmund.

Reus is still the big game player on both fronts. He has the most goals against Top 6 teams with 10, and also the best average ranked opponent per goal with 5.80. Lewandowski’s title deciding goal has brought his goals against the Top 6 to a decent three. His 20 league goals have only been worth 7 points to Dortmund, but the last 2 points that he’s been responsible for (along with the defence of course) should be enough to win the league title for a second year running. It’s a big deal in Germany, as Munich never go more than one season without the title since the mid 90s when Dortmund won back to back titles before winning the Champions League. Lukas Podolski has an impressive 9.53 and 9 goals vs Top 6 opponents, but it’s especially impressive given Cologne currently sit in the bottom 3 after their latest defeat – 4-0 to FSV Mainz.

The big game bullies continue to be Mario Gomez – 25 goals, none versus the Top 6, and Stuttgart’s Martin Harnik. The Austrian striker has an average ranked opponent per goal of 14.33, and he was at it again this week, scoring against 15th placed FC Augsburg. Four of his goals have been against a previously struggling Freiburg. After picking up just 18 points from their first 69 available, the team have now picked up 17 points from the last 21 available, including games against 3rd placed Schalke, 4th placed Monchengladbach and 5th placed Leverkusen. It’s truly been a remarkable turn around in form for the team from the South West. With just 4 games left, they’re in the relative comfort of 13th postion.

So with the season almost over, and the Top 4 places pretty much guaranteed, all eyes will turn to the battle at the bottom. Kaiserslautern lost to 6th placed Leverkusen on Wednesday night to leave them 10 points adrift at the bottom, with just 19 goals and 20 points. Aside from them, it’s a four way fight to avoid the last two places  between Hamburg, Augsberg, Cologne and Hertha Berlin. All to play for.

Cheers,

Liam

Bundesliga Round 28

2 Apr

From the Bundesliga Round 24 update, I confidently predicted “The lead at the top is now a  surely uncatchable 7 points“. I’d like to take this opportunity to completely back track and suggest that there’s still life in the title race after all. I apologise to everyone involved, and it won’t happen again. Probably.

Dortmund continued their attempts at matching Munich’s recent cavalier attacking play, scoring 4 goals this week after 6 the previous time out. The difference this time is that their previously water tight defence, started to leak. In a Friday Night Thriller that was great for the neutral but not for the league leaders, 8th placed Stuttgart grabbed an unlikely 4-4 draw against the league’s form team. In a topsy turvy game, Dortmund were 2-0 up, 3-2 down, 4-3 up, and then in the very last minute, level at 4-4 after Christian Genter popped up with the equaliser. It was then up to Munich to show their bottle for the fight on Saturday with an away game at 10th placed Nurenburg. And they were up to it. Arjen Robben (10.27) continued his phenomenal form with his 6th goal in 4 games, and his 11th league goal of the season. After their 4th successive win, the gap at the top is now just 3 points, with the top of the table clash taking place next Wednesday in Dortmund. Munich have the best goal difference (47 to 42), and adding insult to injury, they’ve taken the best defence title off them. Dortmund, however do have the home advantage in what promises to be a fascinating game.

Robben’s 11 goals from midfield along with Frank Ribery’s 11, highlight the importance of goalscoring midfielders. However, it’s Shinji Kagawa who currently leads the goal trail from midfield with 12. He once again hit the back of the net (with the ball) in the 4-4 draw, with the opener. This goal against 8th placed opposition increases his average opposition ranking to 10.17, but more importantly for Dortmund, his goals have been worth 10 points to his team, compared to Robben’s 2 and Ribery’s 4.

Elsewhere, previously doomed FC Augsburg continued to show why they’re 7th in the Form League with a massive 2-1 against Lukas Podolski’s Cologne. I know what you’re thinking, 2-1 isn’t a massive win? However it is when you’re in the relegation zone, and a point behind your opponents. As a result of their sixth game without defeat (3 wins/3 draws), against an average of 9th place, Augsburg have moved into 14th place, whilst Cologne are now in the bottom three, despite Podolski’s 17th league goal of the season. Worrying times ahead for Cologne, who look set to lose their star player and their Bundesliga status if this form continues – that’s now 3 defeats in a row.

Wolfsburg continued their fine recent form, notching up their 4th consecutive win, this time away against 17th placed Hertha Berlin. The main driver behind this recent good form that’s seen them cement a top half position (9th) has been the form of Croatian Mario Mandzukic. The big striker has scored in each of his last 3 games, including the 3rd in Saturday’s 4-1 win. That was his 11th of the season in which his average opponent per goal has been ranked at a nice round 10.

Leading the way once more in terms of the Big Game Player is Marco Reus (5.80). His Monchengladbach team lost to 2-1 to 7th placed Hannover. Reus didn’t score as they were too lowly ranked, and he has his eyes on the Big Game Player award. Can’t blame him really. He also leads the way with goals against the Top 6, hitting 10, to Podolski’s 9. The difference being Reus has done it in a top 4 team, whereas Podolski (9.53) is currently playing in a bottom 3 team.

The Flat Track Bully continues to be Martin Harnik with a average ranked opponent of 14.29 per goal. Mario Gomez is also worth a mention here, with 23 league goals, but none against Top 6 opposition. Klaas Jan Huntelaar has the most against the bottom teams, with a whopping 11, and he was on the scoresheet again at the weekend, as Schalke drew 1-1 against 12th placed Hoffenheim.

Most important to the team? Despite not looking at this measurement since round 25, not much have changed at the top, with Abdellaoue still leading the way for points won:

As mentioned earlier, Shinji Kagawa’s been pretty efficient with his goals, picking up 10 points from his 12 goals. Top scorers Huntelaar and Gomez have 46 goals between them, but just 19 points, though that’s better than Podolski’s 5 points from 17 goals (mainly because they lost). Flat Track Bully Martin Harnik has a return of 0.5 points per goal. Not too bad. The most goals without yielding any points is another Shinji (not often you say that), this time Stuttgart’s Okazaki. His 7 goals have been worth diddly squat – all coming in comfortable wins or defeats.

That’s all for now, Serie A and Premier League to follow shortly.

Cheers,

Liam

Bundesliga Round 27

26 Mar

Well it’s a case of anything you can do, we can do better almost as well. After Bayern’s recent goal glut of 13 goals in two league games, Dortmund showed that they too are pretty handy in front of goal. A 6-1 win away at Cologne (13th) saw Dortmund keep the gap at 5 points, despite the hosts having the temerity to go ahead. Lewandowski (11.47) was once again on the score sheet, along with Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa (10.36), who scored a brace. This took his tally for the season to 11 in 24 league games, and 19 in his 42 Bundesliga games since joining from the J-League. Aged only 23, he’s catching the eye of several big(ger) clubs.

Bayern had temporarily closed the gap to 2 points on Saturday, after a 2-1 home win against 7th placed Hannover. Goals from Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez’s 23rd of the season were enough to take the points. Gomez still hasn’t scored against Top 6 Opposition this season, but this goal against 7th place brought up his average opposition per goal to 11.91.

Whilst Gomez is struggling to make an impact against the Top 6 teams, his rival for the golden boot Klaas Jan Huntelaar did deliver. Schalke beat 5th placed Leverkusen 2-0 with both goals from the Dutch striker. This takes his tally against the Top 6 teams to 4, though he’s still got a very low average opposition score of 12.23. The goals inspired Schalke to their 3rd successive win, a run which has seen them leapfrog Borussia Monchengladbach into 3rd place. Marco Reus was on the scoresheet in a surprise 2-1 home defeat by Hoffenheim (12th). Although it decreased his average opposition rating to 5.80, it’s still comfortably the highest in the league, making him the big game player.

Holding onto the Flat track bully tag for another week is Stuttgart’s Martin Harnik. His 8 goals against the bottom ranked teams contribute to his 14.29 rating, and makes him second only to Huntelaar in goals against the Bottom 6 teams, but with only one goal against the Top 6.

Papa Demba Cisse’s goals have been missed by Freiburg since he moved to Newcastle in the transfer window, and although he’s still the team’s top scorer (as above), they’ve managed to turn form around and have picked up 10 points from the last four games. This has seen them rise like Lazarus from dead and buried (was he buried? I’m not sure) at the bottom of the table to the heady heights of 13th place.

Last time out we looked at the clean sheet stats by team, so this time out we’ll look at goals scored by team:

Bayern’s recent trip down the goal trail means they lead Schalke in the goals scored list, but it’s Monchengladbach’s efforts against the Top 6 opponents that really catch the eye. Inspired by the talismanic Marco Reus, they’ve scored over half of their 40 goals against the league’s top teams. That’s both impressive and telling – they’ve only scored 4 goals against the stragglers at the bottom of the league. When looking a little deeper, they’ve actually been victims of the fixture list, with their goals scored against an average ranked opponent of 7th place. That’s by far and away the highest in the league, meaning that they have been playing teams in form. To be 4th in the league after such a tough run is a decent achievement, and with an 11 point gap to 5th, they’re pretty much nailed on for a qualifying place in next season’s Champions League.

Aside from the top teams, Kaiserlautern’s 17 goals show why they’re bottom of the table. They also have the least number of goals against the Top 6 teams. Leverkusen have the lowest ranked opponent per goal, whilst Schalke’s 25 against the relegation fighters has aided their ascent into 3rd.

Cheers,

Liam

Bundesliga Round 26

19 Mar

After going a bit goal shy in rounds 22-24, I think it’s fair to say that Bayern Munich have no more goalscoring problems. Three games that saw them score in just won, have been followed by a 7-1 win against Hoffenheim (9th), a 7-0 win against Basle (in the Champions League), and now a 6-0 win away at Hertha Berlin (15th). So an aggregate score of 20-1 over three games. Not too shabby. This weekend it was Arjen Robben’s turn to grab a hat trick. Mario Gomez had scored 3 against Hoffenheim and 4 against Basle, but could only manage the one against Berlin. What a loser. Robben has been in a rich vein of goalscoring form, with 9 goals in his last 5 games for club and country. Bayern’s other scorers at the weekend were Kroos and Muller.

The oldest looking 28 year old in history – Benjamin Robben

But it doesn’t really make that much different to their title bid, because Dortmund have put their dodgy form behind them (they drew last time out), and have won their 9th game in 10. That’s now 20 without defeat. This time out it was Japanese schemer Kagawa with the match winning goal, the victims on this occasion were 6th Placed Werder Bremen. That still leaves a comfortable 5 point gap at the top of the table. AverageOpposition’s friend Marco Reus was on the mark for the first time in 5 games with the opener in a 2-1 win over 5th placed Leverkusen. This means Monchengladbach stay in 3rd, and that yet again, Reus has done it against a Top 6 opponent:

Amazingly, after 14 goals this season, he still hasn’t scored against the relegation battlers, and in fact only 3 of them have come against the teams ranked in 7th to 14th. He’s simply a big game player. He continues to lead the way in goals against the Top 6 (11 strikes) and also has the best ranked opponent per goal – 5.36. The boy is a bit special.

Elsewhere, Huntelaar’s attempts to keep pasce with Mario Gomez continued as he notched in Schalke’s 4-1 away win over bottom placed Kaiserslautern. No real surprise there – he specialises in goals against the Bottom ranked teams, with a whopping 12. That’s the highest by a good distance. And that has lowered his Average to 12.95 – second only to Martin Harnik (14.29) in the Flat Track Bully stakes. Also in that game, Golden (or should that be Goalden?) oldie Raul was back on the goal trail ( I wonder where it leads to?).  That takes him to a decent 12 league goals for the season (25 games).

Sick of Goalscorers? Want some love for the defence? Well look below at the clean sheets stats per team:

Although leading the way on the number of clean sheets, you may be surprised to learn that both Dortmund in 1st, and Monchengladbach in 3rd have the best defences – 16 goals conceded each, compared to Bayern’s 17. Bayern have used them well though, all but two of the clean sheets have been wins. It’s rivals Dortmund though, that lead the way against decent opposition, with 5 clean sheets against fellow Top 6 teams.

Despite being in a lowly 12th place, the Hoffenheim defence has the highest ranked opponent per clean sheet. Their 7 shut outs this season has been against an average placed 6.43 opponent. Pretty good for a team just 5 points above the drop zone. This is reflected in 3 clean sheets against the Top 6 – Dortmund, Bayern, and Monchengladbach.

FC Koln (Cologne) have the worst ranked average opponent for each of their 6 clean sheets – with 12.33, whilst Mainz, Hamburg, Hertha Berlin and Kaiserslautern have the lowest number of clean sheets with just 4.

Rest of the leagues to follow this week.

Cheers,

Liam