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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to the Norwich duo’s chances are that this season’s partnerships are not included as they’ll instantly make this post out of date.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

Player Comparison: Rio Ferdinand vs John Terry

23 Nov

Up next in the World Famous Player Comparison series is a slightly controversial one. England defenders and definitely not best friends, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. Two of the best defenders in Premier League history, this is the first comparison of defenders, and could be the last depending on feedback….

Given the recent disharmony between Terry and the Ferdinands, this may seem a bit on the reactive side, but I’ve had this request on more than one occasion (twice) so thought I’d give it a go. Both are entering the twilight of their careers (Rio has just turned is 34, JT, approaching 32), both have been League winners and Champions League winners. Both have played at one of the biggest clubs in the world for 10 years or more, and for a long time, the two were playing alongside eachother at the heart of the England defence. With that in mind, and the added spice of club and personality clashes/rivalries, they’re ideal candidates to compare.

The Rules

Usually I’m comparing goals and assists, but in this instance the focus is all about the dirty business of stopping them. So when looking at the range and average opponent, it’ll be by goals conceded and clean sheets. The primary focus will be on Premier League stats, but there will be a look at international and cup games. The calculations can be found in the rules and workings page on the top menu, but simply enough, it’s a look at their stats but by the level of opposition.

The time period is from when Ferdinand signed for Manchester United at the start of the 2002-03 season, up until the end of 2011-12 – 10 full seasons. In that time, Terry has played 311 Premier League games to Ferdinand’s 269.

Background

Despite being born and bred in South London, Rio Ferdinand began his Football career in the prestigious West Ham academy. Initially a central midfielder, Rio was taught the art of defending under the tutelage of Tony Carr, and was hailed as the heir to Bobby Moore’s throne for club and country. With his ability on the ball, Ferdinand also played for the West Ham first team in central midfield, wing back and even up front – scoring his first senior goal in just his second substitute appearance, after his debut aged just 17. Seen as talented but unfocused, eyebrows were raised when Leeds United paid £18m for the young defender in November 2000 – both a British Record transfer and also the World Record price for a defender. But Ferdinand excelled under fellow Centre Back David O’Leary and helped a young Leeds team to the Semi Final of the Champions League later that season. Another good season later, and Ferdinand was starting for England in the 2002 World Cup, as they got to the Quarter Finals. His displays for both Leeds and England were enough for Sir Alex Ferguson to pay over £30m – making him once again the most expensive British footballer, and regaining the title of World’s most expensive defender from Lilian Thuram.

John Terry on the other hand, has been a one club man. Despite also training with West Ham as a youngster, the Barking born defender signed for Chelsea at the age of 14 after playing for famous boys club Senrab, along with the likes of Bobby Zamora, Ledley King and JLloyd Samuel. During his early years around the Chelsea first team squad, he saw his chances limited due to Marcel Desailly and Frank Le Boeuf, and subsequently found himself at Nottingham Forest on a short term loan to get first team experience under David Platt. Despite making his Chelsea debut in the 1998-99 season, Terry didn’t become a first team regular until the 2000-01 season, playing 22 league games as Chelsea finished in 6th place. The following season, Terry further cemented his place as a first team regular, playing in 33 of the 38 league games, as Chelsea once again finished in 6th place. Seen as a typical British defender, Terry made a reputation for putting his body on the line for the cause, but it his ability to pass the ball was often overlooked as a result.

Premier League

Clean Sheets

And so on to the hard numbers. First and foremost, the appearances and clean sheets by season:

Both have pretty good records with close to a one in two clean sheet rate. Ferdinand’s appearances have been slightly limited due to injury and an eight month ban for forgetfulness. Over the ten years, Ferdinand has made an average of 27 league appearances per season, and in that time, has kept an average of 12.9 clean sheets per season. In total, he’s kept a clean sheet for every 2.085 games. John Terry’s 311 appearances work out at an average of 31 games per season, with a clean sheet rate of 15.9. So on the face of it, Terry is ahead, with a clean sheet every 1.955 games.

Terry’s high of 25 in Chelsea’s title winning season of 2004-05 dwarfs Ferdinand’s 19 in 2007-08, when United won the total. In fact, Terry has kept 20 clean sheets or more in three of the ten seasons. Surprisingly, neither player has completed a full 38 game season.

So Terry’s ahead on the overall defensive stats, but in reality, both keep a clean sheet every second game – a phenomenal rate over a ten year period. But what of their quality of the opposition? Step this way.

First up (due to age and alphabet) is Ferdinand. A decent 27 clean sheets against the teams that finished in the Top 6, 65 against the Mid table teams and 37 against the teams struggling against relegation. An average ranked opponent of 11.21 over 129 clean sheets, his highest number of clean sheets against the big teams was five, which was achieved in three consecutive seasons between 2005-06 to 2007-08, with Man Utd winning the league in the latter two seasons. His highest average was in 2010-11, with 7.50 average from his eight clean sheets – of which, half were against the Top 6 teams, with Spurs (twice), Arsenal and Man City all being kept out. Tellingly, no clean sheets were kept against the Top 6 in the 2011-12 season as United lost the title on goal difference, with Ferdinand being part of the United team that lost 6-1 at home to Manchester City.

Terry’s best season was by far and away the 2004-05 season. Keeping a whopping 25 clean sheets against an average ranked opponent of 10.12 as Chelsea went on to win the league for the first time in 50 years, breaking, posting the best defensive record in the history of the English top flight. The season after also saw a stellar defensive display from Chelsea, and Terry was partly responsible for 20 clean sheets, including five against the Top 6 teams. Last season however, saw a drop in the number of clean sheets as he posted just 9 during his 31 league appearances. This could be down to a number of things, such as off the field problems, or defensive partners. Long gone are the days of Carvalho, who has been replaced by Luiz and Cahill. As a result, the number of clean sheets have dropped significantly.

So John Terry is more likely to play first and foremost, and he’s just ahead of Rio Ferdinand in terms of games per clean sheet. But……

If we take a closer look at Clean Sheets against the Top 6, taking into account Ferdinand’s appearances. Each player has finished in the Top 6 in each of the ten seasons, meaning there’s a maximum of ten appearances against Top 6 opposition. So here’s the clean sheets and appearances by player versus the best in the league:

John Terry’s clean sheet rate of one every 1.955 games becomes a clean sheet every 2.61 games, compared to Ferdinand’s clean sheet every 2.44 games. So Terry’s more likely to keep clean sheets overall, but Ferdinand did it more against the best in the league. In United’s last title winning season, he kept an impressive four in just six appearances.

Goals Conceded

Moving on to goals conceded. First up is Ferdinand again. Over the 269 Premier League games for United in the last 10 years, he’s let in on average 0.75 goals per game – comfortably under the magical 1 per game target. His best season, being the 2007-08 title win, where he let in only 21 goals in 35 games – 0.6 goals per game. The season before, he played 8 games versus the Top 6 teams, and only conceded 4 goals, whilst in 2010-11, the other Top teams only managed to score twice during his 6 games against. In total, he conceded 70 goals in 66 apearances against the best teams in the league – a number damaged by the 6-1 Manchester Derby.

Moving on to Chelsea’s Captain, on the same comparison, Terry conceded 83 goals in 81 appearances against fellow Top 6 teams – just ahead of Ferdinand’s rate. His best season against the Top 6 was in 2004-05 when just four strikes got past him and his team mates in 9 appearances. His overall goals conceded rate is 0.72 per game – almost identical to his rival’s 0.75. His best season was the phenomenal 2004-05 when just 13 goals were conceded on Terry’s watch – a phenomenal 0.36 goals per game. No wonder they won the league so comfortably.

Discipline

This isn’t taking into account the many off the field issues affecting each player, but a very quick look at the yellow/red card count in their last ten years. It’s fair to say that the records are like Chalk and Cheese in this regard. In just the Premier League games, they’ve shared 5 Red Cards – 4 of which were for Terry. Reds against Spurs (twice), Everton and Man City have cost his team as they managed just one win in the four games. Ferdinand’s one red was in the 4-3 defeat to Blackburn, that saw young up and coming midfielder David Bentley score a hat trick against United. A platform for great things…..

On the yellow cards, it’s pretty much the same story – Terry has 52 to Ferdinand’s 20 in what is in keeping with the general expectation of the players – Terry seen as a British Bulldog, win at all costs type, with Ferdinand seen as the cultured type. In all competitions, for club and country over the 10 years we’re looking at, it’s 31 yellows and 1 red for Ferdinand, and 80 yellows and 5 reds for John Terry, with the last Red costing him a place in the Champions League Final – not that he missed the celebrations.

Goals

One area where there really is no contest is at the other end of the pitch. Whilst Ferdinand scored 7 Manchester United goals in the ten years we’re looking at, John Terry scored a massive 43 in the same period. Whilst it has nothing to do with who is a better defender (Philippe Albert anyone?), it’s certainly an interesting angle, and some could use it when looking at the all round footballers. Terry can point to goals against Roma, Arsenal, Man City and Barcelona in recent years, whilst Ferdinand’s highlights in front of goal would be scoring against Liverpool in back to back seasons.

Champions League

Of course, both players have Champions League medals and both have tasted defeat in the final, so it’s worth comparing their records in Europe – both at a group stage and a knock out stage – where in theory, the opposition are better.

Once again, Terry leads the way with the overall number of clean sheets – posting 39 against Ferdinand’s 36, however, when you take into account the number of games, then Ferdinand has the fewer number of games per clean sheet at 1.94 from 70 appearances compared to Terry’s clean sheets every 2.23 games from his 87 appearances.

Champions League break down:

So in keeping with the Premier League stats, Ferdinand is more likely to keep a clean sheet in the bigger games. Terry has kept a clean sheet for every 1.7 group games in the Champions League, but just one every 3.42 in the knock out stages. Ferdinand on the other hand is pretty consistent – averaging a clean sheet every two games regardless of the stage.

Other big games

Both players have played in three league cup finals. Ferdinand has two medals, keeping clean sheets in two games, and conceding two goals in the three games, whilst Terry’s three finals have seen five goals conceded, and one win. Moving on to the FA Cup, Ferdinand has played in two FA Cup finals – keeping a clean sheet before losing on penalties to Arsenal in 2005, and the equally thrilling 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in 2007. Surprisingly, after ten years at Old Trafford, he doesn’t have an FA Cup winners medal (he was suspended when Millwall were beaten in 2004). Terry on the other hand has four winners medals in that time (to add to his 99-00 one), keeping clean sheets against Portsmouth (2008) and Man Utd in the aforementioned snorefest. Two 2-1 victories over both Merseyside clubs completed the set. So Ferdinand has three clean sheets in five domestic Cup Finals to Terry’s two in seven.

England

So we’ve established that both are great defenders in their own right, but how we’re they together, and did they fair better with or without each other for England? Ferdinand won the first of his 81 caps in 1997 as a teenager, and even made it to the World Cup the following year as a non playing squad member. Terry would have to wait another five seasons for his first cap, and up until his recent international retirement, made 78 appearances for the Three Lions.

In the last ten years, Ferdinand’s made 59 appearances to Terry’s 72 – playing alongside eachother on 34 occasions:

In terms of clean sheets, there wasn’t really much difference. Together they kept a clean sheet every 2.20 games, Ferdinand without Terry was 2.27 and Terry without Ferdinand was 2.17 – a slight edge to Terry. In terms of goals conceded, together they let in 0.82 goals per game, with Ferdinand keeping a slightly better 0.8 conceded without Terry and Terry keeping a consistent 0.82.

Once again, there’s not a great deal in it. In terms of highlights, Terry’s clean sheet against Italy in Euro 2012, compares with Ferdinand’s clean sheet against Argentina in the 2002 World Cup. In terms of goals, it’s a bit closer than their club appearances, with Ferdinand scoring three goals for England compared to Terry’s six. Interestingly though, all of Ferdinand’s have been in competitive matches, with five of Terry’s six being in friendlies (including Brazil and Germany).

The Makelele Factor

It’s hard to put an exact impact to the Chelsea clean sheets that John Terry kept, but from 2003-04 to 2007-08 Claude Makelele played the holding midfield role so well that it was renamed the Makelele role. During that time, John Terry kept 91 of his 159 clean sheets, keeping 68 in the five seasons without him. Ferdinand meanwhile had Roy Keane for his first three seasons at the club with his best defensive performances coming after the departure of the influential skipper. And it’s fair to say that he wasn’t quite as defensively disciplined as Makelele.

Conclusion

Shock Horror, I’m going to declare this one a draw. Terry was slightly more likely to keep a clean sheet, but Ferdinand was slightly more likely to do so against the best opponents. In the big games, Ferdinand had the edge in terms of both clean sheets and goals conceded (such as domestic Cup Finals and European knock out games) but Terry was much more likely to trouble the opposition by scoring. Looking at their England records, it was near identical with and without each other. There was only ever going to be one conclusion based on the stats.

So despite your view of each player as a person, no one can honestly say that they haven’t both been excellent players – perhaps two of the best in English history. Both are coming to the end of their careers now, but for those ten years, there are very few who can compare.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 11

12 Nov

Plenty more goals at the weekend, with seven of the top ten top scorers notching again. Luis Suarez continued his excellent start to the season and has matched Robin van Persie’s eight goals so far, though the Dutchman can count himself unlucky as he hit the woodwork twice. Both have three goals against the Top 6 teams, with Suarez’ equaliser against Chelsea (2nd) joins strikes against Man City and Everton, as well as scoring against Newcastle who finished last season in 5th. Big game performances from the Marmite like Uruguayan, now added with consistency, make him one of the most dangerous players about at the moment.

Elsewhere, Dzeko came off the bench again to score an important goal, also against Top 6 opposition, this time Spurs. Kevin Nolan and Marouane Fellaini both scored, and along with Swansea’s Michu, are leading the way from midfield. Nolan’s winner against his old club Newcastle, gave West Ham all three points as they kept their 5th clean sheet in just 11 matches, the best record in the league, along with Stoke City. Who’d have thought.

Looking at the importance of goals, Robin van Persie’s 8 goals have been worth 11 points to Man United, whilst Dzeko, Ba, and Suarez are all proving vital for their teams, with Suarez’ goals worth 58% of Liverpool’s points so far – the highest in the league.

James Morrison’s third goal of the season proved to be worth 2 points for West Brom as they beat Wigan away (take away his goal and they draw 1-1). His three goals this season have been worth a decent five points to his team as Steve Clarke’s men continue to surprise.

Coming up in the next week or so, I’ll be opening a can of worms by attempting to compare Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in terms of statistics, looking predominantly at Clean Sheets, but also how they’ve performed in the big games.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 10

7 Nov

Well it didn’t take long for the inevitable to happen, van Persie was always gonna score against Arsenal. Not only was it playing against his former club, but he thrives against big game opponents. And whilst Arsenal are down to 7th now, they were in the magical Top 6 category going into the game. Last season van Persie scored 7 goals against the best the league had to offer and in the last two games, he’s scored against both Chelsea (then 1st) and now Arsenal. Add in the goal against Liverpool (not currently in the Top 6, but a big game for United), and he’s carrying on where he left off last season. Along with Demba Ba and Juan Mata, van Persie leads the way with goals against the Top 6, whilst the best average opposition per goal belongs to Mata (5.00), whilst midfielder and Soul man, Marouane Fellaini, has a decent average of 7.20 for his five goals this term, after his brace against Fulham (7th) at the weekend.

Leading the flat track bully stakes as per last week are Michu, who has 14.83 and no goals against the decent teams, Jelavic (16.00) and Carlos Tevez with 16.50. None scored this weekend, so they’ll no doubt be there or there abouts again next weekend.

Did someone say clean sheets? Well okay then. It’s not the glamorous glory of goalscoring, but it does guarantee at least a point, unlike those fancy Dans up front. It tells an interesting story in terms of how the teams are performing. For instance, if you were to take the three promoted teams from last season:

Whilst West Ham were keeping a clean sheet against Champions Man City at the weekend, Reading and Southampton find themselves stuck in the bottom three, despite both keeping more clean sheets than West Ham last season. And perhaps that’s the biggest difference between the leagues. Both Reading and Southampton are scoring regularly but a lack of clean sheets has meant just one win between them. And so on to the rest of the league:

West Ham actually lead the way with four clean sheets this season, the same as West Brom, Stoke, Chelsea and Arsenal, though they have the highest average opponent per clean sheet. Interstingly, Arsenal kept three of their four clean sheets in the opening three games when everyone decided they now had the best defence around due to Steve Bould’s arrival as assistant manager. Not quite going so well since. The other stand out stats are that United only have two clean sheets from ten games, even though they’re top, and neighbours and champions City, have three. Everton have the highest average from their two clean sheets (Man Utd and a high flying Swansea in round 5).

 

Premier League Round 9

28 Oct

Almost a quarter of the way through the season now, and the big game players are starting to establish themselves. Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez both scored in the weekend’s biggest games against Chelsea (1st) and Everton (5th), whilst Juan Mata’s free kick continues his good early season form and maintains his position as the league’s big game player – with an average ranked opponent of 5th, and 3 of his 4 goals coming against Top 6 teams. The other was against Arsenal – then in 8th.

Demba Ba has mirrored his form of last season, offering Robin van Persie some competition on the golden boot front. He was on fire (not literally Jamie) for the first half of the season, before scoring just once after the African cup of nations. Bizarrely, there’s another tournament this season, though fortunately for Newcastle, Senegal didn’t qualify.

Michu leads the charge from midfield with 6 goals. Interestingly, none have come against the Top 6 teams, leaving him with an average ranked opponent of 14.83 per goal – topped only by Tevez (16.50) and Jelavic (16.00). Last season, Michu scored 15 La Liga goals, with just two against Top 6 teams (a double in a 6-2 defeat to Real Madrid), and had an average ranked opponent of 11.53 per goal.

In terms of the value of goals, it’s no surprise to see last season’s leading points earner, Robin van Persie at the top of the charts. His seven league goals have been worth 9 points to his new club – and whilst Arsenal are doing okay this year, there’s a good change they’d be closer than 7 points behind at this stage with him. Demba Ba’s goals have been the most important to his team, at 61.54% whilst Juan Mata’s goals have been against good opposition, and have won Chelsea 4 points, although only 18.18% of their total. Steven Fletcher is the only player to have scored for Sunderland this season, but thanks to some particularly dull 0-0 draws and an own goal from Demba Ba in last week’s derby, his goals have only been worth 55.56% of Sunderlands points total.

That’s all for now, there’ll be a piece on Youth System’s shortly – looking at which academies have produced the most big game players.

Cheers,

Liam

Player Comparison: Thierry Henry vs Robin van Persie

29 Jul

Not a full blown player comparison as Henry has already featured (and come out on top) against van Nistelrooy here, but a quick look at the two Arsenal strikers that hit 30 league goals – who they did it against, and how important they were

With it looking increasingly likely that van Persie has played his last game for the club, now seemed as good a time as any to compare the two prolific strikers on their most prolific seasons. Each had a massive impact on the team and essentially where they finished, and below i’ll try and illustrate who was most important, and who was the better man for the big occasion.

The seasons in question are 2011-12 for Robin van Persie and 2003-04 for Thierry Henry. Whilst Henry’s Arsenal famously went the season unbeaten in 2003-04, van Persie’s Arsenal looked like relegation contenders at times, before steadying the ship and finishing a very respectable 3rd.

Before each season started, Henry had 82 league goals in 136 games for the club, whilst van Persie had 66 goals in 156 games. these were the Arsenal league stats for each by career and previous season. And so onto the stats:

Goals

So moving onto the numbers, at first glance it’s pretty even. Both started 37 games, with van Persie also making a substitute appearance to make the whole 38 game season. That he appeared in every game is borderline miraculous given his past. Both hit 30 goals at a rate of 0.81 goals per game for the Frenchman and 0.79 for the Dutchey – we’ll call that a draw. Similarly, both scored in 20 games.

Where the differences start to show is in the range of opponents scored against. Whilst van Persie had a very decent 7 goals in 10 games against the Top 6, Henry had an even better 10 in 10. Nice. More on that later.

Aside from the big games, van Persie specialised in punishing the mid table teams resulting in an averaged rank opponent per goal of 11.77 compared to his former captain’s 11.93 – driven by 14 goals against the Bottom 6. Once again, based on the average, they’re pretty much neck and neck.

Assists

Moving onto assists, there’s not much difference there either, with both setting up 9 goals for their team mates. Van Persie mainly did this against the teams at the bottom end of the table, though he did pop up with assists in wins against London rivals Chelsea and Spurs.

Henry on the other hand only managed the one assist against the Top 6 teams, a decisive one too, in the 2-1 win over a Chelsea team that would go on to finish second in Abramovich’s first season in charge. Most of Henry’s assists came against the teams in mid table, leading to his better average of 10.77 compared to van Persie’s 12.89.

Big Game Player? Records vs Top 6:

The main measure I use to single out who the big game players are on this site is looking at how they do against the best opposition. When looking at league performances only, that’s the Top 6 teams who are generally that bit better than the rest. So how did each do against them? Both played in the maximum 10 games against the other teams alongside Arsenal at the top end of the table:

Last season saw a very impressive 7 league goals against the top teams for van Persie, including that memorable hat trick in the 5-3 win at Chelsea, a game that also saw him provide and assist, in what turned out to be a season changing performance for the 2011-12 Gunners. Those seven goals were second only to Wayne Rooney’s eight strikes against the Top 6, although based on position at the time of play, van Persie was top.

As good as 7 goals in 10 games against the league’s best opposition, it’s here where Henry really shines through. He had a goal per game record versus the Top 6, also scoring a memorable hat trick – at home to Liverpool in a 4-2 win that Jamie Carragher still has nightmares about. It wasn’t just Liverpool that suffered though, Henry scored against every team in 2nd to 5th place, showing a consistancy that drove the team on to the unbeaten season. Both manage plenty of shots against the decent opposition, although the Home and Away split predictably shows a significant difference.

Importance to team

Okay, they’ve both scored 30 goals and set up nine others for their team mates, but what about their importance in terms of the over team stats.

Firstly is the percentage of team goals that each scored. To my surprise, I recently discovered that the great Invincibles team of 2003-04 only scored 73 league goals. Also surprising is that van Persie’s Arsenal team actually outscored them (albeit by one goal) despite winning 20 less points and finishing 19 points behind the teams in first and second.

Of the team goals, it’s pretty even – Henry scored 41% of the team’s goals in 2003-04, whilst van Persie also achieved this, with a bit of rounding involved. Once again, the two are incredibly equal.

Where van Persie outshines Henry though is the points won from his goals. It’s not a perfect science but if you take away each players goals from the final scoreline then you’re left with the difference they make. Henry has a very decent 20 points from his 30 league goals, which worked out to be 22% of Arsenal’s 90 points that season, whereas van Persie’s 24 point haul is not only better, but it’s more crucial to the team, being worth a massive 34% of 2011-12 Arsenal’s points tally. It’s fair to say that both made a massive contribution, Henry in winning the title, and van Persie in keeping the team in the coveted Champions League places.

Other Considerations

Obviously Henry did it in a better team, not only were they champions, but they went the season unbeaten in the league. He had the likes of Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Reyes and others around him, helping him score, and also scoring the chances he created. That’s not to say that it was an unfair advantage on van Persie though. The Dutchman got to play as the lone striker, or the central point of a 4-3-3 depending on your interpretation of Arsenal’s line up. As a result, most of the play and chances went through him, making it appear as though Arsenal were a one man team for large parts of the season.

In terms of the opponents, Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, yet only finished 6th in the Premier League, whilst Manchester United and Manchester City both went out in the group stages. Henry’s Arsenal face a Man Utd that reached the last 16, and a Chelsea that beat them on the way to the Semi Final. The difference between 1st and 6th in 2003-04 was 34 points, compared to just 25 points in 2011-12. In short, the van Persie season was more competitive.

In Conclusion

I honestly don’t write these pieces with the intention of declaring a draw everytime, but it’s very hard to avoid that conclusion when looking at the above data. I know stats only tell half of the story, but on this occasion, I think it’s a fitting result. Henry inspired his team to win the league title, whilst going the season unbeaten. That team has since been named the greatest in the history of the Premier League and it was very much Henry’s influence that was the biggest factor. Robin van Persie on the other hand dragged what has widely been described as the weakest team of Wenger’s era, into 3rd place and the all important automatic Champions League spot. Both proved essential in their teams outcome.

In terms of big game performances, Henry just about edges it, but will always have a slight cloud hanging over him for the biggest of games – the finals of major competitions, but in just comparing their league seasons, he comes out on top, only for van Persie to lead on the points won.

So all in all, whilst there’s no real comparison on their full Arsenal careers (especially with van Persie’s behaviour after the season), it’s fair to say that they were both instrumental in their teams fortunes. As van Persie has decided to leave, we’ll never know if he could have maintained that level for more than one year, but for one season only, he could live with the King.

Cheers,

Liam

Player Comparison: Carlos Tevez vs Sergio Aguero

22 Jul

Argentinian? Check. Prolific striker? Check. Skilful and small enough to be described as diminutive? Check. That’s basis enough to be the next in line for the player comparison series

Contenders

First up is keen golfer, Carlos ‘Carlitos’ Tevez. Born and raised in the tough Buenos Aries area of Fort Apache, Tevez has played for some of the biggest clubs in World football – Boca Juniors, Corinthians, Manchester United, Manchester City and of course, West Ham United. Tevez made the controversial move across Manchester in the summer of 2009, after winning two league titles and the Champions League with United. He was never prolific in his time with the Old Trafford club, often played out wide to accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo, that would change though at City. When he signed, City had just finished 10th.

When Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero joined in the summer of 2011, City had finished 3rd and qualified for the Champions League, and had just won the FA Cup. Signed from Atletico Madrid (where he was Fernando Torres’ replacement), he joined City as a replacement for the wantaway Captain Tevez. A child prodigy, he made his professional debut at just 15 years of age for Independiente in the Argentina top flight, breaking the record of future father in law Diego Maradona, and made a big money move to Spain in 2006. After scoring 101 goals in 234 goals for the captial club, only a handful of teams could afford both his transfer fee and his wages, fortunately for City and the Premier League, his new club was one of them. Born just 13 miles from Tevez, Aguero is four years younger.

Rules

As usual, the statistical comparison will be based on their form in the league, comparing Aguero’s 2011-12 season with Tevez’s debut season with the club. I’ll be looking into the variables and will take a look at their international form as well. For queries on how the calculations are made, see the Rules and Workings page on the menu bar above.

Stats

First and foremost, the all important measure for a striker – goals scored. Tevez came into his debut City season on the back of a disappointing season fro Man Utd, scoring only 5 league goals (14 in all competitions) after the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov – his worst return since his debut season for Boca. Sergio Aguero was fresh from his best scoring season, hitting 20 La Liga goals (27 in all competitions). The starting point for both was very different, in terms of their own form and the team they were joining. But surprisingly, they had near identical scoring records, both scoring 23 league goals in their debut season’s for the club.

In terms of goals per game they both have around a goal every 1.5 games, which is prolific in anyone’s book (apart from whatever book Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi read). Looking a bit closer into the strike rates, and going down to minutes per goal, Tevez actually played almost 300 mintues more than his younger compatriot, or over three games. Advantage Kun.

Next up is the lifeblood of this site – looking at the standard of opposition that the players perform against. Those familiar with the rest of the site (are probably related to me), know that there are two main measures, firstly the average rank of the opposition per each of their goals, and the second is splitting the opponents into a ranges – Top 6, Middle 8, and Bottom 6. Basically, it’s a check to see if a player is a Big game player, Flat track bully or Big game bottler.

Once again, it’s pretty even on this front. Both players have pretty similar averages, with Tevez scoring against teams ranked on average of 11.52, to Aguero’s 11.13 – Tevez’s extra two goals against the bottom 6 means he has a slightly worse average. Advantage Aguero again. Both players scored four goals against the Top 6 – Aguero against 2nd to 6th, and Tevez against 1st to 4th and 6th. Looking a little closer though and Tevez regains a bit of ground, three of his four Top 6 goals were scored against eventual champions Chelsea, and each time they were decisive goals. In the 2-1 win at the City of Manchester Stadium, Tevez scored the winning goal, and in the 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge, Tevez scored a brace. Big game player? His other goal against Top 6 teams was in a 3-1 win over Villa. Aguero’s goals against the Top 6 were against Man Utd (2nd), Spurs (4th), Newcastle (5th) and Chelsea in 6th.

So far, pretty even – with Aguero just about ahead. They’re both goal scorers first and foremost, but how much did they do for their team? Well there’s few in the game that work as hard as Tevez, in terms of closing down opponents, but equally, anyone watching Aguero will notice just how good his movement off the ball is. However, that’s not something I can measure, so how about assists instead?

Once again it’s incredibly close in terms of numbers, Tevez got a credible 7 assists in his debut season, compared to Aguero’s 8. It should be remembered though, that Man City scored 73 goals in 2009-10 compared to the 93 last season. Tevez in general provided assists against the poorer teams, with five coming against the likes of Burnley, Hull, Wigan and Wolves. He did however almost embarrass old team Manchester United with two assists in the 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford – a game famous for Michael Owen’s late winner. Aguero on the other hand had a pretty good average ranked opponent per assist, with 9.75. Only one was against the bottom 6, with most against the mid table teams. Like Tevez, he also managed to get two assists against Top opposition, creating Balotelli’s early goal in the 2-1 defeat to 6th placed Chelsea, and then an assist in the 2-0 win over 5th placed Newcastle.

Whilst Aguero’s slightly ahead on points so far, it has to be remembered that whilst his City finished in 1st, Tevez finished in 5th. So how about their importance to the team? Well on the basis of points won from their goals (see Rules and Workings), it’s a pretty convincing win for Tevez.

That’s pretty comprehensive. Whilst Aguero’s debut season has been very impressive, in terms of their importance to the team, Tevez was miles ahead. He scored almost 32% of City’s goals in 2009-10 compared to Aguero’s 25%. And it’s a similar story in points won, with Tevez winning 22% of the team points, compared to just 8% for Aguero. So that’s another one back for Tevez, but at the end of the day, Aguero did score THAT goal (worth 2 points for those interested, and a Title).

So that’s the stats taken care of, anyone wanting to know a bit more? Well Tevez scored five penalties to Aguero’s three, Tevez scored his 23 goals with four shots less (126 to 130) whilst both average one shot on target in each of the games against the Top 6 teams. They’re pretty even, even to that level of detail.

Team mates

I’ll leave the commentary light on this one, just listing the usual line up for each season:

In the space of just two seasons, there’s been a pretty drastic change in line up, with just three players in the strongest XI for both seasons. Comparing the midfields in particular that each played with it’s all the more impressive that Tevez managed 23 league goals and seven assists. The two that stand out in particular are the attacking midfielders – City Youth Teamers Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips may have enjoyed some good times with the club, but those days had long passed by this point. Compare them to Silva and Nasri, and you’re an idiot. Each had multiple strike partners with Tevez partnering Adebayor, Santa Cruz and Bellamy at regular times each season, compared to Dzeko, Balotelli and Tevez for Aguero.

International

At the time of writing, it’s 15 goals in 36 caps for Aguero, and 13 in 59 for Tevez. That’s a pretty clear cut win for the younger striker right? Maybe not. Tevez has three World Cup goals to his name, and in the 2004 Olympic games (taken a lot more seriously in South America than here), he top scored with eight goals as Argentina won the Gold. As that was officially an Under 23 Tournament, those eight goals don’t count to his full tally. Both have three Copa America goals, and both scored in 2010’s 4-1 thrashing of Spain.

High Tens if you love Argentina

What Else?

Well the eagle eyed among you will have noticed that I’ve left out Tevez’s 2010-11 season stats, which were pretty important given that he was essentially the difference in qualifying for the Champions League and not. Why? Well I thought it was only fair to compare the debut season of each player, although Tevez did have an unfair advantage of 3 previous seasons in the Premier League.

When looking at his 2010-11 stats, he was once again responsible for 15 points, he scored 20 league goals in 31 games (which was enough to see him share the Golden Boot with Dimitar Berbatov), and he had an average opposition of 12.15 per goal, with a split of 6-11-3 for Bottom 6-Mid 8-Top 6 goals. Pretty consistent. He had six assists.

Conclusion
It’s fair to say that Manchester City’s recent past has been dominated by the two Argentinians. Tevez was key in changing both the mentality at the club and in qualifying for the Champions League. It was only once that qualification was complete that it was possible to attract players like Aguero. Robinho may have been been the marquis signing of City’s transformation into a superpower, but it was Tevez’s signing that signalled the intent. Not only were they signing a world class talent, but it’s who they were signing him from.

Of course moving from Top 4 to Champions is another thing altogether, and although he helped near the end of the season, Tevez’s contribution to City’s greatest triumph of modern times was pretty small compared to Aguero. Although he didn’t dominate the team like Tevez had previously, he was the top scorer and he scored the goal to win the title. That one moment is the biggest single contribution that any player made tonL City’s title win. All the work before hand, including Kompany’s winner against United would have counted for zero.

So in what is no way a cop out, it’s a draw!!

They should try and keep them both – they’re pretty handy together:

Team Comparison – The Invicibles: Arsenal 2003-04 vs Juventus 2011-12

17 Jul

Next up in the comparison series is a pair of teams rather than players. Both Arsenal in 2003-04 and more recently Juventus last season, managed the ultimate achievement – going the whole league season unbeaten. There’s no winner or loser in this comparison, more an appreciation of two of the great club teams of the modern era….

My Mum used to say that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. It’s fair to say she’s more of a dog person, but that same sentiment is also applicable when comparing Arsenal’s Invicibles of 2003-04 with Juventus’s class of 2011-12 (I’m not sure if they have a nick name yet?). Both teams performed the remarkable by going the league season undefeated, but they did it in different ways. On the surface, their league records are pretty similar –

Arsenal had the most points – largely due to Juventus’ love for a draw in the first half of the season – but the goal differences are near identical. I’ll admit that I expected Arsenal to have a far superior ‘goals for’ column, and likewise for Juve on the ‘goals against’. Looking at the goals involved, it backs up the oft used phrase, that a title winning team is built from the back. For all of Henry’s va-va-voom, the team kept 15 clean sheets on the way to letting in only 0.68 goals per game.

Starting Point

The first difference was the starting point that each team began from. Arsenal came into the season from a pretty strong starting point. Champions in two of the previous six seasons, there’s was a well established and particularly strong squad. Arsene Wenger had been in charge since the 1996-97 season and had never finished below 3rd place. They were strong contenders after finishing the previous season in second place to rivals Manchester United (and actually had a superior goal difference). In terms of changes, David Seaman’s retirement saw Jens Lehman join from Borussia Dortmund, whilst Oleg Luzhny left the defence with a very young Gael Clichy coming in as back up to Ashley Cole. Jose Antonio Reyes later joined in January from Seville. Other than that, it was the squad that ended the previous season.

Juventus on the other hand were starting from quite a different spot. As is well documented, Juve had last “won” the league title in the 2005-06 season. That was immediately followed with relegation after the match fixing Calciopoli scandal. Although they achieved an immediate return to Serie A, the landscape had changed. Star players Vieira, Thuram, Ibrahimovic and Cannavaro all left the club, and in their absence, Inter had become the dominant team in the league – winning four successive titles from 2006-07 to 2009-10. Juventus finished 7th in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons as they struggled to return to former glories. After spells in charge by Deschamps, Ranieri, Ferrara, Zaccheroni and Delneri, they appointed yet another new manager for the start of 2011-12, with former right winger Antonio Conte taking over the hotseat. Their highest attendance was a lowly 25,000. The club was not in good health. But there were reasons for optimism. They moved into a new stadium, and made some shrewd signings in the summer, most notably Andrea Pirlo who was deemed surplus to requirements at champions AC Milan. Joining him was Roma’s Mirko Vucinic, Chile International Arturo Vidal and Lazio’s attacking full back Stephan Lichsteiner. Winning the title was not expected, let alone going the league season unbeaten.

Squads

The squad policy was also quite different for each team. Juventus used 25 different players to Arsenal’s 22, with Juve players making 533 appearances between them, compared to Arsenal’s 499. Wenger relied very much on his First Choice eleven, whilst Juventus’ achievement has seen contributions from all around the squad (highlighted in the goals scored, shown later). There was also a difference in the reliance of home grown players. Arsenal used just six British players in the league season – Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole were the only regulars though, whilst Juventus used a massive 18 Italian players, with Vucinic (Montenegro), Vidal (Chile) and Lichtsteiner (Switzerland), the only non-Italian regulars in the team.

In terms of experience and quality, Arsenal’s first XI was surely the better team on paper. Henry was arguably the World’s greatest striker at the time – he finished second to Zidane in 2003 and behind only Ronaldinho in 2004 in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards. The Frenchman had won both the World Cup and Euros with France, and counted International team mates Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires among his club team mates. Adding to that, the brilliance of an aging Dennis Bergkamp, and England defenders Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell, and it was a very stong team.

Juve on the other hand will be looked back on as a team of great players, but before the season started, there weren’t many that would have broken into the Arsenal team. Buffon and Pirlo were World Champions with Italy, whilst Chiellini would have a case to be in over Toure. The rest would realistically fall behind their Arsenal opposite numbers in terms of perceived quality with perhaps a close choice at right back. After all, this Juventus team had just finished 7th, letting in 47 goals in the process whilst only scoring 57. It’s only once the season ended that the players will have been lauded – many of the backline went on to be Italy’s defence in a relatively successful European Championships.

Invicible First XIs:

In reserve, Arsenal regularly used Brazilian midfielder Edu, Romford Pele – Ray Parlour, and Wiltord, Reyes, Clichy and Cygan all made over 10 league appearances. Youngsters David Bentley, Cesc Fabregas, Justin Hoyte and Jeremie Aliadiere were all in the squad at times, but were used sparingly, whilst established names Kanu and Keown were coming to the end of their Arsenal careers.

Juventus had their own Dennis Bergkamp figure in Alessandro Del Piero who would go on to score some important goals, whilst Italians Giaccherini, Quagliarella and De Cegile would all make over 20 appearances.

Goalscoring Stats

And so onto the meat of the piece. Firstly, a look at the player goal scoring stats for each team. The first thing that catches the eye is the length of each team’s list. Continuing on with the theme that Juventus’ triumph was much more a victory for the whole squad rather than relying on superstars, the evidence below would back that up. Arsenal have 13 different scorers including own goals (who got a decent four goals), compared to Juve’s incredible 21 different scorers. In my reviews of the Premier League, Serie A, Eredivisie, Bundesliga and La Liga this year, that’s the highest number of scorers for any team in those five leagues. Impressive stuff. But they needed it too, based on the total goals of their top scorer – just 10 for Matri.

Unsurprisingly, it was Henry that dominated scoring for Arsenal in their unbeaten season. The Frenchman did it against almost every opponent he faced, with just Spurs (14th), Birmingham (10th) and Bolton (8th) managing to keep him off the score sheet. His 10 goals against the teams in 2nd to 6th showed that he was a big game player in the league (though not in the biggest games in his Arsenal career). Perhaps the most impressive display was his hat trick against Liverpool in a 4-2 win at home, though the four goals against Leeds was also impressive, albeit against a team bound for relegation. Robert Pires was the other stand out performer in the goalscoring stakes, hitting a very impressive 14 goals from out wide (he managed that feat in three consecutive seasons as seen here). Other than that, there were pretty meagre totals from the likes of Ljungberg, Bergkamp and Wiltord, with all scoring under 5 goals. Edu only scored two goals in the league, but they were vital, coming in the two 2-1 victories against 2nd placed Chelsea. Considering all of the attacking talent they had that season, it’s surprising that Henry and Pires contributed 60% of Arsenal’s goals that season.

By comparison, Juventus’ top two scorers combined to contribute 28% of the total team goals:

Matri was the only player to reach double figures with a lowly ten goals, which is pretty rare in a title winning team. The importance of doing well against your rivals is key to winning league titles, and although he only scored ten goals in total, four of them came in the matches against the other Top 6 opponents – most importantly in the game vs AC Milan to secure a 1-1 draw in the 83rd minute. A win at the time would have seen 1st placed Milan extend their lead at the top. Aside from Matri, Marchisio added in an impressive 9 goals from midfield. He was also the picture of consistancy with three strikes against all three ranges of opponent – resulting in an average ranked opposition of 10.22 per goal. Alessandro Del Piero didn’t play as much as he would have liked in his final season with the Old Lady, but when he did score, they were big goals – with one against Inter Milan (6th) in a 2-0 win, one against Lazio(4th) in a 2-1 win, and then a goal on the final day of the season against Atalanta, to help ensure they went the season unbeaten. He will be missed.

In terms of the importance of their goals as points (see rules and workings), it’s two familiar faces again that dominate this field:

Henry’s goals were worth a whopping 23 points, or 26% of Arsenal’s total, whilst Pires follows suit with a very decent point per goal for his 14 strikes. Patrick Vieira was the most efficient with his goals, collecting five points from his three hits – with decisive goals against Chelsea (2nd), Leicester (final day of the season) and one in the 2-2 draw against North London rivals, Spurs. Juventus once again have more of a spread across the team. The above only shows the players with 5 points or more earned, but the larger list shows several Juve men. The shared goalscoring responsibility is echoed in the points won.

Team Stats

Aside from the goalscoring stats on the players, the below tables, give a comparison against Clean Sheets, Wins/Draws/Losses goals conceded, and failure to score. Juventus trumped Arsenal in the clean sheets measurement, as if to live up to the Italian sterotype, with 21 to Arsenal’s 15, and carrying on that trend, they had the lower number of goals conceded with just 20 to Arsenal’s 26 – both fantastic records. Arsenal’s 26 in particular deserves praise. Although it could be argued that the shield of Vieira and Gilberto Silva largely contributed, this was not the back line of old. Keown started just 3 games, whilst Dixon, Winterburn, Adams and Bould were long gone. Ashley Cole and Lauren were attacking full backs, whilst both big Sol Campbell and big Kolo Toure would often venture into the opposition half, yet the 26 conceded was better than both the title wins in 1998 (33 goals) and the 2002 season (36 goals). Juve on the other hand ended up providing four of the back five for Italy’s run to the European Championships Final. That they kept so many clean sheets is only surprising comparing to the previous season, hindsight is not surprised one bit. Both teams kept a decent number of clean sheets against Top 6 rivals, whilst both conceded less than a goal a game against the Top teams. Juventus’ made up the extra clean sheets against the Bottom 6 teams, with Arsenal keeping a surprisingly low four clean sheets in the twelve games against them. They kept as many against Top 6 teams in just 10 games. Big game defenders? Yep.

Moving on to the goals scored, it’s the North London team that lead the way here. But not by much. I don’t know if it’s that we’ve been spoiled by Mourinho teams, but 73 goals seems like a pretty low total to win the league with (68 more so). Add in the fact that these teams went unbeaten and it’s even more surprising. Either way, the importance of results against your rivals is evident once again for both teams, with the both teams hitting 18 goals in the 10 games they played against the teams in 2nd to 6th. That’s a goal difference of plus 15 for the Italians and 14 for Arsenal in the Top 6 mini leagues. In fact when looking at the points taken from the Top 6, both teams took 24 points available from 30 available – giving up just three points to their rivals.

Not much to discuss on the defeats side of things, they were both pretty consistent on that front. The closest Arsenal came to defeat was in the 0-0 at Old Trafford when Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a very late penalty, and Martin Keown turned into the incredible hulk.

Juventus also narrowly missed defeat against title rivals. In the 1-1 draw at AC Milan, Matri’s equaliser was in the 83rd minute, but that only tells half the story, as there was widespread outrage when AC Milan had a seemingly good goal disallowed that would have put them 2-0 up. However good the teams may be, you’ll need a bit of luck to go a whole season unbeaten.

Apart from the league – Europe and Cups

Juventus had the added help of no European campaign which definitely helped them in the league, but it also helped them in the Coppa Italia as well – going unbeaten in that until the final, where they lost to Napoli in Del Piero’s last game for the club. Along the way they knocked out Roma, and AC Milan as well. They were 90 minutes from going the whole season undefeated in all competitions. The bottlers…..(just kidding).

Arsenal domestically put up a pretty good fight. Aside from the league, they got to the Semi Finals of both the FA Cup and the League Cup. In the FA Cup, they’d knocked out Leeds and 2nd Placed Chelsea along the way, only to come unstuck against Manchester United after a Paul Scholes strike. In the League Cup, they played a weakened team, and were knocked out in the two legged semi final against Middlesbrough. In Europe, they had a mixed performance. Outclassed by Inter Milan 3-0 at home, they then went on to draw 0-0 away at Lokomotiv Moscow, before another defeat away at Dynamo Kiev. They won each of the return fixtures though, to gain the 10 points needed – including a stunning 5-1 win in the San Siro. In the last 16, they beat Celta Vigo 5-2 on aggregate before being paired with Chelsea in the Quarters. After a 1-1 draw at Stemford Bridge, Arsenal took a 1-0 lead through Reyes by half time and looked in control. Unfortunately for them, Frank Lampard and then footballer Wayne Bridge (in the 87th minute) turned the tie on it’s head and knocked the Gunners out. That season will always be looked on as a missed chance for Arsenal, who would have faced Monaco in the Semi Finals and Porto in the Final. That’s not to say they were bad teams, just that it was a chance missed for the finest Arsenal team of Wenger’s reign.

Strength of the League

Using European performance to judge the standard of the league, England only had one Quarter Finalist in 2002-03 season (Man United), and two quarter finalists and one Semi Finalist in the 2003-04 season.

Italian teams in 2010-11 had one quarter finalist (Inter), whilst the 2011-12 season saw the same, with AC Milan reaching the quarters before bowing out to Barcelona.

What does this tell us? Well, there’s a case to be argued that the strength of the league opposition wasn’t as hard as in previous years when both the Premier League and Serie A have provided more teams at the later stages of Europe’s top club competition. It’s not a perfect measurement, but I’m nothing if not thorough.

Precedent

Of course the achievements weren’t completely undprecedented. Serie A has seen two teams go a league season unbeaten previously – Perugia managed it in 1978-79 (though didn’t win the league), whilst more recently AC Milan managed it in 1991-92. However, they were both 34 game seasons – with Juventus being the first to do it in a full 38 game season.

Similarly, In England, the term Invincibles was initially used for the great Preston North End team of 1888-89 who went undefeated over a 22 game season on the way to winning the league title. Once again, Arsenal are the first team to do it in 38 games.

It’s an incredible achievement and judging by the history, it’s near impossible to do, so hats off to them.

After

For Juventus, they certainly can’t be accused of resting on their laurels. At the time of writing (just 2 months after the season ended – finger, pulse etc), the Turin giants have signed promising youngster Pogba from Man Utd, Brazilian legend Lucio from rivals Inter Milan, re-signed Italy international Sebastian Giovinco and are currently sniffing round Robin van Persie.

Why would van Persie consider leaving Arsenal for Juventus? Well unfortunately for Arsenal fans, and indeed many neutrals, that 2003-04 team was the last to win the title for Arsenal. The team was eventually broken up with captain Vieira leaving the following year after scoring the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final (their last trophy). Despite a Champions League final appearance in 2006, it’s fair to say the team has struggled since 2003-04, and despite having a lovely new stadium, I’m sure most fans would rather be watching league titles being won at Highbury. They came close in the 2007-08 season, but a broken leg to Eduardo and a serious strop from captain Gallas, saw them drop to 3rd, just 4 points off the title. Every year since 2005 has seen an established member of the squad leave, Vieira in 2005, Campbell, Pires and Reyes in 2006, Ashley Cole, Ljungberg and Henry in 2007, and you get the idea. Fabregas, Nasri and most likely van Persie in the last year or so have all looked for pastures greener and accusations of Arsenal being a selling club. Summer signings of Giroud and Podolski are at least a signal of intent as Wenger signs established players, and the run of form in the second half of the season suggest that Arsenal’s glory days aren’t quite behind them, but it’s a far cry from the Invincible team.

So there you have it, that’s how two teams defied all of the odds and went on to a stunning achievement. Whilst both teams relied heavily on a solid defensive basis, Arsenal often looked to Henry and Pires to provide a spark going forward, and Juve shared the goalscoring responsibilities across the squad. And it was a squad, they had more performers, more scorers and more players making 20 appearances or more. Arsenal looked to overseas players in the main, whilst there was a very Italian core to Juve’s 2011-12 champions. What they did have in common was a steely desire to win, a great quality on the ball, and domination against their rivals.

Arsenal of 2003-04 and Juve of 2011-12 embraced a bit of luck along the way, but both will go down in the history of foootball as legendary teams. The stats can only tell half the story of two great teams.

Cheers,

Liam

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.

Cheers,

Liam

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. 

But.

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.

Assists

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.

Cheers,

Liam