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to the Norwich duo’s chances are that this season’s partnerships are not included as they’ll instantly make this post out of date.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

Serie A Season Review: 2011-12 Part 2

27 Jun

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

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

Clean Sheets:

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

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

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

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

Goals Scored:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goals Conceded:

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

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

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

Games Lost:

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

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

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

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

Failure to Score:

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

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

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

Top 6 Mini League:

Bottom 6 Mini League:

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

Cheers,

Liam

Serie A Season Review: 2011-12 Part 1

17 Jun

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

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

Goals versus Top 6 Teams – Fabrizio Miccoli, 8 goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highest Average Opposition per goal – Marco Di Vaio, 8.40

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

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

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

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

Flat Track Bullies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palacio Good Player, crap hair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assists

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

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

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

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

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

Serie A Round 38

18 May

With the League title already decided, focus on the final day of the season in Italy turned elsewhere. In terms of importance, 3rd spot was still to be decided for the final Champions League place, whilst the final relegation place was also available for one unlucky winner/loser.

Aside from the harsh business of results and placings, there was also the feeling that Serie A had reached the end of an era. In all likelihood, Seedorf, Nesta, Inzaghi and Gattuso all played their final games for AC Milan (Seedorf to be confirmed) but the most emotional farewell was in Turin as Alessandro Del Piero played his final game at home for Juventus. And what a send off it was. And rightly so. He joined in 1993 from Padova, played 704 games, scored 289 goals and won a truckload of medals – Serie A, Serie B, Copa Italia, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, and the Champions League. He played alongside some of the all time Juve greats – Zidane, Davids, Vialli, Baggio, Nedved, Buffon and countless others. In short it’s been a great career. He signed off with a goal – not the trademark finish from the left of the area (the Del Piero Zone) into the far corner, but still a good hit with a bit of curl from his trusty right boot, into the near post. His goal can be seen by clicking here, but below is the send off he got. You’ll notice that the game was actually still being played as he completed his lap of honour:

He’s been a great player, and to see him leaving Juventus has been similar to seeing Raul leaving Madrid, Keane leaving Man United and Christian Vieri stay at a club for more than a season – it was sad to see. But this isn’t averageEmotions.com (I’m not sure if that exists, I wouldn’t recommend clicking on it), this is a football site looking at the big game players. And as so, despite him being one of my all time favourites, I have to check Del Piero’s record. And I’m afraid it’s not that good. Looking at the finals he’s played in, there’s not a lot of goals:

Five goals isn’t a great return from a player of his ability. Yes, he has scored in the Champions League Final, and to be fair, he didn’t start all of the above games, but you’d expect more from him. The one that sticks in the mind the most is the Final of Euro 2000 when he missed several good chances to wrap up the game for Italy. Redemption was found in the World Cup Semi Final in 2006 to an extent, but for Juventus, three of his five final goals came in the Super Cup/Intercontinental Cup which are no more than glorified friendlies. So in terms of the big game player stakes, he’s more Henry than Zidane, but he’s still been a great player.

Back to the present though, Del Piero’s goal helped Juve beat Atalanta 3-1 on the final day. This meant that they finished the season unbeaten. This is the first time in the history of Serie A that a team has acheived this over a 38 game season. In short, it’s a phenomenal achievement, in my eyes it’s better than Messi’s 50 league goals. Especially from the starting point. Juve finished 7th last year with a leaky defence. This year they’ve won the league by 4 points, have the best defence and have really done this all as a team. Their top scorer (Matri) has just 10 goals, but they have the highest number of different scorers with 21 (thanks to two more on the final day). I’ll be covering Juve’s achievement more in the coming weeks.

In terms of the outstanding issues, it was some what of a damp squib. Udinese started the day in 3rd. They won. Lecce started the day in 18th. They lost. There wasn’t really the drama that we’ve seen in the Premier League and La Liga. Among the Udinese goalscorers in a 2-0 win over 10th placed Catania was Di Natale. Despite being 34, he’s once again finished in the Top 5 scorers, this time with 23 goals. Whilst the goal against Catania improved his average, he’s still the Flat Track Bully of those with 10 goals or more with an average of 11.91. It’s slightly misleading in the sense that he has in fact scored against 5 Top 6 teams, it’s just the 10 against the Bottom 6 opponents that slightly skews it. He won’t care though, Champions League football is coming (providing he doesn’t retire as rumour has it).

The final scorers table based on opponent’s rankings at the time of playing shows that Fabrizio Miccoli is the Big Game Player in terms of Average (7.38) and goals against the Top 6 – with a decent offering of 9 hits. In terms of assists, i’ll be reviewing in the final season review, but he’s flying high there as well. A great season by the veteran Palermo forward.

Zlatman wins the golden boot with 28 goals and a decent averate of 10.93. Six goals against the best teams suggests he can be happy enough with his input this season. Milito scored again at the weekend in the 3-1 defeat to Lazio. That takes him into 2nd place on goals scored, and another goal against Top 6 teams. His average of 9.21 is the best of those with 20+ goals.

I’ll give a bit more detail in the season review, and also plan to compare Juventus’ unbeaten season with Arsenal’s in 2003-04 in the coming weeks.

Cheers,

Liam

Serie A Round 37

8 May

Bundle!

After several court cases, disgrace, relegation and six seasons of waiting, Italy’s most decorated team finally got their hands back on the Serie A title. And how. Only twice in the history of Italian Football has a team gone undefeated in the league and on both occasions, it was a 34 game season. Juve have now gone 37 games unbeaten. And the latest was enough to win the Serie A title for 2011-12, with a 2-0 away win over 14th placed Cagliari. Mirko Vucinic got things going in the 6th minute to settle Juve nerves. It was the Montengro International’s 9th goal of the season and whilst there’s an element of a flat track bully about his goals (average opponent 14.67), no one will care one bit after the often frustrating former Roma front man scored. An own goal from Canini settled things, and as soon as the final whistle went in the Milan Derby, the Old Lady had their 30th Italian title – or their 28th, depending on your view of the Calciopoli scandal. Of course, Juventus winning the title means one thing, and it’s big:

Yep, for the first time since 2002-03, Ibrahimovic has failed to win the league title. And ironically, it’s been his best season in terms of goalscoring – hitting a massive 28 league goals (10.93) in just 31 games. And perhaps the 1-1 draw at home to Juventus when Ibrahimovic was serving a suspension, was decisive. His latest goals, were against Inter Milan in the ‘away’ Milan derby. He hit two, against Top 6 Inter, to put AC Milan 2-1 up. At that score, the title whereabouts was going to be decided on the final day. However, Stramaccioni’s Inter are a different animal than the up and down form of Ranieri’s. Diego Milito continued his excellent season with his third hat trick of the season, to take his personal tally to 23 league goals. As with Ibrahimovic, it’s been the 32 year old’s best league return, matching the 23 in 37 he hit in Spain for Zaragoza back in 2006-07. This season however, his 23 have been scored in just 29 appearances, and this latest treble against 2nd placed Milan propelled his average opposition per goal to a decent 9.43, and taken his goals against Top 6 teams to a respectable 5. In what’s been a strange season for Inter, Milito has at times been a one man rescue act (think 4 versus Palermo), and the second highest league scorer at the club is Pazzini with just 5 goals. Maicon put the cherry on the cake for the Inter Milan fans and confirmed Juventus’s title with this typically Brazilian effort:

I’ll be reviewing Juventus’ full season stats as they won the title when the season is over, and in a lovely twist, if they do go unbeaten, i’ll be comparing Juventus’ unbeatables 2011-12 to Arsenal’s invincibles of 2003-04, just for kicks.

After the title was decided, all eyes will turn to the race for 3rd place and a route to the Champions League. Going into this weekend’s fixtures, Napoli held the much coveted spot behind Juventus and AC Milan. After this latest round, they’re now 5th. How so? Well after 10 points from 12, they chose a very bad time to lose. The 2-0 defeat to Bologna (9th), Napoli gave fell behind Udinese and Lazio. Udinese moved into 3rd after a routine win over 17th placed Genoa who will have their Serie A future decided next weekend. Di Natale (12.00) did what he has done so often this season, by scoring his 22nd goal of the season against a team in the bottom 6 – his 10th against such opponents. Lazio are just two points behind them after their first win in five games (2-0 away at 11th placed Atalanta), to give them hope, whilst Inter Milan’s win over city Rivals AC Milan, mean they’re in 6th and 3 points off third, but are unlikely to get it despite the good form shown under former Under 19 coach Stramaccioni.

In terms of the Average Opposition ranking, this weekend saw a good bit of movement. Most noteably, in terms of the wooden spoon, or Flat Track Bully tag. Despite lowering his average to 12.00, Di Natale managed to shake off the unwanted label as Novara’s Marco Rigoni hit a hat trick against bottom placed Cesena to take his tally into the require double figures, and his average down to 14.91. The 32 year old has been one highlight of a poor season for Novara, as he’s scored 11 from midfield, albeit with the help of penalties. His 11 goals haven’t trouble any Top 6 team in what is a well deserved Flat Track Bully title.

Fabrizio Miccoli’s hat trick in a 4-4 computer game of a match against 12th placed Chievo lowered his average to 7.38 in the race for the Big Game Player title. The nearest challenger is Marco Di Vaio, who’s Bologna are playing 8th placed Parma. This means he’s better off not scoring and hoping that Miccoli scores against 17th placed Genoa next weekend. That will see Di Vaio nick it right at the death, although Miccoli’s 9 goals against Top 6 opponents will at least see him finish at the top of the Top 6 goals list.

Elsewhere, Milito moved into 3rd place in the golden boot race with his hat trick – level with Cavani on 23. However, there’s a different of 2 places in the opponents they’ve scored against on average, in favour of Milito. Giovinco (9.47) continued his excellent recent form with another goal in another win for Parma – this time a 2-0 win at 13th placed Siena. That’s 5 goals for the Italian in the 6 games that the club have won in a row, a run that’s seen them climb to 8th place. It took them 26 games to win their previous 6.

The last thing to be decided this season is the final relegation spot, with Lecce in 18th on 36 points (GD-15) and Genoa on 39 points (GD-21). Lecce’s 1-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Fiorentina meant that the Viola were safe for another season after they did “a Wigan” and lost only 1 game in the last 7, whilst beating both big teams and relegation rivals.

And just to finish, a quick look at one of the main reasons why Juve won the league, and Genoa and Lecce are fighting relegation – goals conceded:

Just three goals conceded against fellow Top 6 teams tells it’s own story. In fact, in conceding only 19 goals all season, they’re 13 goals better off than 2nd placed Milan, who have only let in a decent 32. And Juventus’s defence has been laregly unchanged from the personnel seen last season, which let in 47 as they finished 7th. Well played Conte.

The updates are running a little slower than usual as I get to grips with fatherhood, but each league will be reviewed in detail once the season has ended.

Cheers,

Liam

Serie A Round 36

3 May

The big news from the last two rounds is the race for the title. Despite dropping just two points from the last 27 available, Juventus are still only one point clear of AC Milan. Things were looking good for Juve after a cracking 4-0 away win over 19th Placed Novara at the weekend. Coming into last night’s game at home to 18th placed Lecce, it looked odds on for 9 wins in a row – and Marchisio’s 9th league goal of the season (13.11) after just 8 minutes, looked odds on to open the flood gates, but an 85th minute equaliser from Bertolacci gave both AC Milan hope of the title, and Lecce hope of survival. They’re now three points behind 17th placed Genoa with two games to go.

He’s certainly earned a special Zlatan hug

Of course, to be just one point behind means that AC Milan won their last two games. In Round 35 they thrashed 10th placed Siena 4-1 away. Smack bang in the middle of the table meant one thing, Ibrahimovic goals. And the big Swede scored a brace of them to take his personal tally to a career best of 26 league goals (11.31). But on this occasion he wasn’t the big news story, that was the goal scored by Antonio Cassano, back after recovering from a stroke earlier in the season. With the recent death of Morosini, and the scare for Patrice Muamba, it was certainly a good news story to see the talented but sometimes troubled Cassano back on the scoresheet. Also in that match, Nocerino (11.20) grabbed his 10th league goal of an impressive debut season for Milan. The Rossoneri followed the weekend win up with a 2-0 victory over Atalanta, thanks to goals from Robinho and Muntari.

Where will the title go? Well Juve will be favourites due to having the one point lead, but crucially because AC Milan have the Milan derby this weekend against a somewhat rejuvenated 6th placed Inter. Milan have won 4, lost 4 of games against Top 6 opponents this season, making this one hard to call. Juve have the easier task with an away game at 14th place Cagliari, though the home game against Lecce was supposed to be a banker as well. The final day sees Milan at home to relegated Novara whilst Juve face 10th placed Atalanta at home. Although 10th is slightly misleading as Atalanta had 6 points docked, which would have put them in 7th – not quite as straightforward.

Frankie say go mental and take your shirt off

The race for 3rd has seen significant change since the last update. Lazio have well and truly ballsed it up after taking just 2 points from their last five games. Whilst defeats to AC Milan and Udinese aren’t exactly shocking, the defeat and two draws to Lecca (18th), Novara (19th) and Siena (13th) were hardly expected. Last night’s draw with Siena was interesting because Mattia Destro continued his recent good goalscoring form. The 21 year old Italian striker, on loan from Genoa, scored his 6th goal in seven games to take his total to 11. Of these, four have now been against Top 6 sides – certainly a player to watch for the future. So with Lazio imploding after the injury to Klose, that meant the final Champions League spot was up for grabs. It may surprise readers that Inter Milan are only 3 points off 3rd, but in 6th, it’s unlikely they’ll make it. Currently it’s Napoli who hold the spot – level with Udinese on 58 points. And it’s largely due to mid table bully – Edinson Cavani. The talented forward (not in the big games), has scored four goals in as many games as Napoli first beat Roma (7th – unlucky Cav) and then Palermo (14th) last night. The South American striker now has 23 league goals for the season, with only two against the elite.

In fact, it’s been a great couple of rounds for the Top Scorers. As well as the aforemtioned Ibrahimovic, Destro and Cavani goals, plenty of the other leading lights were hitting the back of the onion net. Di Natale may be the flat track bully with an average of 11.76, but he now has a decent 5 goals against Top 6 opponents after scoring in Udinese’s 2-0 win against Lazio in the last round. He’s now only slightly worse than Ibra, Cavani and Osvaldo. In between the flat track bully and the big game player, there were also goals fro Palacio (Genoa vs 13th placed Bologna), Denis (vs 16th placed Fiorentina) and Giovinco, who has fired Parma back up the table to 8th after hitting 4 goals in 5 games. The diminutive (another word for short – think Maradona, Zola, Alan Wright) forward has a decent average of 9.21 this season, though goals against strugglers Lecce and Novara will have wiped out the positive impact of last night’s goal against Inter Milan in a 3-1 win. The team have now won five straight games after just one win in the previous nine.

The Big Game Player is still Miccoli, who scored his 13th of the season against 8th placed Catania, to leave his average ranked opponent per goal at 6.31. With two games to go, he looks set to land the coveted (in my head) title of Big Game Player – and 9 goals against the Top 6 teams suggest his is well deserved.

At the uglier end of the table, Novara’s 2-2 draw against Fiorentina confirms their relegation to Serie B, along with Cesena. That leaves one spot that’s reallistically going to be a straight fight between Genoa and Lecce. Genoa in 17th managed to put a run of 13 games without a win behind them with a massive 2-1 win over Cagliari (15th) last night. Whilst they have a tricky game against Top 6 Udinese this weekend, Lecce face fellow strugglers Fiorentina. It should go down to the final day of the season.

Cheers,

Liam

Serie A Rounds 33 & 34

26 Apr

After the sad death of Piermario Morosini last weekend, Serie A returned to business as usual, which means something crazy would probably happen. And it did. Relegation threatened Genoa were being so outplayed at home to 13th placed Siena that the Ultras (the hardcore/mental fans) decided that they’d seen enough. To cut a long story short, they invaded the pitch and demanded the players take off the shirts as they didn’t deserve to wear them. I think you’ll agree, crazy. For more on that strange story, click here.

You can’t blame them for getting a bit frustrated though, the 4-1 home defeat was their eleventh game without a win, a run that’s seen them fall into a relegation scrap – with them currently sitting just one point ahead of 18th placed Lecce. But it wasn’t always like this. They started the season brilliantly, with a draw against Atalanta (now 11th) and wins against Lazio (now 3rd) and Catania (now 8th) – carrying on the good form from the tail end of last season’s 4 wins in 6 as they finished 10th. Unfortunately for them, the first three games were the highlight of the season as they haven’t won back to back games since. As a result, former Manager Luigi De Canio has been put in charge to fight off relegation – something he didn’t quite manage back in 2004 with them. And it hasn’t been a great start with a 1-0 defeat away at AC Milan yesterday.

Back to the Top of the Table, and Juventus’ charge towards the title continued at the weekend after they made it six wins in a row. This time, the lambs to the slaughter were 5th placed Roma. They conceded four without reply as the Old Lady showed Roma’s young upstarts how it’s done. Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal Prado scored a brace to make it four goals in six games in his debut season for Juve and six in total. Whilst Juventus don’t have an outstanding goalscorer in the team, the run of six consecutive wins has seen the squad effort really magnified with ten different scorers in this short time. And after struggling to score goals earlier in the season (leading to a lot of drawn games), they’re now banging in the goals with 18 in the 6 wins. The teams they’ve beaten have included Lazio (3rd), Napoli (4th) and now Roma (5th) – proving they’re doing it against the best. Last night they faced bottom team Cesena. Surprisingly, they only scored the one goal through Marco Boriello’s first goal for Juventus. The journeyman striker is on loan from Roma and his goal not only relegated Cesena, it also damaged his former club AC Milan’s title ambitions.

Because the gap at the top is 3 points after Milan dropped points at home 12th Bologna. In fitting with his average, Ibrahimovic scored his 24th goal of the season in the last minute to keep the gap within reach. This was followed up with a 1-0 win against 17th placed Genoa earlier today courtesy of Prince Boateng’s 5th league goal of the season. Two home games against relgation battlers should have seen maximum points and a lot more goals but the last five games have seen just one goal a game, and only two wins, as they’ve had a Champions League hangover – similar to Napoli. With four games to go, it could still go either way.

In terms of the average opposition rankings Ibrahimovic’s top scoring 24 goals have been against a relatively lowly opposition of 11.42. He specialises in scoring against mid to lower table teams as shown by just the 4 goals against the big guns. He has none against Juventus, Inter Milan, Udinese or Napoli this season. Another prolific scorer is Edinson Cavani. Like Zlatanho he also specialises against the mid-lower teams, with an even lower average ranked opponent per goal of 11.57. He only has the 2 goals against the decent teams this year. Di Natale has the lowest ranking with 12.20 for his 20 goals, meaning he’s the official flat track bully, but he does have the 4 against Top 6 teams – or 20% of his goals against the top 30% of the teams.

The big game player continues to be Fabrizio Miccoli with 6.17, though he’s less of a prolifc scorer than the mean above him. Giovinco’s return to goalscoring ways hasseen him score against both Novara (19th) and Cagliari (14th) in recent weeks – pushing down his once leading average to a still decent 8.83. Sneaking in at the bottom of the list after hitting double figures is Siena’s Mattia Destro. The 21 year old is on loan from Genoa in what looks like a poor piece of business – as his parent club have Palacio on 17 goals, and then no one on more than 5. Destro’s latest goal was in the 1-1 draw at 12th placed Bologna, and made it five in their last six games for the young forward. His 10 goals have been worth 6 points, and with only one strike against the bottom 6, he’s far from a flat track bully. Goals against Udinese (5th) and Lazio (then 4th) would back this up.

With the title being a two horse race, the other main prize on offer is the third and final Champions League spot. Although it appears as though no one wants it. In the last two games, Lazio, Udinese and Roma have manged 2 points between them with four defeats. Rubbing their hands in glee were Napoli who are back to winning ways against Novara (19th) and Lecce (18th) after three straight defeats, with former Napoli man Mascara, scored the winning goal against Lazio last night. The gap is now just 3 points between 3rd placed Lazio and 6th placed Inter. Inter?! Whaaaaat? That’s right, whilst Roma have been messing about with three defeats in four games, Inter Milan have quietly sneaked into 6th place with 11 points from 15 on offer. Stramaccioni’s men drew 0-0 at Fiorentina at the weekend in a clean sheet scandal, before Wesley Sneijder inspired them to a 3-1 win over 4th placed Udinese last night. It’s about time he did something, and nice of the Europeans to finally help out the Argentinians.

With just 4 games to go, it’s all to play for at the top, whilst at the bottom, it looks like a straight out fight between Genoa and Lecce to avoid joining Cesena and surely Novara in Serie B next season. Followers of the great Fiorentina team of the 90s with Batistuta and Rui Costa will be glad to see that they’re now 6 points clear of the drop after some great recent displays. The last 4 games have included wins against Milan (2nd) and Roma (then 6th) (both thanks to Jovetic), and a draw against then 7th placed Inter Milan.

Cheers,

Liam

Serie A Round 32

12 Apr

Maverick

He may be 37, he’s may be playing the last football games of his career and his legs may have gone. But you don’t need to run much to take a good free kick. And Alessandro Del Piero knows how to take a good free kick. If Andrea Pirlo is standing aside to let someone else take a free kick, then they must be half decent. Del Piero’s latest set piece special came in a big game in all senses. Firstly, due to AC Milan’s away win at Chievo on Tuesday night – thanks to Inter Milan’s Sulley Muntari – Juventus found themselves trailing the Rossoneri by a point. Secondly, they were facing 3rd placed Lazio, who were fresh from beating fellow Top 6ers Napoli at the weekend. The pressure was most definitely on. All seemed to be going well at first as Pepe (8.83) put Juve 1-0 up after 30 minutes. However, Lazio’s in form Stefano Mauri clearly hadn’t read the script and equalised on the stroke of half time with his 3rd of the season (against Roma, Napoli and Juve = big game player). And it was looking to stay that way until substitue Del Piero came on with 17 minutes to spare and decided the game in the 84th minute. I’m not sure if they have Roy of the Rovers in Italy, but he fits the bill (Alessandro of the Old Lady?).

In truth, a draw would have flattered Lazio as Juve had 26 shots and 71% possesion – but it’s the large number of draws that mean they haven’t already tied up the title. This site is all about trying to identify the big game players, and although he’s featured sparingly this season, he’s still able to pull it out on the big occasion. Juve have now won five games in a row, and are on the verge of going the season unbeaten. Even with that epic run, the title could still go either way, and it’ll take a brave man to put his neck on the line to predict the winner. I am not a brave man.


Whilst Lazio dropped points against Juventus, they weren’t made to suffer too much, due to a large favour by city Rivals AS Roma. Luis Enrique is trying instill a new philosophy on the club, but at the moment they’re consistently inconsistent – their last 12 matches have seen 6 wins and 6 draws. However, they have been excellent at home, with only AC Milan and Juventus picking up more points. On this occasion, they hosted 4th placed Udinese in the battle of Top 6 teams. Udinese’s recent poor form and Roma’s excellent home record meant that the 3-1 win for the hosts was expected – albeit with the help of two goals in the last 5 minutes. One notable scorer was Francesco Totti, hitting just his 5th league goal of the season. Whilst Del Piero has only 2 league goals, he also has 2 goals in the cup – leaving his 4 domestic goals this season against AC Milan, Inter Milan, Lazio and Roma. Compare that to Totti’s 5 goals against an average opposition of 16th, and it’s easy to see who’s winning the battle of the ageing number 10s.

Also in the Top 6, Napoli continued their terrible run with a 3-1 home defeat by Atalanta. You know you’re in trouble when Inter Milan are level on points with you. And level they are – as Diego Milito’s brace made it 7 points from 9 for new manager Stramaccioni as they beat 13th place Siena 2-1.

And Milito’s double takes him onto 20 league goals for the season –  at an average of 10.55. The fact that he only has 2 goals against the Top 6 opposition is slightly offset by only scoring 2 against bottom 6 teams. He’s not a Big Game Player, and he’s not a Flat Track Bully – so where does that leave him? Useful I guess? On the subject of Flat Track Bullies, Osvaldo’s goal against Udinese not only added another Top 6 opponent to his list, but it also improved his average opponent to 11.45 (just below Ibrahimovic), meaning that the Flat Track Bully tag is back on Di Natale with 12.20.

Miccoli still looks untouchable on the Big Game Player tracker with the best average and most goals against the Top 6, whilst there’s a welcome return for Sebastien Giovinco who was back on the scoresheet for Parma in a 6 pointer at the bottom against Novara (19th). Lecce’s Di Michele also helped increase his team’s chances of staying up in a 2-1 win away at 8th placed Catania. This also increased his average to a decent 8.73.

Elsewhere at the bottom, 17th placed Genoa could only draw 1-1 with bottom team Cesena courtesy of goals by Rossi and Mutu. Whilst looking at it from an average opposition point of view wouldn’t really impress much, there’s a different pressure applied to relegation dog fights, and these games are all big games at this stage of the season.

That’s all for this Italian round up, but please remember to check out the Player Comparison section, and send me a message/comment if there’s a head to head you’d like to see given the average opposition treatment.

Thanks,

Liam