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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

La Liga Round 10

8 Nov

Some strange times in La Liga, as Ronaldo, Messi and Falcao all failed to score in the last round of fixtures, whilst at the same time, Real Betis fans are cheering on Sevilla – Salva Sevilla, a central midfielder who’s scored in his last two games for the club.

The lack of Ronaldo and Messi goals didn’t matter too much as both Real and Barca won, with Modric and Essien on the score sheet for the former. For Atleti, the lack of Falcao goals did hurt them as they went down 2-0 at Valencia, who opened the scoring through current average opposition leader Roberto Soldado (4 goals against an average of 7th). Falcao has scored almost half of Ateltico Madrid’s 22 La Liga goals this season in what has been a great start for both him and his club.

In terms of goals, last season’s Top three remain in order, with Falcao already equalling his number of goals against Top 6 opponents from last season. Along with Soldado, Pizzi also has four goals against an average ranked opponent of 7.00, whilst it’s Sevilla’s Negredo that is leading the way in the Top 6 stakes, with three stirkes against the best teams in the league (at the time of play).

In terms of team wins, whilst Barcelona have had their best start to a league season with 9 wins from 10, they’ve largely done it against the weaker teams, with five of those wins coming against teams in the Botton 6 – surely a very favourable fixture list to ease Tito into Pep’s rather large shoes. Real Madrid on the other hand have managed to beat an average ranked team of 11.00, with teams in the middle of the table, being beaten in the main, but surprisingly no Top 6 teams. City rivals and currently in second, Atletico Madrid lead the way against Top 6 teams with two wins already this season, though you expect them to somehow implode somewhere along the way – like the Man City of old, it’s in the club’s nature.

Real Sociedad have only managed three wins this season, and against an average ranked opposition of 17.00, it would appear as though there’s a struggle ahead. You should also fear for Mallorca. After starting the season in blistering fashion (three wins and two draws from the first 5 games), they’ve since lost five games in a row.

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).

 

La Liga Round 7

9 Oct

As it’s only seven games into the new season, there’s not too much to say about the numbers so far, so here’s the stats after the weekend action. No surprise to see the to three players, which are the same as last season. What has changes though is Falcao has already scored two goals agaist Top 6 Opposition – the same amount that he managed for the whole of last season (including the decisive goal to beat high flying Malaga and put Atelti joint top). Add to that his hat trick against Chelsea in the European Super Cup, and it’s fair to say that he’s turning into a big game player.

Messi and his mate are both have two goals in the Top 6 column following Sunday’s el Clasico. In what was a thoroughly entertaining game, both teams walked away pretty happy with the draw – if you missed the highlights, click HERE. I fully expect Messi and Ronaldo to duke it out for the Top Scorer title again, but at the moment, it’s hard to pick up too much of a trend from only seven games (hence the reduced commentary).

2012-13 – Goals by Player

2012-13 – Points by Player

2012-13 – Clean Sheets by Team

2012-13 – Goals by Team

 

2012-13 – Conceded by Team

2012-13 – Wins by Team

2012-13 – Defeats by Team

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

La Liga Round 38

16 May

With the league title wrapped up, it was just a case of Real Madrid flexing their muscles and break their own records. In beating 7th placed Mallorca they wracked up a massive 100 points from a possible 114 (which is mental), and in scoring another 4 goals (Ronaldo, Benzema, Ozil x 2), they extended their own goals scored recored to 121 goals. I’m gonna put my neck on the line here and suggest that it’s not going to be beaten in a regular 38 game season. It’s impressive.

But that’s not where the drama lay at the weekend. Far from it. It was the fight to avoid relegation that had the Man City-esque ending, for Rayo Vallecano at least. The real story was Villarreal’s relegation from La Liga. The same Villarreal that was in the Champions League this season after finishing last year in 4th place. The same Villarreal that have qualified for European Football for the last 8 seasons (including a 2nd and 3rd place). They’ve had a terrible season under three different coaches, but the way they went down was just cruel. Starting the day in the relative safety of 16th, they were facing Atletico Madrid (5th – chasing a Champions League spot) at home, whilst Rayo Vallecano and Real Zaragoza who started the day in 17th and 18th were facing Granada at home (15th) and away at 11th placed Getafe respectively. Real Zaragoza continued their amazing recent form, by swatting aside Getafe 2-0. That made it four wins in a row and eight in the last eleven games to guarantee safety. That left one place between Villarreal, Vallecano and Granada. Villarreal could draw and guarantee safety regardless of the result in the other game, and up until the 88th minute, they were. Then Falcao (12.83) struck for Atleti. Not to worry, it was still 0-0 in the other game, meaning Rayo would be going down. That was, until the 90th minute, when veteran striker Raul Tamudo scored to put them ahead. And just like that, Villarreal were down. They could have drawn and send down Granada, but it wasn’t to be. It’s a shame for a small team that had consistently punched above their weight, but the loss of Santi Cazorla (Malaga), Joan Capdevila (Benfica) and most crucially Guiseppe Rossi (injury).

The battle for 4th was settled with a little less drama. Malaga started the day in 4th, and facing 19th placed Sporting, the only surprising thing is that they only won 1-0. Despite all the big name signings after new ownership came, it was last season’s top scorer Jose Rondon who grabbed the winner. It was the 22 year old Venezuelan striker’s 11th goal of the season (10.81) after 14 last season. With the likes of van Nistelrooy, Toulalan, Cazorla and Demichelis coming in, there was a sense of change as Malaga looked to reach the Champions League in a slightly more measured approach than recent Billionnaire owned clubs, and it looks to have paid off.

Regular readers (hi Mum) will know that I oaccsionally have a bit of a pop at Falcao for his Flat Track Bully ways. People can point to the Europa League Final (last two years) in his Big Game Player defence, and whilst it is a great achievement, there’s a nagging feeling I have that maybe it’s his level. In the league, of his 24 league goals, only 2 were against Top 6 opponents (albeit the big two), which is a pretty paltry return for a player being valued at £50million. His goals against Bilbao in the Europa League final were effectively against 9th placed opposition, whilst the goal to relegate Villarreal was against Bottom 6 opposition. Now I know you can only beat what’s in front of you, but of a possible 10 games against Top 6 teams, to score in only two of them is questionable for a Superstar Striker. An average ranked opponent per goal of 12.83 would back up the Flat Track Bully claims, though it’s still a good way behind del Moral’s 17.30. He takes teh official Flat Track Bully tag for the La Liga season based on opponent’s ranking at the time of play. I’ll be looking at it from the final league rankings in the end of season review in the coming weeks.

One man who cannot be labelled a Flat Track Bully is Real Betis striker Ruben Castro (Martin). Having been key in the promotion campaign last year, he scored his first La Liga goals for four years this season, and several more followed. He finished the season on 16 goals, and most of them were important. He averaged a point per goal as Betis finished in the safety of 13th. What’s more, of the 16 league goals, half of them were against Top 6 opponents, including a brace at the weekend in the 2-2 draw against Barcelona (previously the best football team in the galaxy of all time ever). In fact, he scored in both games against Barcelona, as well as scoring against Valencia and Malaga this year. His average of 9.13 was slightly lower due to the 5 goals he scored against Bottom 6 teams, but all in all, he can be classed firmly as a Big Game Player. But not the biggest. Cristiano Ronaldo may have embarrassed himself and his family with a measley 46 league goals this season, but at least he can take consolation that 16 of them were against the Top 6 teams. That’s easily the highest in Europe – ahead of Messi’s 13. In terms of average opposition ranking, it’s Alexis Sanchez who has the best rating of 6.91 based on positions at the time of playing. Especially well done in a debut season in a new country.

Full Season review to follow with bells and whistles in the coming weeks.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 38

13 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 37

9 May

Winning goal in the FA Cup Semi Final against best team in the country last year? Check.

Winning goal in the FA Cup Final after 35 years without a trophy? Check.

A brace to put your team top of the table going into the final day? Check.

Yep, it’s fair to say that Yaya Toure is a big game player. Although I don’t want to say that his goals against Newcastle (5th) have decided the whereabouts of this years Premier League, they’ve certainly been very important, and that was certainly in the high prerssure environment of a big game. I’ll admit that I had him down as a midfielder that scored a lot of goals (after his more defensive role in Barcelona), so it was surprising to see that his double at Newcastle were only his 5th and 6th (8.33) league goals of the season (matching last years 6). Either way, when the pressure was on, it was Toure Junior that stepped up. Though a nod must go to the defence who kept Cisse out, who had done this in last week’s game against Chelsea:

I know that was last week, but it was just awesome! And it’s worth noting that after 11 goals against average opposition (11.91), he’s now scored against a Top 6 team in Chelsea, taking his average up to 11.00. Add in his 9 goals (10.78) for Freiburg, and you have a very decent season.

But I digress (it was a good goal though). Man Utd made sure that the title goes down to the final day with their 2-0 win over Swansea, but it would take a brave man to bet a significant amount of money on them to win the title, given Man City’s home record, and QPR’s away form. But, QPR still aren’t mathematically safe, and Mark Hughes has the double aim of getting revenge on City for sacking him, and helping out his old team. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he really has exceeded expectations at QPR. With the worst of the run ins, Hughes has managed to pick up 5 wins in the last nine games – with an average opponent per win of 8.40. Impressive stuff. Wigan’s six wins in the same period have been slightly better at 7.66. Both have proved a lot of people wrong, and that’s understandable given the previous average ranked opponent per win – Wigan had 4 wins at 15.25 and QPR had 5 wins against an average ranked opponent of 12.8. There were absolutely no indicators for the massive turn around in form.

Wigan’s latest win was not against good opposition. It was against fellow Bottom 6 teams Blackburn. And it was enought to gain survival whilst relegating Rovers. I bet those people calling for Steve Kean to be named manager of the year feel a little foolish now (one example here). So with Blackburn joining Wolves (Terry Connor for best new manager?) in the Championship next season, it comes down to the final day for one of Bolton and QPR. Aston Villa will be safe on goal difference, barring a massive swing.

With games in hand all being played now, there’s a been a good bit of movement on the Top Scorers list. Robin van Persie’s double against Norwich in the 3-3 draw sees him reach the magical 30 goal mark. It’s only the third time since 2000 that a player has reached this mark (Henry and Ronaldo), so it’s a great achievement. Before last season’s 18 goals, his highest league tally in his career was a paltry (for his talent) 11 goals. The last season and a half has crucially seen him stay fit, and it’s resulted in 48 strikes in 62 appearances in the Premier League. Quality. And although he has 10 goals against Bottom 6 opponents, he’s the leading scorer versus the Top 6 with 7 goals, meaning he’s a big game player.

However, the owner of that title based on the average opponent per goal is neither van Persie or last week’s leader Adebayor. He’s shown a complete lack of respect for my average opposition leader board by hitting 2 versus Bolton (18th) last week, and another against Villa (15th) this weekend. Manu you fool. That means, that despite all the flack he’s taken (some of it deservedly), Mario Balotelli looks set to win the Big Game Player tag for this year’s Premier League with an average ranked opponent per goal of 8.77. Think goals against Man Utd, Chelsea, Newcastle and Spurs, and he’s only missing Arsenal out of the other Top 6 teams. Not bad for someone who had supposedly ruined Man City’s season.

Strangely, Rafael van der Vaart looks like going from 2010-11’s big game player, to this years flat track bully. His latest strike (also in the win over Bolton) was his 11th of a disrupted season, taking his league tally to a very decent 24 in 60 games over two seasons as an advanced midfield role.

Just looking at the Bottom 6 and Top 6 goals season on season, it’s a quite stark difference, and begs an interesting question. What makes a big game player? Looking at van der Vaart as an example it’s pretty hard to tell why. Immediately I would have pointed to injuries but he’s actually played more games this season. Team mates? Well Spurs are looking likely to finish higher this season in 4th compared to last year’s 5th. There has been a change in personnel with Adebayor taking the lone striker role, but that doesn’t explain the disappearance in the big games? At 29, he’s in his prime, so it’s not age. You’d think that I’m building to a big conclusion now after ruling out other factors, but in all honesty, I don’t know what’s brought the change. Some may point to the difficult second season syndrome (dsss), but it’s spurious. Answers on a post card please.

Big weekend ahead, with several different outcomes. However, with Bolton on a run of 5 games without a win (after 4 wins in a row), it’s unlikely that they’ll win at Stoke (14th), although they have picked up 19 points away from home – albeit at an average of 17.83 ranked opposition. In terms of the race for 3rd (in case Chelsea win the Champions League),  Arsenal (3rd), Spurs (4th) and Newcastle (5th) are facing West Brom away (10th), Fulham at home (9th) and Everton away (7th) respectively. Due to the home venue, I’d say Spurs have the easiest game (just), but Arsenal have the points on the board.

Elsewhere, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Ramires backed up their big game player status’ with the goals in the FA Cup Final win over Liverpool. Both scored over the two legs against Barcelona in the Champions League Semi Final, and Drogba has now become the first player to score in a whopping four different finals. Andy Carroll has shown glimpses of hope for Liverpool fans, and his goal (almost a brace) in the final wasn’t completely unexpected. Like van der Vaart, Carroll had a Big Game Player tag from last season as he led the scoring against Top 6 teams with a decent 6 strikes (9 based on the time of playing). Last night, Liverpool got bittersweet revenge on Chelsea with a 4-1 home win – just their second win against Top 6 Opponents this season:

Wigan lead the way with the best teams beaten (on average), whilst Man City are deservedly top of the league and set to win it when you look at their 27 wins against United’s. There’s something of a big game team performance with 7 win against Top 6 opposition, and a Flat Track Bully air to United’s 13 wins against bottom 6 teams. This is all based on positions at the time of playing, i’ll be reviewing all the stats again based on final league rank at the end of the season. Aside from the teams at the top, Aston Villa fan will be glad to see the end of the season after just 7 league wins, against an average opponent of 13.57. Exciting.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 37

8 May

With the league title already tied up last week, there’s only one place to start. Lionel Messi. Although Barcelona will end up with fewer medals this season than in recent years, it’s been Messi’s greatest season personally. In the last two league season’s, he’s scored a combined 65 goals in just 68 games – phenomenal. I, like many, wondered if he’d peaked already, and if he could stay at that level. Boy is my face red. In the weekend’s Barcelona derby against Espanyol, Messi gave Pep Guardiola a parting gift – scoring all the goals in a 4-0 win. That takes his league tally to a ridiculous 50 goals in 36 games. We’re going to have to invent some more words for him as I’m all out of superlatives. In all competitions for Barcelona, he’s hit 72 goals in 58 games (beating Gerd Muller’s record). When you add in his 28 assists, he’s been responsible for 100 goals in all competitions this season. Anyone who doubts his credentials as an all time great doesn’t deserve to watch him play.

In what’s been a quite frankly ridiculous season, Barcelona have now gained 90 points, and scored 112 league goals. And that’s not even good enough for first place. Real Madrid only scored the two in a 2-1 away win at Granada, to take their tally to 97 points and 117 goals. Ronaldo scored one to take his personal count to 45 in the league – a career best for him. How he must curse Messi.

So with the news on the big two out of the way, the next port of call is the race for a top 4 spot. And as with the Italian League, it’s going to go down to the final day:

Valencia tied up their customary 3rd place finish with a 1-0 over Villarreal (more on that one later), courtesy of Jonas’ 7th goal in 8 games, taking his tally to 10 for the season (12.10). It’s below 3rd that it becomes interesting. Going into the final day of the season, one of four teams can take that final Champions League spot. However, it’s all in Malaga’s hands despite a 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid at the weekend. They face 19th placed Sporting Gijon at home, making them clear favourites. Atletico are also facing a team fighting relegation in Villarreal (16th), whilst Levante host Bilbao, and Mallorca who beat Levante at the weekend to make it 4 wins in a row, have to try and stop Real Madrid reaching 100 points. Based on that, it’s likely to be Malaga’s spot, though with Sporting still in with a chance (albeit slim) of staying up, it should be theirs.

In terms of the average opposition stats, Messi’s 50 goals have been against an average ranked opponent of 10.22 in the league table (average position in a 20 team league is 10.5). The split of 12-25-13 (24% vs Bottom 6, 50% vs Middle 8, 26% vs Top 6) is close enough to where you’d expect it to be for a regular scorer with just Ronaldo ahead of him in goals against the Top 6 teams. Barcelona team mate Alexis Sanchez hols there best average with 6.91, whilst there was also no change at the bottom as del Moral retains the lowest average ranked team per goal with an impressively low 17.30, and no goals against Top 6 teams. Valencia’s Jonas (12.10) and Vallecano’s Costa (8.30) both move into the Top Scorers chart with goals at the weekend. Costa in particular has done it against decent teams, with 5 of his 10 against the big boys, and 4 against mid table opponents, including his double at the weekend against Seville (who scored 5 in response).

And so onto the battle to avoid relegation:

Sporting will require a miracle of sorts to escape the drop as they travel to 4th placed Malaga. They will have to hope that Vallecano (hosting 15th placed Granda) and Real Zaragoza (away at 11th placed Getafe) will both lose. Villarreal host 4th placed chasing Atletico Madrid. They looked to be safe just a few weeks back, but one win in five (against Sporting) has seen them fall right back into trouble. Couple that with Real Zaragoza’s excellent recent form and it really could be any team up to 15th that fall. Zaragoza’s latest win (4th in 5) was at home to Sporting, winning 2-1. Sporting have faced and lost to both Zaragoza and Villarreal in recent weeks as they look set to play their football in the Segunda Division next season. If I were a betting man (and i’m not), I’d go for Sporting and Villarreal to drop this weekend.

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