Tag Archives: Arsenal

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).

 

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Player Comparison: Thierry Henry vs Robin van Persie

29 Jul

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

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

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

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

Goals

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

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

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

Assists

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

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

Big Game Player? Records vs Top 6:

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

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

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

Importance to team

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

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

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

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

Other Considerations

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

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

In Conclusion

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

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

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

Cheers,

Liam

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

17 Jul

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

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

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

Starting Point

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

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

Squads

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

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

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

Invicible First XIs:

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

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

Goalscoring Stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team Stats

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

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

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

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

Apart from the league – Europe and Cups

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

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

Strength of the League

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

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

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

Precedent

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

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

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

After

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Review:2011-2012 Part 2

11 Jun

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

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

The importance of beating those around you –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Review: 2011-2012 Part 1

4 Jun

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

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

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

Premier League Season Review 2011-12 Part 1: Goalscoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But.

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

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

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

Premier League Bullies

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

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

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

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

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

Pointless Goals

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

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

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

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

Assists

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Liam

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

Premier League Round 35

23 Apr

It’s on. And much like the Bundesliga and La Liga, an April match up between the top two teams in the league is going to decide the fate of the 2011-12 season. With the pressure off, Man City turned the clock back to Autumn with two great attacking displays against West Brom and Norwich. However, going into the game against relegation doomed Wolves, City knew that a win would put them back in the title race that only a few weeks ago was over. A slightly cagier performance saw them get the vital 3 points to give them a shot at the League Title. It’s not going to be easy, Man Utd have already beaten them at Eastlands this year and they also have Newcastle to face. But for the neutrals, it’s a great end to the season. And it’s been mentioned several times already, but Carlos Tevez effectively coming in for Mario Balotelli has been the spur they needed. Since his return, he’s scored four goals and created a further two.

And Everton did their part in the lunchtime kick off with an unprobable 4-4 draw at Old Trafford. Unprobable in the sense that the last time Everton scored 4 goals away was at the start of David Moyes reign, that it was at Old Trafford and that they were 3-1 and 4-2 down. However, they are a team in form in the Premier League, with just the top four teams in the table above them over the last 8 games (just 1 defeat). In fact, they’re joint third in the number of wins against the Top 6 teams:

Wins against Man City, Spurs and Chelsea since Christmas in their usual strong finish to the season means that a draw at Old Trafford wasn’t a complete shock – albeit in different circumstances. And that’s not all, their 13 wins have been against the 3rd highest average ranked opponent in the league, behind QPR and Wigan, who have recently been surprising everyone with the big scalps they’ve taken.

And as with every table, there’s two ends – unless of course, it’s a Round Table (or any non rectangular shaped table come to think of it). When looking at the lowest average opponents per win, there’s some surprising and some not so surprising teams. Wolves have beaten an average team ranked 17th – and there’s no surprise to see them relegated. The only other team with no wins against Top 6 opposition is second bottom Bolton Wanderers. Their 9 wins have been against an average ranked opponent of 15.89. But they’re to be expected. The 5 teams with the lowest ranked team per win:

It’s Chelsea and Newcastle that jump out on this list. Chelsea have at least had the decency to beat two Top 6 teams (Man City and Newcastle), but they as a team have been the Flat Track Bullies of the Premier League this season, with 11 wins against teams in the Bottom 6 at the start of play, and an average ranked opponent per win of a lowly 14.63. It’s the equivalent of beating Aston Villa 16 times. Not a massive achievement. Newcastle’s amazing 6 game winning run has been impressive, but an average opponent of 11.83 in that time actually improves their opponent average per win. Not that it’ll bother them one little bit. Their only Top 6 win was a 3-0 demolition of Man Utd (then 2nd), and whilst they’ve also beaten a 7th placed Liverpool and drawn against Chelsea, Spurs and Man Utd, their route to the Champions League spot that they currently occupy has been by beating the teams that they’re expected to beat.

And so on to the Top Scorers:

Wayne Rooney’s double against boyhood team Everton not only increased his average from 12.50 to 12.08, it also takes him within one goal of the previously untouchable Robin van Persie – The Players Player of the Year. Although van Persie still leads the way on goals against the Top 6 with 7 (ahead of Dempsey), he’s now scored just one goal in Arsenal’s last seven games. The 0-0 against Chelsea was only their second clean sheet against Top 6 opponents (from 13) and was useful in keeping the Blues at bay, and thanks to Spurs terrible run, they’re still favourites for that 3rd spot.

Sergio Aguero’s goal against Wolves sees him reach 22 league goals – one short of Carlos Tevez’ haul in his debut season for City. Aguero has done it in 31 games, compared to Tevez’ 35 games. I’ll be comparing the two of them at the end of the season. Emmanuel Adebayor continues to have the highest ranked opponent per goal with 8.15. The Flat Track Bully is still Frank Lampard with 14.55. Last season’s most prolific point scorer, Peter Odemwingie, hit double figures in the ‘difficult second season’ with the winner at Anfield as Liverpool’s disappointing league campaign continued. The Merseyside giants are now only 3 points ahead of 13th placed Norwich – although with two cup finals (one already won), they’re in a better position than most teams.

Elsewhere, it turns out that Wigan’s kryptonite is kept somewhere in West London, as they lost only their second game in eight – this time at Fulham after a recent defeat at Chelsea. QPR took up where Wigan left off with a win against Top 6 Spurs. Between them, Wigan and QPR have beaten six teams in the top seven in the last seven games – Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, and Man Utd have all been victims to the sudden and unlikely turn around in form.

With Robin van Persie winning the Player of the Year award, the points won table perhaps tells part of the reason why – no one has won more points this season:

A massive 22 points have been won from his 27 goals – compare that to Rooney’s 11 from 26 of Aguero’s 5 points from 22 goals, and you’ll see just how important he’s been. Yakubu continues to be the most important to his team in terms of percentages. His 13 points won are 42% of Blackburn’s total of 31 points. If they do stay up, then they’ll owe the big man a slap up meal or two.

Papiss Cisse’s fairytale start to his Newcastle career has seen his first 11 goals gain 11 points for the team – although his latest in a 3-0 win over Stoke wasn’t worth any. Lampard may be the Flat Track Bully, but his goals have been the most important to Chelsea than any other player this season – with 9 points.

I’ll try to get the La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A stats up this week, but there may be a slight delay due to an expected addition to the Average Opposition family.

Cheers,

Liam 

The Premier League’s Best Goalscoring Partnerships

21 Apr

The Barclays Premier League celebrates the completion of 20 seasons in just a few weeks time, and in that time, there’s been some great strike partnerships. But who has been the best? Which duo have been most even? Which Partnership delivered for longest? And which nationalities have been been the best?

Shearer and Sutton – the best Partnership in Premier League history?

The Rules:

Firstly, this is Premier League Only. Secondly, each partnership needs to have scored at least 30 league goals be listed and most importantly, each player must have scored at least 10 goals. That means Southampton’s Matt Le Tissier and Neil Maddison do not qualify as the 32 goals were split 25/7. Nice try Neil.

If there are mulitple combinations, the highest one will be used. For example, in 1999, Yorke and Cole (35) and Yorke and Solksjaer (30) both reached the required number.

I’ve decided that the Partnership doesn’t necessarily have to be two strikers. It can also be made up of Forward and Winger, or Forward and Attacking Midfielder – such as Torres and Gerrard.

The Numbers:

    • 47 – partnerships that have achieved 30 goals or more in a single league season
    • 1,736 – goals have been scored by the 55 players featured in the list
    • 2 – Partnerships are still playing this season
    • 12 – number of midfielders involved
    • 22 – different nationalities
    • 8 – pairs managed to score 40+ and only 2 of those partnerships have topped 50 goals.

The List:

Below is the list of Partnerships from 47 to 6, with the Average Opposition Treatment given to the Top 5:

Who’d have thought that van Nistelrooy and Solksjaer (40 goals) were more prolific than Cole and Yorke (35 and 39). Similarly, Sheringham (who’s been left out of the 20 year awards for some unknown reason) and Chris Armstrong at Spurs were more prolific than Berbatov and Keane. The eagle eyed among you will notice Henry and Pires teamed up on no less than three occasions to break the 30 goal partnership mark – 2002-03, 2003-04,  and 2004-05 – with Pires hitting 14 league goals for three impressive consecutive seasons from midfield. Just don’t ask them to team up on penalties.

Aguero and Dzeko in 27th place can still add to their tally, as can Rooney & Hernandez – both partnerships are on 34 goals for this season. Most surprising of the partnerships? I’d say Chris Sutton & Efan Ekoku (37 goals) and and Mark Bright & Gordon Watson (31 goals) – though both pairs did it in a 42 game season.

Some surprising ommisions include Anelka & Bergkamp, who hit 29 league goals in 1998-99, Leeds pair Viduka & Smith (28 goals in 200-01) and Dwight Yorke & Savo Milosevic who also hit 29 goals in 1995-96.

The Top 5:

5. Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn – Sunderland 1999-2000 – 44 Goals

In one way it one of the most unlikely prolific partnerships (and it was a proper partnership) going. Just a few years earlier, Phillips was struggling in a Watford team plying their trade in Division Two (League One) and Niall Quinn was something of fading star – returning to the Top Division aged 33 after helping Sunderland to promotion. Despite having had a 41 goal partnership in the promotion campaign (23/18), many predicted Sunderland and Phillips in particular to struggle. Rodney Marsh was quoted as saying Phillips would “struggle to score 6 goals”. But then he may not be the best judge given some of his other statements. Instead, they formed one of the best partnerships the league has ever seen – and comfortably the best from a promoted team. Phillips had his greatest ever season with 30 league goals and Quinn managed a decent 14 – his second highest top flight tally in his 19 year career. A great return for a target man. The classic Big Man-Little Man partnership would stay together for another two full seasons, although they never recreated that magical season with 21 in 2000-01 and 17 the following year. Quinn retired after only 8 appearances in 2002-03 whilst Phillips moved on to Southampton in the summer of the same season, scoring just 6 goals – with Sunderland relegated.

Best Moment: Sunderland 4-1 Chelsea. Both scored a brace as they beat much fancied Chelsea to move into 4th place, and avenge a 4-0 opening day defeat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFspQb8u9DE . Though Sunderland fans will tell you it was when both scored to beat Newcastle at St. James’s park.

4. Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez – Manchester United 2007-08 – 45 Goals

Going one better than the Wearside duo were the slightly more glamorous pairing of Ronaldo and Tevez, though as with the goals, the glamour was more from Ronaldo than the Argentinian. Part of a front three with Rooney rather than an out an out partnership (Rooney got 12 goals), their goals fired Man United to a League and Champions League double. This was the season that Ronaldo went from very good to one of the best in the World as he hit an incredible 31 goals in 34 league games. Tevez enjoyed his first season at the club after an eventful stay at West Ham, and hit a decent 14 league goals – doubling his tally with the East Londoners. These days, Ronaldo would be embarrassed to score only 31 league goals at Real Madrid (he scored 40 last season and has 41 this season) whilst Tevez outscored every Premier League player over the 2009-11 period with 43 goals in the Sky Blue of Man City. The pair, along with Rooney, were together for the 2008-09 season as well, but Tevez was left frustrated as Dimitar Berbatov’s signing restricted his playing time – leading to the controversial move across Manchester.

Best Moment: The Champions League Final win over Chelsea. Ronaldo scored in a 1-1 draw to prove his big game player status, and Tevez kept his nerve to score in the penalty shoot out. In the league, they regularly linked up quite nicely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFPVZOylmpY

3. Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton – Blackburn Rovers 1994-95 – 49 Goals (42 game season)

When Chris Sutton was signed from Norwich (where he had a surprisingly good partnership with Efan Ekoku), eyebrows were raised in the football world. £5 million now would buy you a seventh of Andy Carroll, but at the time it was a big deal as it smashed the English Transfer Record (Kenny has form in this area). In the 1993-94 season, Blackburn finished 2nd to Manchester United with a decent 84 points but a stingy 63 goals. Shearer scored 31 of them, whilst the next highest scorer was Kevin Gallacher with 7. Support was needed, and Chris Sutton with 25 goals the previous year, was the outstanding candidate. In a slightly unusual big man-big man partnership, the pair linked up superbly. Fuelled by the crosses of Jason Wilcox and Stuart Ripley, the pair smashed in 49 goals between them. Once again, Shearer was the main man, but Sutton chipped in with decent 15 goals to push over the line – beating Man Utd to the title by one point. Unfortunately for Blackburn fans, the two of them never really clicked again. Sutton suffered an injury plagued season as they attempted to defend their title, playing only 13 games with no goals. It didn’t affect Shearer too much as he still scored 31 league goals, but the team suffered with Sutton’s absence. That summer, Shearer of course made the £15 million move to Newcastle where he’d strike up a good partnership with Les Ferdinand (see number 7), whilst Sutton in turn worked will with Gallacher (number 32), but neither managed to find a better partnership.

Best Moment: Lifting the Premier League Trophy on the final day of the season. They linked up on numerous occasions throughout the season, with this 3-1 win over Villa a typical example (apologies for the advert first) http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xejzac_shearer-x2-sutton-vs-aston-villa-se_sport. For Chris Sutton, it was the hug that Alan Shearer gave him in the photo above. He loved that.

2. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard – Chelsea 2009-10 – 51 Goals

Not your typical partnership with a central midfielder and centre forward, but between them, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard scored a whopping 51 goals – becoming only the second duo to break the 50 goal mark (see below), and the first to do so in a 38 game season. And in a way, they were Chelsea’s main attackers. In a 4-5-1 formation (or 4-3-3 depending on your viewpoint), Drogba led the line on his own, with Lampard breaking from deep to get into the box at every opportunity. Drogba’s late charge saw him overcome Rooney in the race for the Golden boot, whilst Lampard also had his best scoring season – and is the highest scoring second player in the partnerships list. The pair also combined to break the 30 goal mark in the 2006-07 (Drogba 20, Lampard 11), whilst Lampard is also on the list with Nicolas Anelka in 2008-09.

Best Moment:Once again it was lifting the Premier League trophy after three seasons of Man Utd dominance, Chelsea finally laid to rest the ghost of Jose Mourinho under the stewardship of Carlo Ancelotti. Individually, Drogba scored the winning goal at Old Trafford to swing the title race in Chelsea’s favour, whilst Lampard hit four goals in the 7-1 destruction of 6th placed Aston Villa. And they were both involved heavily in the title celebrations, with an 8-0 win over Wigan on the final day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbF50O7Yl1I

And that takes us to first place in the list of prolific Premier League Partnerships. Did you guess who it was?

1. Andy (Andrew) Cole and Peter Beardsley – Newcastle 1993-94 – 55 Goals (42 game season)

 And so it’s a partnership from just the second season of the Premier League that takes top spot in the list. It was by no means a guarantee either. Newcastle had been promoted the previous season, and Andy Cole had onnly played 12 games for the club, and had never played in the Premier League. Beardsley had been re-signed to his hometown team aged 32 after spells with Liverpool and Everton, aged 32, he was brought in to add a bit of experience. No one could have expected what happened next. 55 goals from a combined 75 games saw the Toon Army finish a lofty 3rd in the league as Kevin Keegan’s men gained the title of ‘The Entertainers’. Cole and and Beardsley were central to this, and their partnership reminded many of Beardsley and Lineker for England – the classic tricky creative number 10, feeding the classic speedy number 9. Although it was a 42 game season, they still finish first when re-calculating for a 38 game league. They were by far and away the best partnership the Premier League has seen – which is especially surprising given that they’d never played together before. Sadly for Newcastle fans, it would be the only full season that they played together, as Cole made the controversial £5 million move to Manchester United midway through the 1994-95 season. He’d go on to great things at Man Utd, but even though his partnership with Dwight Yorke is considered one of the best, it was nowhere near as good as his pair up with Beardsley.

Best Moment:In the space of 3 games at the end of October into November, the pair scored a combined 10 goals including Cole’s hat trick at Anfield and Beardsley’s hat trick against a Wimbledon team which would finish 6th. Both would also score against Oldham. Not many videos around of the two of them apart from the highlights of a 2-1 win away at Norwich in which they both scored: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jDnDb5mMPQ

And so that’s the list completed. What? You want more? Well okay, he’s a few more findings:

Most Compatible Partners:

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney is the man to go to if you want a successful partnership. He’s been in no fewer than seven 30 goal partnerships over the years for United (only five above as Tevez and Hernandez edged him out of other partnerships). Twice with Cristiano Ronaldo, once with Dimitar Berbatov and Ruud van Nistelrooy, and this season with Javier Hernandez. On four of those occasions, Man Utd have gone on to win the league title. Interestingly, Rooney has only been the principal scorer in two of these partnerships – this season and 2009-10. Aged only 26, he should go on to dominate the Premier League Partnerships in the coming years with both Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez.

Just behind Rooney are three more Englishman – step forward Les Ferdinand. Sir Les was part of a 30 goal partnership on three occasions, and each time was with a different partner. First up was Bradley Allen at QPR in 1992-93 (20/10). He followed that up with a 34 goal partnership with a young Kevin Gallen two years later (24/10) before making the big money move to Newcastle that summer. Although he hit 25 league goals in his first season, Beardsley only hit 8, meaning they don’t qualify. Instead it was the partnership with another Geordie, Alan Shearer, that saw a 41 goal partnership in 1996/97 (25/16 – Shearer). Ferdinand left the Toon Army after just two seasons, and could never find another suitable partner.

And matching Ferdinand on three partners is yet another Englishman – Robbie Fowler. Despite leaving Liverpool for the first time aged just 26, he was in four 30 goal partnerships at Anfield, with Ian Rush (37 goals) in 1994/95, Stan Collymore (42 goals and 30 goals 1995-97) and Michael Owen (32 goals) in 1998-99.

Chris Sutton also managed the achievement, albeit hard to believe for any Chelsea fans that saw him play. Firstly in 1993/94 with Efan Ekoku at Norwich City (37 goals), followed by the famous S.A.S. partnership with Shearer the following year (as mentioned above), and lastly with Scotland’s Kevin Gallacher in 1997/98 (34 goals).

Aside from the English, Dimitar Berbatov has also managed to be part of three 30 goal partnerships. Firstly at Spurs with Irishman Robbie Keane in 2007/08 in a perfectly balanced 15+15 split. That was his last season at White Hart Lane before moving on to Old Trafford. It was at Manchester United where he had his best partnership – 38 goals with Wayne Rooney (2009-10), whilst Berba and Henrnandez reached 33 last season. That’s three partnerhips, three different partners and three different nationalities. Which leads nicely onto:

Nationalities:

Unsurprisingly it’s the England and England Partnership that occurs most often in the 20 years of Premier League football, when looking at 30 goal partnerships. Although that’s certainly a changing trend in recent seasons. The last time an all English partnership scored 30 league goals was over 10 years ago – when Michael Owen and Emile Heskey (stop laughing), scored 30 goals exactly (16/14) for Liverpool in the 2000-01 season.

Aside from the All England partnerships, it’s the French that are the next best. The three all French partnerships were all Henry and Pires for the three seasons from 2002-2005. Eric Cantona (with Giggs), Henry (with Ljungberg), and Anelka (with Lampard). After the French, it’s the Dutch – van Nistelrooy, Hasselbaink, Bergkamp and Bryan Roy.

The Midfielders:

Great in partnerships, just not together

Robert Pires and Frank Lampard appear on three occasions each, with Steven Gerrard (twice with Torres) and Freddie Ljungberg also making it. Lampard was by far and away the most prolific with 22 goals in 2009-10, with Gerrard hitting 16, Pires hitting 14 (3 times) and Ljungberg scoring 12 as part of a 36 goal partnership with Thierry Henry in 2001-02. I’m counting Cristiano Ronaldo as a Forward in this list. Poyet, Giggs and Scholes make up the rest.

And that’s about that on 20 years of the Premier League Partnerships. The Worst Duo? Well I saw 32 year old Mike Newell team up with a 32 year old Iain Dowie who was in the middle of a year long goal drought. The seven games together saw zero goals – although it was useful in spurring on Harry Redknapp to sign John Hartson and Paul Kitson – a partnership that kept West Ham up in the 1996-97 season with 13 goals combined from the last 11 games of the season. Unfortunately for Hammers fans, Kitson’s West Ham career was blighted by injuries, meaning the partnership never really got a chance to blossom.

Cheers,

Liam

Premier League Round 34

16 Apr

It’s far from over in the race of the Title, with 5 points between United and City. If City win the Manchester Derby, they’ll have to win every game and hope that United draw one – and it’s down to goal difference. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility – Man City have only dropped 2 points at home all season, then United could be held to a draw by Everton or Sunderland. But you have to wonder what position City would have been in if Tevez had played the whole season, or rather from Christmas.

His time off wasn’t completely wasted, just look at that swing

Carlitos’ 4 goals in the last week have reminded City just what a good player he is, and also a prolific scorer with 43 league goals in the previous two seasons – more than any other player. And it’s been the goals that have been City’s problem of late. Their defence has actually improved – 15 goals were conceded in the first 17 games compared to just 11 in the last 16 – whilst the goals before the last two games have slowed considerably – as shown here in the Round 31 update. The defeats to Sunderland (9th), Everton (7th) and Swansea (14th) could have been avoided with Tevez in the team. Last season he scored 45% of his goals against Middle 8 teams.

Man Utd did of course shake off their surprise defeat (not so much given tonight’s score) defeat to Wigan with a 4-0 stroll against Aston Villa. Wayne Rooney had a pretty poor game, but still scored a double to take his tally to 24 for the season. As Villa were ranked 15th before the round kicked off, that’s another 2 for Rooney against the Bottom 6 teams – which means he’s now the most prolific player in the league against them. His average of 12.50 shows this. Danny Welbeck scored his 8th league goal of a promising season, though like Rooney he has specialised against weaker opponents – with an average of 14.5.

The surprise scoreline of the weekend came at the Emirates. Arsenal had the chance to cement 3rd place with a win over 17th placed Wigan to extend the lead over Spurs and Newcastle to 8 points, but Wigan are a different animal lately. Fresh from recent wins against Liverpool, Man Utd, and an unlucky defeat to Chelsea (assists for the linesman there), Wigan made an impressive trio of big scalps with a deserved win away at Arsenal. They’re last 4 wins have been against an average ranked opponent of 5.75 which is impressive for any team, let alone a team facing relegation. After many suggested Martinez would regret turning down Aston Villa last season, his Wigan team are now just a point behind the Midlanders, and more importantly, 4 points clear of the relegation zone. It’s hard to know what’s changed to bring around such a change in fortune. Certainly the 3-4-3 formation has played it’s part, but I’m certainly left baffled. Franco di Santo and Jordi Gomez scored within a minute of each other to leave Arsenal 2-0 down after 10 minutes. At that point, I decided a bet on Arsenal to win at an uncharitable 15-8 was worth a tenner. Oh well. Thomas Vermaelen got one back to score his 6th of the season (more than any Wigan player), but it was too little too late.

Aguero’s brace against 10th placed Norwich bettered his average opposition ranking to 11.67 – similar to Rooney, but with a greater focus on lower mid table teams rather than the Bottom 6 opponents. He’s still some way off the Flat Track Bully(s) of Frank Lampard’s 14.55 and Edin Dzeko’s 14.54. Papiss Cisse and Peter Odemwingie are the only two players on the Top Scorers list without a goal against Top 6 opponents.

From the other end of the scale, it’s Adebayor who remains the big game player with an average of 8.15, whilst Robin van Persie still has the lead in the goals against the Top 6 with a decent seven, ahead of Clint Dempsey’s 6.

Elsewhere, in a depleted fixture list, the main focus was on the bottom. Wolves ended their seven game losing streak with a decent point away at 11th placed Sunderland in what has been described as the worst game in the history of football. The point won’t keep them up, but at least it stops the rot. One win in twenty games explains why they’re going down. Sunderland are now well and truly out of the Honeymoon period with new manager Martin O’Neill. Under Steve Bruce they managed 11 points from 14 games, which was followed up with 26 points from the next 14 at a rate of 1.85 points per game. However, they’ve now taken just 6 from 6. They have nothing to play for this season, but O’Neill normally has no problem motivating players.

With one pretty much gone, it was an opportunity for Blackburn and QPR to move further away from QPR (not playing) and Wigan. Both failed. After many were suggesting Steve Kean for manager of the year, Blackburn have now lost five games in a row – with the latest a 3-0 defeat to 14th placed Swansea. These are no doubt the same people that were calling for Wenger’s head back in Autumn. QPR are a strange team, after beating Liverpool and Arsenal, they’ve lost in recent weeks to Bolton, and now 13th placed West Brom.

Just a quick mention on the FA Cup Semi Finals – Andy Carroll may well have had a season to forget for Liverpool, but he’s certainly not a stranger to scoring on the big occasion. Last season he was the leading scorer against the Top 6 teams. With two winning goals in a week, perhaps there’s more to come from the big Geordie.

I’m currently working on a feature looking at the best Premier League Partnerships. This should be up by the weekend, depending on when my wife goes into labour!

La Liga to follow.

Thanks,

Liam