Tag Archives: Chelsea

Player Comparison: Rio Ferdinand vs John Terry

23 Nov

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

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

The Rules

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

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

Background

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

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

Premier League

Clean Sheets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goals Conceded

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

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

Discipline

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

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

Goals

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

Champions League

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

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

Champions League break down:

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

Other big games

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

England

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

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

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

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

The Makelele Factor

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

Conclusion

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

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

Cheers,

Liam

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Premier League Round 10

7 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

 

Premier League 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

Player Comparison – Didier Drogba vs Mario Gomez

24 May

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

The Contenders:

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

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

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

Champions League:

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

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

Finals:

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

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

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

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

League Form:

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

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

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

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

International Goals:

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

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

In Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 29

22 Mar

Man Utd continued to turn the screw on City rivals City with an easy 5-0 away win at Wolves (19th). Whilst it isn’t going to win any Big Game Player awards, it was interesting that Javier Hernandez’ brace means that he’s into double figures for the league season once again. There’s always the fear of second season syndrome after a player comes in from abroad and has a great first season, but he’s showed consistency with 10 goals in 23 games (average opposition 11.6 per goal). Looking at the Man Utd strikers, it’s easy to remember back to the 1999 team when they had Yorke, Cole, Sherringham and Solksjaer. This season it’s been Rooney, Welbeck, Hernandez and Berbatov, and although not as prolific as their predecessors, they still have a decent 44 league goals between them. Man City’s forward line of Dzeko, Aguero, Balotelli and Tevez have 41 – though Tevez hasn’t played many games this season for some reason? So the pressure was back on City with the game against Top 6 Chelsea (the first team to beat them this season) at home last night.

Well they dealt with the pressure well. It was in fact a rare appearance from Carlitos that helped break down a resolute Chelsea defence, providing an assist for Samir Nasri to score his 4th league goal of the season late on (average opposition of 9.5). Although he hasn’t matched his goalscoring performance for Arsenal last season, his 4 goals have proved important, as they’ve gained 4 points for City. Chelsea’s decent recent run came to an end, but they’ve shown good form recently, and losing away to a team that have won 20 consecutive home games is no disgrace. It’ll be interesting to see what team Terry picks this weekend.

And so onto the usual Average Opposition Stats:

Very little change in the goalscoring charts – Kun Aguero’s penalty against Chelsea moved him one clear of Demba Ba on 17 games, and also increases his goals against the Top 6 to 3. As a result, his Average Opponent per goal is now 11.65. Javier Hernandez’s double against a poor Wolves team has moved him into the goal scoring charts. The two goals against 19th placed Wolves, lowers his average to 11.60, though he has a good scoring split of 3 against Bottom 6, 4 against Mid 8 teams and 3 against the Top 6.

As a result of the lack of activity from the leading goalscorers, it’s Adebayor who retains the best average opposition ranking of 7.82, whilst Frank Lampard’s 10 goals from midfield have been on average against 15th place opponents – keeping the Flat Track Bully tag.

Elsewhere, Arsenal’s meteoric rise up the table continues. Despite Robin van Persie’s goal drought of one game, the Gunners have now won 6 games in a row thanks to Vermaelen’s 5th goal of the season:

It’s been an impressive return from injury for the Belgian Centre Back, and he’s continued to show the goalscoring form that he first displayed upon signing. Gary Cahill also scored at the weekend, bringing his tally up to 3 for the season, though this was his first league goal for Chelsea.

Of course Arsenal’s rise up the table has been doubly sweet. Not only have they been in great form, but they’ve also done it at the expense of North London rivals Tottenham. After tricky games (and defeats) against Arsenal, Man Utd, Everton and Man City as well as draws against Liverpool and this time Stoke, have left Spurs with just 8 points from the last 24, whilst Arsenal have taken 19. They now sit proudly in 3rd.

Another team sitting proudly at the moment are 8th placed Swansea. A 3-0 away win against 10th placed Fulham was inspired by recent loan signing Gylfi Sigurdsson. His double took his season’s tally to 5 goals in 9 games, with 2 assists thrown in. Hoffenheim have apparently received enquiries for the talented Icelandic on the back of this form, though Swansea will certainly be hoping to keep him.

And lastly, a quick look at the bottom. Despite being written off by many due to their run in (including me), QPR surprised a lot of people by coming back from two goals down to beat 7th place Liverpool. Also doing well at the bottom were Blackburn, who continued their good form of late with a 2-0 win over Sunderland (8th at the start of the round), courtesy of Junior Hoillet and Yakubu’s goals.  The Yak remains the most important player to his team in terms of percentage of points won (46.43%), whilst Robin van Persie has won the most points – a whopping 22 points, which has already beaten last season’s highest of 17 (Odemwingie):

Rafael van der Vaart’s late equaliser for Spurs against Stoke mean that he has the best ratio of goals to points, with 10 points won from 8 goals. At the other end of the scale, Wayne Rooney’s 20 goals have only been worth 8 points to Man Utd this season.

That’s it for the Premier League this week, I’m currently working on a feature on Diego Maradona at the moment, and hope to have it up by the end of the weekend.

Thanks,

Liam

Premier Leage Round 27

5 Mar

Where do you start after a weekend like that? AVB gone, van Persie beating Liverpool, Spurs vs Man Utd, Pogrebnyak?

“we need to win 1-2”

Okay, we’ll get the bad news out of the way first, as it’s never nice when someone loses their job – though the piles of cash will certainly help AVB. So where did it go wrong? Most of the talk is that the senior players just didn’t respect him. His Premier League record is P27 W13 D7 L7, but it’s the lack of performances in the big games that tell a story. They have 13 wins, but 9 of them have been against teams in the bottom 6 at the time of playing:

Looking at the average rank of opponents they’ve beaten, it’s a lowly 14.54 – behind only Newcastle, and relegation scrappers Bolton, Wigan and Wolves. In fact when looking at their overall team stats, they can be classed as Flat Track Bullies:

One clean sheet against the Top 6 teams (a 3-0 win against Newcastle) points to a problem. When looking at the goals conceded data, they’ve let in 10 goals vs the Top 6 opponents that they’ve faced. The goals scored were too heavily weighted against the Bottom 6 teams (4 against Swanses, 5 at Bolton 3 vs Wolves). Although it was after a defeat to West Brom, it’s essentially the games versus the big teams that decided his fate – defeats to Man Utd away, Arsenal (then 7th) and Liverpool at home, were disappointing returns. There were signs of improvement though as they inflicted Man City’s first defeat of the season and followed up by beating Newcastle. However, they were lucky to draw 1-1 with Spurs, and then blew a 3-0 lead agianst Man Utd. All pointed to an irritated owner and a short stay.

That aside, there were a few very big games on this weekend. Newcastle (6th) and Sunderland (9th) drew 1-1 in the Tyne-Wear derby. Regardless of rankings at the time of playing, derby matches can always be considered big games, so a pat on the back to Shoala Ameobi and the Premier League Ibrahimovic – Niklas Bendtner for scoring. Spurs (3rd) hosted Man Utd (2nd) in the top ranking match up this weekend, and in what was an entertaining match, Man Utd did what they have done for years – by grinding out a win. Ashley Young has only scored in 2 league games this season, but they’ve been a brace against Spurs, and a brace against Arsenal, to suggest he does have a Big Game Player mentality – as the goal against Holland backs up. Man Utd’s other goal was by Wayne Rooney, who’s notched his 4th goal vs Top 6 opponents, taking his average to 12.28. For Spurs, it was Defoe that scored the consolation goal, his 9th league goal, and 3rd against Top 6. His average opposition ranking is a rather more impressive 8.89, which is enough to put him in second place.

The other big game saw Arsenal attempt to show that the 5-2 win against Spurs was the corner being turned, and not just another false dawn. And by winning at Anfield, they showed that maybe they are back. Although Liverpool are outside the Top 6, they’re still a big game for anyone and were unbeaten at home in the league this season. Needless to say it was Robin van Persie that did the damage with two very well taken goals. He’s now the outright top scorer vs Top 6 opponents, and has a decent average of 11.48. He has 11 games to get the 5 more goals he needs to hit the 30 mark in the league – something that’s only been done twice in the last 12 seasons (Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo). His goals have also been worth 20 points this season – already breaking Odemwingie’s 17 point high last season.

The assist by Alex Song for the winner was another sublime pass, and is his 7th of a very good season. And in the assists league, he’s definitely a big game player – with decisive passes versus Spurs home and away, Liverpool, and Chelsea – as well as Dortmund (1st in Bundesliga) in the Champions League.

For Liverpool, it was the same old story again, load of possesion, very few goals. The own goal by Koscielny was the 4th they’ve benefited from this season, and only Suarez and Bellamy have scored more goals for the club in the league.

Elsewhere, Pavel Pogrebnyak has continued his excellent start in England with a Hat Trick at home to Wolves. That’s a pretty decent 5 goals in 3 games. These goals have helped Fulham win 3 games in a row – a feat equalled by a resurgent West Brom.

Just to finish, Edin Dzeko remains the Flat Track Bully with an average ranking of 14.54. He started the season on fire, but the goals have certainly slowed, and appear to be against mainly lesser ranked clubs of late. At the other end of the table, despite having a goal ruled out against United, Emmanuel Adebayor is the Big Game Player with 7.82 – after Mario Balotelli got his hands dirty with a goal against lowly Bolton in 19th.

The assist data by game will e available soon!

Cheers,

Liam