Tag Archives: England

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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Top 50 Big Game Scorers – 20-11

2 Sep

Next up are the players in 20th to 11th as the countdown of the Top 50 Big Game Scorers continues. Included are a couple of Dutch and a couple of German greats as well as a couple of lesser known players. For numbers 30-21, click HERE

 

20. Michel Platini (France) 1972-1987 /18 points – 6 goals

I mentioned in a previous article that Michel Platini’s performances in the 1984 European Championship were comparable to those of Maradona in Mexico 86. Not everyone agreed it turns out, but I stand by the claim. The European Championships of 1984 were completed dominated by the mercurial midfielder, with Platini scoring 9 goals in just 5 games – a haul that’s still enough for him to be the all time leading scorer in that tournament. And it wasn’t as if he did it against poor teams (See Oleg Salenko’s 5 goals in USA 94). Platini scored in every match – including a winner in the 119th minute against Portugal in the Semi Final, and then the opening goal against Spain in the Final. Part of the magic square midfield for France along with Tigana, Fernandes and Giresse, Platini was the standout performer. From the 1982 World Cup semi final against West Germany, Platini scored in every international knock out game until the 1986 World Cup semi final – or to put it another way, six consecutive games – one of the greatest big game players of all time. To back this up, he was also pretty handy for his club sides, excelling in particular with Juventus. The successor to Liam Brady at the heart of the Juve midfield, he scored in the 1983 European Cup semi final against Lodz, before repeating the trick in 1985 against Bordeaux. In the final, sadly overshadowed by tragedy, he scored the only goal from the penalty spot to win the trophy for Juventus and the golden boot for himself. For the record, Maradona was ranked in joint 65th place on this list.

19. Bobby Charlton (England) 1956-1976 / 18 points – 6 goals

From one prolific midfielder to another, Bobby Charlton’s big game goals are spread across 13 years and three great teams. Part of the Busby Babes team that won the Division One title in 1956-57, Charlton scored a late equaliser at home to the great Real Madrid team of the time in the Semi Final of the European Cup, in just it’s second season. Tragically, that great team would never complete a full season again after the Munich Air Disaster claimed the lives of many of Matt Busby’s league champions. In fact, the last game they played together saw Bobby Charlton score twice in the Quarter Final second leg game against Red Star Belgrade. Ten years later Busby with Bobby Charlton famously won the competition, with Charlton scoring two goals in the Final against Eusebio’s Benfica. A year later, he scored at the semi final stage against eventual champions AC Milan. For England, he also stepped up on the big occasion, with both goals in the 1966 World Cup semi final win over Portugal, as Alf Ramsey’s men lifted the only trophy in England’s history.

18. Paolo Rossi (Italy) 1976-1987 / 18.5 points – 5 goals

When you see Paolo Rossi’s name then there’s a good chance you’d assume the hat trick against Brazil in the 1982 World Cup was the driver behind his lofty position. Well it’s not. It was undoubtedly a big game, and the redemption angle certainly built it up, but as this is the very biggest games (semis and finals), then it doesn’t qualify. Instead, Rossi has a bigger portfolio than suspected. In the 1978 World Cup, Rossi scored in the final group stage match against Austria, he then had an enforced absence for two years before claiming the golden boot in 1982 with 6 goals, all in the knock out stages. After the Brazil hat trick, he hit a double against Poland in the semi final, before scoring the all important opener against West Germany in the Final. In club football, he scored in the semi final aggregate win against Lodz in the 1983 European cup before defeat to Hamburg.

17. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (Germany) 1974-1989 / 18.5 points – 6 goals

A prolific striker, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge enjoyed great career success with Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and West Germany. But it could have been even better. He won the European Cup in 1975 and 1976 with Bayern, but didn’t score in any of the semi finals or either of the finals. He did however score goals in the unsuccessful campaigns of 1981 and 1982 at the semi final stage against firstly Liverpool as Bayern went out on away goals, and then a brace to knock out CSKA Sofia a year later, only to lose to Aston Villa in the final. For his country he played in the three World Cups in between Germany’s wins in 1974 and 1990 – including two Final defeats in 1982 to Italy and 1986 to Argentina. In his first World Cup (1978), he scored the first three of his total nine World Cup goals, with the last of them in the final stage defeat to Austria. Four years later, he scored five goals as West Germany went all the way to final. His most notable goal was in the 3-3 Semi Final against France, with Rummenigge also scoring his penalty. In the 1986 World Cup, he scored in the Final against Maradona’s Argentina, but it wasn’t to be enough as Burruchaga scored the winning goal in the 83rd minute. As a consolation, he does at least have a European Championships medal from 1980.

16. Johan Cruyff (Netherlands) 1964-1984 / 18.5 points – 6 goals

There’s been millions of words written about the football genius that was Johan Cruyff, and there’s not much I can add that hasn’t been said on his ability. But what of his goal scoring in the big games? Well despite not being an out and out striker, the Dutch legend had a very impressive strike rate of a goal every 1.7 games for his clubs, and an even better 33 goals in 48 caps for Holland. And amongst those goals, were six scored in the latter stages of the biggest tournaments. First up was the 1969 European Cup semi final, when he scored the opener in a 3-2 aggregate win over Czechoslovakian Champions Spartak Trnava, before losing to AC Milan in the Final. He and his Ajax team mates wouldn’t have to wait too long for that first title though, following on Feyenoord’s lead, they lifted the trophy in 1971, 1972 and 1973 and it was the second of that hat trick of wins that saw Cruyff really hit the big time. In what’s been described as Total Football’s greatest moment, Ajax defeated Italian giants Inter Milan 2-0 in the final with Cruyff scoring both the goals – one an open goal, the second a towering header at the back post, not quite the beautiful goals you’d expect, but very important nonetheless.

For his country, he had a massive impact on the 1974 World Cup, scoring three goals in the Final Group stage, propelling Holland to the Final. His double against Argentina was followed up with the second against Brazil in what was essentially a semi final. Sadly for football lovers, he didn’t play in the 1978 tournament, but he still left his mark on the biggest stages.

15. Diego Forlan (Uruguay) 1997-Current / 19 points – 6 goals

Ready for another current player? Step forward Diego Forlan. Almost unrecognisable from the young forward that spent three seasons with Manchester United, Forlan who is currently playing in Brazil with Internacional, has been one of the best front men in World Football for the last five years, and has the goals to back this up. Having scored in both semi final legs against Liverpool, the first of these big game goals was in the 32nd minutedof the 2010 Europa League Final against Roy Hodgson’s Fulham. The second was in the same match, and an extra time winner to give Atletico Madrid the trophy. Later on that summer, Forlan scored five goals in the World Cup, with the biggest being the equaliser in the semi final against Holland. Sadly for him and his countrymen, Holland went on to win the game, though Forlan’s goal in the quarter final also pointed to a big game temperement. Fast forward 12 months and he was the star of the 2011 Copa America as Uruguay won their 15th South American title, but more importantly, their first since 1995. Forlan combined with Luis Suarez to form a devastating partnership that scored all the goals in the Semi Final and Final of the tournament, as Forlan scored a brace against Paraguay to win the silverware for his country.

14. Paul Breitner (Germany) 1970-1983 / 19.5 points – 6 goals

We’ve already seen Rummenigge in the list, and just 3 places later is the other player who made up the FC Breitnigge partnership, Paul Breitner. It’s not the catchiest moniker, but it does illustrate the importance of the partnership that the pair struck up for both Bayern Munich and Germany. The interesting thing about Breitner’s inclusion this high up the list is that he played mainly as a left back (albeit cavalier) before moving into midfield. His first major impact on the big game scoresheet was in the 1974 World Cup where the 23 year old left back scored in the Final Group stage game against Yugoslavia in a 2-0 win. He then went on to score in the Final with just the second penalty ever awarded in a World Cup Final – 23 minutes after the first as West Germany went on to win the tournament. Fast forward to 1982 with Breitner back at Bayern after spells with Real Madrid and Eintracht Braunschweig and he was back amoung the big game goals. The 1982 European Cup saw Breitner as a midfield captain and he led by example in the semi finals, scoring three goals across the two legs against CSKA Sofia (he and Rummenigge scoring all four goals in the home leg). He’d feel the heartache of a final defeat in both that tournament and the World Cup that summer, as West Germany lost in the Final to Paolo Rossi’s Italy – though Breitner did become only the third player to score in two World Cup finals, behind Vava and Pele (only Zidane has managed it since).

13. Dieter Muller (Germany) 1972-1989 / 20.5 – 7 goals

No big game scorers list would be complete without West Germany’s Muller. And this is no different, except that this isn’t the Muller that everyone knows. No, this is Dieter Muller rather than Gerd (no relation). And you have to feel a bit sorry for him as he’s something of a nearly man. Although he had a prolific career, he was always in the shadow of his namesake despite being the top scorer in Germany for both the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons. He also had the record for most goals in a Bundesliga match, scoring six goals in Cologne’s 7-2 win over Werder Bremen – only there were no cameramen to record it due to a strike. He only won 12 caps for West Germany (scoring 9 times), but he certainly made the most of his time with national team. His greatest moments in football came in the 1976 European Championships. With Gerd Muller now retired from the national team, Dieter had his chance to shine, and shine he did winning the golden boot. He scored a hat trick in the Semi Final against Yugoslavia with the latter two strikes coming in extra time to win it the game 4-2. And on the biggest stage of his career, he scored his country’s first goal as they drew 2-2 with the Dutch conquering Czechoslovakia team. Sadly for Muller though, the tournament is known for Panenka’s penalty. Two years later in the 1978 World Cup, Mulller scored two more goals, one in the final group stage in a 2-2 draw against finalists Holland. The fact that six of his nine international goals were in major tournaments suggests he wasn’t troubled by nerves. For his clubs, despite never playing for any of Europe’s giants, he scored in the 1979 European Cup semi final defeat to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest for Cologne, and then repeated his goalscoring semi final heartbreak in 1985, for Bordeaux against Juventus. Both occasions saw his team miss out on reaching the final by one goal. A prolific but very unlucky scorer.

12. Ademir (Brazil) 1939-1957 / 21 points – 6 goals

According to the South American football expert Tim Vickery, Ademir (full name Ademir Marques de Menezes) was one of Brazil’s greatest ever strikers and looking at his performances in the 1950 World Cup, it’s easy to see why. Ademir scored nine goals in just six games, as the hosts bulldozed everyone before them, except in the Final game against Uruguay. Perhaps this is why Ademir’s name isn’t as well known as it should be. At the height of his powers aged 28, six of his nine World Cup goals came in the final group stages. Firstly, he scored a massive four goals in the 7-1 win against Sweden before following it up with a brace in a 6-1 win over Spain. He won the golden boot but had to settle for a runners up medal as Uruguay produced a massive upset. Having made his professional debut in 1939, you have to wonder what he could have acheived on the World stage had World War II not halted the 1942 and 1946 editions, where Ademir would have been 20 and 24 respectively. In total, he scored a very decent 32 goals in 39 appearances for his country, including a hat trick in a play off final versus Paraguay in 1949 to win an early Souh American championship (before the Copa America was officially set up in 1975).

11. Marco van Basten (Netherlands) 1981-1993 / 21 points – 8 goals

Just outside the top ten is a player that many regard as the greatest striker of modern times. Marco van Basten played his last match aged just 28, but had already won the European Player of the Year award three times, and the World Player of the Year title once. Known as a finisher of the highest quality, comfortable on either foot and aerially, van Basten still managed to score eight goals on the biggest stages despite his short career. The first being the winning goal in the 1987 European Cup Winners Cup Final as Ajax beat East Germany’s Lokomotive Leipzig to win their first European trophy since Cruyff’s team in 1973. After a prolific 154 goals in 175 games for the Amsterdam club, van Basten joined AC Milan in 1987 with fellow countrymen Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard joining a year later. Together, they helped restore the club into the giants we know today. And he left his mark on the European Cup. In the 1989 tournament, van Basten top scored with 10 goals, including a goal in both semi final legs against Real Madrid. In the Final, van Basten scored the second and fourth goals in a 4-0 win over Steaua Bucharest as Milan won the title for the first time in 30 years. A year later, van Basten scored a penalty to give AC Milan a 1-0 first leg semi final win over Bayern Munich on their way to second successive title. For his country, he was equally deadly. Scoring 24 goals in 58 appearances, van Basten’s most famous goals were in the Euro ’88. Following a group stage hat trick against England, van Basten scored an 88th minute winner against West Germany in the semi final before doing this in the Final:

Injury robbed him of at least five more years at the top, and the rest of us a chance to see a great player end his career properly, but he certainly made the most of his short time.

Numbers 10-6 to follow

Euro 2012 – Golden Boot Contenders

30 May

Regular readers will know that I’ve been tracking the big game players across the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga, and with Euro 2012 just around the corner, I thought I’d post up the goalscoring stats of 50 players heading to Poland and the Ukraine based on the four leagues this season. Tournaments are made up of several high pressure big games, so who steps up and who bottles it?

First and foremost, the race for the golden boot, and who you should put your well earned money behind. These are the list of the players heading to the Euros with 20+ league goals behind them:

 1. Cristiano Ronaldo – If it wasn’t for Leo Messi, he’d be untouchable as the World’s best player at the moment. As it is, he’s still one of the top two. In a phrase normally reserved for the original Ronaldo, he’s been a phenomenom. Scoring 40+ goals is an amazing achievement, and he deserves the comparison with Clive Allen. Not that anyone has made that comparison. Anyway, Portugal have a toughest group with Germany, Holland and Denmark but Ronaldo’s 13 goals against Top 6 opponent’s including the winner away at Barcelona, proves that he can do it against the very best. He also has the small matter of proving to the World he can do it in a big tournament after just 3 goals in the last two Euros, and just one in the World Cup.

Best Odds: 14-1 Stan James and Bet Victor

2. Robin van Persie – There was always the question mark around Robin van Persie, what could he do if he was fit? Well this season finally saw this season answered at the age of 28. The first player to hit 30 Premier League goals in 4 years, he counted goals against Man Utd, Spurs, Chelsea and Barcelona this season to prove he has the mentality for the big games. Like Ronaldo, he has something to prove on a tournament stage with just one goal in the 2010 World Cup as Holland got to the final, and in prior European Championships, he scored twice in 2008 from a wider position. This time he’ll most likely be playing down the middle. If not, he’ll be deployed behind Huntelaar, but still able to score. As with Ronaldo, he is also operating in the toughest group, which means the odds are that bit more generous.

Best Odds: 12-1 Paddy Power

3. Klaas Jan Huntelaar – Much like the two names above him, he has pretty generous odds dspite scoring a very impressive 29 league goals in a 34 game Bundesliga. However, looking at his goalscoring a little deeper, and you’ll see that he scored just twice against Top 6 teams, with a massive 12 goals coming against the bottom 4 teams (18 team league), which lends a Flat Track Bully tone to his impressive goalscoring. Being in the group if death, there’s not really any poor opposition for him to Bully. Another reason for the generous odds is that it’s still not decided who will play the central striking role for Holland. If it’s van Persie then Huntelaar will be on the bench, if it’s Huntelaar then van Persie will be moved either deeper of wider.

Best Odds: 18-1 Paddy Power

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Everyone’s favourite pantomime villain had a bittersweet season. He has his most prolific league season with 28 league goals, but it’s the first time that he hasn’t won the league in 8 years. As with Huntelaar, there’s an element of the Flat Track Bully about his goals. You can probably expect him to score a hat trick against Ukraine and then do sod all against France and England – that’s if England can still be classed as a big team. As with all of those above him, he still has to prove himself on the biggest stages, and at 30, he’s running out of time. Why the long odds? Despite being one of the best players in Europe (and of all time in his head), Sweden aren’t expected to progress past the group stage. Based on prior tournaments, 5 goals could be enough, so a hat full against Ukraine and there’s a chance.

Best Odds: 50-1 Paddy Power, William Hill, Bet365, Bet Victor and Coral

5. Wayne Rooney – England’s main hope but suspended for the games against France and Sweden. He’ll be hoping that England are still in with a chance of qualifying come the final game against Ukraine. That may end up being a must win game, bringing with it big pressure. And that’s where Rooney comes good. This season’s 27 league goals saw 8 against Top 6 opposition, including a hat trick against Arsenal (finished 3rd) and a brace away at European Champions Chelsea. To get the golden boot is a big ask, but if he can notch a few against the co-hosts, momentum could see him carry on his scoring form into the rest of the tournament. He’s had two poor to average World Cups but his finest performances in an England shirt came in Euro 2004, so there is some hope.

Best Odds: 40-1 BetFred, Bet365, Bet Victor, Coral

6. Mario Gomez – See the below article for my thoughts on Mario Gomez. In short, he’s the biggest Flat Track Bully/Big Game Bottler of the lot. His tally of 26 goals was undoubtedly a good season, however, only 3 came against Top 6 opposition (only one based on positions at the time of play), and in both games against Dortmund in the league, and then in the cup final, he went missing. He has lots of shots and has little composure in the big games. There is some hope for those that have already bet on him – he scored a hat trick against Napoli and a double against Man City in the group stages of the Champions League. Maybe, just maybe he might grab a few against Portugal and Denmark in the group stages. A lot also depends on the fitness of Miroslav Klose. If he’s fit then Mario is on the bench, but it’s a big if. Amazingly he’s the favourite for the Golden Boot.

Best Odds: 8-1 Paddy Power, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Bet Victor

7. Antonio Di Natale – Despite being the ripe old age of 34, the Udinese striker has scored 80 goals in the last three Serie A seasons. This season saw him bang in 23 of those, 4 of which were scored against Top 6 Opposition. No one (Prandelli aside), is really sure who is going to start up front for the Italians, and so he’s a bit of a risk. And despite being prolific at club level, he has a rather more modest 10 goals in 36 appearances for his country. He has hinted that he may be retiring after (winning) the Euro’s so this could be his swansong, but he has a tough group and Balotelli in front of him.

Best Odds: 33-1 William Hill

8. Robert Lewandowski – A lot of people have him as the dark horse for the Golden Boot, and not without reason. The Borussia Dortmund striker is in fine form after notching 22 league goals last season as he picked up the double. He also scored a hat trick in the German Cup Final against Bayern Munich – big game mentality it seems, though he only had 3 goals against the remaining Top 5 teams in Germany. Poland have the added advantage of being hosts, and their group of Greece, Czech Republic and Russia, should see them qualify, and give Lewandowski the chance to score a few.

Best Odds: 25-1 Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, BetFred

9.Karim Benzema -2011-12 became the season that Benzema finally delivered on his promise with Real Madrid. Despite only being the 3rd Top Scorer at his club (Behind Ronaldo and Higuain), he still hit a decent 21 league goals for the Spanish Champions. Only three of these were against Top 6 teams though, and in the Champions League semi final, it was Ronaldo and Ozil that scored over the two legs as the Madrid giants went out, so there is the question mark over his contribution in the biggest games, although he can point to a goal against Barcelona earlier in the season. Another question mark is whether he’ll be a starter for France, with rumours of Olivier Giroud (21 goals in Ligue Un – 50-1) being favourite. A group containing England, Sweden and the Ukraine is tough-ish, but not without it’s opportunities.

Best Odds: 16-1 Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, Betfair, Bet365, BetFred, Bet Victor, Coral

The Others:

The one that really stands out for me is Miroslav Klose – he has a history of delivering in the big tournaments (14 World Cup goals, and Quarter and Semi final goals in Euro 2008) and whilst fit with Lazio for the first half of the season, he certainly delivered – scoring 13 goals in just 25 games in a new country. Add to that his Polish background and it all looks promising for the big striker. The only downside is his injury. He missed the latter parts of the season for Lazio, and whilst he did play for Germany at the weekend, he’s still short on match fitness. Germany will certainly be better with him in the team over Gomez. His odds are 16-1 with Paddy Power.

German team mate Lukas Podolski should be pretty much guaranteed his starting place in the team, and despite relegation, he scored a decent 18 goals for Cologne. And what’s more, not one was against the lower ranked opponents, with the Polish born forward hitting 6 aganist the Top teams. Add to that his prior performances in tournament football and like Klose, his affinity with Poland, and all of a sudden he looks pretty good at 25-1. Although he does play more from wide for the German national team.

Spain is an interesting one, with David Villa out through injury, and the decision to leave Roberto Soldado at home, it looks like a choice between a re-energised Torres (20-1) or Bilbao’s Llorente (16-1). It’s hard to call who will start, but del Bosque is a loyal coach, and with Torres’ high profile goal against Barcelona fresh in the mind, he may well get the nod. Llorente’s club season only finished on Friday due to the lateness of the Copa del Rey.

Aside from that, Mario Balotelli at 25-1 isn’t a bad shout. His goals dried up in the second half of the season, but he was undoubtedly a big game performer – at home with pressure. Think to the two goals away at Old Trafford and the coolness of the last minute penalty to win the game against a title chasing Spurs. The downside is that he’s mental and could easily get sent off as score a goal. Group games against Croatia and the Republic of Ireland will allow him ample opportunity to influence the tournament.

The Midfielders (and John Terry):

For slightly more generous odds, there’s plenty of goalscoring talent from deep:

Bayern Munich duo Robben and Ribery can be found at 40-1 and 66-1 respectively. Both had fine goalscoring seasons as Munich challenged (though failed) on three fronts – though neither really did it on the big occasion, with Robben in particular missing important chances (including penalties) to add to the idea that he bottles it on the biggest occasion – think of his chances in the World Cup Final. Elsewhere, Gerrard didn’t score many this year, but the 5 league goals came against Man Utd (2nd), Newcastle (5th) and local rivals Everton (7th) – all big games. He has the added responsibility of captaining the team, and it would appear as though he’s playing a more disciplined Central Midfield role. At 80-1, BetFred are offering the best odds.

Thomas Mueller got the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup with 5 goals. He hasn’t had a vintage season with Munich with just 7 goals, but 3 were against Top 6 opponents, and most recently, he scored in the Champions League Final to put the Germans ahead. At 25-1, he’s not a bad bet.

Not on the list but featuring heavily for Irish betting is Robbie Keane. He’s played mainly in North America this season, though his 3 goal cameo for Aston Villa on loan showed that he was still Premier League class – though fans of West Ham would question that based on 2010-11 performances. He’s the all time Ireland leading scorer with a decent 53 goals, and in the last tournament he played (World Cup 2002), he scored a decent 3 goals, including a last minute equaliser against eventual finalists Germany. He can be found at 150-1 on Coral.

For those patriotic and slightly foolish England fans who have more money than sense, John Terry (6 goals last season) can be backed at 250-1!

The full odds used in the above article can be found here.

Cheers,

Liam

Player Comparison: Frank Lampard v Steven Gerrard

15 Jan

Post and open comments now appearing here: http://www.averageopposition.com/2012/01/player-comparison.html

2011-12 Stats: http://www.averageopposition.com/2012/12/goal-scoring-player-comparison-for-2011.html

This Season: http://www.averageopposition.com/p/premier-league_16.html

 

After starting the Player Comparison series with the two best players in the world, how do you follow that? In terms of quality of player, you can’t (unless I had the Pele/Maradonna stats handy). But the idea behind this series was to not only look at two comparable players based on stats, but also to help settle pub debates. And so with that in mind, and from a Premier League starting point the contenders choose themselves. Fewer players have been at the heart of debates and comparisons, both for rival club fans, but also for England fans.

Piggy back football never really took off

The Contenders:

In the Red corner, we have Liverpool’s home grown King of the Kop, Stevie G (whilst Luis Suarez is the heir apparent to the throne, I’m certainly not going to make a cheap joke about the court jester and Andy Carroll). Gerrard has been strutting his stuff at Anfield since 1998, and for the national team since 2000. In the Blue corner, we have his Southern counterpart, JT’s BFF, Frank Lampard. Whilst Gerrard has only known life at a big club, Lampard began his football education at West Ham’s prolific youth academy. Under the tutelage of Tony Carr and then Uncle Harry, young Frank made his debut in the 1995-96 season (first on loan at Swansea) before eventually moving on to current club Chelsea in the summer of 2001 for what at the time seemed an excessive £11m but in hindsight, was something of a bargain. He made his England debut in 1999.

The Background:

Lampard is 2 years older than his Mersey rival and has been on fans radars that bit longer. Having always been an attacking central midfielder, he perhaps had a head start on Gerrard in terms of goals scoring. Those of you who can remember far enough, will recall that Gerrard initially broke into the England team as the deeper lying defensive midfielder next to the attacking Paul Scholes. It appeared as though Lampard was being groomed to play the attacking role from the middle, whilst Scholes was pushed out left. However, by this point Gerrard had started to display his attacking instincts, rather than being the holding player he first appeared. The result being a headache for their national coach for the best part of a decade. Gerrard’s been pushed forward, Lampard back, Gerrard wide, and Lampard as part of a diamond. Yet still, England have never really performed with the two players in tandem.
National team aside, there’s also been their club form, with both known throughout the World as two of the best goal scoring midfielders in football. Add to that a bit of bad blood between the clubs and Gerrard’s aborted move to Chelsea, and you have a debate on your hands. Who is or was better?

Rules:

As with the Messi vs Ronaldo comparison, I’ll be comparing their league form as there are no rankings applied to the Champions League. The comparison will begin from the 2001-02 season when Lampard began his Chelsea career. I’ll also review their international goals as well. Unlike the Ronaldo v Messi comparison, this will be based on final league positions.

Premier League:

And so onto the Stats. At first glance, and much to my surprise, there’s actually no comparison at all. In the ten and a half seasons since Lampard joined Chelsea, he’s scored 123 league goals in 362 games to Gerrard’s 78 in 320. That’s a rate of 0.34 per game compared to 0.24 or on the other hand, a goal every 3 games for Lampard aginst one every 4 games for Gerrard. Case closed.

All Hail Frank Lampard – king of the goalscoring midfielders. He’s got more goals, more assists, and more against the Top 6 with a very impressive 24 goals compared to Gerrard’s 14. And he can be relied on to play more games each season. Gerrard only comes out on top in terms of Average Opposition. On average, across the 10 and a half season, his goals are against 11.82 ranked opponents, compared to Lampards 12.39.

Well, that didn’t take long at all, I should probably start on the Henry vs van Nistelrooy comparison.

But wait. Scratch a little under the surface and things are indeed a little closer, and worth a comparison. Since Zola left Chelsea at the end of the 2002-03 season, Lampard has been taking his teams penalties, and he’s scored 33 of them. Take the penalties out and he’s on 90 goals. In that same time, Gerrard has scored 12 penalties, taking his goal tally down to 66. Now 90 vs 66 is still a decent gap, but if we took Gerrard’s goalscoring rate and applied it to 362 appearances, he’d be on for 75 goals.

Lampard is still on top, but once you take away the penalties, the goals per game is now just 0.25 to 0.21. Gerrard is still doing it against better opposition as well – his Average Opposition Index is 12.29 compared to Lampard’s 12.80. The most telling numbers though are in the goals against Top 6 Opposition. With penalties removed, Lampard loses almost half of his goals against the top ranked opponents. It’s now only 11 goals vs Gerrard’s 10 goals – and this is essentially in a season more of appearances – 42 extra.

So from a big game player point of view, the stats are now leaning towards Gerrard. What must also be taken into account is the teams that they play in. Since 2001, Chelsea have won the title 3 times and finished 2nd a further 4 times. Their average position over the 10 full seasons is 2nd. In the same period, Liverpool have finished 2nd twice, but more tellingly, have finished outside the Champions League Top 4 spots in four seasons. Their average position is 4th. Even the most die hard Liverpool fan would have to admit that Chelsea have consistently had better players. Goal scoring opportunities, and indeed assists are largely dependent on team mates.

Looking at the above graph, both players best goalscoring seasons have coincided with the team’s highest finish. In 2008-09, Gerrard scored 16 league goals (12 after penalties) in the season that they’ve come closest to winning the Premier League, finishing the season on 86 points. Lampard meanwhile scored an incredible 22 goals in 2009-10 (13 after penalties) to end Manchester United’s 3 year spell of dominance. This would suggest each player’s goals were significant to the club’s final positions.

It’s not an exact science, but if you take out the goals scored by each player, Chelsea would be worse of by an average of 3.5 points per season, whereas Gerrard’s equivalent contribution is 3.6. Nothing in it. But what about the percentage of the overall team points – to allow for the quality of the teams. Well once again, it’s very close. Lampard’s goals are directly responsible for 4.33% per season of Chelsea’s points over the last 10 seasons. Gerrard’s goals are worth 5.33% of Liverpool’s total points per season. On this measure, Gerrard is more important to his team. For the record, with penalties, Lampard’s percentage increases to 7.33% compared to Gerrard’s 6.02%.

What this parameter doesn’t take into account is the order of the goal. As mentioned in the last Premier League update, “you could for example take Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Norwich earlier in the season. As Chelsea won by two goals and had three different goal scorers, take one of Bosingwa’s, Lampard’s or Mata’s goals away and the result would still be 2-1 to Chelsea – meaning that there is no direct impact to the result and number of points. In reality – the opening goal of a game is always important (Bosingwa), and Frank Lampard’s goal in that match was in the 84th minute, which put Chelsea back ahead. Both were important goals, but due to Mata’s injury time goal – the importance in this formula lessens.”

With this in mind, what’s the average order of their goals? We know that the first goal is always the most important for a team, whilst the second can often prove decisive. For Chelsea, for both his 123 league goals, and the 90 from open play, Lampard on average, scores Chelsea’s 2.1 goal. In the same period, Gerrard’s 78 league goals have come as Liverpool’s 1.9 goal, compared to 1.8 after penalties are removed.

So all in all, looking at all of the stats based on their goalscoring, the average and range of the opponent, and the importance to their teams, there’s very little to choose between them. Lampard has more goals, Gerrard has a better opponent per goal. Lampard has more assists, but Gerrard is more important to his team. I hate to sit on the fence, and generally dislike to do so, but there’s nothing in it.

Internationals:

The lads enjoying another high point with England

But what of their contributions to the national team. After all, the biggest talking point around the players is why can’t they play together? Well as we’ve seen above, they’re just too similar. Sir Alf Ramsey famously didn’t choose the best players in every position to win the World Cup back in 66. He played the players that gave the best balance – a balance that’s missing when they’ve played together in the middle. We know that Gerrard is likely to be pushed further forward or even out wide if both players make the starting line up in the upcoming European Championships, but who deserves the attacking central midfield slot?

I’m afraid it’s not much clearer at International level either. They’ve both played pretty much the same amount of games for England, and in that time, Lampard leads the goal count with 23 to 19. However, once penalties are removed, Gerrard has actually scored 19 to Lampard’s 16.

Both have scored against good opposition – Gerrard’s first goal was in the 5-1 win away at Germany in the 2002 World Cup qualifying game. Lampard can count goals against number 1 ranked France (Euro 2004) and Spain in his tally. Of their goals, 7 of Lampard’s have been in friendlies, compared to Gerrard’s 5. The average opposition index leans in Lampard’s favour by 14 places, which would suggest he is the bigger game player for England. Indeed, he was voted England’s player of the year after his 3 goal haul in Euro 2004. The Elephant in the room though is the World Cup. Gerrard has scored 3 goals in the two World Cup’s he’s played in whereas Lampard has received criticism (particularly in 2006) for failing to do so, despite many many shots. He can count himself unlucky that his excellent chip against Germany in the last World Cup was incorrectly disallowed.

So looking at the Internationl records, we’re still in the dark. Lampard has the better Average Opposition, but more goals are in Friendlies, and he takes the penalties. He did have a great European Championships, but Gerrard has scored in 2 World Cups, and has more goals in open play – despite starting off in the holding role.

In Conclusion:

In terms of who’s the better player for the big games, I’m afraid it’s just too close to call. Both players have scored in Champions League finals. Both have scored decisive goals in FA Cup finals. Gerrard has also scored in the League Final and the UEFA Cup Final, whilst Lampard has scored the goals to win Chelsea the title. Both have scored 4 league goals vs perennial title winners Manchester United. Both are big game players. Lampard has 22 European Goals in 89 games (including 4 with West Ham), Gerrard has 38 in 116. Gerrard is more important to his team, whereas Lampard does it more consistantly, albeit against slightly lower opposition.

Looking strictly at the stats, it’s impossible to call this one, and despite hating sitting on the fence, this one will have to be left up to each reader’s interpretation. What can be agreed on by all, is that they are both outstanding players, and will go down as two of the Premier League and indeed European Football’s best goalscoring midfielders.

Any comparisons you’d like to see, please let me know.

Cheers,

Liam

Note: Stats were correct up to January 13th. Typically, Lampard has just scored again today.