Tag Archives: Karim Benzema

Euro 2012 – The Findings

1 Jul

First and Foremost – Spain = All Big Game Players. That’s right, www.averageopposition.com for cutting edge analysis.

In particular, a few words about Cesc Fabregas. He must surely be considered a Big Game Player. I put forward the evidence:

  • Euro 2008 Quarter Final – Winning Penalty against Italy
  • Euro 2008 Semi Final – Two assists against Russia
  • World Cup 2010 Final – Assist for the only goal against Holland
  • Euro 2012 Semi Final – Winning penalty against Portugal
  • Euro 2012 Final – Assist for the opening goal against Italy

He may not have scored in open play in these games, but he’s had a major influence on each game, as Spain went on to win an unprecedented three successive tournaments. And the difference between winning tournaments and not is down to having players like Fabregas that can make a difference in the highest pressure atmosphere. Almost all of the above were coming on as a substitute as well. He also scored the equaliser in the opening game against eventual finalists Italy.

Looking at his club form this season, there was a hint at his big game tendencies. Although his output dropped significantly in the second half of the season (9 league goals by game 17, none after), he scored against Real Madrid, Valencia (in the league and cup), City Rivals Espanyol, and then there’s the small matter of goals in the World Club Cup final against Santos, and the European Super Cup Final against Porto. Chuck in a few more goals against Top 6 teams Atletico Madrid and Levante, and it all points to a Big Game player.

Xavi Hernandez, Fernando Torres and Sergio Ramos are also particularly worthy of an extra mention. Xavi grabbed two assists in the 2012 Final as well as one in the 2008 Final. Torres of course became the first player to score in two European Championships Final, and Sergio Ramos is the only defender who played in the final of all three Tournaments – and along with Casillas, conceded no goals in the last 10 knock out games.

And just to provide further evidence (if it was needed) why Spain are the best team in the World – here’s an eleven made up of players not in the squad, whether that be injury, international retirement of just not capped yet:

Spanish players not in the Euro 2012 squad

Apart from Spain

There were of course some other teams playing, and this being a site that concetrates on the Big Game Player, here’s a quick look at some of the names that entered the tournament with big expectations (as originally previewed here).

Mario Gomez – Okay, he got the joint Golden Boot with three goals, but as predicted on this very site, he did nothing in the knock out stages. Sure, I predicted him to go missing against Holland, but that was on the basis that Holland were gonna be good. His lack of impact on the knock out stages was in fitting with his performances in both the Champions League Final, the German Cup Final, and in general, against any Top 6 team in the Bundesliga.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Massive expectations were on his shoulders, and it showed in the first two group games, where he was shown up by the likes of Niklas Bendtner. However, his double against Holland for me was more impressive than Gomez’s as the game was effectively a knock out game – a Holland win saw them through and Portugal out. He delivered arguably the performance of the Tournament. He then went on to score the winner in the Quarter Finals against the Czech’s and was a constant threat against Spain in the Semi-Final. He didn’t get to take a penalty in the shoot out due to his want to be the 5th and possibly final taker.

Robin van Persie – He scored in his biggest game and against the best opponents, with a very well taken goal against Germany. However, after the season he had in the Premier League, his European Championships, like the 2010 World Cup, must go down as a failure. He was better than Klaas Jan Huntelaar though. He is another who had a Flat Track Bully season in the league for Schalke.

Mario Balotelli – He went into the tournament unsure of a starting place and with just one international goal to his name. It’s fair to say that he came out with an enhanced reputation. A goal against Ireland in a must win game, followed by an impressive albeit goal less, performance against England. Then in the the Big Game environment of a Semi Final against Germany, he scored two quality goals. He didn’t have a lot to shout about in the Final, but aged only 21, and on the back of a season where he scored two at Old Trafford and a last minute winner over Spurs, he has already showed signs of being a Big Game Player. We shouldn’t forget his penalty against England either. Team mate Di Natale had his best moment in the opening group game against Spain, but was often left out for Cassano, who notched against Ireland but no one else.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – To an extent, he laid to rest his Big Game Bottler tag. Goals in the opening game against Ukraine and and the final game against France saw him meet most people’s expectations (maybe not his own of three hat tricks in the group stages). However, Ukraine were one of the weaker teams at the tournament, and when Sweden beat France 2-0, they were already out, so the pressure was off. The most important game was that against England. He didn’t score, so the jury is still out on his big game credentials. He probably doesn’t even know who won last night.

Wayne Rooney – Unfortunately continued his World Cup form. He did at least score one goal (from 1 yard), which unfortunately fooled people (Roy included) that he should stay in the team. He did, at least score more than Karim Benzema who seemed to play wide or deep, but not really in the area.

All in all, there weren’t really many surprises from a Big Game Player perspective. None of the leading names really performed differently to their League seasons – with the exception of Wayne Rooney. In the league, he scored 8 goals against Top 6 opponents, and in 2011 he scored in the Champions League Final. Everyone else reverted to form.

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La Liga Round 30

4 Apr

In the words of Alan Partridge “Shit! Did you see that?”. I am of course referring to Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal, away at 6th placed Osasuna, from around 210 yards out. He just laced it – as if it was Messi’s face. As seen here (the goal, not Messi’s head).

But wait. That wasn’t even the best goal of the match.

In my opinion, Karim Benzema’s opening goal was even better. It’s drawn comparisons to Marco van Basten’s famous volley in the Euro ’88 final, and you can see why here. Now that’s impressive. Ronaldo’s was a triumph for power, whilst Benzema’s was a triumph for technique. Both were pretty audacious.

Benzema is trying to work out how he’s only the 3rd top scorer at Madrid with 17 league goals

And whilst on the subject of Madrid’s 5-1 win, it’s worth pointing out that the 5th goal (by Higuain) was their 100th league goal of the season. That’s an average of 3.33333333333333333…..recurring…….goals per game. They’re now within 7 goals of equalling the Spanish record (held by Real Madrid), and with 8 games to go, you’d fancy Mourinho to break another record. There’s been plenty of love for Barcelona over the past few seasons, it’s time to send some plaudits the way of Madrid, who are often painted as the baddies of the league (and in the case of Pepe, it’s entirely justified).

Of course, when mentioning Madrid and Ronaldo, it’s a legal obligation to talk about Messi and Barcelona. Guardiola’s team won their 8th game in a row and Messi has scored 13 times in this run. This win was against previously fashionable Athletic Bilbao, who began the weekend in 11th place. Barca won 2-0 with a goal from Iniesta (only his second league goal of the season), and a penalty by Messi. That’s his 36th league goal of the season, one behind Cristiano Ronaldo who scored a rather less glamorous second in the win against Osasuna. The lead is still 6 points, with a game at Barcelona to come. Both have progressed into the Semi Finals of the Champions League, and are in separate sides of the draw, leaving the path clear for a Final meeting. They’re comfortably the best two teams in the World at the moment, and the rest of the season will be great for the neutral.

Whilst at the top of the table, things have gone a bit strange in the race for the Top 4 spot again. The teams in 3rd to 6th all failed to win, with 3rd placed Valencia hosting 5th placed Levante. The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Jonas and Kone amoung the goals (vs Top 6 opposition). This gave Malaga (in 4th) and Osasuna the chance to close the gap on 3rd – we know Osasuna didn’t, and it was the same for Malage who lost 2-0 to 15th placed Real Betis. It seems as though the race for the Champions League spots will go all the way to wire, with just 6 points between 3rd and 8th.

In terms of what the goals mean to the stats, Ronaldo’s brace now takes his number of goals against the Top 6 to a mind boggling 15. To put that into perspective, only 6 players have scored that many goals against all ranked opponents. This also increases his average ranked opponent per goal to a decent 9.32. Similarly, Higuain’s (9.10) brace in the same game and Benzema’s (10.12)awesome effort increased their averages and goals against the Top 6. It’s quite spectacular that Real Madrid have 3 of the 5 top scorers in the league. Benzema has scored 17 league goals, yet is still behind two club mates. The three Madrid players have scored 74 (or 74% with some complicated maths) of the team’s goals this season.

Cesc Fabregas is the Big Game Player in terms of average rannked opponent, but as mentioned previously, he’s gone a long time without scoring, and will soon drop off the top scorers list. His average of 4.78 is comfortably the lowest in the four leagues covered on this site, but his bright start at Barca seems to have slowed somewhat. It’s worth noting that in a European Championships year, with Villa out and Torres out of sorts, Roberto Soldado has 8 goals against Top 6 opponents.

Friend of averageopposition.com, Radamel Falcao banged in his 20th league goal in an impressive debut season – this time against 10th placed Getafe in a 3-o win. This improves his average ranked opponent per goal to 13.25. He’s very much the La Liga equivalent of Serie A’s Cavani. The holder of the Flat Track Bully tag is Seville’s del Moral who has an impressively low 17.30. His 10th goal of the season arrived against 13th placed Mallorca. That’s now eight against the bottom 6, two against the mid tablers and a big fat zero against the Top 6. Not that Seville will mind. He’s now scored 5 goals in the last 3 games, all of which were won by Seville. Equalling Seville’s recent form is Real Zaragoza, who recorded their 3rd succesive win against 19th place Sporting Gijon.

A couple of teams nowhere near the top of the form table are Villarreal and Bilbao. Despite their impressive performances in the Europa League, Bilbao have now lost four of their last five which is confusing for anyone that saw their performances against Man Utd. In another comparison with Serie A, Villarreal appear to be the Fiorentina equivalent. A team of a decent recent past, with the likes of Forlan and Riquelme delighting the crowds, they’ve now slipped to 17th place – just one above the drop zone, after just one win in eight. It sounds like the Yellow Submarine’s will have trouble staying afloat. Let’s hope they don’t go under….sorry.

And just to finish off, a quick look at the points that each player has earned with their goals, and the importance to their team:

La Liga Round 29

27 Mar

After 29 league games, the score is now Lionel Messi 35 – 35 Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s starting to get silly now. The race for the golden boot between the best two players in the World is captivating. As with last season, the league seems to have been decided pretty early on this year round and the focus is on the shoot out between the majestic Messi and the powerhouse that is Cristiano Ronaldo. In the two rounds since the last update, Messi has scored four goals (3 vs 16th place Granada, and 1 vs 13th place Mallorca) and in doing so, has become Barcelona’s all time Top Scorer – aged 24. Not bad when you think about it. By comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo started to show signs of his advancing years (he’s 27 now), by only scoring three times in the last two games – and not a hat trick in sight. His first was in a 1-1 draw away at Villarreal (17th) where around 17 people were sent off, and he then got out of his funk with a brace at home to 14th placed Sociedad in a 5-1 win.

From a stats point of view, Ronaldo has more goals against the Top 6 with 13, and only 4 against the riff raff at the bottom. His average ranked opponent per goal is 9.51 – impressive stuff. Messi’s “only” got 8 against Top 6 teams, and has an average of 10th placed opposition per goal. In Messi’s favour though are the rest of the stats. He’s only scored 3 penalties to Ronaldo’s 11, and his goals have been more important as well – yielding 16 points for Barca, compared to the 11 points won by Ronaldo’s goals. The assists are actually a lot close than you’d expect. For those who want more on the rivalry, click here.

Messi, almost as good as Bendtner

Some believe that Messi and Ronaldo dominating the scoring charts so much, and indeed Madrid and Barca’s dominance is a sign of the weakness of the league, and a gap of 32 points between first and sixth does point to this, but it’s worth remembering that Manchester United were made to look very very ordinary by Athletic Bilbao, a club currently ranked 11th after the latest round of fixtures.

At the top, Madrid’s lead has been cut to just 6 points, but they’re still odds on to win the title. Even with defeat to Barca in the next el Clasico, you’d still fancy a Mourinho team to see it out. You have to feel a bit sorry for Real Madrid. In almost any other era, they’d be regarded as the best team in the World and one of the best of all time. Even if they do go on to win the league, many will still believe Barcelona are the best. It’s similar for Ronaldo. He does has one World Player of the Year title, but only Real Madrid fans and possibly some Man Utd fans would argue he was better than Messi. And it’s worse still for Benzema and Higuain – scorers of 27 and 23 goals (in all competitions) this season, and barely mentioned. It’s a tough life.

But enough about the big two, elsewhere Bilbao’s dreadful run continues. It’s now four games without a win in La Liga, which has seen them slip from 5th to 11th place. This time out it was a 1-1 home draw to 19th place Sporting Gijon. Before that it was a 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid with Falcao scoring a brace. unfortunately for our favourite Colombian bully, Bilbao were outside the Top 6 at the time of play, meaning that he still has just the one solitary goal against Top 6 opponents. Though I do have to concede that he’s stepped it up of late and is delivering against better opposition.

And that’s not all. His double against Bilbao, means that he moves into 3rd place in the race for the Golden boot, but even more important than this (in my mind at least), is that he’s no longer the flat track bully! With a jump from 14.18 to 13.42, Falcao has improved his average opposition ranking, and now has two players with worse averages than him. And how. Sevilla’s del Moral has scored a brace in each of the last two games – firstly against 18th place Racing in a 3-0 win, and then against 15th placed Granada last night. This gives him a massive 17.78 ranked opponent per goal. As you can see from the above, 8 of his 9 goals have been against the bottom 6 teams, meaning he’s deserving of the unwanted tag.

Cesc Fabregas retains the Big Game Player tag for another goal less week, but if he carries on without scoring for much longer, he’ll fall out of the above list, giving an opportunity for someone else to take on the Big game Player moniker, with Roberto Soldado the hot favourite (8.38). Ronaldo still leads the goals against Top 6 teams.

It wouldn’t be right to finish the post without a look at Levante. In round 28, they kept up their recent revival with a 3-1 win against Soceidad (12th), but were knocked out of 4th spot after defeat in round 29 to 7th placed form team Osasuna, who have lost just once in nine games. The last champions league spot is now held by Malaga, who have been somewhat off the radar of late. Without anyone really noticing, they’ve won 5 of the last 6 games, with the latest being a 2-1 win over Espanyol. And for those Man Utd fans mentioned earlier, Ruud van Nistelrooy scored the equaliser (Coutinho scored again for Espanyol). And that’s not all! Valencia, who looked like they had 3rd place guaranteed by Christmas, have been dropping points left, right, and centre, with just one win in the last four. as a result, Malaga are now level on points, with Levante just a further 3 behind.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 18 – Pre Winter Break

5 Jan

As promised, here’s the Spanish League Average Opposition Index for the Top Scorers up until the Christmas break. Ronaldo leads the way with goals, and the most goals against Top 6 Opposition – after recent Hat Tricks away at Malaga and Sevilla. This also helps his Average Opposition rating to a healthy 8.85. His rival for the golden boot, and World’s Greatest Player moniker, Leo Messi, is on 17 league goals – with an average of 9.82. For the record, Ronaldo has 7 penalties to Messi’s 1.

However, neither lead the Average Opposition ranking. That goes to Cesc Fabregas with an incredible 4.38 ranked opponent per goal. It was clear that he’d made a great start since returning to Barcelona, but 4.38 is the lowest I’ve seen in any league across the last 3 years. The average has been boosted by the early season table with a goal in each of his first 4 games against Villarreal #4th, Real Sociedad #5th, Osasuna #7th and Valencia – then 1st. As the table has matured and taken a more familiar shape, he has kept up his impressive big game performances. In his last two games before the Winter Break, he scored 2 goals against 4th placed surprise package Levante (who beat Madrid earlier in the season), and also the final goal in the 3-1 win away at 2nd placed Real Madrid with a rare header.

As per the stats below, the player with the second best Average is Karim Benzema (Average Opponent per goal is ranked 8.25). It’s fair to say that he’s taken his time to settle in Madrid. His undoubted ability has been more apparent this season with more chances, and his goals against Barcelona and away at Valencia go some way to proving this.

The tag of “flat track bully” belongs to Atletico Madrid’s new signing Falcao. He started the season on fire with 5 goals in the first 4 games – including a hat trick against 13th placed Racing Santander. Scoring 9 goals in a new league by the 18th round of fixtures is certainly commendably, but on closer inspection of his opponents, the picture is a little different. The highest ranked opponent that he’s scored against is 10th place (both Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol) whilst he has 3 goals versus opponents ranked in bottom place at the time – a brace against Sporting Gijon in round 4 and one against Getafe. So whilst he’s done well to settle into a new league, he still has a way to go to justify the big fee and big hype. He proved last season that he can do it in the big games (as his winner in the Europa League Final showed) and perhaps the second half of the season will see this.

Along with Falcao, Michu of Rayo Vallecano is the only other player in the top scorers list without a goal vs Top 6 opponents this season – although stats can be deciving. He actually scored 2 goals away at Real Madrid in a 6-2 defeat early in the season. At the time Madrid were ranked in 7th. His average at the end of the season once revised for final positions will certainly reflect better, as no doubt Fabregas’ will lower.

In terms of the Average Opposition Index per team, 10th Placed Getafe have had the hardest run in – their average opposition is ranked in 9th place. The surprise performers of the season so far are 4th placed Levante and it’s somewhat  surprising that they’ve had the 2nd hardest run in terms of the form of their opponents at the time of playing. At the other end of the table, Real Zaragoza’s league position is demonstrative of the form of their oppoents.

I’ll be updating the Premier League for Round 20 shortly, as well as Serie A.

Cheers,

Liam