Tag Archives: Manchester United

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

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).

 

Big Game Youth Systems?

2 Nov

In the continued quest to understand what makes a big game player, I thought I’d look into the part that youth teams play in a player’s big game temperament, or more precisely, which Youth Teams are responsible for the big game players, or in fact just a steady flow of good players. I’ll be looking at World Players of the Year, Golden Ball winners and a few other bits and pieces. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Rules

For the sake of consistency, if the player has been at two youth academies, I’ll use the club that they made their professional debut with. So whilst Barcelona’s famed La Masia Academy helped produce Piqué and Fabregas, they finished their youth team education with Manchester United and Arsenal, respectively.

Each category is as per the official FIFA lists.

World Player of the Year

First things first, some lists. The first is the Worlds best players from 1991 onwards, complete with their youth team. Why 1991? Because surprisingly, that’s when the award began. From 2009 onwards, the award merged with the Ballon d’Or to become one global award. To widen the data a bit further and because there’s not always a lot in it, I’ve taken the Top three players for each year.

So is there an outstanding Youth Team that produces more World Class players (and that’s a pretty safe use of the phrase) than the others? Well yes and no. If you take Ronaldo as an example, he won the award three times and finished in the top 3 on another two occasions, meaning five entries for Brazilian club Cruzeiro. So to avoid duplication, each player is only allowed one entry. When that’s taken into account, there’s not really a run away winner.

In fact, only three clubs have had more than one representative from their youth team to finish in the top three players in the World:

  1. Barcelona – Lionel Messi (1st in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2nd in 2007, 2008) Andres Iniesta (2nd in 2010), Xavi (3rd in 2009, 2010, 2011)
  2. Sporting Lisbon – Luis Figo (1st in 2001, 2nd in 2000), Cristiano Ronaldo (1st in 2008, 2nd in 2009, 2011, 3rd in 2007)
  3. Ajax – Dennis Bergkamp (3rd in 1993, 1997), Marco van Basten (1st in 1992)

It’s not a massive surprise that those three clubs are where they are. A large chunk of the current Barcelona squad have at one time been graduates of the famous youth system. Aside from the trio above, you could point to Pedro, Sergio Busquets, Victor Valdes, Puyol as well as those that left before returning – Fabregas, Alba and Pique. There’s also players that went elsewhere like Mikel Arteta, Bojan Krkic, Thiago Motta, Oriel Romeu and Giovanni Dos Santos. Going back further than that and the list goes on – Pep Guardiola anyone? It’s impressive.

Sporting Lisbon aren’t exactly slouches either. Aside from the lads above, there’s Paolo Futre, Simao, Nani, and many others. Though they can’t compete with Ajax. The team that won the 1995 Champions League contained 11 youth team graduates from a match day squad of 16. And that’s just one batch. Add in the 60s-70s graduates and it’s easy to understand why they have a reputation of being the best in the World.

Other than that, there’s 28 other clubs that have produced one of the best three players in the last 22 years, ranging from AC Milan (Maldini) to West Ham United (Frank Lampard Jr).

European Footballer of the Year

So applying the same logic, I thought I’d have a look at the European Player of the Year awards (Ballon d’Or). This award goes back to 1956, giving us a wider base to look at. Up untol 1995, it was European Player only. From then onwards, it was changed to players playing in Europe, regardless of their nationality. There’s been 6 South American winners of it, if you exclude Alfredo Di Stefano who was apparently Spanish when he won it in 1957. As mentioned above, the award merged with the World Player of the Year awards in 2010, so the below data is 1956-2009.

Does it offer us a better of view of the best Youth Systems for producing big game players? Well the greater pool of players (Top 3 and sometimes 4 players if level on points) numbers at 164, giving a greater scope. Surprisingly, there’s only 13 teams that have produced more than one player to feature in the Ballon d’Or awards:

The same three that featured on the earlier list are all present, though Barca lose one player, whilst Sporting gain another, in Paulo Futre. Ajax are the single most successful youth system on this measurement with five legends of the game, and that’s with the surprising omissions of Kluivert, Davids, and Seedorf from the lists. In terms of countries, both Spain and England have three clubs represented. There’s no suprise of the three English clubs, just of the players missing.

A couple of points of note. Firstly, Raul is down as a Real Madrid youth product but actually spent a number of years on the books of Atletico Madrid. Ouch. Secondly, Luis Suarez from the Deportivo youth team isn’t the current Liverpool striker (his youth team was Nacional), but rather Barcelona, Spain and Inter Milan legend Luis Suarez Miramontes.

South American Footballer of the Year

Like the European equivalent, this award has been running for longer than the World Player of the year, dating back to 1971 when Brazil legend Tostao picked up the first award whilst playing for Cruzeiro (his youth team was America MG). In all, there’s been 130 players to finish in the Top 3 positions, from 54 different Youth Academies. Unlike the European award, there’s actually quite a lot of repeat achievers, meaning that I’ve restricted it to teams that have produced three players or more.

The award was initially for any player from South America (Mario Kempes won it whilst playing for Valencia), but after 1986, it was restricted to those players playing their football in South America and Mexico.

And so to the list:

River Plate do well – appearing on both lists, and contributing a whopping eight players to the European or South American player of the year awards. And it’s easy to see why with some of the names listed above. When you also think that they also produced Pablo Aimar, Claudio Caniggia, Gonzalo Higuain and many others, it’s easy to understand why they’re the best represented club in the lists above, but it also makes it hard to understand how they were recently relegated (before a quick promotion).

Their bitter rivals, Boca Juniors don’t do too badly either. Current Argentina Internationals, Carlos Tevez and Fernando Gago both began their careers at the club, as well as World Cup winner Oscar Ruggeri, whilst surprisingly it was Argentinos Juniors that produced Boca legends Diego Maradona and Juan Roman Riquelme. So River Plate may be more prolific, but Boca can point to one of the greatest players of all time. Which leads nicely to Pele and Santos.

Along with Pele, Santos also began the careers of Diego, Ganso, Robinho and the latest flavour of the month, Neymar, who’s the current holder of the South American Player of the Year title. Not a bad list to be fair.

Other

I was going to include the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ball awards for the three best players at the World Cup, but after reviewing the list, I decided it wasn’t as useful as first thought. For a start, Zidane (Cannes Youth Team) didn’t feature in the 1998 awards. After that, in 2002 Oliver Kahn won the award despite a massive howler in the Final, and South Korea’s Hong Myung-Bo took the Bronze Ball. I’m a pretty avid Football fan, but I have no recollection of this player, but do recall Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose and Rivaldo having a pretty decent tournament before having to miss the Final. Furthermore, in 1986, there was no Silver or Bronze awards at all – with just Maradona and no one else – which given his impact on that World Cup, is probably fair enough, not that it was a completely one man team, although a little harsh on Top Scorer Gary Lineker (Leicester Youth Team) and one or two other decent players.

Conclusion

Well going through all of the lists and background research, there’s three clubs that have really stood out as having the best youth systems in the World, Ajax, Barcelona and River Plate. There’s been several clubs that have produced great batches of youngsters – The Man Utd youth team of the early 90’s produced World Class players – Giggs, Scholes, Beckham and to an extent (as a Right Back), Gary Neville. That same batch also produced the likes of Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Keith Gillespie, Robbie Savage and whilst not World Class, they all won several caps for the their countries and had good careers. This is the same Youth System that produce the likes of Charlton, Best, Edwards back in the 50s-60s.

Similarly the famed West Ham Academy had a batch of similarly talented players from 96-99, including Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Glen Johnson and Jermaine Defoe. The current team includes Tomkins, Noble and Collison, whilst going back the most famous batch of the early 1960’s included World Cup winners Geoff Hurst (Hat trick in the final), Martin Peters (goal in the final) and Bobby Moore (two assists and captain in the final). It’s a running joke that West Ham won the World Cup, but it does say a lot for their youth system to have produced three players that had such a large impact on the biggest game of all. Moving on, Trevor Brooking, Paul Ince, Alvin Martin, Tony Cottee and somewhat surprisingly Ray Houghton (amongst others) all came through the Youth Team before going on to good careers for club and country.

There are strong cases to be made for Liverpool (click here for more), Arsenal and Southampton in England, with the Saints recently producing several talented wide players – Bridge, Bale, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dyer, as well as going back a bit further to Le Tissier, Shearer and Flowers.

But in terms of the truly top players in their continents and in the World it’s Barcelona that currently lead the way. Currently lauded as the best team in the World, and some say of all time, they’re matchday XI regularly contain upto 7 or 8 form youth team players as listed above. There’s several more promising youngsters making their way in football as well, some still with the club, some looking to advance elsewhere, but the La Masia academy is currently the most prolific youth system in World football. And well it should be, as Barcelona spend an estimated £15m a year on it – dwarfing every other club in the World. And it’s clearly money well spent.

River Plate have suffered recently, having been relegated the season before last, but the list of players mentioned above only tells part of the story. Other notable graduates from the River youth team include Almeyda, Gallardo, Hernan Crespo, De Michelis, Cavenaghi, current Roma starlet Erik Lamela and somewhat surprisingly, Colombian super star Radamel Falcao. Not too shabby.

And with Ajax, there’s not really much more I can add to the thousands of articles already written about them. It’s not just a football academy, it’s also an education system that they run, a culture. The 1995 European Champions were years of academy work paying off. From van der Sar in goal, Blind, de Boer, Reiziger and Bogarde at the back, Davids, Seedorf and de Boer in midfield and a teenage Patrick Kluivert up front. All heavily involved in the run to the final, and with some help of some others (Rijkaard, Kanu, Litmanen), were able to emulate the great 70’s team of Cruyff et al – again, heavily represented by youth team graduates.

There’s a lot more to investigate in terms of what makes a big game player. The example of the De Jong brothers in Holland proves its not just the club environment as both brothers scored regularly against Top 6 Opponents last season, but the youth team education undoubtedly helps. I’ve no doubt missed several great youth systems (Monchengladbach anyone?) but I think I’ve covered the main ones, certainly from a big game player point of view. Missed some other good ones? Leave a comment below.

Cheers,

Liam

th team by World Players, Golden Boots, Recent Big Game players, Top 50

Other Findings

Good youth team academies

West Ham

Man Utd

Liverpool

Southampton – Dyer, Bridge, Bale, Walcott, Oxlade Chamberlain, Le Tissier, Shearer, Flowers

Everton

Youth teams with speciality in positions – Southampton, Sporting Lisbon, lack of Man Utd strikers

Further Reading:

Add links to articles

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

Premier League Round 38

13 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Liam

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 31

6 Apr

Plenty of movement in the Premier League since our last update, most noticeably at the top of the table – Manchester United are now 5 points clear at the top of the league after City drew two consecutive games – firstly a 1-1 at Peter Crouch’s Stoke (11th), followed by a last gasp point against Sunderland (8th) at the previously inpenetrable Eastlands. City’s 4 points from 12 available have come at the worst possible time, with Man Utd notoriously strong finishers. In that same time, the team from Old Trafford have chalked up 4 straight wins, as part of a run seeing 10 wins in 11 games. Considering this team has been written off as average, and the 6-1 humiliation at home to City, it’s been a hell of a come back. But what’s brought around the change in fortunes? Squad Management and fatigue.

As you can see from the above split of the season so far, whilst Man City burst out of the starting blocks, wowing everyone along the way, United were the model of consistancy. City scored 67% of their goals in the first 15 games of the season, and just 33% in the 16 games after. United in the mean time have a pretty steady 46%-54% split. The consistancy is best illustrated by comparing Rooney and Dzeko. There was just one goal between them at the half way stage, compared to 8 now. In fact the only player in the City squad to have scored more goals in second half of the season so far is Joleon Lescott, with 2. United also show the strength of their squad with three more scorers. If David Silva was the best midfielder at the start of the season, Antonio Valencia has taken on that title since. Both have 12 league assists – Silva in 30 games, and Valencia in 20. Silva has just 4 in the last 16 games, compared to Valencia’s 9.

There’s nothing wrong with City’s defence, with the split of 15/10 favouring the last 16 games (United’s split of goals conceded is a predictably even 14/13). It’s all about the goalscoring – perhaps it’s understandable that they’re turning back to Carlos Tevez now when they need some inspiration, and more importantly, a fresh pair of legs.

One interesting fact from the above tables is that there isn’t an outstanding goalscorer from midfield for either team. Think back to Title winning teams, and you’ve had Ljungberg, Lampard, Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Pires etc. Of course the season still has 7 games left, so there’s still a chance for someone like Valencia or Young to step up. Both were on the scoresheet against 16th place Blackburn. Unsurprisingly, Paul Robinson was beaten by two more strikes from the edge of the area.

Elsewhere, the defeat for Blackburn has had an impact on the relegation fight. Whilst two rounds ago, Blackburn were 6 points clear and everyone was apologising to Steve Kean, two defeats and an unlikely turn around in form from Wigan, Bolton and QPR, has seen them fall back into the bottom 3. Strangely enough, Liverpool are having a bigger impact on the fight at the bottom, than their usual place at the top. Defeats to QPR and Wigan have helped breathe life into both team’s seasons. QPR in particular have reason to be pleased – beating 7th placed Liverpool and 3rd placed Arsenal at Loftus Road.

In terms of the average opposition index, it’s still Robin van Persie (11.27) leading the way against Top 6 teams – although he’s on something of a goal drought, with a barren three games. It points to Arsenal’s turn around in fortunes that five goals have been scored by other players in that time, whilst they picked up 2 wins in that time. It’ll be interesting to see how he does against 2nd placed Man City this weekend. In terms of the Big Game Player by average opposition per goal, that still belongs to Emmanuel Adebayor. His double against 10th placed Swansea, slightly lowered his average to 8.15, but he will welcome his first goals in five. He has still to score against Bottom 6 opponents, which isn’t a proble for Spurs, who also have Rafael van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe on the scoring charts. Spurs have lost 7 games this season – and 5 of them have been against Top 6 Oppositions – Man City twice, Man Utd twice, and Arsenal. It’s the results against the top three that has meant they’ve fallen to 4th, just weeks after challenging for first place.

Demba Ba’s goals have certainly dried up since his return from the African Cup of Nations, with just one goal in the last 11 Newcastle games. What do you do if your Senegalese striker’s goals dry up? You get your Senegalese striker to score them instead. Papiss (Demba) Cisse has 7 goals in 7 games since moving to Saint Sports Direct Park. Add that to the 9 goals he scored for Freiburg, and he has 16 goals in 23 league games – compared to Demba (Papiss?) Ba’s 16 in 27 games. Ba still remains in the Top 4 for goals scored, with a decent split of 4-9-3 of goals against the different ranges of opponents.

The Flat Track Bully remains Frank Lampard. His 10 goals have been against an average of 15th, with just one coming against the Top 6. He’s been left standing still in the midfield goalscoring stakes by Clint Dempsey, who’s goal against Norwich (11th) was his 13th of another good season in the Premier League. An average opposition ranking of 11.15 is the best of the three midfielders on the list (Bale has 13.11). Peter Odemwingie gets a mention in the Flat Track Bully commentary with no goals scored against the elite – the only player on the list without.

Want something you haven’t seen for a while? Well sure – he’s the top nationalities in terms of goals in the Premier League this season:

Despite foreigners apparently stopping English players coming through, it’s still England that provides the most goals – by a long way. Unsurprisingly, Ireland, Wales and Scotland are also flying high. Holland lead the way from out side Britain and Ireland, bouyed bt Robin van Persie’s 26 goals. French players seem to have the best temperament in the big games with almost a third of their goals against Top 6 opponents.

That’s all for now, there’s plenty going on over the next 5 days, with most clubs playing twice – giving us plenty more stats to look at.

Cheers,

Liam