Premier League

Premier League – Week 2 review

27 Aug
August 27, 2013
Fulham vs. Arsenal 1-3.

Arsenal stepped up gear to ultimately record a comfortable success at Craven Cottage. Podolski’s conversion rate was impressive last season and it looks as if he is to continue in the same vein. A similarly bright outlook can be forecast for Giroud who is now starting to regularly hit the target. Fulham on their part probably deserved more than just the one goal having kept Szczensy busy for much of the afternoon. Similar performances against lesser opposition should yield their just reward.

Hull vs. Norwich 1-0.

The predictably tight game as expected but Hull made it very hard work for themselves having a man sent off. Norwich didn’t take full advantage of the situation as they only worked the goalkeeper on 4 occasions during the contest. A poor return considering their numerical advantage.

Southampton vs. Sunderland 1-1.

Sunderland put in the performance in front of goal that could be expected and fortunately for them they came up with a goal. Southampton had much of the possession and many shouts for a penalty before breaking their duck very late on. They were busy in front of goal but their lack of efficiency ensured they came away with only the single score.

Newcastle vs West Ham 0-0.

Dire fayre at St. James’ where between them the two sides hit the target once during the ninety minutes. West Ham did seem to concentrate their energies on winning their home fixtures last season but for Newcastle there are few excuses and they are on a slide that they must arrest quickly.

Stoke vs. Crystal Palace 2-1.

Palace opened their account in front of goal for the season but Stoke were always likely to be stubborn opponents at home. Palace actually produced more in attack than may have been expected having rallied in the last half an hour of the game which will encourage them for the future.

Everton vs. West Brom 0-0.

Everton enjoyed no fortune in front of goal despite a huge effort and as a consequence West Brom were lucky to come away with a point having offered very little themselves. It remains to be seen whether the trend of the Toffees peppering the opposition goal without reward will continue and it must be source of frustration that they don’t have a top drawer centre forward. Their season will depend of whether they can convert effort into goals.

Aston Villa vs. Liverpool 0-1.

When the season is reviewed this result will probably be viewed as an excellent outcome for Liverpool. Not too many sides will come away with the 3 points from Villa Park. Sturridge remains one of the division’s most efficient goal scorers in terms of minutes on the field per goal and he proved to be the difference here. Villa again did enough to show that they will be dangerous opponents and probably deserved something out of the game in the end.

Cardiff vs. Man City 3-2.

The first big shock result of the season, especially after City had taken the lead. The effect of Kompany’s absence was clearly underestimated as City were under pressure at virtually every set piece. If the favourite has a key man missing the situation tends to become glossed over. If the underdog is missing the equivalent type of player, they become 100-1 shots in the eyes of the public. This was one most of us got wrong.

Tottenham vs. Swansea 1-0.

This game went to form as Tottenham, as expected, had a great deal many more shots at goal than Swansea, despite their conversion rate being poor. It does go to demonstrate that Tottenham are as likely to be as busy in front of goal as they were with Gareth Bale in the side but as with last season the level of efficiency needs to increase if Spurs are going to be challenging for a top four position.

Man Utd vs. Chelsea 0-0.

Overall a poor game where the final passes and crosses were not up to standard. United continually looked the most likely winners and surprisingly having packed the midfield in the first half, it wasn’t an area where Chelsea were particularly dominant. It was probably a result where neither camp were not too displeased, having not handed the initiative to the other. It was surprising that United had been shunted out to 3-1 to win the league after this effort, where they didn’t come under any serious pressure.

Premier League – Week 1 review.

19 Aug
August 19, 2013
Sunderland vs.Fulham 0-1

Sunderland deserved a reward for their efforts in attack and Fulham will be pleased at stealing all of the points. Sunderland were one of the deeper playing sides in the division last season but the Di Canio era is likely to see a more forward approach. 21 shots at goal, of varying quality, may herald this new dawn.

Swansea vs.Manchester United 1-4

Can’t really add to the superlatives that describe Van Persie’s play. 2 goals don’t make a season but surely Welbeck can improve in the knowledge that he’s likely to be first choice to partner Van Persie in attack. It was only late in the second half that the power trio of Michu, Bony and Shelvey all found themselves in the box at the same time for a crossed ball. Unfortunately the ball missed the three of them but this tactic will pay off in the future against teams that are poor in the air.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham 0-1

Tottenham had the opportunities to win more convincingly and the wide players are clearly going to be a major part of AVB’s plans. What was more disconcerting was that against a better side they would have nearly certainly conceded a goal on the break. Tottenham topped the division last season in their use of the offside trap. A prospect that John Terry didn’t fancy in AVB’s spell at Chelsea. The problem was that Spurs’ goals against record wasn’t impressive and that should make for some entertaining games to come.

Manchester City vs.Newcastle 4-0

Pelligrini favoured a reasonably compact and forward thinking approach at Malaga and it has to be odds on that City will better last season’s goals total. A mightily impressive display by City but it’s a little early to be drawing any firm conclusions as regards to their championship credentials. The Yohan Cabaye situation echoes of how Mascherano exited Liverpool. Liverpool no doubt had a plan in place to contain City that evening with the Argentine a key player in that scheme. At the eleventh hour Mascherano was unavailable and as a result Liverpool were a defensive shambles and conceded the game 3-0. Newcastle obviously suffered from a similarly turbulent preparation and were as ruthlessly dispatched.

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa 1-3

Arsenal had a peculiar record last season when it came to receiving disciplinary cards. They topped the league for red cards and came bottom for yellows. All the more extraordinary was the fact that they had more possession than any other side. The Gunners are another side to rely heavily on playing for offside but when the trap fails to spring the results appear to be catastrophic. Full marks to Villa for exploiting the situation to the maximum. In contrast, Real Madrid were abysmal at unhinging Betis on Sunday night when faced with similar tactics. It will remain that Arsenal will have the capacity to self destruct if their defenders continue to be caught out of position. Arteta has probably helped to cover some of the gaps and his continued absence has to be a concern.

Chelsea vs. Hull 2-0

Real Madrid opened the scoring in the first 15 minutes on 18 occasions last season, in the league, a record far superior to title winners Barcelona. Mourinho seems to be taking the same tact with Chelsea if yesterday’s display against Hull is any guide. Arguably, Mourinho has a more talented group at his disposal this season to effect his plans, so expect the Blues to come out of the traps with pace more often than not.

Liverpool vs. Stoke City 1-0

Liverpool were so nearly caught cold at the end of the game but for Walters not taking advantage from the penalty spot. It was a similar story to last season where Liverpool comfortably had enough chances to seal the win and on this occasion they were unfortunate to come up against an inspired display of goalkeeping. Whether again this term they make most of the running and only be partially rewarded remains to be seen. Stoke on the other hand just about did enough to merit getting onto the scoresheet and they cannot be any less progressive in attack than they had been under Tony Pulis.

3 favourite goals of 2012/13.

10 Aug
August 10, 2013

There were plenty of spectacular goals scored throughout last season, many of which were seriously profitable for the author but for sheer intrigue and viewer pleasure I´ve compiled an entirely subjective top three.

3rd

Ronaldo vs. Manchester United. In order to perform a full disclosure I have to reveal that this goal was a good money-maker at the time and the only goal of the three to be such. There was plenty to admire in the period after Nani had been dismissed up to this winning goal. Rightly or wrongly Nani was asked to leave the field but what was incontestable was the readiness of Mourinho´s response to the situation. The new Chelsea manager routinely rehearses his squad for such scenarios and more of the same can be expected in the coming season. I would not hesitate to back Chelsea at a future date where they find themselves with a numerical advantage on the field. Many interesting lines have been written about Higuain during the close season prior to his transfer to Napoli. The quality of the ball he delivered to Ronaldo for the winner at Old Trafford was sublime and did much to dispell the notion of the Argentine lacking dimensions to his play. Ronaldo gave the cross the finish it deserved but it was Higuain who merited the praise.

2nd

Michu vs.Bradford City. Recent debate has centred around where best a forward should aim for at goal to maximise his chances of scoring and whether even if players are consciously picking their spots. Michu´s goal in the League Cup final capped a fluid Swansea attacking move in fitting style. Before receiving the ball in the penalty box, the Spanish forward can be clearly seen to be looking up to take a peek at the far post area. Once in possession of the ball Michu used his marker to screen the ball from the goalkeeper before shooting between his hapless pursurer´s legs and into the far side of the goal. If forwards seem at times not to care for accuracy, it cannot be said for all of them, especially the elite. Looking at some of the pre-season betting it appears that Michu and Swansea are yet to convince everyone and that second season syndrome will kick in. It is our view that 66-1 on Michu to be the division´s top scorer is far too big a price considering that a place bet pays down to fourth place and that the Spaniard was amongst the very best in the league for converting shots into goals. Subjectively, every time the ball is with Michu it looks as if a chance is going to be fashioned. There is less danger of him being ´worked out´ in his second season because he is so tremendously powerful. You can try and mark him but it´s unlikely to make any difference!

1st

Lennon vs. Arsenal. At the time Tottenham´s winning goal against Arsenal was immensely important even if ultimately the effort was in vain in the context of Spurs´ Champions´ League ambitions. Tottenham´s opening goal, scored by Gareth Bale, saw the Welshman spring Arsenal´s offside trap before finishing past Szczensy. Within two minutes Spurs were building a similar shape of attack before bluffing their way past the Arsenal backline. The defence were convinced that Bale again would be the runner and when Spurs´ leading scorer checked his run, Arsenal remained stationary assuming that there would be no danger forthcoming. Lennon was then able to run unopposed through on goal to give Tottenham a decisive lead. For pure subtlety it was a goal to be applauded in any context, let alone in a division where power is so prized.

Homework Club

24 Jul
July 24, 2013

What is information really worth?

There have been two instances in the past few weeks that have probably left amateur data collectors truely staggered. The most recent event is the revelation that there is a doubt over Radamel Falcao’s true birth date. Whether there is any basis to this story is not something I’m going to comment on, but the interesting part is whether any of the Colombian goalmachine’s suitors of this Summer had any notion there may have been an irregularity. The assumption, at least on Monaco’s part, is that the information supplied to clubs was taken on trust. It is hard for those outside of the game to rationalise, why with the staggering amounts of money in transfer fees and salaries at stake, that every detail of the career of a potential recruit isn’t microscopically analysed. Surely it would have paid Monaco to pay a researcher 50 K to examine Falcao’s back history when the weekly salary difference between that of a 27 year old and a player two years older would be at least that.

Ashton Agar provided magical moments of play in the Trent Bridge test match at the beginning of the Ashes series. I was confounded that no one in the commentary box or in the pavilion knew anything about this useful player. It wasn’t as if Australia had brought an unmanageably large squad with them for the opposition to scout. It was clear from the outset that England had no particular plan in order to prise the number eleven from the middle. Test match lower order batsman, as a rule, can bat and the idea that good balls would be wasted on such players is an outdated concept. The fact that Agar bats with a distinctive style, with a higher than normal backlift, probably means that there are effective methods for getting him out. Bowling short on an unhelpful wicket gave the semblance of England having no plan at all in this instance.

It’s almost bizarre that in the era of analytical enlightenment that due diligence isn’t being adhered to at the levels that those of us outside professional sport would consider standard. Monaco could well end up feeling how I did on Sunday when the 25-1 shot, Silk Hall, eliminated my ticket from the Pick6. The ‘paper didn’t say that he was wearing blinkers for the first time, because he wasn’t. Further study would have revealed that it was only his second appearance in the headgear and lack of homework again proved costly.

Season 2013/14 – Prelude

23 Jul
July 23, 2013

Will he stay or will he go?

Due to a work related hiatus we haven’t posted in a few months but with the approaching football season we’re looking forward to changing that. As with many other authors it is hard to pin one’s colours to the mast until the transfer merry-go-round has come to a halt. The conclusion to the Wayne Rooney transfer saga, in our minds, will in all probability prove crucial to the outcome of the title race. He is likely to provide Chelsea with the goals they require to become viable championship contenders. Should Rooney depart Old Trafford, United will have to replace him with a genuinely World class player if they are to remain competitive in the short term. Fabregas has a goal scoring record that is superior to any of the current incumbents of United’s midfield but where is the wisdom in signing a player who has expressed his desire to remain in Spain? It is unlikely that this issue will be resolved until Barcelona appoint their manager, ironically leading into a season where 7 of the 8 clubs that head the Champions’ League market will be under new stewardship.

From our own prospective, we will be looking to collect data in the coming season to enable us to compliment some of the great analytical work that has been published elsewhere. The hub forming at www.statsbomb.com looks particularly promising and should bring a new dimension to the title races for an ever growing audience.

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