Saturday, 31 May 2014

What could have been 2013-14

If only Arsenal had signed Higuain........Chelsea needed Rooney to win the league.....Madrid were mad to sell Ozil....... And so on. Is there any truth in these statements?

You may want to stop reading here if you're looking for a definitive answer to any of the above or below questions, as I'm afraid we'll never know for sure. However, we can at least look at the impact of the players this season, along with the performance of the teams in question - it might at least give us some basis for a pub argument (non-violent of course).

The obvious place to start is with Arsenal. Many fans are bemoaning the lack of a second first team striker to either push Giroud or at least give him a rest - imagine being asked to play 50 plus games a season when you're in your physical prime? Poor sod. Anyway, many of those bemoaning fans will point at the failure to sign Gonzalo Higuain last summer, a player who looked sure to sign for the Gunners until those money hungry bastards at Real Madrid decided they'd rather receive a higher fee, from Napoli. First of all, a quick comparison of the players stats:

Well well well, that's not quite the obvious answer many were expecting. In the league, Higuain only has one more goal than the often criticised Frenchman. In fact, Giroud scored in more games than the Argentinian. Not so bemoaning now, are we bemoaners? Well yes and no. Whilst the actual number of goals are similar, the big difference comes in the level of opponent that Higuain has scored against compared to Giroud. Much of the criticism of poor old knackered Olly has been his impact in the big games - games where Arsenal effectively gave up their shot at the title by rolling over and having their belly tickled - and of course, (allegedly) making sweet sweet love to a beautiful woman who wasn't his wife, whilst in the team hotel. Admittedly, the defence need to have a long hard look at themselves, but it might have helped if they thought they could at least trouble the opposition. Amongst Higuain's victims were top sixers Torino (three goals) and Inter Milan. Add to that a further three against the once mighty AC Milan (the Italian Man United last season). Giroud? His one goal against Top 6 opponents was against Spurs - reflected in the average opposition comparisons.

The grey area should be pointed out - Higuain would have had different team mates to get used to, the Italian top flight is a different style to the premier league, and so on, but it at least tells a story. Given Wenger has played with a lone front man (or in the middle of a front three), it's unlikely the two would have been paired had the Argentine signed last summer, but it certainly could have given Wenger some options, and certainly in the big games. Yaya Sanogo may have a bright future, but I'm sure Wenger would have rather started the Bayern Munich game with Higuain instead him.

Whilst on the subject of Arsenal, much of the money earmarked for Higuain, still ended up with Real Madrid, but this time for Mesut Ozil. At the time of the sale, several of the Real Madrid players came out and criticised the decision to sell the talented playmaker. From the outside looking in, it appeared he was sold to help pay for Gareth Bale's transfer. So here's a look at their respective records for 2013-14, including assists - Ozil's main currency:


If you can overlook the fact that Bale cost around double the price of Ozil, it certainly makes for interesting reading. Granted, these stats don't show the pass before the assist - often the most important - so we could be doing Ozil a disservice here, but you can sort of see Madrid's thinking.
Once again, it's hard to compare directly as they play in slightly different positions and are in different leagues, but if you compare Ozil's 2012-13 assists to Bale's 2013-14 assists - for the same team against largely the same opposition, then it's a pretty close run thing. Ozil has one more and in one game less. He also has one more against Top 6 opponents. But this was Bale's first season in Madrid and almost a third of Ozil's assists in his last season for Madrid were against the teams at the bottom. Chuck in the goals and it's a clear win for Bale - maybe even a double your money win if you take into account exploits in Europe (a decisive goal in the final, an assist in the semi). It'll be interesting to revisit this comparison again next season - if someone reminds me.

And so onto the third claim made in the intro; Chelsea would have been better off with Rooney. A slightly different approach this time - a look at the opponents Rooney scored against compared to how Chelsea fared against them. As with above, it's not a perfect science, but might help settle a debate. Rooney is thought to have been one of United's stand out players in what has been a shocking season for them. But has he really been that good (£300k a week good), and would he have helped Chelsea win the league?
Yes. Sort of. I know that it's a very flawed approach and it omits a whole host of factors, but simply put, Chelsea dropped 11 points against teams that Rooney scored against last season, his goals in that team could have been the difference between winning the league and not - as Chelsea finished just 4 points off the top.

What does make bad reading for Rooney is that he only scored one goal against Top 6 opposition last season, but that wouldn't have been a problem for Chelsea who dominated against the other teams around them. It was against the likes of West Brom (4 points dropped) that they struggled. An interesting 'what if '. Statistically, Chelsea's strikers (Ba, Eto'o and Torres) contributed a combined 19 league goals - just two more than Rooney.

With the World Cup fast approaching, the Man United front man needs to step up his performances in the big games - and based on last season's opposition per goal, it doesn't make for great reading for Rooney (City aside). I certainly want him to do well, having recently started to lose my own hair, I feel a connection to the talismanic front man.

So there you have it, clear as one of those funny pictures with loads of dots on that just look like a load of dots until you really squint and concentrate and eventually see something that isn't just a load of dots. You can do that with a lot of statistics as it turns out.

Realistically, none of it can be proved definitively but the above might at least give an opinion some legs. Or some more hair on that pesky thinning bit.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Top Scorers 2013-14 - Bundesliga - La Liga - Premier League - Serie A

With the season now over, below are the Final goal scoring stats for 2013-14 in the Top 4 European Leagues. How did Suarez's 31 Premier League goals compare with Cristiano Ronaldo's 31 in La Liga? Who scored the most goals against Top 6 opponents? And who's goals were most decisive?

Using the table below, you can sort on any of the columns to see who scored the most, gained the most points (based on points lost if their goals were removed), and the standard of opponent they did it against.

There's some interesting findings in the number such as there only being 9 players with 20+ league goals in Europe's top four leagues. Every team hopes for that 20 goals a season man, but only eight teams out of 78 had one last season.

Whilst Ronaldo and Suarez lead the way in goals, Ronaldo leads the way in the standard of opponents - scoring a joint high (with Messi) 8 league goals against other teams in the Top 6. In fact, Suarez wasn't even Liverpool's most important player - Daniel Sturridge's 22 goals were worth 21 points - a joint high with Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa. Without this meaning to be an attack on Suarez (it's not, he's a world class player), a whopping 16 of his 31 goals were against the teams in the bottom 6 - although it seems he scored more than 16 against Norwich alone this season.

Other notable entrants are Luca Toni with 21 league goals for Verona. Two years ago, at the age of 34, the former Italy striker was playing for Al Nasr in Dubai. He hadn't scored 20 goals since the 2007-08 season for Bayern Munich. That's a hell of a turn around. Ciro Immobile, the only man to outscore Toni in Italy this season, has had a similarly surprising turn around - 5 league goals for Genoa last year certainly didn't point to the golden boot this. Both had amazing seasons, but it was Fiorentina's Guiseppe Rossi who did it most in the big games - with 6 against Top 6 teams (including a hat trick against Juventus), despite being injured for large parts of the season.

In Germany, there's an interesting comparison when looking at Mario Mandzukic and the man replacing him - Robert Lewandowski. There's certainly a case to be made for keeping the Croatian as the main striker, especially for the big games.

You can filter on the team and / or the league. Team stats are available for each league on the top menu bar. For those on incompatible browsers, there's a picture version of the 20+ goal scorers below.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Bundesliga 2013-14 Review

Another season comes to an end without too many surprises (Hamburg aside). Which players and teams excelled against the best opposition, and which were flat track bullies? Read on.....

Goalscorer Stats

First and foremost, the glamorous side of things, the fancy dans up front who take all of the glory by scoring the goals. Below is the Top 10 goalscorers with the level of opponent and how many points the team would lose if their goals were removed: 

Robert Lewandowski takes the golden boot in his farewell season for Dortmund to no doubt replace Mario Mandzukic as the centre of Bayern's attacking trio up front. On just goals, Lewandowski has out scored the Croatian and has done so in a weaker team. However, scratch a little deeper and you could argue that Mandzukic's goals have been more important - scoring a massive 5 goals against the other Top 5 teams - with two goals against both Schalke and Wolfsburg, as well as scoring against Leverkusen. Lewandowski on the other hand has just one goal against Top 5 opponents, equalising in Dortmund's 2-1 over Wolfsburg. Mandzukic can also claim to have scored more decisive goals than his replacement, contributing to 9 points for the team compared to Lewandowski's 6. In terms of penalties, Lewandowski scored four compared to none for Mandzukic. Will the Polish striker be an improvement for Bayern?

Elsewhere, only one player has more goals against the best opponents than Mandzukic, Hoffenheim's Anthony Modeste. He scored 12 goals (none were penalties) and half of them were agaisnt Top 5 opponents, as the Frenchman notched against Wolfsburg, Schalke and Bayern (for the full list of stats, click on the Bundesliga tab on the top Menu). He can lay claim to being the league's big game player/scorer whilst Mainz's Japanese international Shinji Okazaki is the most important to his team in terms of goals, winning 17 points for the team from just 15 goals.

At the other end of the scale, Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery contributed a combined 22 league goals, worth just 2 points between them. In fact none of Ribery's 10 goals were decisive to the final result. The flat track bully label can be hung on Josep Drmic who scored 17 league goals, only one of which was against the Top 5 teams, although it was actually Okazaki who scored most against the Bottom 5 teams with 7 of his 15 goals coming against the teams fighting relegation.

Team Stats

As you'd expect, this is heavily dominated by Bayern. They had the most wins versus the Top 5 (6 from a possible 8). In fact they had the most wins against Bottom 5 teams, and also the middle 8 teams. I guess the headline here would be that they won a lot of games. As always, AverageOpposition delivers a unique insight into football. Behind Bayern were Monchengladbach who managed a decent 4 wins against the 5 teams above them.

Hertha Berlin managed 11th place despite completely disgracing themselves against the Top 5 with a record that reads:

Played    10
Won       1
Drew      0
Lost        9
For         7
Against  22

Great job fellas. Dortmund must be rightfully embarrassed to have lost to them. Hertha actually only picked up one win in their last twelve matches, so their fans must be pleased that the season has ended.

In other team stats, Bayern's 7 goals conceded against the Top 5 is the league's lowest followed by Dortmund's 10, but when you consider they both finished in the Top 5, that's only 8 games each. Interestingly (depending on your viewpoint/definition) bottom team Braunschweig only conceded 16 goals against the Top 5 teams, and even managed a decent two wins and two draws against them. In fact they were sort of a big game team, beating an average placed opponent of 8.50 which was the highest in the league - shame they only managed 6 wins.

In terms of Losses, no team lost more than twice to the Bottom 5 clubs, whilst four teams didn't lose once to them. Crisis club Hamburg conceded the most goals against the best teams (29) whilst Hannover condeded the most against Bottom 5 teams with 10 against.

In the failure to score stakes, we can see why Braunschweig went down. In 12 of their 16 games against the teams in the middle of the table, they failed to register on the scoresheet. At the other end of the spectrum, Bayern only failed to score on two occasions in back to back defeats against Dortmund and Augsburg. Wolfsburg were the next most reliable team with just 4 clean sheets kept against them.

And whilst on the subject of clean sheets, no surprise to hear that Bayern lead the way with 17 shut outs followed by Wolfsburg's 14 - both keeping 10 clean sheets against the Middle 8 teams. Below is the full clean sheets data (you can see the same for Wins, Losses, Draws, For, Against and Failure to Score on the Bundesliga tool bar above).

Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga season reviews will be available in the weeks after the leagues end.