Three missed penalties. That’s nothing, right? Surely there will be many more this season for Manchester United to send home. Let’s not get bogged down by small sample sizes.
Except it isn’t. Last season in the Premier League, Man United were awarded 11 penalties and scored nine, with one miss and one save. So three misses by late September is kind of a big deal. As Opta noted yesterday:
And now the haymakers are plowing their way through Sir Alex Ferguson’s post-match remarks:
Asked about Nani taking over penalty duties, Ferguson replied: “To be honest with you, I had no idea. I think Nani just ran and grabbed the ball. I thought Robin should have taken it. I think we will have to decide before the game – that was my fault, I should have done that.”
Time to panic! Confusion reigns at United! Fergie has lost the plot! SACK EVERYONE NOW!
Perhaps more grating than any of this was the reaction last night to Nani’s mistimed stutter step on his way to having his penalty punched away like a drunk ex-boyfriend at a wedding, with hordes of English journalists lecturing the player on Twitter (who couldn’t check it as he was playing football at the time) on the best technique for spot kicks, which apparently involves running from the centre circle and walloping the ball hard in the top corner, just like Frank Lampard would have done. Obviously.
While I don’t have data about the success/fail rate for showboaty pens, I suspect those involving stutter steps or Panenkas or anything that looks slow and weird have just as good a chance at crossing the line as the straight-down-the-middle type pen.
After all, they’re just another variation the keeper has to account for, and are just as unpredictable in their way as hard shots to the top corner. While the latter might not be as stoppable, they are likely more prone to flying past the post or going over the bar.
In any case, missed penalties, while generally shitty, don’t seem to have been decisive for United this season; they won every game in which Chicharito, Robin van Persie, and Nani missed from the spot. As for Ferguson not deciding on the penalty taker, when there are generally so few throughout the season, and when United has had a historically good success rate, with some of the best penalty takers in football, it should hardly matter if Ferguson lets his players know ahead of time who’s supposed to take them, should it?