Quote of the Weekend
“My opinion doesn’t count,” he said. “I realise that now. All I can talk about is what led to it, which is us playing the occasion rather than the game.
“I will not get drawn into a situation where people have to make decisions and they affect me. Emotionally I am in the right place now.
“I would like to keep my money in the bank and pay for my own daughter’s wedding this summer.
“I don’t talk about other people’s players. If you want to meet me down the pub later on I will tell you exactly what I think.” -Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway in repsonse to questions over a controversial foul on Ashley Young by Kagisho Dikgacoi.
Five Things We Unlearned This Weekend
1. The Premier League is the place to come for goals! goals! goals!
Except the numbers say otherwise at the moment, in a must-read analysis from Mark Taylor. Taylor ran a simulation and discovered that the goal per game average in the Premier League is lower than one would expect, even with the relatively even contests we’ve seen so far:
The relative rarity of so few goals being scored in actual batches of 40 matches is repeated in the simulation for the 2013/14 season to date. The simulations using goal expectancy figures for all sides that would be consistent with figures seen over the recent EPL history, generated a season with 74 goals in the first 39 games once every 550 seasons. While a season that had 74 or fewer goals in the first 39 matches appeared once every 185 campaigns.
So, although not precluded from occurring under the kind of Premiership football we have witnessed over recent seasons, the first 39 matches in 2013/14 are extreme outliers.
Taylor offers up a few possible theories for the drop in the number of goals, including the fact so many high profile clubs have new managers (and at least one in Jose Mourinho who was not exactly known for his dynamic, attacking football), and that several major goal-scorers have either departed (Bale) or are suspended (Suarez) or have yet to start a game.
A look at the Premier League table shot and save percentages, normally a cornerstone of random variation (ie luck) in football, shows at least one interesting trend. Fourteen of the twenty teams currently have a shot percentage over 20%, which is probably unsustainable. Moreover, several of those teams don’t show a high shot dominance ratio, meaning they’re not exactly out-shooting their opponents so far. In short, it appears a few teams are scoring fewer goals on fewer shots. Whether this will simply revert to the mean over time is a matter of debate right now…
2. Players always take time to adjust to new clubs
We didn’t unlearn this exactly, but this was a good weekend for debuts. Mesut Ozil marked his Arsenal start with the highest number of attempted and completed final third passes, with two key passes and a goal to boot:
Gareth Bale exerted his influence with a goal and some defensive contributions as well in his debut performance with Real Madrid, a 2-2 draw against Villareal. But perhaps the most interesting was Christian Eriksen’s performance for Tottenham in their 2-0 victory against Norwich. Granted, it was a lopsided game, but he created the most chances, earned an assist, and joined Paulinho and Townsend in activity in the final third.
What does all of this mean? As ever, we need to be cautious about reading too much into too few matches. All of this is within the realm of luck, and we could reasonably see a drop off for all three players as the season progresses.
But it’s worth keeping an eye on, not least because it speaks to concerns over team chemistry when clubs acquire key players near the transfer deadline, and it could also demonstrate an improvement in how teams help welcome new players into the fold, perhaps going above and beyond the old “sign em and start em” attitude of old.
3. David Moyes will just do everything Alex Ferguson did at Man United, at least for the first season
Not so, particularly when it comes to Wayne Rooney. From the Independent:
Asked if there were any plans to deploy Rooney in midfield, Moyes said: “Not just now. I can only see Wayne playing up top and playing as a forward for us. I don’t have a goals target for him. But his targets have been big in recent years.”
The United manager also made it clear that the final third was not the only domain where he expected the 27-year-old to operate. “We will try and get him up there. But Wayne’s game is a little bit more. He has developed into one of those centre-forwards who drops into spaces to pick the ball up. He plays in a slightly different way so you have to appreciate him for what he does and his style of play. That’s what he is.”
There are all kinds of narrative threads you can pull from this, including the fact Moyes may have to kowtow to Rooney a bit to smooth over any ruffles ahead of the publication of former Man United manager Alex Ferguson’s book.
Or one could simply give David Moyes the benefit of the doubt as a football manager of many years’ experience following a very positive performance against Crystal Palace. More power to him, particularly if he can get more out of a player some believe Ferguson had written off ages ago.
4. Bayer Leverkusen will be a pushover in the Champions League
A long time ago in a Bundesliga season far, far away (last year, of course), it seemed the best bet for a challenger to the Bayern/Dortmund duopoly this season would be Schalke with its talented roster of up and comers. This was before the departure of Ibrahim Afellay to Barcelona and a long term knee injury to Kyriakos Papadopoulos, or a pair of opening draw and two losses which saw the side concede nine goals.
That was then, and Schalke have since picked up two wins, so it would be beyond insane to write off their chances for the rest of the season. But Bayer Leverkusen seemed determined to repeat if not improve on last season’s third place finish, sitting one point behind Bayern in the standings with four wins and a loss. Any notion that Leverkusen’s accomplishment was a fluke were at best misguided.
The success is even more remarkable as it’s come under the very green former Liverpool defender Sami Hyppia, whose playing career ended a mere two years ago. Hyppia detailed the transition from footballer to manager in an interview with Telegraph ahead of Leverkusen’s Champions League tie with Man United:
“As a player it was much easier. You came to training half an hour before, somebody told you what to do, and after training you headed to the shower and went home. Now you have to plan, instruct, think constantly about the next day, the next week, the next game. It’s wonderful that I was given this case. I didn’t expect it, and everything happened very quickly.”
Those who thought United’s CL group draw was a bye may have reason to pause tomorrow…
5. Gonzalo Higuain would be welcomed at Napoli like any new signing at any club would
Nope. Because this is Napoli:
Just a brief addendum to the piece I wrote on Ozil last Thursday that generated a bit of conversation. The point was not that Mesut Ozil is not a gifted passer of the ball, or that his ability entirely depends on the positioning of his team-mates.
Clearly in Ozil you have a visionary, as was in evidence in Arsenal’s 1-3 victory over a very determined Sunderland, including his incredible assist to Olivier Giroud. The point was merely to start thinking a little differently about individual match stats, and realize that while the numbers at the extreme end of the spectrum almost certainly indicate a unique talent (like Ozil’s), they cannot solely be attributed to that player and that player alone across all possible worlds.
GIF of the Weekend
The controversial Jozy Altidore “goal” that was ruled out as referee Martin Atkinson blew for a foul rather than play the advantage for the American Sunderland forward.
Interesting Read of the Day
Sid Lowe has a great take on the deceptive role clubs play in transfer negotiations:
Players always play where they want, they say, but when the window closed Wayne Rooney was still at Manchester United and Luis Suarez remained at Liverpool. Both had agitated for a move, both had fought as hard as Bale had, but their clubs had outright refused to let them go. There were other players too – some of them high-profile – who asked to be allowed to leave but were told that they had to stay. And when that happens, it is simple: There is no way out. If the club refuses to sell, the player cannot leave. Ultimately, power resides in their hands, not his.
Rolling Total Shots Ratio/PDO Table for the Premier League
Total shots ratio is shots for/(shots for + shots against), and it calculates shot dominance. It correlates very well to points finish in the table…for a better explanation, read this. In a few weeks’ time, we will include an expected points total in the table.
PDO meanwhile is just (sh% + sv%)*1000, and it is a rough measurement for luck, as these statistics tend to regress to the mean over time (except at the extreme positive end). A team with a low PDO should be expected to improve as the season progresses.
Finally, final third touches are a good predictor of future goals scored. Grayson has a post on the matter here, which breaks down the work of Mark Taylor.
|Team||P||Pts||TSR||PDO||Sh%||Sv%||Final 3rd Touches|
|West Bromwich Albion||4||2||0.426||890||12.5||76.5||580|