Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Barclays Premier League

Quote of the Weekend

1. United fans learned their lesson about hyping young débutantes after Federico Macheda

You might remember Macheda as the then 17-year-old whom a Gazzetta Dello Sport columnist called a Manchester United “legend” back in 2009 after he scored two critical goals to nab all three points against Aston Villa and Sunderland in consecutive matches. Today he appears to be perpetually on loan, most recently for Doncaster Rovers (where, it should be said, he put in a stellar performance this weekend, scoring the winner against Sheffield Wednesday). Kristan Haneage detailed the bumpy subsequent career path for the young Italian striker for ESPNFC a couple of weeks ago.

One would think the tale of Macheda would have warded off observers from piling the pressure onto 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj after a vital brace for a struggling Man Utd against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Then the Tweets started coming in, some comparing the England-eligible Belgian player to “a young Cruyff.” Even manager David Moyes couldn’t contain himself:

“I gave Wayne Rooney his Premier League debut, and Ross Barkley, and Adnan is certainly up there with those players in terms of quality,” Moyes said. “As far as debuts go, I would be surprised if even the great players in United’s past have shown such promise on day one. It wasn’t just the two goals, his whole game was outstanding. We know we’ve got a really special talent, but we’ll keep his feet on the He’s going to be a top, top player but I had him in the reserves last week. He’s a very humble boy, a pleasure to work with. I thought this was the right time to play him, because he’s just been so good.”

It’s perfectly natural to want to be on hand to witness the birth of greatness, but hauling out a pre-set mould like Rooney to pour such a young player into after a single debut can be counterproductive, even with Moyes’ Protestant Work Ethic caveat thrown in. I think we should stick with Michael Carrick’s perfectly reasonable observation instead: “He looks like a proper player.”

2. Sam Allardyce is a managerial simp

There was another young United potential prodigy who quickly fell off the face of the earth after an auspicious start: Ravel Morrison. Early last year the much-touted 19 year old English midfielder was sold on to West Ham by United in January 2012, six months ahead of the end of his contract. The reason? Well, he was an insufferable little shit, essentially, with no respect for authority. Bar-room wisdom dictated plainly that if Alex Ferguson couldn’t blow dry the fear of the Lord into him, no one could.

Enter Big Sam Allardyce. After Morrison spent last season out on loan to Birmingham City to get his footballing chops down, he returned to West Ham for this season. He has since scored two goals in six matches, and helped lead the charge on Sunday against an oddly hapless Spurs home at White Hart Lane in a side with no strikers. West Ham’s first two goals were flukes of the highest order, but they were the lucky result of a very solid process which saw the Hammers outshoot the wildly trigger happy Tottenham away from home.


By packing the side with midfielders, Allardyce set up a staunchly defensive unit to stave off the Spurs shot machine, but equally able to attack on set-pieces and on the break. West Ham’s extraordinary vigilance paid off, as did the manager’s trust in Morrison. Forget Steve Bruce, perhaps Allardyce deserves a little respect around here.

3. Gervinho’s move from Arsenal to Roma for a mere 8 million euros was a sign the Ivory Coast player was a flop

Gunners fans are having the time of their life courtesy of Mesut Ozil, but a few North London hipsters who keep their tabs on Serie A must be wondering what could have been with Gervinho. It was assumed, as with every other Wengerian cast-off of the last seven years or so, that he was just another unfortunate outlier within the Arsenal manager’s Excel file. Yet it appears so far that whatever wasn’t clicking at Arsenal sure as heck fire is working at Roma.

While the aged Francesco Totti chewed the scenery at Inter for Roma with a first half display worthy of a twenty year old, Gervinho quietly pitched in with an assist, a pair of shots including one on target. Roma easily defeated the home side 0-3 in the first half.

On the evidence so far this season, playing a strong second fiddle to Totti seems to be the role he’s best suited for, and coach Rudi Garcia, who first discovered Gervinho while at Lille, should know it more than most. Roma have won all of their matches so far this season, seven in total. As for Gervinho, Wenger, it seems, may not always know best.

4. With so many teams going into the playoffs, the end of the MLS regular season is anticlimactic

Sunday night’s epic tussle between Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers, which was billed as a race for the final playoff spot in the West, was about as thrilling as any non-playoff match could be. Portland seemed to be in control with their 41st minute strike care of Darlington Nagbe, but things went kind of nuts in the 76th minute, when three goals were scored in three minutes, culminating in Camilo Sanvezzo’s goal of the…what? Century?

That, plus the weird penalty shout in the dying stages of the game, made for one of several MLS classics that have come down the pipe recently. The playoffs themselves have a very tough act to follow.

5. UEFA Can’t make the Euros Any Worse with 24 teams and rotating hosts

Wanna bet, smart guy? From the Indy:

Revolutionary plans to expand the European Championship into a huge rival to the World Cup are being discussed by advisers close to Uefa’s president, Michel Platini.

In the biggest change to international football for three decades, the revamped tournament would see national teams from other continents invited to take part. Under the new blueprint, which is another sign of the growing rift between Platini and Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and even Japan would be invited to compete against Europe’s leading teams at Euro 2020.

Oh. Brother. Maybe Qatar can host it every four years.

Tactical Notes

It seems that the little guy isn’t just going to roll over for difficult opposition this season, at least in the Premier League. Several instances from this weekend, including a repeated reminder of Manchester City’s continued susceptibility to over the top passes, which saw Everton’s Jagielka reach Romelu Lukaku to give Everton the lead. Then we had West Brom’s respectable stand against Arsenal in a game that ended 1-1, but with the home side getting just narrowly outshot.

This came on the same weekend when United needed the heroics of Adnan Januzaj to give them a vital victory against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light after Craig Gardner got an early lead which Giaccherini should have doubled later on in the half. Chelsea too needed Eden Hazard and Willian to put the game to sleep in the 85th and 86th minute after Norwich’s Anthony Pilkington’s equalizer twenty minutes earlier.

Is this simply a weakening of the traditional big clubs? Or are smaller sides using a different approach? It depends on the club. City have proven vulnerable both on the break and in set-pieces, while United seem more unable to score in open play and put results out of reach. Other sides have not been afraid to match opponents in shooting, though as Sunderland demonstrated this can lead to a lack of fitness as the game wears on.

GIF of the Weekend

Spurs un-Ravel-ed:

Interesting Read of the Day

Sean Ingle with a great article on the difficulty of determining whether apparently stumbling Man City keeper Joe Hart is, in fact, getting worse:

We know, for instance, that while Hart’s save percentage from shots inside the penalty area has remained broadly constant since 2009-10 (around 64-67%), he has been letting in a higher percentage from outside the box in the past two seasons. Of course shot-based statistics lack context – where exactly on the pitch were they taken? What was the quality? What about the defenders’ positions? – but even so, all keepers believe they should stop an attempt from distance, whether it is struck by Johnny Metgod or Johnny Rotten.

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
Arsenal 7 16 0.529 1083 35.0 73.3 1403
Liverpool 7 16 0.469 1132 27.5 85.7 1319
Chelsea 7 14 0.648 1166 25.6 90.9 1352
Southampton 7 14 0.540 1138 23.3 90.5 1225
Manchester City 7 13 0.637 1048 39.5 65.2 1538
Tottenham 7 13 0.679 987 15.4 83.3 1569
Everton 7 12 0.564 903 26.3 64.0 1360
Hull 7 11 0.384 1067 30.0 76.7 926
Manchester United 7 10 0.561 924 27.0 65.4 1582
Aston Villa 7 10 0.483 1067 37.5 69.2 915
Newcastle United 7 10 0.592 836 25.0 58.6 1167
West Bromwich Albion 7 9 0.464 1136 35.0 78.6 1106
West Ham 7 8 0.472 1171 38.9 78.3 1060
Cardiff 7 8 0.366 1188 43.8 75.0 939
Swansea 7 7 0.522 894 20.0 69.4 1278
Stoke 7 7 0.483 890 18.2 70.8 1188
Fulham 7 7 0.296 1036 25.0 78.6 929
Norwich 7 7 0.412 973 26.3 71.0 1198
Crystal Palace 7 3 0.404 628 27.8 35.0 962
Sunderland 7 1 0.495 793 27.8 51.5 1147