Archive for the ‘Nil-Nil at Half-Time’ Category

Alfred 'Lux' Baloyi Designs The Famous Makarapa

There’s a lot that’s good on the web right now, so here’s a breakdown to prevent you from suffering internet overload.

In-Game Total Shots Ratio

This week Infostrada’s Simon Gleave directed me toward a post he wrote on Feyenoord’s in game Total Shots Ratio (shots for/shots for + shots against), which is just a simple but effective metric to judge dominance. Gleave in this case was making a simple and effective argument against the persistent idea that possession stats matter in football (readers of this site will know well they don’t, really).

This approach was spurred by Benjamin Pugsley on his WordPress site, which he’s been doing over the last few weeks. The lates is in application to the Real Madrid Galatasaray match. Pugsley deftly applies the graph to demonstrate the effects of game states altered by scorelines. Again, these things may seem “obvious” but they further peel away the layers of dross to look at what actually matters in determining true dominance in a football match.

Performance-related Pay

I think it’s all Paywalled up now unfortunately, but the Times’ Gary Jacob wrote an interesting post on the prospect of performance-related pay in order to encourage players by tethering wages directly to pitch performance.

Jacob notes this approach exists already in some cases, as with Luis Suarez’s bonuses and Swansea’s low base pay augmented by appearance and performance boosts. He writes:

“At present, players nearly always earn a fixed sum each week or a basic wage that is boosted by bonuses for appearances, goals, clean sheets and maybe a win. In some contracts, there are bonuses for league position and qualifying for European competition. Never are there any more complicated performance-related elements in the contract.”

Jacob specifically hints at advanced metrics which may be hitherto unknown being applied as a means to gauge “true” good performance, which could theoretically be tied to pay. I actually don’t think this is a good approach, for several reasons. One, each player has a distinct role within a club, which may change based on formation, tactical approach, and opposition. A “good” performance in one game may be a poor performance in another. Two, while players should take responsibility for their results, they are often only as good as the manager who directs them, the physio who attends to them, and their teammates. Three, and Jacob acknowledges this, a single player metric as bonus scheme could lead to players making selfish decisions to boost their own pay at the cost of the team.

In the end the current system of bonuses for appearances, goals, clean sheets and perhaps wins seems good enough to me. The manager should as much be part of this scheme as the players, if they aren’t already. Clubs win as teams using smart tactics against the opposition.

Predictive models

If you’re not a reader of Wallpapering Frog, you should be. The author has been working on a predictive model since January, and it looks fascinating. He’s a big fan of a simple, tailored approach, too.

Steve Fenn did some similarly great work using a method devised by Gleave for MLS. Some okay news for Toronto FC fans in there, I guess. Well worth your time.

Duped, rich footballers

Simon Kuper has a post up on FT on a criminally under-covered aspect of footballers’ lives: bad money management. Kuper writes:

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email to buy additional rights.

Hannah Southon, a solicitor at Harcus Sinclair in London who has represented several footballer-victims, diagnoses: “They feel slightly embattled. They know they are a honeypot and there are flies around them. Quite early on they are introduced to these financial advisers who hang around the scene. And the footballers are quite trusting of them. I think it’s because they met them so young.” Once an adviser has penetrated footballers’ circles, he often collects multiple footballer clients.

As I’ve learned recently, football is a sport surrounded by chancers and conmen and crooks. It’s very difficult for players without access to a reliable solicitor or accountant to prevent themselves from getting involved with someone who wants to steal their money. It’s a short post but I imagine there is more to this story…

Big Chances, Big Conversion Rates

One of the central mysteries this season is how Man United with a lower TSR than City and with some tepid performances in the Premier League managed to run away with the title. The “We Are Premier League” blog takes a look, and the results are very interesting, following upon Wooly Jumpers for Goalposts good work on Gareth Bale’s goal-scoring ability for Spurs.

Their conclusion is one of the more simple and decisive I’ve seen:

Man Utd have created the most Big Chances and also have one of the best conversion rates, in terms of total goals scored this explains most of the difference between them and Man City this season.

In other words, Man United both created and converted the most clear cut chances or CCCs of any English football club. This rate well exceeded their TSR. When United created chances, they were excellent, and they were not wasted. Whether that can be sustained beyond this season, and how United have managed it, is a subject for another day.

A better writer would spin these out into individual blog posts, but I don’t see one around here? Except possibly these guys =====>

Eat your lunch!

I’ll start with Gary Barry, as he is the Alpha and Omega of modern football, isn’t he? He’s not, no. So, The Independent writes the usual puff-piece about how a player wants to beat a team that they otherwise wouldn’t be expected to beat. The headline reads, “Gareth Barry wants Manchester City to shock Arsenal.”

This headline might have thrown you, because Arsenal are currently 6th in the table with 34 points, and Manchester City are second with 45 points. It certainly threw me. Until I read that “Gareth Barry is determined to ensure that Arsenal are shocked by more than just Mario Balotelli’s new hairstyle as Manchester City aim for a first league win away to the Gunners since 1975 this weekend.”

Barry, upon learning this utterly useless piece of information, he told his own website, “Football is like that sometimes but 37 years is extraordinary. Records like that are rare but are there to be broken.”

There are, as ever, some important caveats. First, Arsenal have been in the English top flight since 1919. Since 1975, when the club finished 16th, they have never finished lower than 13th place.


Meanwhile, Manchester City were relegated from the first division twice, in 1983 then again in 1987, returned to the top flight in 1989, then were relegated again in 1996. They won promotion, but then were relegated in 2001. Since their most recent slate of stability in 2002-03, MCFC have finished 9th, 16th, 8th, 15th, 14th, 9th, 10th, 5th, 3rd and 1st.

So, you know, considering all the missing seasons and generally being shite at football for ages, it’s a mighty big shock indeed that Manchester City haven’t beaten Arsenal away since 1975.

Enjoy the shameful joy, at least until you see your club in this list.

Let’s talk about Michael Laudrup talking about Michu. He said,

“I would never expect a new player to come in and score so many goals, but I can’t really say what expectation I had for Michu,” the Dane said.

Asked about enquiries for Michu, he added: “Well, to be honest, I’m not the one putting the price tag on him.

“We all know the situation – the general economic situation in the world – so there really aren’t that many clubs who can buy him.”

“There are some here (in England). In Spain there are only two and I think Barcelona and Real Madrid have enough players. Italy, I don’t think so. They’re trying to sell.

“Bayern Munich in Germany so really there is only few, few clubs and Michu likes it here.”

Here’s a riddle for you: if a player is so good that no club can afford to pay for him, does that not make him unsellable? And if he can’t be sold, doesn’t his potential transfer value diminish?

The spokesperson for the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association Paul Matz said these words:

“It’s not the first time that City have not sold their full allocation, and previously City were not a category A club, so ticket prices were only half the cost.

“City have got where they are by importing a sugar daddy, rather than through their own efforts, mirroring what happened at Chelsea a few years ago, so it’s bound to take a while before the level of their fan base catches up.”

Yeah, your sugar daddy helped, so don’t complain about paying Category A prices like the cool kids, oh by the way please lower ticket prices? Partisan football fans, ladies and gentlemen.

Simon Gleave Nate Silvers Manchester City’s title chances over here. Money quote: “Getting 89 or 90 points is almost certainly a bridge too far for Manchester City as only six clubs have taken 45 points from a sequence of 17 matches AT ANY TIME during a Premier League season over the last 12 years.”

Speaking of analytics, stay tuned for this. Should make for very interesting reading.

Mr. Fascist Salute says sportsmanship is over because a player did what Maradona did in 1986.

God, you know those days when you just stare through your Twitter feed and begin to wonder whether you even like football anymore? Then you end up doing one of these.

Lots of little things for you to try on. First, Major League Soccer schedule time! I have this thing with fixture lists, in that they don’t really much matter to me. You play this team at this time, you travel a lot, you watch home games, some months are more difficult than others. But as for meat in story sandwich, this is basically over-mayonnaised tuna. What the hell does it matter for example that TFC will be away, then home again, then away again against two Canadian teams and then an American one? It doesn’t matter. All that matters is if the team is shit or not, and we won’t have an idea of that until the Combine/SuperDraft/SupplementalDraft/MegaSuperTopDraft/SecretSpiritAnimalDraft. If you really need to look though, be my guest, loser.

Staying in Major League Soccer, by which I mean Toronto FC News, because really there’s only one city in Canada and one team in the league, amirite, Calgary? This kit really hammers that message home.
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Getting rid of this appointment post was not among my New Year’s resolutions.

I am overwhelmed by the amount of good stuff floating up to the surface of the Twitter toilet bowl today. Anyway, here it is, with minimal commentary.

Woah, calm down there, Luke Edwards! The Telegraph columnist goes positively apeshit over Demba Ba’s almost certain move to Chelsea following a triggering of a clause after an approach. Here he goes:

I can still vividly remember the first time I met Ba. It was an interview only a few hours after he had signed for Newcastle and I wanted to know why he had turned down offers from elsewhere.

Did he know about the region’s passion for football, the fans and their love for a striker? Did he like the stadium? Did the manager say something that helped make up his mind?

There was no excitement. No emotion. “I asked my agent, which club has made me the best offer? He said Newcastle so I signed for them.”

Ba is the ultimate football mercenary. He does not make emotional decisions, he is not hindered by a sense of loyalty, he plays football to earn a living for himself and his family.

The next sentence is basically, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” And the final four paragraphs or whatever essentially say, “There is something deeply wrong with that.” The reason being that his contract is a “distraction in the dressing room.”

What does this mean though? Does Fabio Coloccini ask him when he’s going to finally drop these triggering clauses at half-time? Edwards tries to make a case that Ba ‘forced’ Alan Pardew to shuffle him around to a more favourable position, but this is no different than players who aren’t as honest as Ba about what they want from football.

Every time I see these stories about bad apples in the dressing room, I’d like to know, in concrete terms, how a player’s open affection for fame and fortune affects their team’s position in the domestic table. Without that, this article is one long character assassination.

Anyway, do you want to know how useless Lawro’s Premier League predictions are? Here you go. This is not, by the way, to take the piss out of Mark Lawrenson. This is to make a greater point: that one should never, ever, punt on the blind predictions of pundits.

Michael Cox tweeted out this article, and I’m going to link to it solely based on who’s in the Number 2 slot.

If you’re going to read a single post on the transfer window (including the fourteen or so I wrote today), then let it be this one, by Prozone’s Blake Wooster.

I STOLE this video from Reddit (see! He admits it!), but I’m only doing so to make a point about things that are stupid. It is

  • Stupid to use a single instance of a single manager making remarks about a single player who would later go on to be quite good to draw conclusions about that manager’s ability to scout players
  • Stupid to use a single instance of a single fan saying things that later turned out to be very stupid to draw conclusions about fans of a particular club or fans in general

Got it? Good.

These things that have happened in the day time.

Half-baked Thought of the Day

Like the obsession over Lionel Messi’s goal in a calendar year record, end of year lists in football seem arbitrary. I was mulling over doing a best games of 2012, which I may still do this week as there were so many this year, but otherwise I face the concept with dread. Lists! Isn’t the internet just teeming with them already? What does this blog become if I hand over the editorial keys to the chaos of SEO? Don’t say Bleacher Report.

Anyway football doesn’t live and die in years, but in seasons (turn, turn, turn). With all the tournament retrospectives and Best of the Season Awards that clog up the bloggy arteries as it is, demarcating the calendar year to discuss the big stories in football is slightly gratuitous, although I do miss the end of year Footy Show quiz, which is dead, I guess. Just…dead. Or at least dead to me as I haven’t received an email about it yet KRISTIAN JACK.

So you’ll get none of that from me, save this best games thing, or maybe a best of Counter Attack slash Footy Blog). Although I don’t even remember what I wrote yesterday.

The Noos

I don’t know Neil Warnock personally, but I kind of think he’s a jerk. He looks like a jerk, which doesn’t help, and it helps even less to think of his face saying these words, about Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez, whom Warnock’s Leeds will face tomorrow in the Desperate Credit Card Company Cup:

“I haven’t thought about shaking hands yet. But I don’t think I should get into that because the last time I heard from Rafa he was threatening to sue me if I mentioned [the row] again. It was an email and I think it was his solicitor who was threatening legal action but I think it had Rafa’s name on it. I’ve got it in a scrapbook at home.”

He’s mad because Liverpool put out a crap team against Fulham late in the 2006-07 season to preserve the first team to try and win a European Cup. Fulham were able to win and stave off relegation, at the expense of Warnock’s Sheffield United.

This is so unfathomably stupid it’s hard to reasonably countenance. No Neil, Sheffield’s shit record of 10 wins, 8 draws and 20 losses and 38 points got your team relegated. It’s called league football.

Some Boxing Day Premier League fixtures are under threat because of a tube strike. Why not play them in France? Or, and I think this would be amazing, why don’t all home and away supporters march together in unison to the stadium? Form gangs and just take over the roads? Do people really need to drive places on Boxing Day? Harrods Sales go on for the whole week, I think.

It’s easy to play the “spoiled players” card when discussing Mario Balotelli appealing his Manchester City club fine for “on-field discipline” issues, but I actually think Balotelli has a case here. For one, like end of year best of lists, it seems kind of arbitrary. It certainly isn’t related to his yellows and reds this season, of which he has received 2 and 0 this season respectively. He tried to backheel and so gets a fine? He doesn’t score when he starts and kind of acts a bit huffy and gets a fine? It’s unprofessional and it takes manager Roberto Mancini’s daddy issues with Balo into the stratosphere.

Liverpool attacking midfielder Suso was fined 10,000 pounds by the FA for calling teammate Jose Enrique “gay” on the Twitter for having his teeth whitened. I’m fine with that. Players represent their clubs who employ them, and I’m sure there are rules of conduct in the Premier League no one is aware of because they’re boring. Also, fuck homophobia, even if it’s casual.

Anyway, FourFourTom responded with this. Which provokes the question: why does anyone follow FourFourTwo on Twitter? I think the answer is “Nickelback is a popular band.”

Premier League clubs inching closer to an agreement on FFP, yo. One or clubs like Aston Villa, who spent wildly and stupidly on players without being able to pay for them, oppose any regulation.

And finally, a nice Christmasy story involving Celtic replacing stolen gifts.

When there’s just too much.

FIFA has squashed one-time FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam like a bug. He’s resigned from football governance and, in the words of their press release, which notably doesn’t offer much in the way of background, “will never be active in organised football again.” This all references this business, in case you were wondering.

Some analytics business here: Infostrada’s Simon Gleave makes the pretty reasonable case that Chelsea are definitively, for all time, out of the 2012-13 Premier League title race:

The reality is that Chelsea needed to improve their 2011/2012 points total by at least 21 this season to have any chance of lifting the Premier League trophy. The last nine Premier League titles have all been won by clubs getting 85 points or more and there is no reason to think that this season will need fewer points than that, particularly as a total of 85 would be four fewer than last season as it is. Such a turnaround in points has not happened at all in the Premier League era. The last title winners to increase their points total by so many was Arsenal in 1990/1991 (+21).

Newcastle cancelled their Christmas party because they suck. Writes the Daily Mail:

The Magpies’ 3-1 home defeat by champions Manchester City at the weekend was their sixth in seven Barclays Premier League outings, and they head into Saturday’s clash with QPR in desperate need of three points.
As a result, the players’ customary celebration – they have travelled to Dublin and Glasgow as a group in recent years – has been called off.

I’ve never understood this. Couldn’t a Christmas party be a way to make players relax, feel a little more at home, enjoy themselves a bit? Couldn’t there have been prizes for charity, or something? Aren’t parties a way you shore up your team and give everyone a morale boost?

I suppose the fear would be all the players spilling out into the street wrecked out of their minds fueling tabloid garbage, but then you punish the players by providing non-alcoholic eggnog, flavoured with hot sauce or something. Come on, I don’t even work in HR and I know how this works.

Leonardo Bonucci dived for Juventus, very, very poorly. So poorly some adventurous soul was moved to make this video:

Finally, in Major League Soccer news, Juninho—the one who played for Lyon until 2009, and most recently with Vasco da Gama—has signed for the New York Red Bulls. The good news for MLS haters is he isn’t a DP, which would have been a minor (very, very minor) PR fiasco. The dude’s 38 years old, man, which is why NYRB is really underlining how he’s a dead ball specialist. He scored 11 goals in 50 appearances, so, yeah. It was Brazil, I guess?

Because constant appointment posts are the wave of the Internet future.

Well, no point in delaying this because everything in the football news world isn’t worth a standalone post today. Where to begin? Let’s read the entrails the Arsenal disemboweling shall we?

First, David Hytner states the obvious:

Arsenal do not intend to sack Wenger and Wenger does not intend to quit. He has said, repeatedly, that he always honours his contracts and his current one takes him to the end of next season. Ivan Gazidis, the chief executive, who runs the club on a daily basis on behalf of the majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, is hugely supportive of and sympathetic to Wenger. He believes in him; their ideology, their principles, their vision of the club as a self-sustaining business off-the-field and a stylish, distinctive team on it, are the same.

And so, la la la la. I think however (as tends to be the case) the Fiver, today written by John Doyle, is much closer to the heart of the matter in turning over a common myth that Wenger “buys intelligently” on the transfer market, using, admittedly, a small sample:

Wenger spent £10.5m on Gervinho (at the same time that Newcastle got Demba Ba on a free), £6.8m on André Santos (at the same time that Liverpool got José Enrique for £5m), £15m on Andrey Arshavin (that’s eight Michus, give or take a leg) and what feels like a lifetime trying to coax reliability from the likes of Marouane Chamakh, Johan Djourou and any number of other duds in whom the manager has invested heavily. So let’s not have any guff about the Arsenal board clamping Wenger in an enormous sleeping bag-shaped straitjacket.

It is indeed amazing how the myths of Wenger the astute scouter of talent has stuck to him like some Lee Dixon-sized barnacle.

Meanwhile Bradford’s pretty good 48 hours has continued with news the club has been reinstated to the FA Cup. The Telegraph reports:

The Bantams were thrown out of the competition by the FA last week because they did not receive written permission in time to play Newcastle loanee Curtis Good in the second-round meeting with Brentford on November 30, which finished 1-1,

But following today’s appeal, Bradford say the FA has decided to fine the club and allow them back into the competition.

Moreover, some Bradford fans have made funny t-shirts to commemorate the event, which you will likely see in some bargain bins somewhere in Scotland come July.

Elsewhere, J-League side Sanfreece Hiroshima has been feted for the celebration in the above video by the Daily Mail, because apparently nobody is happy anymore when they score goals in the Premier League: “We should be proud of the passion in the English game but would it not be nice if we saw our Premier League stars follow the lead of the Japanese players and start to bring some joy back into playing football?”

Because coordinated little dances equals unparalleled joy. Right.

In other Club World Cup news, Chelsea FC get their excuses in early.


This “Godfrey Chitalu is better than Messi” story is raging on, and on. I thought I would have something to say on this other than something involving these words in some sort of coherent order: “goals scored in calendar year arbitrary record”. There, I said it.

Apparently John Barnes wore tights because it’s cold in England sometimes. Which required a full length article.

Comment of the Day


Wenger made me do a WTF when I watched the game yesterday. Gervinho as a lone striker was a terrible decision. Podolski would’ve been a much better choice as he is very ineffective as a winger whereas Gervinho is a much better winger. Bad loss by them.

Thanks to Devang Desai for this illuminating screen cap.