Tuesday, April 24, 2012


No plan B sees brainless Barcelona go down to courageous Chelsea: Barça, for all their possession and control, could not find a way around a Chelsea side who deserved to reach the final (David Pleat, 4/24/12, The Guardian)

Chelsea were brave. Barcelona lacked brains. Sometimes you have to be blockers, hackers and whackers to achieve your goal and Chelsea chased and harried to prevent the waves of Barcelona attacks overwhelming them. The Barça performance gave ammunition to opponents of tiki-taka, as they played overly patient football against a lion-hearted Chelsea, who were left a man short after John Terry's red card.

Having the ball for 70% of the game is a futile statistic if you lose sight of your purpose in the last 40 yards. Incredibly, for all their instant control and movement, Barcelona could not penetrate Chelsea and drag defenders away from the centre. If ever they needed a different approach, it was here.

Unable to hit diagonal balls due to not having a big striker, they also did not shoot enough from distance and dismally failed to hurt Chelsea in wide positions. Chelsea refused to budge from the centre and Barcelona lacked the cunning to get round the back. With no space behind Chelsea's defence, Pep Guardiola's side made few chances, particularly after Lionel Messi missed a penalty early in the second half.

What's the point of playing 8 midfielders?

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Moneyball works better at Stoke than Liverpool : The style of Stoke City, four points behind Liverpool in the league table, is a rudimentary example of soccernomics (The Secret Footballer, 4/13/12, guardian.co.uk)

Personally, I have always found it difficult to get past the basic assumption that if a team have the best players then they will invariably win more often than not. But the stampede of elephants in the room today is that of a dozen Premier League teams who are so evenly matched that many of their games are settled on set pieces or carefully choreographed training-ground routines in which meticulous preparation and statistical analysis can be the difference.

In open play, a huge amount of study, from my own experience at clubs, is devoted to the calculation of what are described as final third entries, penalty box entries and regains of the ball in the final third (see the pressing game of Barcelona and, to an extent, Manchester United).

Stoke City's style is the most rudimentary example of soccernomics on a football pitch. Each full-back generally looks for Peter Crouch on an angle (final third entry) and, in turn, the striker will attempt to cushion the ball down into the penalty area (penalty box entry) for his partner or a midfield runner. It goes almost without saying that the higher these two statistics are over a season, the more likely Stoke are to end up with a shot on goal.

Add to that Rory Delap's long throws and the team's height, which they seek to exploit on set plays, and it is no surprise that Stoke score many of their goals in and around the six-yard box, where they have a succession of players making individually tailored runs, as was the case at Villa Park on Monday night, when Robert Huth headed home Jermaine Pennant's free-kick.

Where the success of soccernomics is concerned, Stoke are a great example of the match-up that is required between a set of tactics and the players who have the attributes to execute them to the fullest.

The point of pairing Carroll with Suarez is that one can score with his feet, the other his head.  But the crosses have been woeful, especially Charlie Adam, who serves no other identifiable purpose.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012


Andy Carroll scores as Liverpool edge Everton for place in FA Cup final (The National, Apr 14, 2012 )

Carroll – the club’s much-maligned £35 million record signing – glanced in a Craig Bellamy free-kick in the 87th minute to keep Liverpool on course for a domestic cup double.

It was the second time in five days that Carroll had come to Liverpool’s rescue after scoring an injury-time winner in the Premier League victory over Blackburn in midweek. [...]

“It’s the best feeling ever,” Carroll told ESPN. “I had a few chances earlier, but it was a great ball in from Craig [Bellamy] so I just had to score with that one.

“I’ve had some criticism but I’ve just kept on going. It’s a great feeling.”

Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, added: “He [Carroll] doesn’t hide and he takes criticism on the chin. That’s what we bought him for, to score big goals, and he’s delivered today.”

Sunday, April 1, 2012


NY, Lazio legend Chinaglia passes away (Fox, APR 1, 2012)

New York Cosmos legend Giorgio Chinaglia has passed away due to complications from a heart attack in Florida.

Chinaglia, the NASL’s all-time leading scorer with 243 goals, was 65.

Chinaglia was a star with Lazio in 1976 when he decamped for New York. Considered the greatest player in Lazio’s history, his move to the States was controversial and he was arguably the first player to join the NASL while still in the prime of his career.

...and how thirty years ago we used to complain that all he did was score, but if you watch guys play now you just wish any of them could put the ball in the back of the net.  The selfishness that made him a great striker ultimately destroyed the Cosmos, but in later life, as a radio talk show host, he was generous with and deferential to fans.

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