Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Arsenal bedevilled by too many draws as trip to stalemate Sunderland looms

Friday, October 24th, 2014

By Brian Sears

24 October 2014

The two Premier League clubs with the most draws so far this season meet this weekend when Sunderland (five draws in eight league matches) host Arsenal (ditto).

Ten places separate those two clubs, with Arsenal in seventh and Sunderland in 17th before the weekend’s action starts. And three points separate them. So tight is the table at this stage, in fact, that two wins could theoretically move Newcastle from the relegation zone to the Champions League spots.

Before we consider the importance of draws (and they are especially important to get or avoid depending on which end of the table you operate), here are the amount of draws secured so far by the 20 Premier League this campaign.

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PL draws 14-15 to 24.10.14

Arsenal have converted two of their undrawn games into wins but Sunderland only one of theirs, and the eight goals Sunderland conceded at Southampton last week has damaged their goal difference severely. Sunderland will need at least a five-goal win against the Gunners to move above them in the table this weekend.

The bigger picture on the relevance of draws is that Sunderland are just managing to keep themselves out of the drop zone by drawing all those games instead of losing; and Arsenal are not nearly as high up the table as they would like because they are drawing too many games instead of winning them.

As the second graphic goes some way to illustrating, teams that draw the most matches tend not to pull up too many trees. (Let’s not be coy; they’re a bit dull). And those that draw the fewest games are a polarised bunch of excellent teams (who draw few because they’re winning many) and poor teams (who are too poor to draw too many and just keep losing).

On that basis, we might crudely say the bore-draw specialists in the Premier League include Aston Villa, Stoke and Leicester, while the best teams (Man Utd, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea) are drawing similarly low proportions of games to the poor teams (like Burnley and QPR, and in years gone by, Barnsley, Reading and others).

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Draws PL to 24.10.14

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The phenomenon of too many drawn games has bedevilled much of Arsenal’s Premier League history, not least in the days when they were trying to compete with United. That seems a long while ago now, doesn’t it, for more than one reason?

Long-term, United have set the example of turning draws into wins to put them 216 points ahead of Arsenal over the 23 seasons of the PL era – the ‘monied era’ that makes it appropriate separating from the ‘pre-Sky’ years before 1992-93.

Aspirations to top the Premier League seem to involve avoiding too many draws. While the avoidance of relegation often involves gaining more draws by changing odd goal defeats into draws. As the long-term table above shows, Arsenal have a higher share of draws in their Premier League history than Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and even Tottenham as well as United.

But this season even Man Utd are slipping from their winning ways having already chalked up three draws from four away games played. That level of stalemate achievement should at least help keep them up ….

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Tottenham’s long-term dominance over City washed away by Mansour money

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

By Brian Sears

16 October 2014

When the Premier League resumes on Saturday after the international break it will do so at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City hope to close the gap on leaders Chelsea. City will play in the only fixture of the weekend where two current top-10 sides meet each other, against Tottenham.

Aside from Chelsea and City, only other club remain unbeaten away this season so far in the league, and that’s also Tottenham.

City and Spurs have played each other 34 times in the Premier League era and Spurs have a comfortable head-to-head lead in that period overall, with 20 wins to City’s nine, and five draws. Spurs lead the H2H stats home and away, with 11 wins to three at White Hart Lane and nine against six in Manchester.

But there is a massive contrast in their recent meetings compared to the period as a whole, since City hit the jackpot of Sheikh Mansour’s money. As the graphic below shows, six of Tottenham’s nine defeats to City have come since the ‘monied era’ benefits of Mansour’s oil wealth has turned City into trophy-winners again. (Or since 2010-11 in other words, when City won the FA Cup, their first trophy of any significance since the League Cup of 1976, some 35 years earlier).

City’s turnaround against Tottenham culminated in 6-0 and 5-1 wins last season. Tottenham have a worse Premier League record against City since 2010 than they do against any other current Premier League team.

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Tottenham v City

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And another thing …

Neutral fans wondering what many Newcastle fans have been moaning about in regards to Alan Pardew perhaps need look no further than the calendar year table below. Five wins all year; an average on 0.77 points per game; relegation form as well as bad to watch.

At the other end, only Chelsea and Man City have set the pace in 2014 as a whole, with Liverpool on their heels, although that was largely down to their 2013-14 form, not the 2014-15 start.  Arsenal are nine points off third over the 26 games of the calendar year, with Tottenham next, then Southampton, ahead of Manchester United, in turn ahead of Everton only on goal difference.

PL calendar year to 17.10.14

 

 

 

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Messi, Neymar, Suarez – bid to win a chance to watch them train and play

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

By Sportingintelligence

15 October 2014

Spanish giants Barcelona are among the sporting organisations contributing to a charity auction in aid of the late, great Bobby Robson, a former manager of the Catalan club as well as a former manager of the England football team. As Barca have detailed on their own website, the club have donated an exclusive trip for a winning bidder to watch the team train, and then watch them play at game at the Nou Camp.

The winning bidder will get to see Barca’s superstars – including Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luiz Suarez – behind closed doors and then in front of tens of thousands of fans. The auction, which is raising money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), is underway now  - click here to go to the home page – and has a range of ‘money can’t buy’ lots, including many from the world of football where Sir Bobby spent his entire working life. The auction ends on 19 October.

Other lots on offer include a trip to Fifa’s Ballon d’Or awards and gala dinner, tickets to the 2015 PFA awards, and seats at thiss season’s Champions League final in Berlin. There are also VIP experiences available at Tottenham, QPR, Newcastle, St George’s Park and the McLaren Formula One team.

Gina Long, the auction organiser, said: “We are indebted to the generosity of all those who have so kindly supported our special auction where 100 per cent of the money raised goes to the two charities. Words can’t express just how grateful we are for all the fantastic lots we’ve received.

“There really are some fabulous once in a life time opportunities to be had … Not only will you make a dream come true in meeting your heroes or getting your hands on signed merchandise, you’ll also be supporting the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and EACH – two fantastic charities who will change lives with the funds raised.”

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Sir Bobby Robson’s all-time foreign XI in English football

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Arsenal’s weakness at top-five rivals makes for daunting Chelsea challenge

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

By Brian Sears

3 October 2014

Arsenal’s away record against other ‘top’ Premier League teams has become a source of major concern in recent seasons. For the purposes of this article, ‘top’ is defined as any club that has finished in the top five in any given season. And the Gunners really have been woeful in this respect in recent years.

Their fellow top-five teams last season were Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton, and Arsenal lost away against all of them by respective scores of 6-3, 6-0, 5-1 and 3-0.

Arsenal did not win an away game against any of the teams finishing in the top five in the 2012-13 season either, or in the season before that, which included that 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford. It was a long ago as October 2010 that Arsenal last beat a team who went on to finish in the top five that season, when they beat City 3-0.

Here is Arsenal’s full recent record away at fellow ‘top’ teams over the past four season, highlighting that solitary win in the past 16 such games.

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AFC away at top-5

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Arsenal’s opponents this weekend are Chelsea, a team most rational fans accept as a ‘top’ team who will finish in the top five this season, and the match is at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal are pretty good in London derbies, in general, comparatively. There will be 30 of those capital derbies in the Premier League this season and five have been played already. Arsenal have played in two, winning at home against Crystal Palace and drawing away at Tottenham.

Arsenal came top in the inter-London Premier League table last season, as detailed here. But there is a ‘but’ …

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Inter-London PL 13-14.

In eight of 10 London derbies last season, Arsenal won.  And the only two blemishes came against Chelsea, with Arsenal only managing a 0-0 draw against them at the Emirates in December, before getting thrashed 6-0 away at Stamford Bridge in March.

It gets worse.

Arsenal spent the first half of the Premier League era (since 1992, aka the ‘monied era’) very much in charge against Chelsea, clearly ahead in the head-to-head meetings against them. Arsenal won 12, drew seven and lost just three of their 22 league meetings in the first 11 years of the Premier League, winning 1.95 points per game on average against Chelsea, who won just 0.73 points per game on average.

But in the last 11 years, since Roman Abramovich arrived and his cash transformed Chelsea, Arsenal have won just six of 22 meetings, drawn six and lost 10, for an average points tally of 1.09 per game, against Chelsea’s 1.64 PPG.

And in the past five seasons, Arsenal have won just two of 10 league meetings, and won none of the last five.

The good news, statistically, for Arsenal, is, erm, pretty thin on the ground. Then again, if they were able to produce a victory this weekend at the Bridge, it would be all the more significant because of what has gone before.

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Red to blue, CFC v AFC in PL

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And another thing ….

On 15 December last year Manchester United beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Villa Park and thus became the first Premier League club to win 100 Premier League points against a single opponent. In March United went on to complete the double over Villa and have thus gained 103 points from them in total.

This weekend United are at home to Everton and a win would see United notching up the second ’100 point’ total. When United visit White Hart Lane at the end of December they will also have another opportunity for a century of points to come up.

The biggest tallies club v club so far are:

Most pts h2h PL games

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Only five PL teams haven’t won away. Eight are yet to win at home

Friday, September 26th, 2014

By Brian Sears

26 September 2014

The Premier League season is already 50 games old (of 380), or 13.2 per cent the way through. Early days, yes, but one statistic that already looks odd is the amount of away wins so far, 18 of them against only 14 so far at home. Eighteen games have also been drawn.

Only five of the 20 clubs have not yet won away from home. The five are Manchester United plus the current bottom four in the table: Sunderland, QPR, Burnley and Newcastle.

Eight teams have yet to win a home league game: Hull, Stoke, Everton, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Sunderland, Burnley, Newcastle. The latter three have yet to win at all.

Of the five teams yet to win an away game, only one of them are playing away on Saturday, and that’s QPR, who visit Southampton.

This is QPR’s seventh season in the PL in different spells and they have played 122 PL away games, winning 28 of them (23%), drawing 26 (21%) and losing 68 (56%). They’ve scored 126 goals away in the PL and Juan Mata’s goal against them for Manchester United recently at Old Trafford was their 200th away goal conceded in the PL.

Only against two current PL clubs have QPR won as many as three times away. Everton are one of those clubs. This weekend’s opponents Southampton are the other.

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QPR away in PL

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And another thing …

How unusual was Manchester United’s defeat against Leicester? Pretty unusual, statistically: they had previously lost just 8.3% of games against promoted teams.

In the Premier League era United have played promoted teams 133 times including three in quick succession this season already.

They have now lost 12 of those 133 games, 11 of them in 21 seasons under Sir Alex, none last season under David Moyes (who steered United to five wins and a draw) and one defeat so far from three under Louis Van Gaal, against Leicester, following a win over QPR and a draw at Burnley.

The Leicester defeat was United’s first to a promoted club for five years since a single-goal defeat to Burnley on 19 August 2009.

Man PL losses to promoted

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Chelsea best against Manchester clubs … and winning start points to title push

Friday, September 19th, 2014

By Brian Sears

19 September 2014

Chelsea’s four wins from four Premier League games so far give them the only 100 per cent record this season. In winning their first four games, they become only the 16th team in 23 PL seasons to do so.

On four of the 15 previous occasions, it has been Chelsea themselves achieving this feat: in 2004-05 the run stopped at four wins on the bounce, in 2005-06 it went on to become a run of nine straight wins, in 2009-10 it became six, and in 2010-11 it became five.

Chelsea went on to win the title in three of the four previous seasons they started with four straight wins, with second place in 2010-11 being the only exception. Here’s a full list of the teams starting with four wins and what happened next:

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Four+ wins start of PL season

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Chelsea’s biggest test by far so far this season comes on Sunday when they visit reigning champions Manchester City, a club they have visited 17 times in the Premier League era (the ‘monied era’) in the league.

In those 17 games, they have won 11 times, drawn once and lost five. It needs to be noted that four of the five defeats at City were in the four consecutive seasons from 2009-10, with that losing run ended by Chelsea’s single-goal win in February.

Chelsea have an enviable record against both Manchester teams in the Premier League overall. In fact they have a better record against both City and Manchester United than any other Premier League team. They have inflicted 22 defeats on City in the era, 11 of them at City; and beaten United 15 times in the era, six times at Old Trafford.

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Chelsea v Man U clubs

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And another thing …

Chelsea have the leading goal scorer at this early stage of the season in Diego Costa, who has netted seven league goals in four PL matches so far.

Costa is one of 22 Spanish players to have featured in a PL game so far this season, and one of four who have scored.

In total, 385 different players have made appearances for the 20 clubs and 22 of them (5.7%) have been Spanish. Of the 111 goals scored, 12 of them have been scored by Spanish players (10.8%) so they are punching above their weight as a group, underpinned by Costa.

The 17 Argentinean players (4.4% of players) have collectively scored nine goals (8.1% of goals) and so are also punching above their weight.

English players, 126 of them, have scored 33 goals between them, which is not many fewer than they ‘should’ have scored. Just under one in five of all players (72 of 385) have scored at least one goal, and just over one in five English players (26 of 126) have scored a goal so far.

Goals by nationality PL14-15 to 19.9.14

 

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‘Anyone would think UEFA and a vice-president condone match-fixing’

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

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Match-fixing at the highest level in Turkish football has eroded all trust in the Turkish domestic game. As a report on this website detailed in March (click here to read)Fenerbahçe and others have been proved to be involved in the systematic fixing of games, with those involved including club presidents, senior officials, coaches and players. Many of those involved remain active in Turkish football. Some even played at the summer’s World Cup. Scandalous, you might think. But what have the authorities done about it? European governing body UEFA has suspended Fenerbahçe from European competition for a limited period … and that’s it. The club otherwise remain active in football, and they continue to play without any further domestic sanctions in the top division of Turkish football. Since the fixing has been exposed they have won the title (last season) and been runners-up in Turkey twice, participation uninterrupted. ENDER KUYUMCU contends that Uefa have failed in their duty to protect football, and that Uefa vice-president Şenes Erzik – who is also a Fifa ExCo member, and who admits on his Fifa profile he is a Fenerbahçe fan - has used his influence to ensure Fenerbahçe escape domestic punishment.

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Ender KuyumcuBy Ender Kuymcu

18 September 2014

Since the article in March that detailed the extent of Fenerbahçe’s fixing, this website has obtained a copy of the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on the case between the club and Uefa – a document that the club and perhaps the authorities do not want you to see. It has not been made public.

You cannot find it on any official website. It is an extraordinary document, 137 pages long, and it describes in great detail exactly how CAS agreed that a mountain of evidence shows matches were fixed, but also lays out, across clauses 575 to 577, how Uefa eventually drew a line under the matter without pushing for the maximum sanctions the governing body could have pushed for.

Many fans, myself included, have been sickened by systematic, criminal, endemic match-fixing in Turkey, and we argue not only that Uefa could have pushed for those harsher sanctions but Uefa should have – and are obliged to – keep pushing for the harshest possible sanctions.

The following clauses are taken directly from CAS report on Fenerbahce SK vs. UEFA case and clearly state that UEFA not only penalised Fenerbahce SK with the least possible sanction, but prevented CAS applying a sanction that precedent suggests should have been up to eight years’ ban from European competitions. These tougher santions were never an option once Uefa had decided not to file an independent appeal.

Those clauses as screen-grabbed from the actual document:

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Fener-Uefa 575-577

According to CAS regulations, any of their rulings can be published when they have been finalised. The CAS website details this in section 16 of the page linked here. The relevant passage says: “Generally speaking, unless the parties agree otherwise, the award may be published by the CAS.”

The ruling, from which the extracts above are taken, have never been made public via official channels. The UEFA website has also removed other material previously published about Fenerbahçe and fixing.

Sportingintelligence asked UEFA why the ruling has not been published. UEFA said: “UEFA has asked CAS to publish the full verdict, but it is ultimately the decision of CAS and you would therefore need to contact them directly.”

Sportingintelligence contacted CAS to ask why the verdict has not been published. At the time of writing, CAS had not responded. Edit, addition: Since publication of this story, a CAS spokesperson has clarified: “Please be advised that an appeal has been filed against the CAS decision at the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT). Until the SFT delivers its decision, the CAS has decided not to publish the award.” Addition ends.

Some fans also argue that UEFA have a duty to help ensure that those involved in match-fixing are forbidden from taking any further role in the game. It has been more than 13 months since UEFA said they would announce the sanctions of individuals involved in the Turkish match-fixing ‘as soon as possible’, but apparently this has not been possible yet.

One of Uefa’s disciplinary inspectors, Miguel Liétard Fernández-Palacios, recommended as long ago as 31 May 2013 that five named individuals at Fenerbahçe – including the club president – should have action taken against them, including life bans (see recommendation below).

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Fener MLFP

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Yet no such action has been taken. And no reason has been given. Uefa referred to the pursuit of individuals in a statement linked here, 13 months ago.

The key issue is that although regulations within the disciplinary code of the Turkish Football Federation make it clear that match-fixers should be banned, there appears to be no appetite to apply these. Worse, there appears to have been influential involvement from political figures, and a senior (Turkish) Uefa official to make sure these match-fixers are not dealt with.

As we shall explore in a moment, that senior official is Uefa vice-president Şenes Erzik, also a member of Fifa’s ExCo – and a Fenerbahçe fan from boyhood.

First let us consider the rules of the TFF. According to the TFF Disciplinary Code 55/1(b): Teams, whose board members are involved in match fixing or bribery, must be relegated to a lower division. Yet the TFF failed to apply this code and UEFA has not applied pressure to make it happen.

The TFF signed UEFA’s ‘Astana Resolution’ alongside other European federations on 27 March 2014. According to clauses 5f, 5g and 10 of the Astana Resolution the course of action is clear for the TFF – action must be taken against individuals. According to the Turkish Football Federation Status Article 2/f: The TFF has to obey the verdicts of UEFA and FIFA and make sure all parties guilty of fixing, including clubs, players, managers, officials and so on, also adhere to these verdicts too. They have not.

The TFF’s failure to apply the necessary sanctions to teams and individuals involved in match fixing has been no surprise to those who follows Turkish football because the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has himself stated several times that he wouldn’t let his team – guess which one? Yes, Fenerbahce – be punished. Any rational observer will draw the conclusion that the TFF obeyed his orders and made sure no sanction was applied.

A conversation the Turkish Prime Minister had with his son revealed the fact that UEFA vice-president Şenes Erzik used his influence to ensure that Fenerbahce were not relegated, despite the rules being clear that they should face domestic relegation.

Another episode in this case that leaves many Turkish fans bewildered was a meeting between former president of the TFF, Mehmet Ali Aydınlar, and UEFA president Michel Platini, in Cyprus. Mehmet Ali Aydınlar told the media he’d had a chance to convince Mr. Platini that a points deduction and not a relegation was the best course of domestic punishment for  Fenerbahçe.

UEFA’s statutes clearly show why they need to intervene.

Obligations of Member Associations Article 7bis: (1) [Fair Play, Statutes, Laws of the Game]; Member Associations shall have the following obligations: a) to observe the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship in accordance with the principles of fair play; Member Associations shall include these obligations in their statutes, as well as a provision that leagues, clubs, players and officials shall observe these obligations.

Previous serious fixing cases give UEFA a precedent to act, namely those involving Olympiakos Valou of Greece and FK Pobeda of Macedonia. Olympiakos Valou were relegated four divisions to an amateur league and FK Pobeda were banned from European Competitions for eight years.

As Turkish fans seeking justice, we expect UEFA to act according to their statutes and make sure TFF relegates Fenerbahce and all other teams involved in match-fixing, and ban the individuals from football, or else suspend TFF’s membership. AS UEFA’s rule say:

Withdrawal and Termination of Membership, Exclusion, Dissolution of a Member Association: Article 8/3 - A Member Association may be excluded from UEFA if it has: b) seriously breached these Statutes or a regulation or decision made under them;

Article 9; 1) If, in the opinion of the Executive Committee, a Member Association has committed a serious breach of these Statutes or regulations or decisions made under them, the Executive Committee shall be entitled to suspend the membership of the Member Association with immediate effect.

Unless the statutes and disciplinary regulations listed above are applied to Fenerbahce and all other Turkish teams involved in match-fixing, it is risible to talk about ‘zero tolerance’ to fixing.

UEFA should also consider whether it is appropriate for a vice-president of UEFA, Şenes Erzik, to ask Turkish clubs to back the president of the TFF, Mr. Yıldırım Demiören, in this case, meaning back him in not taking action against fixers.

UEFA might also consider whether it is appropriate for a vice-president of UEFA, Şenes Erzik, to talk about his role in the ‘success’ of Fenerbahce staying in the Champions League initially, before their ban.

UEFA might also wonder whether it is appropriate for a vice-president of UEFA, Şenes Erzik, to advise Fenerbahce how to take action against UEFA. Or, for that matter, whether it is appropriate for him to opine that there was and is no desire for UEFA to see the TFF punished in relation to this case.

Sportingintelligence asked UEFA a number of questions in relation to this case. These included asking why UEFA did not file the appeal necessary – as outlined by CAS – to hand Fenerbahçe a harsher penalty. Uefa said: “UEFA did not file an appeal, because the disciplinary decision was found appropriate.”

Sportingintelligence also asked Uefa to respond to the accusation that Uefa have not compelled the TFF to implement their own (TFF) rules, and that the Turkish PM Recep Erdogan had said Senez Erzik helped to convince UEFA not to press for action that would see Fenerbache relegated. UEFA said: “According to the principles of autonomy, the national associations decide on their disciplinary decisions autonomously. In principle, UEFA can only take decisions concerning its own competitions. All decisions by UEFA’s disciplinary bodies [about UEFA competitions] have been taken independently and without interference.”

Sportingintelligence asked UEFA specifically about the alleged lobbying of Michel Platini by the TFF president in relation to domestic punishment for Fenerbahçe; about the precedents Olympiakos Valou and FK Pobeda and why Fenerbahçe were not also punished so harshly; and about multiple specific alleged interventions by UEFA VP Senes Erzik on behalf of Fenerbahçe to reduce or stave off domestic punishment.

UEFA did not provide responses to any of these specific questions.

Anyone might think UEFA and their vice-president condone match-fixing.

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Manchester divided: young and English versus older and foreign, so far

Friday, September 12th, 2014

By Brian Sears

12 September 2014

It may all change when Louis Van Gaal finally unleashes his new-look starting XI against QPR at Old Trafford on Sunday but his starting XIs so far in this nascent Premier League season have been among the youngest in the division and among those with the most English players on average. Their 16 different starters in the league have had an average age of 26.3 years and they have used seven different English starters – bettered only by Burnley’s nine and QPR’s eight.

Across Manchester, United’s rivals City have fielded the team with the fewest English starters: just one, Joe Hart, so far. And the average age of their players so far has been 28.6 years. Only Everton have had an older average. It’s early, of course. Things will change. Van Gaal will almost certainly opt to use the foreign riches he purchased in the summer. But United’s young and English teams so far have contrasted with City’s more mature and imported XIs.

As the first graphic shows, Tottenham have had the youngest starting XIs on average so far (25.1 years) and Everton the oldest (29.3 years). The average age of the 272 different starters in the League has been 27.1 years. Liverpool, Southampton and Arsenal are among the others giving youth their head. QPR, Burnley and Crystal Palace join City and Everton with faith in the senior citizens of the game.

Liverpool’s starting XI that went on to beat Spurs 3-0 in the most recent round of games was the youngest starting XI in the division this season so far at just under 24.5 years old on average.  Steven Gerrard at 34 was counter-balanced by 10 others who averaged 23 and a half.

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Age nd nationality 14-15 to 12.9.14

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Of the 272 players who have started a Premier League match this season, 94 have been English, or 34.6 per cent.

Three clubs – Aston Villa, Burnley and Swansea – have started all their three games with the same 11 players.  Nine of Burnley’s 11 players are English, the exceptions being Michael Duff, from Northern Ireland and Scott Arfield from Scotland. Our table above indicates that five clubs have already used as many as 16 different players to start games. Manchester City have used only one English starter: Joe Hart. Newcastle and Chelsea and then Stoke have used the next fewest English starters.

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Age and nationality PL to 12.9.14

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Four teenagers have so far started Premier League games this season:

Calum Chambers 20 Jan 1995 Arsenal

Nabil Bentaleb 24 Nov 1994 Tottenham

James Ward-Prowse 1 Nov 1994 Southampton

Raheem Sterling 8 Dec 1994 Liverpool

Six players who have passed their 35th birthdays have so far started Premier League games this season:

Julian Speroni 18 May 1979, C Palace; Tim Howard 6 Mar 1979, Everton; Rio Ferdinand 7 Nov 1978, QPR; Clint Hill 19 Oct 1978, QPR; Michael Duff 11 Jan 1978, Burnley; Sylvain Distin 16 Dec 1977. Everton.

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… and another thing

Newcastle visit Southampton on Saturday with historical odds stacked against them. It will be the Saints 293rd home game in the Premier League and of the 43 clubs they have faced (Burnley will provide fresh Premier League opposition for them this season, Saints absent last time they were in the PL) they have gained most points from Newcastle, and among the most points per game.

The one Newcastle Premier League win in Southampton happened almost exactly 10 years ago on 19 September 2004 when a goal from Anders Svensson for Southampton was not enough to overturn a David Prutton own goal and Stephen Carr’s winner. It was the season that the Saints were to experience their only Premier League relegation from which, incidentally, three points would have saved them.

These historical stats often throw up fascinating by-products. Are there any Saints fans that still recall how difficult it was for their team to register a Premier League victory at home to Nottingham Forest … no win in five attempts.

Saints at home PL to 12.9.14

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Radamel Falcao: a symbol of Uefa shackling Manchester City in the FFP era

Friday, September 5th, 2014

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HerbieBy Ian Herbert

5 September 2014

Why didn’t Manchester City buy Radamel Falcao? It’s one of the unexplained mysteries of the transfer market.

They admire him. They would have leapt at the chance of buying him last summer. And now they go into the season with only three strikers, after letting Alvaro Negredo leave for Valencia on deadline day. It would have been one striker out; one striker in. Why not?

City were certainly interested, interested enough for their director of football, Txiki Begiristain, to have discussed the Colombian with the selling club, Monaco, when he arrived in the principality for the Champions League draw last Thursday.

The reason stated on Saturday for City’s decision not to proceed with the Falcao deal was the difficulty there would have been getting players off the books, to pay for him. But they did get players off their books on Monday. Negredo went off to Valencia, just like manager Manuel Pellegrini obviously suspected he would last Friday when he ducked three questions about the Spaniard’s future. Micah Richards went to Fiorentina, too. And still City did not move for Falcao.

The reasons lie in the financial restrictions imposed on City this summer. We know what they were because UEFA told us about them in May when they hit the club with a penalty for breaching Financial Fair Play rules.

Uefa’s detailed punishments are in the PDF linked here. City’s reporting of those sanctions were on their website.

Ueaf said City must:

  • Spend no more than £49m net in this summer’s transfer window.
  • Record losses no greater than £16m (€20) in 2013-14, and no more than £8m (€10m) in 2014-15.
  • Avoid increasing wages in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Well, City have managed the first bit. By our calculations, they spent a net sum of around £32m in the summer transfer window. (This comes with the usual caveat around transfer fees: transparency in the vast majority of transfer fees remains a case of wishful thinking, so numbers are put together in good faith based on the best available sources. But it’s still not legally declared).

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Transfer PL summer 2014

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If the £32m net is broadly right, then even shelling out the loan fee for Falcao – they were quoted £12m by his agent Jorge Mendes – would still have left them within the Uefa limit.

The club are also on course to achieve the second aim. The club are quietly confident they reached break-even or very close for 2013-14 and these figures will become public in due course, perhaps in December or January.

But the Falcao wages look as if they must have been the problem. Senior City sources have confirmed that City were quoted a £28m package by Falcao’s representatives, or a £12m loan fee plus a one-year wage bill of £16m.

The total package was hefty but the £16m wages in particular wasn’t a comfortable figure for a club ordered not to increase wages in 2014-15. All of which makes Falcao the symbol of what failing the Financial Fair Play test last Spring has meant for City.

Many of those who follow the Wild West world of Premier League spending consider FFP to be a tedious irrelevance. More still suggest that Uefa would be toothless when it came to introducing penalties. But the inability to sign Falcao may prove to be a very significant decision for City, come the end of the season.Falcao

Their planning and execution of a strategy this summer has been excellent, and testimony to the value of having a sporting or technical director, as I argued in The Independent this week.

Pellegrini will say that the sale of Negredo is not a problem. He will point to the midfield players at his disposal who can provide auxiliary attacking options, like David Silva and Samir Nasri.

But Negredo leaving was never part of the masterplan and it still feels mighty risky to have sold him and not bought Falcao, even though the former is recovering from a broken foot and would not have been immediately available. Risky why? Because two of the three strikers left at the manager’s disposal – Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero – have less-than-ideal recent injury records.

The decision to let Negredo go at all is actually puzzling, too. Pellegrini, after all was arguing after the win over Liverpool that he needed four strikers to retain the Premier League title. To quote him verbatim in the minutes after that match, he said: “We need four strikers.” Then he named them: Edin Dzeko, Negredo, Jovetic, Aguero.

Negredo’s loan to Valencia, like not signing Falcao, may also have been rooted in a need to get the wages down, with new contracts for Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, Aleksandr Kolarov, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko all taking their own salaries up. Footballers don’t sign new contracts and stay on the same wage, by and large.

City’s loss was Manchester United’s gain, where Falcao is concerned. With the Old Trafford club the only suitor at the table late on Sunday, the Colombian’s move was confirmed. The loan fee was between £5m and £6m – half of what City were quoted – which only goes to show what happens when there is not a market for a player.

But the biggest beneficiary from City’s loss could be Chelsea. The west London have not been hit by Uefa sanctions, of course, and on the basis of Diego Costa’s start at the club, have reason to be confident that if another close title race comes  down to goal difference, they have the personnel. Even though €1bn has been spent this summer by Premier League clubs on transfers, the biggest prizes hinge on the smallest margins.

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Ian Herbert, shortlisted as Sports Journalist of the Year in the prestigious Press Awards and highly commended in the SJA Sports News Reporter category  is The Independent’s Northern Football Correspondent (see archive of his work here). Follow Herbie on Twitter here.

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Tottenham’s handling of Liverpool a barometer of Pochettino’s top-six capability

Friday, August 29th, 2014

By Brian Sears

29 August 2014

Played two, won two, scored five, conceded none, and both games in challenging London derbies. Tottenham’s start to the Premier League season under new manager Mauricio Pochettino could not have gone better. Wins over West Ham then QPR leave them top of the table before the third round of fixtures, in which Liverpool visit White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Spurs in the Premier League era have moved from being a club who finished, on average, just outside the top half of the table for the first half of the League’s existence, to being a top-six side, for the past five seasons anyway, and for seven of the past nine seasons. Yes, they have slipped from fourth to fifth to sixth in the last three years but the core stability is there and Pochettino has been hired to reverse the small recent slippage.

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Spurs in PL era

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Liverpool are one of the teams against whom Spurs have an improving record over the last five seasons, as the second graphic shows.

Their 22-year average points haul in PL games against Liverpool has been just 1.1 points per game. More recently, the last five years, that has risen to 1.6 points per games, in spite of Spurs being on a run of three straight clobberings by their Merseyside opponents:  2-3 in March 2013 and 0-5 and 0-4 last season.

In the seven games before that, Tottenham won five, drew one and only lost one to gain their 16 points.

The graphic below shows improvements for Spurs across the board in the last five seasons except when they have met up with Manchester City (three wins, six defeats and a draw) and Liverpool’s Merseyside neighbours Everton (three wins, three defeats and four draws.)

Tottenham PL h2h to 29.8.14

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