Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

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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Man Utd on 28-game unbeaten run against promoted teams … since Burnley 2009

Friday, August 29th, 2014

By Brian Sears

29 August 2014

Manchester United travel to Burnley for the Premier League’s lunchtime match on Saturday with a single point from two games so far, with Louis Van Gaal still trying to sort out the mess he inherited and with the British record transfer signing – £59.7m Angel Di Maria – in their ranks.

Their fans will also remember, clearly and painfully, the last time they went to Turf Moor, on 19 August 2009, when they lost 1-0 in a game that was every bit as joyful for Burnley fans as it was terrible for United. As one contemporary report described it: ‘Burnley marked the return of top-flight football to Turf Moor after 33 years with a memorable win against Premier League champions Manchester United. Robbie Blake’s explosive first-half volley crowned a night of high emotion as Burnley mixed passion with their trademark passing style to inflict defeat on Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.’

The upside for United is that in 28 Premier League games since against promoted teams, they have not lost, winning 23 of those matches and drawing five.

The harsh reality for clubs who have come up from the Championship is that more often than not they will get beaten by the ‘big’ clubs. As the table below shows, Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Liverpool have all average pretty much two points per game against promoted clubs over 22 years. Chelsea and United have average 2.3 points per game.

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 PL v promoted at 29.8.14

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The three promoted clubs this season (Leicester, Burnley and QPR) are still struggling to find their feet at the top table, unsurprisingly. Leicester have at least gained their first point (at home to Everton) but then lost to Chelsea and next they are visited by Arsenal, who the table shows have the third best historic record of gaining points from promoted clubs.

Indeed in the last two seasons Arsenal have won 11 of those 12 games played and drawn the other one, a 1-1 draw at Southampton on New Year’s Day 2013. Then again, three  seasons ago Arsenal lost 2-3 at Swansea and 1-2 at QPR in the first three months of 2012.

Chelsea’s wins this season over Leicester and Burnley have put them marginally ahead of United in our table.

After the international break, Burnley will be away at Crystal Palace who have a surprisingly successful record of their own when it comes to taking on the promoted sides. Of 22 games played Palace have won half of them and only lost five.

QPR, like Burnley, are also pointless and play Sunderland this Saturday. According to our table, on paper at least they must a sniff of a first point this season. They should make the most of it because a fortnight later they will be at Old Trafford and, probably, up against it.

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Everton’s failings against Arsenal and Co undermine top-four credentials

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

By Brian Sears

22 August 2014

Everton are widely and rightly expected to finish in the top seven places in the Premier League this season, as they have done for the past four seasons and in eight of the last 10 seasons. They are stable, consistent, have a talented (and likeable) manager in Roberto Martinez, and a squad with plenty of youthful potential, including multiple home-grown players.

But only once in 22 completed seasons of the Premier League era – the ‘monied era’, during which they have lagged behind financially – have they finished in the top four, and that was in 2004-05. In fact that was the only time they have finished in the top four since the 1980s. One significant reason for that is their poor record against the ‘bigger’ teams, specifically those, like themselves, who are ‘ever present’ in the Premier League era: Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa.

And as Everton prepare to host Arsenal at Goodison Park on Saturday, it is notable that, since 1992, Everton have lost twice as many home Premier League game against Arsenal (10 of them) as they have won (five). There have also been seven PL draws for Everton v Arsenal at Goodison.

Everton have also lost more times at home against Liverpool than they’ve won in the era (9 defeats, 7 wins), and lost more against Tottenham (7-5), and against Chelsea (8-7) and against Manchester United (14-5).

Away from home, Everton’s record against those clubs has been even worse; of 110 games against those clubs on their grounds, Everton have won just nine in total in the PL era, and lost 65. Their full record against all the current PL clubs in the PL era is in the first graphic below.

It also contains the stats for just the past 10 seasons, and the past five. The bad news is that Everton are becoming weaker over the years against Liverpool, although slightly better (NB slightly, relatively) against Tottenham, Chelsea and slightly better still against Manchester United. But they’re still some way from parity. And against Arsenal they are still taking less than a point per meeting on average. That’s why games for Everton against the ‘big’ clubs are arguably the best barometer of how they might fare in a season. And the first such test this campaign is this weekend.

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Everton PL v big boys

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H-away the lads: Toon visit Villa with history on their side 

Newcastle lost their opening Premier League game of the season and Aston Villa won at Stoke but Newcastle will visit Villa Park for Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off with history on their side.

Whether home or away, Newcastle have won more Premier League points from Aston Villa than from any other club (in total). At home, Newcastle have won 44 points in 20 PL games. Away they have won 30 points in 20 games. Of clubs Newcastle have played 10 or more times in the PL era, they have a better record even in points per game terms against Villa than against any club at home bar Southampton, and against any club away bar Sunderland.

The full record is in this graphic; article continues below

 NUFC rec v current PL clubs

Newcastle have won as many 13 times against Villa at home and won eight times in the PL at Villa Park, or more times than Villa have beaten them on their own turf (six). And this is not a story of only ancient history. Since Newcastle returned to the Premier League four seasons ago, they have played Villa eight times in the league, winning five, drawing two and losing just one.

And another thing …

This is the 23rd season of Premier League football and only once before have there been more away wins on the opening weekend of matches than this season’s six, and that was in the second season, when there were 22 teams, 11 games, and seven away wins. Five seasons ago there were six away wins on opening weekend but that was distinguished by being the only opening weekend without a single draw.

The present crop of six away wins follows on from last season when the rate of away wins over the whole season was at record Premier League levels. The majority of the away wins came from the clubs finishing in the top seven: Arsenal had 11, with 10 each for Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United, and eight for Everton.

Perhaps the ‘big seven’ becoming increasingly dominant over ‘the rest’ is the reason. We may find out more as this season wears on.

Aways in PL to 22.8.14

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Survival chances up but ‘at least one of Leicester, Burnley, QPR down’

Friday, August 15th, 2014

By Brian Sears

15 July 2014 

The Premier League is about to start its 23rd season, the 23rd season since England’s top division was rebranded ‘Premier League’ and effectively broke away from the rest of English football. The 23rd season of the ‘money era’ when TV riches have poured into the game in ever-increasing amounts. The 23rd season when the difference between the ‘haves’ of the Premier League and the ‘have nots’ of the rest of English football is especially pronounced.

That is the context for what is to follow: an assessment of the chances that this season’s promoted clubs – Leicester City, Burnley and QPR – will be able to survive this coming campaign without being immediately relegated.

To move quickly and bleakly to the point, it is statistically highly probable that at least one of those clubs will be relegated immediately. It is likely that more than one of them will go down. If we take the precedent of the past 22 years into consideration then it would not be a surprise if QPR and Leicester go down.

Why? (And remember, this is not personal, this is simply explaining what statistics tell us from previous years). As the first graphic shows, 65 promoted teams have played in the previous 22 Premier League seasons, with three each year except 1995-96, when only Middlesbrough and Bolton came up as the PL was slimmed down. Of those 65 teams, 28 of 65 have been immediately relegated (or 43 per cent). As such, we would expect more than one promoted team per season to go down, on average.

Actually, only one of three has gone down in each of the past six seasons (except in 2011-12 when none went down), so we might argue that surviving is getting easier. But in seven seasons at least two of three promoted clubs have gone down and in 1997-98 all three went down.

It is undoubtedly harder for a promoted team to ‘thrive’ in the sense of coming up and challenging for the top spots. Such a concept is laughable now. Yet as recently as 1993-94, promoted Newcastle finished third, as did promoted Forest the following season, while promoted Ipswich were fifth in 2000-01. That seems ancient history now. Of the last 21 clubs promoted, only one of them has finished their first season up in the top half of the table, let alone near European places. (Birmingham, 9th, in 2009-10).

Statistically, the most likely promoted club to go down has come up through the play-offs (a 55% chance), then the team who have come up as champions (41% relegation chance) and then the team who came up as second-tier runners-up (33% per cent relegation chance). On that basis, play-off winners QPR are most likely to fall, then Leicester, then Burnley. But of course sport is not so simple, or so easily predicted.

Promoted teams are particularly susceptible to relegation because, in general, they arrive with poorer squads and fewer financial resources than the existing Premier League teams who have been fattened on the PL TV riches.

Next we’ll consider the chances of the promoted clubs getting off to good starts this weekend, but first, here are the fates of all the previous promoted clubs in their first seasons in the Premier League after promotion.

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PL promoted teams in 1st season

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All three promoted sides – Foxes, Clarets and R’s – have experienced the Premier League before, Leicester for as many as eight seasons although the most recent one was as long ago as 2003-04. QPR have played in the PL for six seasons and as recently as the season before last, and Burnley for just the one season, in 2009-10.

What chance that any of the promoted trio will win on their returns to the PL? Leicester host Everton on Saturday as QPR host Hull while Burnley must wait until Monday to host title favourites Chelsea.

The 65 promoted sides of the past 22 seasons have only known 13 opening day victories (one in five) and there have been 16 draws alongside the 36 first-day defeats. The list of those 13 wins to encourage Leicester, Burnley and QPR is below.

Yet each of them statistically, historically, on average, has just that one in five chance, although the bookies have Burnley as a one in ten chance, with QPR likelier to win than Leicester but neither strongly fancied to win.

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PL promoted 1 in 5 od wins

Leicester have had three promotions to the Premier League before this one. On their debut game in 1994 they lost 1-3 at home to Newcastle but then they improved their opening-game results, drawing away at Sunderland in 1996 and at home to Southampton in 2003.

In their one previous Premier League promotion Burnley lost 0-2 at Stoke in 2009 and QPR lost 0-4 at home to Bolton in 2011.

At least the fixture list has been kind to all three promoted clubs, giving them home fixtures.

Leicester’s hosting of Everton is statistically intriguing. Here is their full Premier League history, and the significance of it is detailed below.

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LCFC v EFC in PL full record

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Which brings us to ….

Sears stat of week 15.8.14

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Leicester fans will be less keen to be reminded that they allowed Bolton the biggest ever opening-day win of any side promoted to the Premier League. That was on the 18 August 2001 and the five Bolton goals were netted by Kevin Nolan and Per Frandsen (two goals each) and Michael Ricketts.

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Arsenal’s unbroken post-war top-flight tenure puts them top of 15 ‘deserved’ PL teams

Friday, August 8th, 2014

By Brian Sears

8 August 2014

With the 2014-15 English football season about to begin, and with every fan still at the stage where they can dream that this will be the year, the notion of where a club ‘deserves’ to be is again a topic of relevance.

Up and down the country there will be supporters who will assure you that their team ‘should‘ be in the top four, or top six, or top division, or top two divisions. And there will be others who will assure you their team does not ‘belong’ in the lowly place where they currently reside.

It is uncontroversial enough to say that fans of Manchester United (and City), and Arsenal and Liverpool and Chelsea will believe they should have an excellent shot of finishing in the Premier League’s top four. Some Everton fans too, will probably argue that, and those of Spurs.

And there will be plenty from other clubs who swear their club’s ‘rightful’ place is in the Premier League. Leeds fans will be most likely loudest on this subject (with some justification). Those who support Blackburn and Wolves, both Sheffield clubs and Middlesbrough and Derby will also make claims.

Lower down the divisions, Coventry fans will tell you they really shouldn’t be in the third tier, and lower still, Portsmouth, twice champions of England, can argue that really, all things being equal, they should be at least two divisions higher.

Before we use one method to explore where clubs ‘should’ be playing, it is worth looking at a historic league table, from 40 years ago, the 1974-75 season, below. It is notable not only for the absence of Manchester United, and for the presence of the likes of Carlisle and Luton, but also for how many of the same names will contest the forthcoming 2014-15 Premier League; twelve of the same teams who contested the 1974-75 top division.

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1974-75 First Division final table, England

First Div 1974-75

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The very essence of the English league pyramid system is that clubs can go up and down. Any team can aspire to move from the non-league to the top division, and perhaps even Europe. Wigan in recent decades proved they could make just such a move.

And as was described in some detail on this website last year – link to the relevant article here – participating in the Premier League is on the verge of being a ‘majority experience’ for the professional football clubs of England. The ‘breakaway’ league, which began in 1992-93, has now featured 46 of the current 92 teams from England’s top divisions for at least one season each. The fact that half of all clubs have tasted the top division, even in this ‘monied era’ over the past 22 years, shows that upward mobility remains possible.

Yet most clubs remain fairly ‘stable’ in where they play their football. There is a certain order of dominance where the ‘big’ clubs tend to play high up, and achieve titles and cup wins, and the ‘small’ clubs play lower down, only now and again punching above their level.

In an attempt to measure this, and also highlight which clubs might justifiably show they are currently punching ‘above their weight’, or are temporarily below where ‘they should be’, we have looked at the post-war experiences of all 92 current clubs, specifically which division each club has played in for each of the completed 68 post-war seasons. (Post-war is used simply because it is one unbroken stretch of football history).

We have allocated each club four ‘pedigree points’ for each season spent in the top tier of English football, since 1946-47 (Premier League now, old First Division), and three points for each season in the second tier (Championship now, old First Division, even older Second Division), and two points for each third-tier season and one point for each fourth-tier season.

Arsenal, with an unbroken run of 68 years in the top division, have most points, followed by Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Manchester City. Using this measurement, those eight clubs are the eight clubs with the highest post-war ‘pedigree’.

And how indicative of success is such ‘pedigree’? Well seven of those eight finished in the Premier League top eight last season, Villa being the only ones who did not. So actually, on a broad level, such ‘pedigree’ is indicative.

In the first table below, we show how 15 of the 20 clubs for the 2014-15 Premier League season ‘deserve’ by their post-war ‘pedigree’ to be in the top division. This same graphic shows how Burnley, QPR, Crystal Palace, Hull and Swansea are all punching above their historical pedigree to be there – a commendable thing for those clubs.

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PL 2014-15 pedigree

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The graphic shows where each club finished in the league (1 to 92) last season; where their ‘pedigree’ says they ‘should’; and the difference. A difference in single digits is really neither here nor there. That Palace, Hull and Swansea finished 23, 28 and 36 places about their ‘natural’ post-war level is especially commendable.

Looking at the 2014-15 Championship (below), the post-war pedigrees of the clubs suggests that Leeds, Wolves, Forest, Middlesbrough and Birmingham should be in the Premier League. Subsequently their finishing positions last season were respectively 22, 30, 15, 15 and 22 places worse than they ‘should’ have been. At the other end of the Championship, the likes of Bournemouth and Wigan are punching well above their historic ‘weight’ just to be in the second tier this coming season, let alone any higher.

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Champ 2014-14 pedigree

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Moving down further, we see that Coventry and Sheffield United are the two teams clearly below their ‘level’ in League One, and that Portsmouth, Luton and Plymouth are below where they should be in League Two. It will be no surprise whatsoever if multiple clubs across the leagues who are in divisions above and below where they ‘should’ be don’t ‘correct’ that via promotion or relegation this coming season. In fact it would be a surprise if we didn’t see at least a handful of those clubs moving.

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League One 14-15 pedigree

.League Two 2014-15 pedigree

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It goes without saying there are multiple ways you can measure where a club ‘should’ be playing. The exercise above is just one method. This website has previously considered how a ‘deserved’ Premier League might be made up using multiple different factors, such as trophies or ground capacity. Link here.

Equally one might average out the finishing positions for all the clubs over 68 years. In that respect you would find Manchester United have a higher average finish position than any club: 5th place on average over 68 seasons. Arsenal are next best in 6th on average, then Liverpool in 7th, Tottenham in 10th, Everton in 11th, Chelsea in 12th, Aston Villa in 14th and Manchester City in 15th. The same eight clubs, in other words, who also have the best ‘pedigrees’ by division.

You could consider 100 years, or 130-plus back to the start of the league in England, or 22 years for the Premier League. You could find all sorts of patterns. And yet nothing, definitively, will tell you, for sure, what will happen this season. Which is the beauty of the game. Today – anything can still happen.

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