Squawka: Four Bits of Squawking

Hello again! After more than a month without updating the blog, I’m back again, to write a quick ‘what I’ve been up to’ blog post.

Over the Christmas period I’ve written four stats-based articles for Squawka, one of them written while obeying the writer’s stereotype of being very tipsy and having a drink in my hand.

Before Liverpool played Manchester City, I compared David Silva and Philippe Coutinho, the flair players dribbling in from the left for both sides.

Click here to read David Silva v Coutinho

Also on Liverpool, I looked at the style of play and impact of Liverpool’s Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson at Liverpool, asking if, between them, they could compensate for the missing Steven Gerrard.

Click here to read Why Liverpool’s Midfield Are Proving They Can Cope Without Most Creative Red

On Boxing Day, I covered the Tottenham v West Brom match for Squawka, taking a statistical look at the events leading to a 1-1 draw in Timothy Sherwood’s first match as Tottenham’s permanent manager.

Click here to read Tottenham 1-1 West Brom

I haven't done any research, but I assume Tim was named after the forest. It can't be a coincedence.
I haven’t done any research, but I assume Tim was named after the forest. It can’t be a coincedence.

And finally, published on the 27th, I took a look at three players who the Express reckon Manchester United are trying to sign – Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus, Atletico Madrid’s Koke, and Southampton’s Adam Lallana. (This is the piece I wrote when tipsy, which might be evident by the fact that  one point I asked the reader “who do you think you’re looking at? Eh? Eh?”. Or maybe I got away with it.)

Click here to read Moyes Wishlist? Three Hugely Talented Superstars Who Could Join Man Utd.


And that’s my writing elsewhere brought up to date for now – I’ll be writing about other things in the days to come…


Squawka: Benteke on the Move

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke handed in a transfer request on Monday, with a host of clubs linked with a move for the Belgian striker.

It’s always a risk when a player changes club – will he be able to adapt to the new environment, to his new teammates, to the new tactics? There’s a lot more to consider than just the paycheque on offer.

Christian Benteke, running away from Aston Villa
Christian Benteke, running away from Aston Villa

I’ve helped Christian to make his decision, by looking at the tactics of the four English clubs linked with him – Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool, and how he’d likely be used by those clubs.

Click here to read Where Should Benteke Go?


The Premier League is Up in The Air

A little earlier in the week, an article I’d written was published by BornOffside.

Following the abdication of Alex Ferguson, not just from the manager’s office at Manchester United, but as the working figure with the greatest influence over the English game, that role is now up for grabs.

Will Moyes, who’s never won a trophy, rise to the extra pressure? Will Mourinho recreate his earlier success at Chelsea? How will Andre Vilas-Boas and Brendan Rogers build on impressive but mixed first years at their clubs?

For years, the idea of Alex Ferguson and Manchester United being on top seemed to be the default status quo – if they didn’t win the title one year, the feeling was that they would next year.

But now, there is the possibility of real change. The landscape of English football could look very different this time next year.

Who will claim this trophy next year?
Who will claim this trophy next year?

This was before the fixture list revealed that Manchester United would play Chelsea on the opening day, and Arsenal made an ambitious move to sign Gonzalo Higuain – if anything, the points I made have been underlined since.

Click here to read Who Will Set the Standards for the Premier League?


Squawka – Who Should Be Arsenal’s Next Keeper?

Writing for Squawka earlier today, I’ve taken a look at some of the goalkeepers Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in pursuing, comparing their performances from a statistical perspective.
Rene Adler, Victor Valdes, Asmir Begovic, Pepe Reina, Michel Vorm and Petr Cech are amongst those who’ve been linked, and I’ve also looked at Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone – the three keepers used by Arsenal this season.
I’ve compared their goals conceded and clean sheets; their amount of saves made; success in claiming balls into the box and their distribution.

I'd forgotten how much I liked their old badge.
I’d forgotten how much I liked their old badge.

Click here to read my statistical look at who Arsenal’s next keeper should be.


Benitez: Boo or Back?

Rafa Benitez has been appointed Chelsea manager, and some of their fans aren’t happy to have him. Benitez was booed at the weekend by his own fans, and Trizia Fiorellino, chair of Chelsea Supporters’ Group, has been trying to organise a refusal to accept him as manager.

Why is Fiorellino so set against him?
When Liverpool manager, Benitez said

“We don’t need to give away flags for our fans to wave – our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need.
“It’s the passion of the fans that helps to win matches – not flags.”

Fiorellino, discussing that statement this week, has said

“I feel it would be best for the manager to come out and fully explain his comments about the supporters. When he was the Liverpool manager, what he said was more than banter. I don’t think managers should get involved in that kind of thing.”

‘More than banter.’ Presumably he means worse than banter?

This is from a supporter of a club whose most beloved recent manager was Jose Mourinho.

I get that sometimes attempts to wind up opposition fans go too far, into tastelessness. Just at the top end of the English league, Alex Ferguson has been taunted by opposition fans referring to him as ‘Taggart’, which Manchester United have made formal complaints about in the past. Arsene Wenger, as a result of his Arsenal team developing young talent, has received chants of ‘Arsene likes kids’ from opposing fans. Giving that chants directed at the opposing manager are almost always insults, whether strong or playful, it’s doubtful that opposing fans who sang that were merely making a factual observation.
During the recent London derby when West Ham play Tottenham, an historically Jewish club, West Ham fans chanted in support of Adolf Hitler and hissed – presumably in imitation of gas chambers.
I don’t believe that there are that many genuine Nazis in West Ham’s support, it was almost certainly an incompetent attempt at playful banter gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I don’t want to argue that because he didn’t invoke the Holocaust, anything Benitez wants to say is fine. But I want to illustrate how close to the opposite end of the spectrum Benitez’ ‘controversial’ statement was. He didn’t even say that Chelsea do need flags to help create atmosphere, which I can imagine Mourinho saying in similar circumstances. You have to really look hard to see the insult in that quote.

That is… Unless… Is a love of flags a deep part of Chelsea culture? (It’d make as much sense as the celery thing.) Is criticising the beloved and ancient Chelsea tradition of waving flags so deep a cut that it causes deep and lasting offence?
Or was the flag thing just some random boardroom attempt to create passion artificially, and was Benitez being more critical of this kind of artifice?

By all means, Fiorellino (and any Chelsea fans who agree with him), if your love of free flags is so deeply held that you want to force out one of seven managers to have won the Champions League in the last ten years, who won the Spanish league twice despite being in charge of the third horse in a two horse race, and came close to winning the league with Liverpool, go ahead. (He won the Champion’s League with a team that included Djimi Traore. Surely that’s better than what Di Matteo managed?)

There is in fact, a decent argument to be made that Benitez, who has been out of work for close to two years, is past his best, and shouldn’t have been given this chance. But I’ve not seen that argument weilded nearly as often in the past week.

Is it an absolute rule that whenever the media want quotes from a fan to ‘represent’ the fanbase, they seek out the most dangerously unhinged supporter they can find?


The Truth about Hillsborough

On 15th April 1989, a football match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground, Hillsborough, went drastically wrong.

In basic terms, for those not familiar, crowd control issues meant not all fans were inside the ground by the time the match kicked off, and security decisions, as well as the ground was structured, made things worse. In the end, 96 Liverpool fans died needlessly.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, both the police officer in charge and national newspapers tried to shift the blame onto the fans themselves. The Sun famously claimed that many were drunk, violent, and that some were thieves and necrophiliacs. Sadly, I’m not exaggerating the last claim.

The families of the victims have fought long and hard to clear their collective names, with the results of an inquiry released today, propelling the story back into the headlines here in Britain. If you’re unaware of the facts behind what happened at Hillsborough, I’d recommend this article, which gives a pretty thorough explanation, but you’ll find dozens more written in the last few days.

Though I’m far from an expert on the facts of the story, I’ve written a brief emotional reaction to the news at Born Offside.