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How to make Chelsea even more dislikeable…
You’d think Chelsea’s season is basically over. An outside fluke chance of making Europe through the league, but that’s about it. But no. We’ll beat Leicester on the last day of the season, costing them the league so everyone can hate us more. You heard it here first.
Leicester: The greatest Mourinho team ever
In the Madrid locker room before a Champions League semi-final with Borussia Dortmund, José Mourinho assembled his team and outlined his instructions simply ‘Don’t lose the ball’, he felt that this match and the game could be boiled down to several salient points. Namely:
1. The Game is won by the team who commits fewer errors
2. Football favours whoever provokes more errors from the opposition
3. Away from home, instead of trying to be superior, we should encourage mistakes
4. Whoever has the ball is likely to make a mistake
5. Whoever renounces possession reduces the possibility of making a mistake
6. Whoever has the ball has fear
7. Whoever doesn’t have it is thereby stronger.
It didn’t work against Dortmund as they ran out easy winners.
Why do I bring this up?
Because that seven-point programme seems to be the exact model for Leicester’s Premier League success.
What have we seen from Leicester this year? A team whose counter-attacking has been the wonder of the league, they sucker you onto them and then release Mahrez or Vardy and you’re suddenly 1-0 down, you need to come at them now and what happens next? BAM, you’re 2-0 down and the game’s gone. In their games, Leicester have scored the first goal 66% of the time, the next closest team is Arsenal with 59% of the time. Further, in games where Leicester have scored first, they’ve gone on to win 80% of the time.
The statistics bear this out too, I think you could guess that Leicester are near the bottom of the possession statistics – third bottom in fact. In terms of Mourinho’s other points we see that Leicester are second bottom in being dispossessed and in the bottom half of losing the ball through a bad touch. It’s obvious that it follows – If you have the ball less you are less likely to lose it – but what that creates is an inability for the other team to capitalise off your mistakes.
If you’re capitalising off mistakes, then your chances are easier, you have a more direct path to goal, or there are fewer players between you and the goal. Leicester’s chance conversion rate is around 14% (the highest in the league) whilst Spurs’ is around 11%. If we look more closely we can tell where the goals have come from. Helpfully both Leicester and Spurs have scored 53 goals. Of those goals; for spurs 10 have been from outside the penalty area, for Leicester THREE have been (one of which includes Vardy’s opportunistic lob on the counter). It starts to seem less a statistical fluke that Leicester are scoring more of their shots and just that they’re taking their shots from ‘better’ or ‘more advantageous’ positions.
Returning to Mourinho, he believed that short passing moves were associated with ‘problems’ and one-touch football ‘created fear’ but that the long ball ‘brought calm’. Against Dortmund however, Klopp saw this as well. He knew that the Madrid team were uncomfortable forcing the game and that taking the initiative wasn’t something they’d be used to. He allowed them to have the ball and work from there. This has become the narrative about which the conversations about Leicester have pivoted from ‘when do they stop’ to ‘how to stop them’ and most are thinking like Klopp, let them have the ball and let them take the initiative. In their last four games; against Watford, Norwich, West Brom and Newcastle; Leicester have had more than 50% possession and (relatively) struggled to break the teams down. However in the corresponding fixtures earlier in the season – which they had won – that had less than 40% possession.
The lead they’ve built is insurmountable, they will win the league. Even if the end of the season shall contain their toughest games because of this change in approach. However by being the ‘reactive’ team, by maximising their chances by forcing mistakes, by ceding the possession game, Leicester may just be the greatest Mourinho team we’ve ever seen.
M (Anything to tie Mou to another league title) Yass
Leicester are no Pulis-ball side
I wrote in a month ago arguing that people were being ridiculous comparing Leicester to a team run by Tony Pulis. The arguments others were making were that Leicester were violent and didn’t attack. Now, people again seem to be likening Ranieri to Pulis. It’s absurd.
Leicester are joint top scorers in the league. Only Villa and Newcastle have scored less than West Brom. Leicester are eighth in the league in shots, while West Brom is dead last. West Brom have the most cards per game of any team in the league. Leicester have the second fewest.
If you go back years through all Pulis teams, they don’t score a lot, they don’t shoot a lot, and they always are near the top in cards.
And what would Leicester look like if Pulis coached them? It’s speculation, but would Pulis find room amongst his tree defenders to play a central defensive midfielder as short in stature as Kante? He’d probably play him as a winger or advanced attacker, if at all. And I can’t imagine him tolerating Mahrez’s frequent risk taking with the ball or his (though getting much better) rather slack defending at times. Pulis also tends to play tree-like target strikers, not at all like Vardy + Okazaki.
So again I say, not really at all the same as Pulis’ teams then.
People see one game on TV and then reach all these conclusions. Surely, the actual goals they have scored, the shots they have taken and the cards they have received over the entire season tell a more accurate, bias-free account of their performance than what some random person concludes after seeing them once on TV.
Actually, Leicester could surprise us in Europe…
So over the last week in the mailbox I’ve seen several comments about how poorly Leicester will do in Europe. But why do readers think they’ll do any worse than the current English teams over the last few years? In fact, I think quite the opposite and will be putting a few pounds on them reaching the quarter-finals (at hopefully really long odds).
As Ben McAleer’s recent article stated, Leicester are very efficient in their use of the ball, playing counter-attacking football with an extraordinarily high conversion rate of 13% resulting in the most league goals scored.
Against the top six teams in the league (which excludes Chelsea) their record is won 3, drawn 3, lost 2 with West Ham and United still to play. Hardly spectacular, but equally Chelsea last season cantered to the titled with 4 wins, 5 draws and a single loss. Funnily enough Arsenal top this six-team mini-league this season, which both shows how impressive they’ve been in addressing a previous weakness and makes it all the more disappointing that they’re so far off the pace.
Leicester also lack what I’ll call the ‘arrogance’ of your traditional big teams who are used to bossing possession, having superstars and winning week in week out. In Europe (and the league this season) this just hasn’t been the case anymore and I wonder whether part of the reason the classic top four teams have struggled is that they’ve failed to adapt their mentality in Europe and lack practice playing with the tactics and discipline required to win against the very best teams.
On the opposite side of this, expectations will also be low from teams in Europe, no matter what they say. So similar to the first half of this season, teams won’t take Leicester seriously leaving themselves vulnerable to counter-attacking football. If they display the same conversion rates with the improving defensive solidity (aided by a few summer recruits), they will be a real banana skin for even the top sides in the group stages. In the knock-out stages, away goals might suit Leicester’s style even more as they’re always going to play deep, be hard to break down and lethal on the counter.
I see them in a similar vein to the Wolfsburgs and PSVs (despite going out) of this season. They’ll be tough competitors and while the better teams will overcome them (and assuming they don’t end up in a group of death with their lack of seeding) then I think we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.
Tom Saints ( Arsenal are 500-1 to win the Champions League this year, in the most uncertain of seasons, where the impossible becomes probable, that sounds like a ‘good’ investment to me…)
There is hope for the Championship grunts
How brilliant would it be if Leicester, Spurs and West Ham get top three, Watford or Palace win the FA Cup and all promoted teams stay up at the expense of the high-spending north-east teams (possibly unfair on Sunderland).
Spurs aside, all the other clubs mentioned were in the Championship in 2012. This gives hope to clubs such as Forest, Derby, Middlesbrough, Sheffield clubs, Birmingham, Blackburn, etc. Basically every club in the Championship.
It would show that you can have success without spending hundreds of millions on transfer fees/wages for benchwarmers (see Sterling, Falcao, Di Maria, Benteke). It might also mean that the rich clubs stop spending insane money on players and start to develop young hungry players. United have clearly started to do this already and, as a neutral, it has been far more enjoyable to watch Rashford score than Falcao for instance.
I know this might not be good for our coefficient. But, I really don’t care about that. I enjoy competitive football where the underdog can have a realistic chance of winning. The Premier League provides this now, and it’s brilliant!
Toby (LCFC) Mitchell
Are Watford a blueprint for success?
Having just read Sarah’s seven reasons not to appoint Giggs, point six (Struggle to be objective) reminded me of something I thought about whilst watching the Arsenal v Watford game at the weekend.
Numerous times this season we’ve been told how the ‘Watford Model’ of running a club, new manager, lots of new players, etc, shouldn’t work but, for Watford, it quite clearly has.
This got me thinking, is changing a promotion winning manager such a bad idea? A promotion winning manager would obviously have a certain loyalty to players that have led the club to promotion, see Cameron Jerome at Norwich. This loyalty could possibly stop them upgrading said player, despite an upgrade clearly being needed.
Whereas, a new manager would be able to come in and evaluate the squad without feeling he owed any of the players a degree of loyalty for getting him and the club promoted. Making releasing players and upgrading them easier.
Would Flores have walked into Norwich and thought to himself ‘Cameron’s the man to score the goals to keep us up’? I doubt it.
This point may have been brought up in the past and I’ve missed it but I’m bored on Jury Service so I thought I’d share.
Just as an aside I have nothing against Cameron Jerome, he’s just the first person I thought of.
Kev (12 Angry Men), Essex
Fergie’s final United side were worst winners
Interesting point of view that Leicester would be the league’s worst ever winners. I don’t necessarily agree with that but who are the worst ever winners to date?
I would say that the last of Fergie’s titles was the worst previous winners. We had a poor squad, no midfield, wingers in terrible form and somehow SAF and RVPs’ goals got us over the line.
Worst-ever winner to me would be quite a compliment to Ranieri and the squad he has if they manage to beat all the other much more expensively assembled squads they have had to compete against.
Anyway, if they fail to win the title of the league’s worst-ever winners then they can maybe console themselves with the biggest chokers won away from Kevin Keegan’s ‘I will love it if we beat them, love it!’ Newcastle team
Jon, Joburg (I wanted to end with ‘good luck Leicester’ but don’t want to stir up another debate about luck. Damn it, did it anyway.)
Stats show injuries are on the rise
Injuries has been debated to quite an extent this season. What impact do they have to a team’s ability to compete successfully? Like the cool kid at the party in his bowling shoes and sporting turn-ups and a half-denim-half-corduroy jacket, I’ve taken the liberty of investigating the extent of injuries over the last few years to Premier League clubs to understand whether any themes exist, and I’ve turned over some interesting points. As a side note, I’ve done this with the help of injurytable.com who assign one point for every one player out for one week. So the statistics start for the 2010/11 season and cover up until today, and a couple of general observations include:
– The average number of points has increased over the last few seasons, from 148 (2010/11), 162 (2011/12), 157 (2012/13), 162 (2013/14), 177 (2014/15), to 147 (2015/16 as at today).
– Newcastle have the worst average of 260 points per season, peaking in the 2014/15 season of 347 points.
– Of the clubs present in every one of the seasons reviewed, Chelsea have the lowest average of 103 points. In fact, their points have been slowly reducing over this period.
– The top five for average points for clubs in every season are (average points in brackets):
1. Newcastle (260)
2. Arsenal (236)
3. Man Utd (216)
4. Aston Villa (194)
5. Tottenham (182)
– Comparatively, the bottom five are:
1. Chelsea (103)
2. Stoke (117)
3. WBA (123)
4. Man City (125)
5. Sunderland (158)
Some interesting observations have been the evidence that clubs with generally lower budgets have lower points. I suspect the size of squads and spread of competition play a significant role here, in that Arsenal will inevitably have greater scope for injuries due to a larger squad size and the intention to compete on four fronts. Clubs like Stoke, conversely (and with no negative intentions), aren’t expected to compete to such an extent. Chelsea are obviously the club that appear to be bucking this trend, and it can be considered quite surprising considering Jose Mourinho’s intentions to work with a very tight squad and limited use of academy players.
I recognise there’s a number of factors influencing each club individually, but I do feel that the steadily increasing average points per season is something to note. I do not have the data at hand to review whether this is reflecting an increasing number of short term or long term injuries, but it does suggest something is not working so well. In an era of increasing funds presented to clubs, the opportunity to purchase new players in the face of injuries to current players appears far too convenient. It does make you wonder to what extent clubs are taking their responsibility for rehabilitating players.
Pick hungry footballers, Roy…
With all the talk of Leicester wining the Premier League (although the surprise of continued success is getting annoying now) and the inevitable hysteria that is going to be created by England at a major tournament it got me thinking about how Leicester’s success can be used for England.
Firstly it has been mentioned in relation to Kante that other ‘big’ clubs had looked but he wasn’t famous enough…how many clubs in the top eight would take him now? Although not signed in the same time period it’s interesting to compare him to LFC Captain Marvel Jordan Henderson. Signed a promising young Englishman from a struggling Premier League side for around 20 mill, he has averaged around six goals a season. He is now captain of one of the biggest clubs in England and poster boy for Fifa. Having watched Liverpool over the past couple of seasons and appreciating they have been struggling at times, he looks an extremely average footballer. (Interested for LFC fans’ comments). Now he is obviously going to be an extremely wealthy young man (assuming Nivea pay well) but has he seen money and an advertising career as success? Do these things give him an overinflated idea of self-worth? It probably sounds a bit dramatic but one, does he feel he needs to improve as a footballer and two, why is he being rewarded for being extremely average?
The list could go on with players who have got the big move and money and stagnated, Sterling, Jones (although he has brand PJ4!), Depay, Oxlade Chamberlain along with underperforming senior players, Rooney, Ramsey, Smalling, Hazard to name but a few. Is success your name in lights and several zeros in your pay packet or assisting your club/country winning top honours? The other argument is why do clubs (and England) prefer to pick names rather than the best team.
So my message to Roy would be – put aside your Smallings, Hendersons and Rooneys and pick hungry footballers that aren’t tainted by money and profile. Players that can play not just be marketing tools.
That would be a side that I could get behind.
Strikers win you titles
Every year in my school, they would give out prizes to students who ranked in the top three of their class. I wasn’t a buffoon, more mid-table but in sixth grade, something wonderful happened. The toppers missed some exams (because they were sick or had to go to a wedding in the family or because they had issues at home). The theory subjects also had problems which was my strongest forte and believe it or not, I finished third with the lowest marks with which one could. I was actually on track for 1 but the final exams pushed me down to three, let’s say, the pressure got to me eh.
This exact same thing is now happening with Leicester. Their success is because the big daddies are failing or combusting or just not in the mood or mucking it up royally. Coming to think about it, we usually hear that defences win titles. This time around, it isn’t the defence but strikers who are missing or unavailable that is causing a title shift. City and United sold strikers that worked and bought players that didn’t. Sorry, Bony. Sorry Martial. Sorry Rashford or Wilson. None of you are Wayne…err scratch that. Selling Robin van Persie and Chicharito one season too soon has to be Van Gaal’s biggest crime. Selling Dzeko and replacing him with Bony has to be Pellegrini’s worst mistake.
Arsene should have upgraded his strikers while Chelsea sold one of their own (Lukaku). (How can you sell a Lukaku?).
The harder question is, do the best strikers want to play in the Premier League? It is physical and you don’t have much space or time to play (Depay for example). It clearly is different to Spain or Germany where things are more technical than physical. We already have the best goalkeepers in the world playing in England. We also have the best coaches now wanting to ply their trade in the Premier League. Will it be a matter of time before the best strikers want to ply their trade?
Mailboxers, what do you think would be easier? Prise more of the top midfielders, top strikers or defenders into the league? We have the money. Why would we not have the best players
I get that Giggs’ former teammates are going to – once again – rally around him and suggest he’s the best man for the United job. Precisely this happened before they gave it to LVG.
Back then it was Neville saying they Van Gaal wasn’t British enough. Now Dwight Yorke is saying Jose Mourinho is too old to run United.
That’s only eight years older than Pep Guardiola, and 18 years younger than Alex Ferguson when he won his last title with United.
The greater issue is probably that Jose won’t provide the long-term stability that United fans crave. Meanwhile, LVG has been a hilarious failure, so it’s unlikely Giggs could be worse, but saying Giggs is the only man for the job is farcical, given that he’s had minimal experience of the pressures of proper management.
But seriously, Dwight, using Gary Neville as an example of a young ex-player who is managing a team overseas…really?
ShaneO’ (“I really hope they give it to Giggs”, LFC)
City didn’t think creatively enough to replace Kompany
Two reasons why Kompany is still in a class of one, and I don’t think either has to do with gross negligence (let’s all please stop saying that, it’s only football for God’s sake).
First reason is arrogance. For example, you’d imagine that all the big English clubs were aware of Kante, Payet, Mahrouz, Dele Alli etc prior to their moves to the Premiership. However, social status seems to effect transfer decision-making quite a bit nowadays – a we’re-an-elite-club-we’re-only-in-for-elite-players-attitude. Thirty million for Otamendi ‘fits’ Man City better than five million for Kante. It’s brain-bleedingly obvious how this attitude has negatively effected Man United in the last three years, but it extends to this season’s other under-achievers as well – think Arsene’s annual ‘if a top player becomes available’ speech, Chelsea wasting a summer chasing John Stones, City overspending on every position but never really getting any better.
Second reason is the lack of elite players around the world right now, particularly through the spine (centre-back, centre-mid, striker). This is a big problem, if Elite-Player-O is the only store you’re shopping in. City have really, really tried. Otamendi was highly-rated. So was that French guy whose name I can no longer remember. But none of the Premiership’s traditional big guns have managed to strengthen the spine significantly for a number of years. The only exception I can think of is Chelsea with Fabregas and Costa, but even that improvement only lasted one season.
The two reasons are obviously connected and so the Kompany problem is surely solvable. It’s just that the solution is probably hacking his way through the Scandinavian winter at a mid-table Norwegian team, and only Leicester are thinking of buying him.
Stephen O’S, MUFC
Worried about Man City
Little bit worried as a Man City at the moment – form is poor, confidence low and now it appears our defensive lynchpin is essentially worth a maximum of 15 games a season. Kompany has a chronic calf problem and the rumours coming out of City for six months are that he’s essentially finished as this is gonna keep happening. 14th calf injury since 2008, 8th calf injury in the last three seasons (correct me if I’m wrong).
I can only assume he won’t play again this season and is a major doubt for the Euros. Will he ever be able to play 20 games in a row again? I genuinely feel for the man who personifies what a professional footballer should be as a man as well as ability-wise.
This feeds into the bigger point of City’s desperate struggle to qualify for the Champions League next season. It’s going to be difficult and make no mistake we may not make it. Then we have Guardiola playing in the Europa minus Champions League money and a massive rebuilding job to do if he wants a squad of players capable of performing to the level he demands. Is this gonna affect us badly or because of the massive amount of money in the Premier League it doesn’t matter too much? Someone put my tiny little mind at rest please…
Dan Toomey, MCFC
Arsenal doing their bit for the coefficient, actually
Just in response to Michael K, NY Spurs, blaming Arsenal for England’s drop in coefficient. You should probably check out UEFA’s ranking system on their website. In the last five years Arsenal are ninth with a total point tally of 104.581. This puts them second in England behind Chelsea. They’re ahead of Man City (15th with 89.581), Man United (20th with 78.581) and Spurs (21st with 71.581). Also, since England are fighting against Italy for their place, it helps that Arsenal are only being beaten by one Italian club, Juventus and only by two points. There are plenty of reasons to have a dig at Arsenal, but their contribution to the coefficient really isn’t one of them.
Love for Garrincha
That piece on Garrincha was just so good. The last few paragraphs almost had me in tears, and I immediately went and ordered Ruy Castro’s biography of the man.
Keep it up!
Harry to get involved with Jordan?
“Oh aye I’ll manage her. Isn’t she the one with the massive t*its?”
…I know Arry gets a lot of grief from some quarters (I’m not his biggest fan), and I think his ability as a manager is a bit underrated due to his, ahem, off pitch activity. When you consider the state of England under Schteve and Woy, that he has never been given a crack at that gig is nuts in my book.
However, I struggle to think of someone who is so entirely and brazenly full of s***. The two times he’s been on the list for the Newcastle job, his chat has been about turning it down because it’s too far away from the south coast.
Yet now I read that he’s DoF at Derby – the one just south of Sheffield, I’m assuming, as opposed to Derby-upon-Stout – and managing f***ing Jordan! Hardly round the corner is it?
And just to sprinkle a bit of sage on top of this BS salad, he says he’s doing it because he’s ‘missed the buzz of football’. Well personally I’m worried for him – all this travel is going to be expensive, so I just hope the issue of remuneration hasn’t been forgotten about.
Neil (at least he hasn’t blamed it on Sandra getting on his nerves, I suppose) Raines
…I see that Harry Redknapp has accepted an offer to manage the Jordan national team. I just have one question about this: does he realise Jordan is actually a country, and that he’s not being paid by some mysterious overseas benefactor to manage Joe Jordan?
…’Harry Redknapp agrees to manage Jordan’
What about giving good ol’ Jordanian managers a chance?
…Firstly, the ‘Redknapp linked with Jordan’ headlines were funnier than they should have been.
Secondly, the Jordanian national team should get used to hearing the phrase فقط سخيف المدى حول قليلا a lot. According to Google Translate, it’s pronounced “faqat sakhif almadaa hawl qalilanaan”. Admittedly, re-translating it gives the frankly better than the original ‘Only silly term around a bit’, but you get the idea.
The أدبي Ed Quoththeraven
Now go and read Peter G on DC United. He’s one of your own…