Damned United? Stats suggest Man United will get worse

Date published: Wednesday 18th April 2018 1:26

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The potentially damned United?
Love it or hate it these days with the advances in computing and data available there is a ‘moneyball’ element to every professional sport which will only increase as time goes by.

The 28 United numbers got my inner geek drawing comparisons to baseball and all it’s statistical data , there isn’t one Major League Baseball team who now doesn’t use this data to varying degrees and in the long run the maths work.

Bear with me but one statistical data point that baseball uses is BABIP . This stands for batting average on balls in play. This means that when a batter hits the ball there can be three basis outcomes – a Home Run (out of the field of play), a HIT where the ball lands in the field where the batter safely makes it to first base or an OUT whereby the batter is caught or run out. Now there are random elements to the latter two numbers (as a Home Run cannot be influenced), but clearly a fielder can drop a ball , make a wild throw attempting a run out, the batter can fall over etc etc . This data is used to establish basically which players are lucky and which players are more skillful. Over a short period of time (which can be classified as a full season) it’s possible to remain lucky, but over an extended period the data will normalize and revert essentially to the average.

So why have I just confused the hell out of several readers talking about baseball, well these numbers that are coming from United indicate to me a number of things but the main ones are. Martial should start all the time, Lukaku should shoot more and Pogba should be sold… De Gea is clearly the best keeper in the league (world) and has to be kept. Sanchez should be annexed to whatever league would have him…

As regards overall team play however the trend is clear, United are overperforming this year and you would expect a reversion to the average next year. Therefore unless several signings are made you would be better placing a bet on United finishing outside the top four than winning the league. Is that third season Mourinho syndrome?
DL, (lies, damn lies and statistics) LFC , Geneva


Don’t believe all you read…
Is it a fact now that Man Utd will sell Pogba, Sanchez and anyone else who performed in the most recent game at the time of print? Because I am seeing it in almost every Man Utd article I read on F365. One of the main reasons I love F365 is because of Mediawatch and yet it seems to be accepted (and shared confidently) that these newspaper rumours are definitely true. There is no caveat, for instance, that it comes from newspapers (LOL Daily Mirror!!) and almost always follows a bad Utd performance (nothing after the City game). And that it doesn’t make sense and seems rash to suggest that Man Utd will give up and sell their most expensive player (on and off the pitch) as well as someone they just bought in January who is still getting used to the team (and has already shown what he is capable of). I just don’t understand why these are being shared constantly. I thought that F365, of all organisations, will know that, in the British sports press, there can definitely be smoke without fire, especially when you need to monetise an embarrassing defeat by a previously mega-successful club and prop up a failing newspaper industry.
Monty (Excited about Gareth Bale joining Man Utd because newspapers said so, two centuries ago), MUFC


Dembele to Arsenal?
I’ve just seen a sneaky article on the bottom of your fabulous website and I think I’ve cracked it. I think I know the exact player Arsenal need to sign this summer to get them back near the top of the league. It might seem improbable, and very risky, but if I was Arsene/Sven I’d rip up that 90 grand a week plus bonuses offer to Jack Wilshere and put that money in a giant piggy bank labelled ‘Get Mousa Dembele.’

There are obviously three big questions here. ‘Why would Spurs sell to Arsenal’, ‘Why would Dembele leave 3rd place for 6th’ and ‘Is it a good idea for Arsenal to invest heavily in a risky short term fix’. I’ll deal with the latter first.

More than any other position, Arsenal need a technically gifted midfield player that can pick up the ball from the centre halves and alleviate pressure. In my opinion that is the main reason why away form has been so bad. Xhaka normally does this job, and at The Emirates he is able to pick it up, turn, get his head up and his passing ability does the rest. Away from home, and against better sides, he is pressed and he does not have the technical quality when receiving the ball to do his job properly. This completely suffocates Arsenal, they have no quality wide players who they can get it to who drive up the wing and eat up space. Their sole plan is to move the ball through the midfield players into their technically brilliant playmakers. Putting Dembele into the Arsenal side would instantly improve them exponentially.

Yes it’s risky signing a 31-year-old with injury problems but Arsenal need to improve quickly. Dembele is one of the best players in Europe in this position and if his injuries play up, they have players like Xhaka/Elneny that they can rotate him with. A player of his quality would ordinarily cost a fortune, but the fact that he is 31 and in the last year of his deal, offers a window of opportunity. This is the position they need to find a solution to the most and they maybe need to gamble on it. They are desperate.

So why would Spurs sell? They obviously wouldn’t want to but they do have financial issues with the new stadium. I’d imagine it would take a big offer to tempt them but a 31-year-old in the last year of his deal? There has to be a price that is too good to say no to. They would expect Arsenal to cough up more than any other club but if Arsenal really wanted it, it certainly looks feasible.

And finally to Dembele himself. Yes Spurs have a much better side than Arsenal but nobody can argue that Arsenal are not a much bigger club. They have a lot more money and could afford to pay him probably 50% more than he is on at Spurs. Dembele probably thought his biggest contract had been and gone, but if Arsenal put an offer in, he’ll know he could get comfortably the biggest contract of his career until he is probably 34. That is almost always enough to tempt any player. Plus the fans would instantly love him. It could be spectacular.
Tom Goldenballs


PFA team will be destroyed
Just seen the Premier League Team of the Year. Attacking full backs?? No defensive midfielder?? Nicholas Otamendi….

That team would be pulled to bits on the break…
Robbie DFC
* Ridiculous it took them this long to include Aguero…


Masuaku should be in top ten
In response to the otherwise great Top 10 Fullbacks article I felt compelled to point something out…

‘Does anyone from Everton, Leicester City, Newcastle, West Ham or Bournemouth merit making the grade?’

For shame, F365. For shame.

Arthur Masuaku has transformed into one of the most exciting full-backs in the Premier League, while playing for one of the most top-to-bottom laughable teams in the Premier League. Defensively he can sometimes lack but defending as a fullback is almost less important than going forward nowadays.

And at that, he excels. a laser for a left foot that can deliver from anywhere past the halfway line and a completed dribbles stat that you could confuse with one little Argentinian. His ball retention has been exceptional and crucial for a club like West Ham. Oh, and he’s already won skill of the season (that’s a thing, right) for his ridiculous flick up and take it round a couple players thing he did against Spurs. Please type that in anyone that hasn’t seen it, he’s worth first place for that alone.

All jokes aside, he’s wonderful, and cracks the top ten. Bye Bertrand.


On stability v short-termism…
Tariq’s email this morning brightened my day. He could get a job at the Mirror with well thought out arguments like that.

First off, you can pose your own straw dog arguments as fact and then use them to pose the rest of your questions. That everyone is saying that Carlos Carvalhal has a safety first mentality. Watching Swansea play under Carlos has hardly been safety first. Same with Pardew. He actually set them up to play two up front and WBA got thumped. Mar Hughes has had how many games as Southampton manager now?

On top of that Rafa, Wagner and Dyche have all been accused of playing negatively this year.

The reality is that several of the managers on short-term contracts are well past their best before date. But they also know that shoring up a team’s defence is more likely to get you points than to try and playing flowing football a la Man City. When you have a -20+ gd it is a sign that something is not well.

In the past, there would only be one or two teams that could get away with bringing in a manager to solidify the team and fend off relegation. For whatever reason this year we have seen it five or six times now and they can’t all get out of jail.

Finally, watching the footie and the post footie show while at work is hardly pulling an all nighter.
Paul McDevitt


…Riffing from Tariq, a bigger element to that isn’t just alleviated pressure for managers but the notion of team/platform building and churn.

It’s staggering to me that QPR and Sunderland aren’t held as business cases for why result-driven hiring and firing is inferior to coherent long-term planning (potentially as football is driven more by power/money driven maniacs rather than the sane).

Players in and out on a revolving door, a series of (mediocre) managers with vastly different styles and playing philosophies, bringing in ‘firefighters’ which only delay the inevitable while stagnating the joint.

Brighton, Bournemouth and Burnley are great examples of building a platform and reaping the rewards of being the sum of more than their parts. Huddersfield might have rolled their squad over a couple of times, but the manager and board have a unified vision and successfully vetting players through loans they then bring on board permanently (sensible incentives).

Then if you just have a nightmare season and do go down, you have a coherent structure and a better chance to bounce back, rather than being consigned to oblivion or having to throw all the money in the world to fixing the problem (like Villa). Southampton will probably go down with Stoke and West Brom, but I back them to bounce back a lot quicker.

Even wealthier clubs benefit from the stability (Tottenham being best example of punching above weight in UK, Athletico in Spain).
Tom, (just don’t do an Arsenal and forget that evolution is a key ingredient as well) Now in Walthamstow


Wenger immune from stability rule
While I broadly agree managers perform better when they don’t have the sword of Damocles hovering over the heads, there was one name curiously missing from your list of managers – one Arsene Wenger.

Of all the managers in the league – his job is the safest and he’s been crap for years.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Suggesting a tweak to the ten-yard rule
In response to Paul in this morning’s mailbox – he’s right in every aspect of what he says about the ten yard rule.

What I don’t understand is why the footballing authorities are so unable to evolve rules by simply watching a match. The whole point of the ten yard rule in rugby is that territory is crucial in a game of attrition and potentially brings crucial three points into range or increase the chances of scoring a try.

One very simple tweak of the rule would be that if the team committing decent (that could be the team who ‘won’ the free kick or the team that conceded it) is then punished by allowing the opposing team to place the ball within a ten metre radius of where the offence took place you’d suddenly change the entire situation. Imagine that a team fouled in a ‘perfect’ spot then starts asking for a card to be produced and the opposing team have the opportunity to say “move the free kick to the touchline”. Or the defending team complains to vehemently that the attacking team can essentially pick a perfect spot from which to take the free kick.

I also don’t understand why, when a team is moaning about conceding a free-kick or penalty, the team with the free kick isn’t allowed to take a quick one. You know what will stop players moaning? The match actually continuing without them paying attention. Got 8 players and the keeper around the referee with a free-kick 20 yards from goal? I’m pretty sure players would be more interested in not conceding – especially if the ref then took further action such as yellow and red cards. Given we’ll have VAR in a few months, if the ref doesn’t see it go in, he can simply ask “any reason I can’t award that?”

There are so many ways that the authorities could actually use the rules to improve the way players behave (eg. having refs micced up, logical implementation of VAR, better communication, harsher punishments, education) and yet the only thing they seem to do is pay a marketing company to create adverts and banners for ‘respect’ campaigns that carry as much weight as this email.
Rob, London


What about a goalscoring opportunity being given?
Interesting topic being discussed in the mailbox regarding dissent and various tactics that can/have been employed.

In rugby the penalty kick is the same across the entire pitch. It provides a team with a direct opportunity at three points. There is no ability for the penalized team to save it, only opportunity for the taker to miss. Therefore the extra 10 yards forward is a very big advantage. In football this move forward 10 yards is not a bit advantage at all. Distance from goal matters great deal, any foul behind or near the half way line being moved forward makes no difference at all, even if the move brings the free kick within ‘range’ of goal, the defence can have a wall in place, and finally there is the small matter of a GK to beat as well.

I do like the idea however, and my input towards a solution would be to provide an immediate ‘Goal scoring opportunity’ against the offending team. That is should a player kick off at the ref for a foul (anywhere on the pitch) the opposition will be awarded a free kick from any position they prefer outside the penalty box. This means that if depending on your dead ball specialist the team can decide on the best way to utilize this goal scoring opportunity.

Direct shot on goal from left or right, dangerous ball in the box against a weak defence, or even an elaborate plan that has been worked on in training.

This means there is much more weight to any dissent.

I know some will think it will break the flow of the game if the play is at one end and then due to dissent the ref moves everyone to the opposite end to take a free kick. However once this actually leads to a goal, I believe the message will be heard and the situation will not arise too regularly hopefully.

Imagine if straight after you concede you berate the ref for perceived injustice and he immediately awards the opposition ANOTHER goal scoring opportunity instead of your team restarting play?

In the end we all want to see the players stop hurling filth at the ref for every decision he makes right?

For the record I think sin bins are also a good option to introduce, however I think that should be for the deliberate yellow card offences such as cynically stopping a counter attack etc and is a whole other debate.

What does the general F365 base think of this?

I think I’m onto a winner here.
Hatim (Is it dissent if the ref is being sworn at in a language he cannot understand?)


More Brits abroad…
Great mail this morning on Brits Abroad. Can I share one that may fly under the radar for many but is close to my own heart having once turned out at the real St James Park in the colours of the mighty Grecians.

That’s right, it can only be Rohan Ricketts. Once a promising youth prospect in the Arsenal academy, he never quite made the grade under Wenger before controversially crossing the north London divide to play for Spurs. A series of domestic loan moves was followed by a drop down the leagues to Championship Barnsley, who released him on a free only nine months into a two-year deal.

This is where Ricketts first turned his attention beyond our shores – he signed for Toronto FC the same day, and went on to score four goals from midfield in 39 MLS games. Eventually released to allow Toronto to meet their salary cap, Ricketts’ career path led him to Hungary (Diosgyori VTK); Moldova (Dacia Chisinau); Germany (Wilhelmshaven – nope, me neither) and eventually Ireland (the mighty Shamrock Rovers). After failing to earn a new deal in south Dublin, Ricketts was signed for the second half of Exeter City’s 2011/2012 season. After making just one substitute appearance, Ricketts was released as Exeter dropped back into League Two.

Undeterred, Ricketts’ global world tour continued as he moved on to teams in India (Dempo); Ecuador (Deportivo Quevedo); Thailand (PTT Rayong); Hong Kong (Eastern Sports Club); and Bangladesh (Abahani Limited Dhaka)

It seems somehow fitting in my mind that what can only be described as a true journeyman career, spanning 10 different overseas teams in 10 different countries across four different continents, and in the process winning the Canadian Championship (2009), the League of Ireland (2011) and the Hong Kong Senior Shield (2015), was brought to a close with Ricketts playing for just a month at non-league Leatherhead. I suppose you can take the boy out of England…
Terry Hall, Switzerland


…Enjoyed Joe, Midlands email on English players who played abroad, but I have to correct him on his assertion that Bentley was the only Englishman to play in Russia.

In fact ‘Comrade’ Jim Riordan played for Spartak Moscow during the cold war, as a half decent centre half (I believe he played for Portsmouth reserves) who’d learnt Russian during his National Service he ended up in the USSR and played for Spartak.

Admittedly, some Russian journalists doubt his claims, but I hope they’re true!
Jon, (found this out stumbling across the book; Comrade Jim: The Spy Who Played for Spartak) Bath City FC


Well done Accrington
I just wanted to draw attention to the phenomenal achievement down at Accrington, who were promoted to League One with four games to spare last night. Despite one of the lowest playing budgets in the Football League John Coleman and Jimmy Bell have them playing attractive football and the match-day experience at the Wham Stadium is a proper football one, not a plastic prawn sandwich fest. Massive congratulations to all involved, and here’s hoping we push on for the title, six points from four games will guarantee it, and the run Stanley are on at the moment is nothing short of phenomenal, they may well surprise a few teams next year, despite losing a number of their best players every summer.

A final word though for the Chairman Andy Holt. He is rather outspoken on Twitter and has attracted the attention of the EFL (McDonald’s gate anyone?), but he has poured money into the infrastructure at the ground (which those who frequent it will know was somewhat dilapidated), and steadied what was a very rocky financial ship. He also makes a ‘happy hour’ of a pound a pint in the fans bar after every home win, which must have cost him a fortune this year (only two dropped points at home in 2018).

This is a true football club in tune with the community, which makes such a difference in this era of fan alienation, and Accrington should be commended highly for this. With Burnley in Europe and Blackburn somehow (almost certainly) getting promoted despite their crazy owners, east Lancs is the place to be. I urge any proper football fan in the north-west to leave Old Trafford to the tourists and come down to the Wham Stadium before the end of the season, you just might be converted to real football.
Matt Porter, (oh yeah and we’ve got Bumble too)

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