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Football Thread 2019/2020


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I think part of the problem is its never explained, especially on TV.

 

It's complicated and not always totally intuitive, but even some of the most basic stats are odd when you dig under the surface. Possession isn't how long you have the ball for (i.e. are in possession of it) - its a simple percentage of passes made in the game for your side. If a team made 10 really quick passes then let the opponents centre back keep the ball for the next 90mins unchallenged (I think this was a recent Burnley match) then the team that had the ball for a few seconds of the game would register 100% possession.

 

Ozil passes it sideways 2y on the halfway line to Ronaldo who skins the rest of the defence in a blistering run - thats another assist for the assist king. xA is something that again is calculated but not shown in mainstream coverage.

 

What I think I'm waffling about is that the data approach needs to be taken as a whole, with different metrics used that provide useful insights when used by skilled and savvy football brains, it can back up their hunches or highlight things they may be blind to. There is a key distinction between data and information, on its own data is just stuff, it needs some brainpower and understanding to get the value out of it.

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Now you've ruined possession stats for me! ;)

 

Very true about taking data as a whole though. In other sports, say cricket or golf, statistical application is much easier to absorb because of the timeframe given to a day's play. I can have both on in the background and learn so much because there is less of a compression in terms of time.

 

Pay TV allows for longer football broadcasts, but lacks substance in regard to statistical analysis because the majority of pundits aren't attuned to such things or the insightful ones get drowned out by more commercially-friendly 'banter'. I'd quite like analysts like Michael Cox to be given room on pre or post match broadcasts to deepen the understanding of data behind football (myself included). Of course, not everyone watching feels the same, so maybe such discussion will remain the meat and potatoes of certain podcasts.

 

As an aside, one of my favourite stats is how much a ball is in play during a match. For most top-flight games it's rarely, if ever, more than an hour. I don't really have a reason for finding that particularly insightful, it's just a quirky bit of trivia.

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The problem I have is that stats are used by too many people in order to provide some kind of pretend understanding of the game.  (Not, I hasten to add, here.)  I'm always up for an in-depth tactical discussion but the reliance on stats to make the discussion rather than positional analysis annoys me.* I found myself fascinated by Pochettino's Spurs fanatical need to not let the ball go out for a throw-in, Van Gaal stationed his wingers literally on the touchline, the way City like to enter the penalty area near the outer corners.  Even when Shearer is pointing out how a player is creating / exploiting space, I find that it helps a lot more in understanding the game and figuring out how much input the managers really have.  (Mourinho is the absolute best, IMO, at beating Burnley's tactics.  His teams isolate and nullify Ashley Barnes and the centre midfielders like no other.)

 

Obviously stats and analysis aren't mutually exclusive but I suppose the difference is between "he scored that because he's in a high xG area" and "he scored that because the actions of attacker X and defender Y left that space open to exploit."

 

The king of all "nice stats, no end product" for me was George Boyd.  Regularly topped the tables in yards covered but not a lot of it was to any effect.  He's being passed around in triangles and running and people would be saying "He's putting the effort in".  Yeah, well, he would have been more effective if he'd just bloody stood still!

 

*And fuck heatmaps.

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Simply Red and a load of balloons - what an opening ceremony! And Lee Hurst in the build up! I'd say we've moved on loads since then, but we've not really, have we? Really looking forward to kick off, I was following Liverpool prior to this tournament, but Euro 96 was the point at which I really turned on to football.

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Interesting approach from Brighton - given fans the option for remains of season ticket funds to have a refund, donate to charity, or let club keep it.

 

I've got a few quid sat at Arsenal on a pair of tickets and no way I'd Kronke & Co keep a penny of it should they offer the same. 

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55 minutes ago, Gotters said:

Interesting approach from Brighton - given fans the option for remains of season ticket funds to have a refund, donate to charity, or let club keep it.

 

I've got a few quid sat at Arsenal on a pair of tickets and no way I'd Kronke & Co keep a penny of it should they offer the same. 

Yea, dont think you are going to have to make that decision.

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4 hours ago, Gotters said:

Interesting approach from Brighton - given fans the option for remains of season ticket funds to have a refund, donate to charity, or let club keep it.

 

I've got a few quid sat at Arsenal on a pair of tickets and no way I'd Kronke & Co keep a penny of it should they offer the same. 


Brighton are a pretty decent community minded club, so I’m not to surprised at the choices offered. They do seem to do a fair amount in the community with some genuinely innovative policies. Both manager and owner are pretty savvy to boot. I’ve been considering getting a couple of season tickets there. 

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Seven years ago today.

 

Odd to think now that Watford finished this season in 3rd, missing out on automatic promotion by only 2 points. To put it another way, 2nd placed Hull won 24 and drew 7, while Watford won 23 and drew 8. One match that could be said to have made the difference - their December home game against Hull was a 1-2 loss, in which they hit the post. Given they ended up with a far superior goal difference than Hull... Oh for the fine margins of football.

 

Leicester on the other hand scraped into 6th, one point ahead of 8th placed Nottingham Forest, and on equal points but with a better goal difference than Bolton who finished 7th.

Their 3-2 win over Bolton in April included a Chris Wood goal that cannoned in off the underside of the bar and a Craig Davies effort for Bolton that cannoned back out.

Oh for the fine margins... etc.

 

Watford went on to lose the playoff final to Crystal Palace.

 

The following season they spluttered to a midtable finish, while Leicester were promoted as champions, racking up 102 points and captained by Wes Morgan, who would also be captain when they pulled off the greatest sporting achievement ever and won the premier league.

 

 

 

God I miss Championship football.

 

 

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The Guardian are reporting that Norwich want relegation to be scrapped if the Premier League finishes and the Championship doesn't. Their argument is that they should not have to forfeit a position in the league after playing all their games only to be replaced by a Leeds or West Brom that don't.

 

I don't really feel they have much argument. The Premier League and the Championship are separate competitions. I they get relegated from the former, they don't have any say in who takes their place or how.

 

There's a valid wider argument about what to do with promotion and relegation throughout the leagues, but this just seems to be Norwich trying to find ways of doing what's best for Norwich. I don't particularly blame them for that self-interest.

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2 hours ago, Fry Crayola said:

The Guardian are reporting that Norwich want relegation to be scrapped if the Premier League finishes and the Championship doesn't. Their argument is that they should not have to forfeit a position in the league after playing all their games only to be replaced by a Leeds or West Brom that don't.

 

I don't really feel they have much argument. The Premier League and the Championship are separate competitions. I they get relegated from the former, they don't have any say in who takes their place or how.

 

There's a valid wider argument about what to do with promotion and relegation throughout the leagues, but this just seems to be Norwich trying to find ways of doing what's best for Norwich. I don't particularly blame them for that self-interest.

 

Another point I saw on the BBC is if the Premier League comes back and there is promotion and relegation then depending on the turn around between 19/20 and 20/21 (although who knows how long that will be) you potentially have 2 or 3 teams promoted into the Premier League who haven't kicked a ball for 6 months vs 17/18 teams who have played relatively recently and visa versa for the teams relegated to the Championship.

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Also marks the last day Martin Tyler was a decent commentator :coffee:

 

Incredible gets banded around too readily with football, but that really was an incredible afternoon. To have a league title come down to almost the final kick is frankly ridiculous. Think only Arsenal winning it in '89 outmatches the drama by virtue of that being a direct shoot-out between the two title chasers, but City's triumph remains extraordinary.

 

The Totally Football Show did a good run-down of that season a few episodes ago. Worth seeking out, along with all the other flashbacks they're doing (last week had Man United's night in Barcelona). Added bonus there is minimal Paddy Power input to episodes at the minute.

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I was on holiday in Ibiza for that day. Watched it in a bar/cafe as a neutral with United fans on one side of the room and City fans on the other. It was almost as entertaining watching the emotional pendulum swing across the room as watching the actual football.

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Reports today that Championship hoping to come back a week before the Premier League on 6th June.

 

Which seems pretty optimistic given that means 24 more active teams on top of the Premier League’s 20 and at the moment Leeds would not be allowed to travel to us in Cardiff for their first game as Wales is still locked down. 

 

Plus now as England has unlimited travel and that then applies to Wales as well then why not drive all the way to your teams away game and then, if they have a Park very near the ground, just hang out there doing exercise or outside the likely supermarket next door.Cardiff has both!

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Oliver Kay piece from the Athletic today about the premier league restart - this is going to run and run.

 

Spoiler

“There is no altruism in the Premier League,” said the Watford chief executive Scott Duxbury. “There are 20 vested interests, which sometimes align but more often than not work purely to protect each individual club.”

Such candour has been all the rage among the Premier League’s sporting integrity lobby lately. “I can’t be in favour of something which disadvantages our club,” said the Brighton chief executive Paul Barber, joining Duxbury in outlining the case against using neutral grounds when or if the all-clear is given to restart after a three-month coronavirus-enforced suspension. “My duty is to my club,” said Aston Villa’s Christian Purslow.

Stuart Webber, the Norwich sporting director, adopted a warmer, more consensual tone on the Sky Sports Football Show on Wednesday morning, suggesting that top-flight clubs should look beyond the Premier League bubble to the serious threat faced by those in the EFL. He referenced Bury’s expulsion from the EFL in August, after years of financial struggle, and said that it “scares the life out of me” that other lower-division clubs might go the same way. “We’re not talking about that enough,” he said — and he’s right.

As for the situation facing the clubs at the bottom end of the Premier League, Webber was keen to point out that some of the accusations of self-interest have quietened since  bigger clubs joined the strugglers on Monday in asking for the neutral-grounds proposal to be reconsidered. “It’s disappointing when you’re dragged through it by so-called journalists and ex-players having an opinion when there were a lot more than six clubs who were against it,” he said. “It was grossly unfair.”

Webber abandoned any pretence of diplomacy, though, when Gary Neville asked him about the threat of relegation, given that Norwich are six points adrift at the foot of the Premier League. “In my opinion, Gary, it needs to be settled on the pitch,” he said. “It’s fine if you restart and three teams get relegated. Football should be played on the pitch, not the boardroom.

“But the Championship has to restart and play their games also. What we couldn’t accept is a situation where we played out our games and get relegated, but the Championship can’t play — because we don’t even know whether the government will let them play — and then they automatically promote three teams who haven’t finished the season.”

Neville invited Webber to clarify whether he was saying that, if the Championship season cannot be concluded, Norwich should remain in the Premier League — even if they were bottom after 38 games — and Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, Fulham and the rest should stay where they are. “That would be my opinion, yes,” he said.

It is a reasonable opinion, far from exclusive to those with a vested interest. Webber appears to have a far more rounded, less insular view than some of the executives who have dominated this debate so far (not least the West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, who could be heard proposing a “null and void” scenario as far back as March 15, barely 24 hours after the Premier League announced an initial three-week suspension in play), but I do wonder whether he or Purslow would have held such a position had this same crisis arisen in the final weeks of last season, when Norwich were closing in on automatic promotion from the Championship and Villa, courtesy of a late run, were heading for the play-offs.

The whole debate reeks of vested interests and self-serving agendas. It is wearying. It is also extremely disconcerting when a letter sent to the Premier League by club doctors, raising 100 questions about health, safety and liability issues relating to the proposed restart, is dismissed in some quarters as trouble-making by a handful of clubs with ulterior motives.

It sometimes feels as if concerns about health and safety — that should be the only truly serious obstacle to a restart — are being overlooked in the endless debate about other issues, which are tenuous from a sporting perspective (look, every club feels they would be disadvantaged by not playing in front of their own home crowd, OK?) and utterly irrelevant in terms of the bigger picture.

At a time when every club is pushing its own agenda in the name of sporting integrity, how on earth do the Premier League and the EFL find the “right” approach? You can pretty much guess any club’s position on Project Restart from their position in the league table. Have a look at League One, where Coventry City are first, Peterborough United are at risk of dropping out of the play-off places if others win games in hand and Southend United are 16 points adrift of safety. Take a guess which of those three clubs is urging the EFL to adopt a French-style points-per-game model, which is determined to carry on playing and which, funnily enough, wants the season to be declared null and void. Yes, that really was too easy, wasn’t it?

Purslow referred last week to the Premier League’s need to find a compromise that resolves “crucial issues at the top of the table” but which doesn’t “ask people to agree to incredibly damaging changes for their own particular clubs”. Hang on. Crucial issues at the “top” of the table? What about the crucial issues at the bottom that affect clubs like Purslow’s own? And how does this affect those clubs at the top of the Championship? Or am I reading too much into that?

These “damaging changes” were initially presumed to mean the proposal of playing matches on neutral grounds, which Purslow, like his counterparts at Brighton and Watford, is convinced would be detrimental to his club’s chances of avoiding relegation when or if the season resumes.

During a teleconference of Premier League club executives on Monday afternoon, this argument gained significant support among clubs who had less of a vested interest. Representations have been made to the government and the police. Quite right, too.

It made you wonder why, in contrast to the Bundesliga, the Premier League spent so long going down the neutral-grounds route in the first place. (Short answer: due to fears expressed by police and some local authorities that fans might breach social distancing guidelines by congregating around stadiums, particularly those in build-up areas.)

The more this debate evolves, though, the more it appears that even if all 20 Premier League stadiums were to be given the all-clear and the neutral grounds obstacle removed, more stumbling blocks would be likely to reappear: players’ contracts expiring, the impact of a three-month hiatus, the very legitimacy of matches played behind closed doors. At some point, concerns about health and safety might even climb all the way back to the top of the agenda.

And now the bottom six have found another straw to clutch. On Tuesday evening, the Telegraph reported a growing feeling among some struggling top-flight clubs that, if the Championship season cannot be concluded (which the EFL still very much hope it can be), there should be no promotion to or relegation from the Premier League.

To some, that makes perfect sense. There would certainly be an inconsistency in allowing clubs to be promoted from the EFL in an incomplete season based on, for example, a points-per-game calculation while the Premier League campaign was played to a bitter conclusion behind closed doors.

That argument does seem wilfully ignorant of the reality, though. The two leagues have been different entities since 1992, when the Premier League broke away in pursuit of a greater share of broadcast revenue, and the gulf between them is now more like a chasm. It is down to financial and logistical pressures, not preference, that the League One and League Two campaigns are set to be curtailed, leaving an almighty squabble over how to resolve those promotion and relegation issues. And it would be pretty abysmal for any Premier League executive to try to exploit those inequalities in the hope of kicking the ladder away.

You can, of course, understand the rampant self-interest. Relegation is, as Purslow put it, “a £200 million catastrophe”. This column has argued previously that the rewards for success and the costs of failure in English football are far too high, creating a financial model that endangers clubs by encouraging them to take wild risks in trying to reach and stay in the Premier League.

Brighton are a well-run club in many ways but, according to Transfermarkt,their net transfer spend over the past five seasons is more than £200 million, the ninth highest in world football. Villa are 12th in that particular table, despite having spent three of those years in the Championship, and West Ham and Bournemouth are 13th and 15th — just above Real Madrid. In any year, the threat of relegation after that kind of outlay would be worrying. Right now, in an industry that is already experiencing serious upheaval due to the coronavirus pandemic, it threatens to be much worse.

A personal opinion, perhaps at odds with the impression given so far in the article, is that it would be extremely harsh, bordering on unjustifiable, to relegate clubs from the Premier League or indeed from any other division on the basis of an incomplete season. In an earlier column, I proposed that, in the event of a curtailed season, the top two teams from the Championship should be promoted and nobody should be relegated.

The same should apply down the leagues. A 22-team Premier League would be far from ideal, but it would at least keep the legal wrangles and the very real sense of injustice to a minimum (with apologies and reparations made to Fulham, who lie third in the Championship, and at least a dozen clubs below them).

That charitable outlook, though, was based on the assumption that all 20 clubs in the Premier League would be doing everything possible — within health and safety restrictions, of course — to try to get the show back on the road. However, it doesn’t really feel that way with some of those clubs towards the bottom of the table, does it?

They have been told by the FA chairman Greg Clarke that “null and void” isn’t an option — that the promotion/relegation issues must be determined one way or another — but some of the public comments and, in particular, the boardroom leaks leave you with the impression that many of the challenges surrounding “Project Restart” would disappear if only the threat of relegation were removed.

In one sense, it was encouraging on Monday that the clubs discussed the need to make provisions in case of a curtailment. And perhaps this is where the cracks might start to appear in the marriage of convenience between some of the Premier League’s strugglers.

A straight points-per-game model would see Aston Villa relegated alongside Bournemouth and Norwich.

An alternative points-per-game model, weighted according to home-and-away performance, would see Bournemouth survive at West Ham’s expense. Are you still all in this together, guys? Guys?

What happens if word comes back from the authorities that certain stadiums are off-limits on local police or council advice? These might include Liverpool, given that the city’s mayor Joe Anderson has expressed concerns about the possible risk of fans congregating in the streets outside Anfield to celebrate an impending Premier League title triumph.

They might also, hypothetically, include Watford, whose stadium is adjacent to Watford General Hospital. At that point, would the “sporting integrity” lobby reluctantly embrace neutral grounds once more? Or would it revert to the line used by one executive: “Sporting integrity has already gone out of the window, completely. It’s all about money.”

It is abundantly obvious there are issues of sporting integrity to resolve — the title winners, European qualification, relegation and promotion at different levels of the game. It might be different if this was, for example, Major League Baseball, where the World Series was abandoned at the play-off stage in 1994 due to a players’ strike. Promotion and relegation is the very essence of the league structure in European football. The Southend chairman’s “null and void” option, which is barely less nihilistic than it sounds, is not an option at all.

At some point, these issues will have to be resolved one way or another. As Webber said, the best way, the only true way, is to settle things on the pitch, however long it might take to reach such a resolution. “Football should be played on the pitch, not the boardroom,” he said.

It should. Of course it should. The suspicion lingers, though, that settling things on the pitch is a risk that some of these clubs would be highly reluctant to take.

It would be entirely understandable if those misgivings could be put down to the various health and safety questions that still cannot be answered with certainty. But those fears also seem to reflect the threat of relegation and the absurd “£200 million catastrophe” that comes with it.

The madhouse of English football has built up culture of self-preservation, but with that threat looming, is it really any surprise?

 

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Funny how vested interests are a problem when the smaller clubs are doing it, and not, for instance, when the Big Six are claiming a larger slice of the international TV revenue.

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Does look like somebody is going to need to get creative to fix the impasse though, there is a UEFA v FIFA row brewing now to over international fixtures. 

 

With so much time getting taken out the football calendar then something has to give and people have to start admitting there is a priority and not everything can get played.

 

If you can't get agreement on promo & relegation between the Prem & Championship then promo Leeds & WBA (if you can't finish that league) and have a bigger PL next season, with more relegation, but bin the League Cup to make room. That eases the threat of legal action in the short term from clubs but means TV won't pay up as don't want a load of meaningless dead rubbers, so leaves a financial black hole. 

 

I can't see how the teams in the bottom half get their full TV cheque and avoid the threat of relegation this season. 

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Promoting two extra teams means the Premier clubs don't get their full TV cheque anyway.  There are also rules around minimum broadcasts, plus if Sky and BT have paid for every game in a 20 club league, what happens to the extra 84 (?) games brought on by a 22 club league?  And how do they get back down to 20?

 

(Not aiming this at you, BTW. It's one big unholy mess.  I'm definitely now leaning towards "play this season out whenever you can and treat 2021-22 as a completely dead rubber".)

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Good point the tv money gets divided into more shares - easy sell to Tv I think as they get more product for 1 season and you slim league back down with more relegation over 1 or 2 seasons - so more ‘6 pointers’ and excitement for end of the next season or two.
 

You also legislate for going forward with pandemic contingency rules and clauses into conditions for participating to avoid all this in future.

 

All I know for sure is its fucked and something had to give

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It would have been a week later this year, but this Saturday would normally be FA Cup final week-end.

 

For some reason , that feels like a bigger deal than the leagues not finishing. No FA Cup Final for the first time since 1945.

 

 

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