Saturday, 5 April 2014

New measure for soccer goal scorers-

I think many people judge the effectiveness of the strikers / goals scored by the absolute number which I think is probably very ineffective. I am an Arsenal fan and I will admit now that I mainly follow EPL (+ other English domestic trophies like FA cup, League cup) and Champions League which basically means my view here is a very limited one. Also it is being driven mostly out of frustration than analysis (i tried putting in some effort behind the numbers though).

Arsenal top goal scorer this year has been Giroud. I however think he was not even half as effective as Ramsey, Walcott, Podolski, Flamini, Carzola and Rosicky goals (I am not counting Arteta as he scores only through penalties). The reason being, his goals are not "first" goals. For a team like Arsenal, it is very important who scores first when score is 0-0. If Arsenal score first, then they obviously start playing expansive, free flowing confident football BUT if they go down 0-1, then it all starts breaking down. If they go down 0-2, then it is basically all over, they haven't come back from 2 goal deficit this year. If they go up 2-0, then again it is all over, they haven't lost a match yet this season being up 2-0.
Point being - it is supremely crucial who scores at the stage when score is 0-0 or when they are down 0-1. And answer is - NOT Giroud (atleast not 95% of the time). The same is very different for Aguero, Suarez, Rooney, Hazard etc - they all score a lot of their team's "first" goals.

Now this can be generalized a lot for all the teams in EPL atleast, especially with a lot of teams these days playing with a very clear cut strategy of holding to a draw in away matches vs playing offensive football at home. It makes the importance of the "first" goal scorers even more felt and mathematically makes them not just match winners but outright title winners. This brings me to the second thing which I have thought a lot about given the poor Arsenal show since December. The maximum number of points that can be scored in a season are 114. Historically if you look at since 2000, the champion has scored anywhere between 80 to 95 points (95 was Chelsea and an anomaly. Median would be 89ish and average certainly even below 89).

e.g. A team like Arsenal if basically achieves these results every year, they would be champions 12 out of 13 years. Let's assume the BIG 4 clubs apart from Arsenal are ManU, Chelsea, Liverpool and ManCity.
4 away games at these clubs - if they draw any 2 and lose 2, gives them 2 points
4 home games at these clubs - if they win any 1 and draw 1, gives them 4 points
Cushion - suppose they lose another 2 away games somewhere like Stoke, Everton, Totenham types
Rest 28 games, out of which 15 are home games, if they win, gives them a grand total of 90 points.
Enough to win the title consistently. Not just that, this score is above the median and the average for last 13 years so equal probability of scoring lower and still having a shot at the title.

The reason why Arsenal fails to win the title every year is not because of their under performance against the BIG 4, but because of the DRAWS and hence losing the 2 points against the lesser teams. It is in those matches that they need to be gambling and absolutely ensuring that they play as many "first" goal scoring players and not Girouds - despite many of them not being outright strikers. It is here that Arsenal (and hence ARS ene Wenger) fail.
Year on year, there is so much hype, press and build up for the BIG 4 matches and i think Arsenal should do a Jose Mourinho there. Away matches, they should field 2 holding midfielders, 3 midfielders who are not super flank aggressive and 1 random striker as a wild card to play outright for a draw. Instead what they do is the exact opposite and get thrashed massively. And mind you, a draw takes away 2 points from opposition as well, putting pressure on them to win those 28 matches against lesser teams.

Have more thoughts on how substitution should work for these 28 vs 4 vs 4 matches. More on that some other time (in a nut shell - no point in substituting guys like Giroud upfront when the going is easy, you should at every point try to protect the "first" goal scoring people when you are up 2-0 types and give the sidey guys a run. And by that I don't mean those token substitutions at 77' minute mark. No, if you are up 2-0 at 50 minutes, you should be done by 60' minute on all 3 substitutions. Ramsey, Walcott 2 of the most influential people in Arsenal scoring were stupidly sacrificed when the matches were under control. It was rather comical to see the title slip when you are at top and when no one was paying attention. It quietly but most definitely slipped away at those 2 moments.


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